Recreation Northwest

Kranking it out

The third of four weeknight adventure races put on by Krank Events took place around northern Seattle. For this race the Quest Adventure Race Team divided into two teams: Brent/Annie, and Dusty/Emily/me. This marked my first adventure race and while I’ve been on hiking and mountain biking adventures with Dusty and Emily before, this was an entirely different animal! We arrived at the park just before 6pm, received our maps at 6:10pm and began racing at 6:30 sharp.

Time seemed to fly once we got our maps as we frantically planned our route. The amount of time to figure out and mark your route never seems like enough time, but you work fast and make do with what you have. Anything you can’t get down just gets left to be figured out on the fly during the race itself. This night’s race consisted of a short biking section from Gas Works Park to the UW boating center, a canoe section in Lake Washington, a longer biking section and ended with a short trekking section back at Gas Works. Luckily for me, I was quite familiar with the area having spent two years at the University of Washington so I was able to pitch in and help us plan an effective route. Dusty took over as the lead guiding us from checkpoint (CP) to CP and Emily had the passport letting us know what clue to look for at each CP.

To spread out the short biking section, the race began with a paper airplane challenge. Each team sent one member to form a circle where they had to successfully throw a paper airplane into a trashcan. Once your airplane landed within the can, you were free to leave the park. If you missed your shot, you had to wait a minute before throwing again so each miss is costly. I waited with the bikes and once Emily made the shot and ran back, we were off. Finally all that adrenaline and energy that was being wasted nervously waiting could get put to use.

The first biking section was short with just a few CP’s. With the map readable on his handlebars Dusty guided us along. It was very early in the race, but I was already impressed by his ability to ride and read at the same time as well as Emily calling out clues and marking the CP results while riding. We quickly made up time on other teams and were one of the earlier teams to arrive at the boat center.

Once we arrived at the UW boating center we were taken off the race clock until we were off and paddling in the lake (so teams weren’t penalized for having to wait in line for rentals). This also made it interesting that depending on boat rental transition times, each team had their own unique cutoff time they had to beat to avoid severe score penalties. The route took us out and around a nearby island with CP’s in the water and some on land so teams would drop off a runner on the island as the boat circled around collecting the water CP’s. Teams were allowed to group up for this section and share their answers so all of Quest reunited. We decided to drop Brent off to run around the island leaving Dusty and Emily in one boat and Annie and me in the other. Being mainly used to one person kayaks, it was pretty obvious I was not ready to steer for a two person canoe as it took a great deal of time to get our boat to track in a straight line. Eventually we got our steering figured out (mostly) with much better communication, but early on Dusty and Emily had a front row seat to watch and laugh as Annie and I would veer left, right, left, right, over and over and over again. Paddling through forests of lily pads and under short bridges, we found CP ribbons strung on branches with a word on it that matched the passport clue. Once we collected all the water CP’s we picked up Brent and headed back to return the boat.

The next biking section was much longer and took us around UW’s campus before exploring Ravenna Park, heading west to Green Lake and looping back to Gas Works. This section had many regular CP’s as well as a few pro (optional) CP’s that would deduct time from your overall score. The catch here was that while the pros could be obtained in any order, the regular CP’s in this section had to be gotten sequentially. Early on we had decided we were going to try and get everything so that’s what we set out to do. We rode around the UW athletic fields and through the quad collecting CP’s before heading north.

The biggest frustration we encountered was searching for a pro CP in Ravenna Park. Two pro CP passport clues were switched so the clue did not match the location. We were looking for a word in red graffiti on a dog leash sign, but there was only one dog leash sign around. We found some graffiti. But it wasn’t on the sign. And it wasn’t red. We looked everywhere and still, nothing. But being completists, we kept searching too long and ended up wasting too much time before giving up and moving on.

Aside from minor map difficulties (Dusty’s map started to tear and mine was soaked from the canoeing section) getting the rest of the regular CP’s wasn’t too bad. This race kept us mainly on roads so it was a little easier navigating than on curved trails. We yo-yo’ed a bit with one other team on the bikes, but for the majority rarely saw other teams, which was odd considering all the regular CP’s had to be collected in order (despite the occasional pro CP detour). Our biggest detour took us across an overpass on the west side of Aurora so we had to shoulder our bikes up several stairs before climbing a few short hills. Thankfully we chose our route so were able to get our wind back flying down some of Fremont’s ridiculously steep streets heading south for the final few biking CP’s.

Once we arrived back at Gas Works we threw our bikes down and took off running for the final few trekking CP’s without bothering to switch out of biking shoes to ensure finishing on time. At this point I was exhausted and running on fumes, but knew we were close to finishing and I just had to grit my teeth. Thankfully there were not too many left and we easily beat our 10:00pm cutoff time.

After finishing we were able to start refueling and chat with some of the other teams that had already finished. At this point we didn’t know where we stood because we didn’t know if the other teams that were done had collected every regular and pro CP. We had gotten every one except for one of the two that was switched on the passport so we felt good, but still clueless as to our actual place.

The next day we found out the results and both Quest teams placed well. Dusty, Emily and I finished in third place as the first team (behind two quick single racers). Brent and Annie were right behind in fifth place. Overall it was a great experience for my first race and one that’s left me eager to get back and race again! The last of the Krank weeknight series wraps up September 16th in Bellevue, WA.



Two Bellingham, WA Girls Set National Kayaking Record


Two Bellingham, Wash., Girls Set National Kayaking Record

BELLINGHAM, Wash., 5/30/2015 – Two 12-year-old athletes on the Bellingham Canoe & Kayak Sprint Team (BCKST) have set national kayaking records after completing the six-week-long Barton Bantams Challenge on Saturday, May 30, 2015.


Since 2007, the USA Canoe/Kayak’s National Sprint Development Program has offered this Challenge to all youth under 14 years old. Over six weeks, boys and girls paddle their boats as much as they can, and there are four levels of achievement: Bronze (200 km), Silver (300 km), Gold (400 km) and, introduced last year, Platinum (600 km).

Coached by Dan Baharav, Sierra Noskoff, 12, and Elena Wolgamot, 12, both set national records in the Platinum level – Sierra with 773 total kilometers paddled and Elena also with 773 total kilometers paddled.

The previous national kayak record was set in 2014 by Evan Truesdale (751 km ) for boys and Josie Ballard (651 km) for girls, both from San Diego, CA.

“The amount of commitment and dedication these girls have put forth is quite amazing,” says Chris Noskoff, father of Sierra. “On one day, they paddled more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) in just one session!”

Over six weeks, Sierra and Elena paddled six days a week, in addition to participating in regular team practices five days a week. They paddled before and after school on many days, and could be seen on the lake almost every day until 8 p.m. On average, they spent between three and five hours a day on their kayaks, often with only one break to refuel their bodies. “The BCKST club is producing some very talented kayak athletes,” says Noskoff. “I’m so proud of them.”

In July, Sierra and Elena, together with other BCKST athletes will compete at the USA Nationals Sprint C/K Championships at the USA Olympic facility in Chula Vista, CA.

For more information about this story, or to schedule an interview, contact Dan Baharav at 360.379.0551 or Photos are available upon request.

About the Bellingham Canoe Kayak Sprint Team

The Bellingham Canoe & Kayak Sprint Team (BCKST) is a Youth Program that trains young athletes to compete in the sport of Olympic-style flat-water sprint canoe and kayak in a safe and positive environment. The program provides education and coaching to youth ages 9 through 18, at all levels, including youngsters with disabilities. The home of BCKST is Lake Padden, Bellingham, where all of its training and competitions take place. For more information Bellingham Canoe/Kayak.

About the USA Canoe/Kayak’s National Sprint Development Program

A member of the United States Olympic Committee, USA Canoe/Kayak is the national governing body for the Olympic sports of Canoe/Kayak Sprint and Canoe Slalom as well as the Paralympic sport of Paracanoe. USA Canoe/Kayak is also the U.S. member of the International Canoe Federation and the Pan American Canoe Federation. Other paddlesports sanctioned by USA Canoe/Kayak include: Dragon Boat, Freestyle, Marathon, Surfski, Wildwater, Outrigger, Canoe Polo, Canoe Sailing and Stand-Up Paddleboard.

Learn more at USA Canoe/Kayak. For more information about the Barton Bantams.

Barton Finish 3

Training on the Tokul Trails

The Krank Events weeknight adventure race series was something I’d had my eye on for awhile, and I was finally able to participate in the May race with Quest veterans Brent Molsberry and Dusty Caseria. The race took place on the Tokul trail system in Fall City, which provided a fantastic labyrinth of singletrack and logging roads through terrain that varied from heavily wooded to clearcut.

My relationship with adventure racing has been largely behind the scenes up until this race. I’ve been active in race planning and course development for a number of races, but I have only legitimately competed in one race. Simply put, I’m about as green as they come. I thought I knew what to expect- maps, checkpoints, remote transitions, mountain biking, and trekking. The Tokul race delivered all of this, as well as a completely unexpected dose of thrill, drama, and tactical competition. I had an obscene amount of fun.

I will admit that I have always considered adventure racing one of the “long-haul” sports.  The high profile multi-day races where racers endure epic sleepless nights on the trail might tempt you to think of adventure racing as a slog-fest for only the heartiest of our species. Adventure races come in many colors, and the sprint distance (~3 hours) events in the Krank Weeknight Series are anything but a slog-fest. 

The Tokul race began on mountain bikes, reached a remote transition area (TA) where we ditched the bikes for trekking shoes, completed a series of checkpoints on foot, and then returned to the remote TA to remount and complete the race with another sequence of bike checkpoints. Both bike courses required racers to reach checkpoints in sequential order, and this made the bike legs feel a lot more like a traditional race because everyone was proceeding in the same linear direction. When the course is open and each team can pick their own route, it is impossible to know where you stand in relationship to your competition, but the sequential bike checkpoints kept us within a stones throw of our main competition for 2/3 of the race. 

Legs, lungs, and flawless navigation (thanks to Brent and Dusty, who are simply virtuosic with a map) are great tools in adventure racing, but this race introduced me to a tactical element of racing I didn’t expect. For example, when three teams are close enough to be searching for the same checkpoint, and someone discovers it nestled beneath a sword fern, it does not behoove that person to shout out excitedly, “I found it! The checkpoint says BUS!” I learned to quell the thrill of discovering the checkpoint as Dusty, Brent, and I honed our covert and non-verbal communication over the course of the race. In a final neck and neck sprint to the finish (around a horse-racing track no less), I felt like we became a six-wheeled, three-headed, goal-fixated creature surging for the final checkpoint, and then the finish. 

There were 28 checkpoints and we finished in just under two hours, which meant we averaged about 4 minutes per checkpoint. At this pace, there wasn’t a minute to spare on second guessing. We had to walk the line between bashing around in the woods in passionate pursuit of the checkpoint and calculatedly following the route we determined from the map. Equal doses of both were the ticket to constant progress, and it was incredibly fun to work with the number of variables at play in a race with no set course. I watched in awe as my seasoned teammates worked their navigation magic, and vowed to beef up my own navigation skills for future races.

We ended up crossing the finish line only an instant behind Matt Hayes of Team DART, but due to the time bonus we had picked up on a special section of the course where different “bonuses” were hidden in the trees we got the official win. Matt certainly kept us on our toes, and his skill was apparent as he deftly managed the navigation, clues, and passport while keeping his speed throughout the race. He kept the competition stiff for Team Quest, and it was exhilarating to keep trading the lead as we got closer and closer to the finish.

Darkness and drizzle did nothing to dampen the rush I felt from competing in this race. It was a blast, and the warm chili, hot dogs, hot cocoa, and recovery snacks at the finish line only sweetened the deal. Krank put on a well-organized event, and I will definitely be back for more! Next up in the series is a race in the Lake Union area of Seattle, which will also include a canoe course. See ya there!


Run & Radio Hour with Christopher McDougall – Thursday, May 21st

Natural Born Heroes author Christopher McDougall will be leading a group run on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 pm before the Chuckanut Radio Hour event at 6:30pm.

Run with Chris McDougall

Start/Finish: Archers Ale House
1212 10th Street, Fairhaven
4:30 pm.
Join Christopher (and YMCA’s Jen Gallant) for a run along Taylor Dock and the South Bay Trail to Boundary Bay Brewery and back to Archers for a 5 mile run.
Join the Facebook Event.

Chuckanut Radio Hour

 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Heiner Theater at Whatcom Community College
237 W. Kellogg Rd
Bellingham, WA 98226

Chuckanut Radio Hour with Christopher McDougall, author of Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance

While researching Born to Run, Chris McDougall encountered the story of Pheidippides, the legendary ancient Greek “all-day runner. See full article.

1st Race of 2015 – Bellevue Weeknight AR

The Quest Adventure Race Team had a great start to the 2015 racing season with strong finishes at the first in a series of 4 weeknight adventure races put on by Krank Events. Brent and I formed a team of two for the race. The race took place on the roads, trails, and urban parks around Bellevue and had a 3 hour time limit…making it feel like more of a sprint compared to the more typical half-day or longer races.  We met at 6:30pm near the start/finish for the pre-race briefing, maps were distributed at 6:40, and in typical adventure race “ready or not, the race is starting now” form, the race was underway at 7:00 sharp.

There never seems to be enough time to put good thought into planning the fastest route to collect all the checkpoints, and these weeknight races are no exception.  In fact, they feel far more rushed most of the time. Luckily, we were barely able to finish tracing our intended route on our maps with highlighters and get to the start with only seconds to spare.

The first 5 or so minutes of the race were spent doing a short “Blind-O” (the “O” stands for orienteering).  Each team was given a small piece of paper with 4 clues, each with multiple choice answers.  Each clue was the location of a checkpoint.  No map required for the Blind-O.  The clues were simple and would read something like “NW corner of building, small shrub” or “S end of parking lot, letters on post”.  We would simply run to the shrub, post, or wherever the clue led us, and look for a ribbon with a word on it, or in the case of the post example, simply read the letters on the post, and HOPEFULLY, the word, letters, or whatever we were looking for, matched one of the multiple choice answers on our sheet of paper.  If so, we’d circle the correct answer and move on to the next.  If not, we’d keep looking.  Once we got all 4, we ran back to the start, handed the paper to a race official who took a quick look to make sure we’d answered correctly, and were cleared to head out on our bikes.

The Blind-O was very easy and took most teams about 5 minutes to complete. It is fairly common for adventure races to start with a short challenge such as this as a way to spread teams out a little before they head out after the main checkpoints.

The rest of the race was laid out as a short bike to a remote transition area, where we left our bikes and continued on foot for almost an hour, and then we finished up with a second, longer bike section, connecting urban parks and eventually making our way back to the finish.  There were regular checkpoints (if you miss them, a time penalty is added to your finish time) and pro-checkpoints (if you get them, a time bonus is deducted from your time).  The size of the time bonus depends on how difficult/out of the way that checkpoint is.  There are severe time penalties for finishing after the cutoff, which for this race was 10pm.

The first bike section was quick, and took us 4-5 miles north to Bridle Trails State Park, collecting 2 regular CP’s and 1 pro CP along the way. These weeknight races feel FAST!  There was no time to stop and look at the map.  Trying to read a map while riding your bike (and trying to ride fast) is not easy to do.  It is very easy to miss a road and end up wasting time trying to find where you went wrong.  Finding a balance between moving fast and taking time to study the maps is extremely important, and these short races are a great way to practice finding that balance.

We pulled into the parking lot at Bridle Trails and at least half the teams’ bikes were there already.  We knew that not all the teams had gotten the pro CP on the first bike section, but we knew that some had, and that there were probably some teams ahead of us.  We ditched our bikes, turned on our lights, and headed into the woods.  We were able to stick mostly to trails and did one short bushwhack to collect all 11 regular and 3 pro CP’s on the trekking section in what we felt to be the quickest way possible.  Our navigation was pretty solid since we both had maps and whoever was running in second could follow along and double check the leader.

As we neared our bikes we saw several teams pedaling off out of the transition area. Like before, we really didn’t know who had gotten what checkpoints. We knew we had gotten all regular and pro CP’s up to that point, but there was really no way to tell what place we were in. That’s just how adventure racing works though. You don’t know what place you got until the race is over and all the team passports have been scored.

The second bike was quite a bit longer than the first, and took nearly an hour and a half to complete. We spent most of the time riding on roads, from one urban park to the next, where the CP’s often were hidden. There were a few trails mixed in as well. At one point, we accidentally rode right past a checkpoint, heading towards the next one. We both had our maps in front of us, and both made the same mistake. Luckily, we realized our error quickly and only had to backtrack about a half mile to the CP we’d missed.

Several CP’s later, we had a little trouble locating the actual ribbon with the answer on it. Usually, if you are in the correct general location, locating the ribbon, sign, or whatever you’re looking for, is very easy and obvious. However, one of the ribbons in this race had gotten partially covered in some vines on the ground, so we wasted about 10 minutes (along with at least a dozen other people) looking for it.

After the final CP, with only 6 minutes to get to the finish, we ran into our final unanticipated challenge. We were on a trail very close to the finish, when we came across a chain link fence and locked gate blocking the trail. Maps don’t always show all the details you might encounter. We took a quick look at the map, and determined it would take us too long to backtrack and find another way around, so Brent climbed over the fence, I handed the bikes over, and then climbed over myself. We were in the parking lot for an apartment complex, and were only about a minute from the finish, which we reached with only 4 minutes to spare before the 10:00 cutoff.

We were a little cold and wet, as it had been misting for most of the race, but we had a great time on a fun course and enjoyed chatting with other teams at the finish while sipping on hot cocoa and eating some tasty chili and assorted post-race snacks. We had a great time talking to some other Quest adventure racers from Bellingham, Stephen and Mitch, about how their race had gone. It was their first adventure race and they had a great time as well.

Results were posted the next day, and were excited to see that we were the only team to reach all regular and pro CP’s and had just barely managed to pull off the win. Stephen and Mitch finished near the middle of pack in 10th place, certainly a great finish considering it was their first race.

The next race on the Quest team calendar is the second in the Krank Events weeknight series, on May 12th at Tokul in Fall City, WA. There should be plenty of singletrack trail in that race. We’re looking forward to it. If you’re in the Bellingham area and are interested in finding our more about what adventure racing is all about, be sure to check out our orienteering practice night on Wednesday, May 6th at Fairhaven Park. Please RSVP first if you’re interested. Details HERE!


Whatcom Recreation Economy Study Released by Recreation Northwest

Contact Information:
Todd Elsworth, Executive Director
Recreation Northwest


Report: Outdoor Recreation Generates $705 Million in Annual Spending in Whatcom County

Study of outdoor recreation’s economic impact in Whatcom County
also reveals creation of over 6,500 jobs.

BELLINGHAM, WA, April 21, 2015—Recreation Northwest, Whatcom County, City of Bellingham, Port of Bellingham and Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism announce the findings of a groundbreaking new study: The Economic Contribution of Outdoor Recreation to Whatcom County, Washington.

The study, conducted by Earth Economics, builds on a statewide Recreation Economic Impact study commissioned by the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. For Whatcom County, Earth Economics studied economic contributions in three areas: outdoor recreation expenditures, recreation businesses and ecosystems services in recreational lands.

RecSpendingThe study revealed that each year, residents and visitors spend $705 million on outdoor recreation in Whatcom County, ranking it eighth-highest in the state for such expenditures. This spending supports a total of 6,502 jobs. Whatcom County boasts a total of 14 million participant days in outdoor recreation, with residents averaging 71.8 participant days一well above the state average of 59 days per year.

“Recreation is critical to Bellingham and Whatcom County,” said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville. “Recreational opportunities not only highlight our beautiful region, but they also help create jobs, attract talented professionals and build our regional reputation as a healthy place to live, work and play.”    

Total Whatcom County expenditures were highest for recreation in public waters, with approximately $132 million in annual spending throughout the county. “Whatcom County provides easy access to some of the best cruising waters in the world,” said Rob Fix, Executive Director at the Port of Bellingham. “The Port continues to have strong demand for marina slips, and the marine-trades businesses that support recreational boaters are thriving.”

Two hundred seventy-nine recreation-related business were identified in Whatcom County, including retailers, manufacturers, service providers and more, with total 2014 revenue of $508 million, supporting 3,728 jobs. Gear wholesalers, recreational boat builders and boat dealers are the top three sectors, according to annual sales. Between direct, indirect and induced effects of employment, labor income, value added and output, Whatcom County recreation businesses have a $389 million total impact.

Added Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws, “Whatcom County’s abundant natural beauty is a huge draw for outdoor recreation enthusiasts. This study draws the positive correlation between our scenic landscape and its impact on local businesses and our overall economy.”

“Bellingham and Whatcom County have long enjoyed a strong reputation as an outdoor recreation destination,” said April Claxton, Executive Manager of Recreation Northwest. “The findings of this study confirm recreation’s economic impact, and will hopefully inspire us all to protect our beautiful mountains, waters and forests.”

The Economic Contribution of Outdoor Recreation to Whatcom County:

Download the Full Report

Download the Full Report

Download the Factsheet

Download the Factsheet


About Recreation Northwest

Recreation Northwest is a Bellingham, Washington based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation, and bringing people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. Through partnerships with local businesses and organizations, we work to raise awareness of our public green spaces and their inhabitants, including one of the Northwest’s most revered symbols—the salmon. Recreation Northwest produces Bellingham Traverse; the Quest Adventure Races; the Race Directors Summit; and the Recreation Northwest EXPO. Learn more at


About Earth Economics

Earth Economics is an independent, non-partisan non-profit dedicated to demonstrating the true value of natural assets through economic analysis, policy recommendations and tools that are robust, science-based and ecologically sound.  Working with leading ecologists, economists and modelers, we serve a large circle of non-profits, government agencies, policy makers, businesses, and multi-lateral organizations with research, reports, presentations, workshops and investigations. Our goal is to positively transform regional, national and international economics, and asset accounting systems, and to help communities move towards an approach that is both economically viable and environmentally sustainable.


Washington Recreation and Conservation Office Study, 2015:

Economic Benefits of Outdoor Recreation in Washington Fact Sheet

Economic Benefits of Outdoor Recreation in Washington full report