Press for the Upcoming North Cascades Fall Trail Running Festival and Symposium


By Oliver Lazenby at the Mt. Baker Experience

As trail running festivals continue to pop up almost everywhere, the North Cascades is the latest to join the fun. The first North Cascades Fall Trail Running Festival and Symposium – or Festival 542, if you’re into brevity – will take place from September 12 to 16 at the end of the Mt. Baker Highway.

Hosted by Aspire Adventure Running, the festival offers three days and four nights of organized and informal runs, local food and nightly educational programming from a base camp surrounded by trails – the Mountaineers club’s Mt. Baker Lodge.

Abram Dickerson, founder of Aspire, is working out out the logistics and safety net for the festival. At $600 a spot, the festival isn’t cheap, but attendees should have nothing to worry about but running in the forests and meadows of the North Cascades once they arrive.

“What we’re imagining is that we’ll bring people together in the evenings, and during the day there’s a whole variety of runs that a person can do from base camp,” Dickerson said. Aspire will also run a shuttle bus to other trailheads on the Mt. Baker Highway.

Meals made from seasonal, local ingredients will bookend each day, and light food will be provided on the trails. The company is lining up naturalists, historians, athletes and archaeologists for educational talks and discussions in the evenings.

Dickerson hopes the festival will strengthen the local trail running community by offering runners an opportunity to form relationships.


“I’ve found from races that there’s people who identify as trail runners who come out to trail races but it takes a long time for them, especially if they’re new, to make connections,” he said. “Those connections are one of the great things about the trail running community yet forming those connection takes time.”

The festival affords more time – and downtime – for fostering those connections. Dickerson’s seen the impact of time on relationships through his business; on multiday trips, people tend to leave as friends.

Aspire was started in 2015 to guide trail running trips and has fine-tuned what makes a trip successful, Dickerson said. One of the most important factors is location, and that knowledge informed his choice of base camp for Festival 542.

“We’re really selective in terms of the courses we pick,” he said. “We’re really fortunate to be able to work with the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service to operate in the North Cascades.”

Though this is the festival’s first year, Dickerson is already looking to the future.

“We’re hoping this will be a placeholder event in the regional trail running scene,” he said. “There’s just no better time to be on the trails than in the fall. Huckleberries are ripe, the mountains are dusted in snow, the temperatures are crisp and cool but yet it can still be sunny.”

To sign up or learn more, go to

Three of the best days of my life.

I ran in 2016. Three of the best days of my life. The Wonderland Circumnavigation is like being dropped into a roaming gypsy mountain family for three days of exertion, love, and self renewal. I’m an old doughy slow untalented back of the packer, the most underwhelming thing to happen on two legs really. The Aspire crew and other runners rallied around me (and each other for that matter) as if I were some rock star. They wanted me to finish as much as I wanted me to finish. Zero ego contamination during the experience. Everyone that the mountain meets one where one is at, and that everyone is getting broken down and reborn. I’ve signed up again for 2018.

Thanks Sean…see you August 2018.

Longmire to Mowich Lake

Taking the opportunity to run the Longmire to Mowich Lake segment of Mt. Rainer’s famed Wonderland Trail with Aspire Adventure Running was such a great decision and elevated my running experience to a whole new level that is hard to match when just out running on my own, which is my typical go-to for such an adventure.

Instead of spending more time prepping than actually running – gathering trail and camp site permits, food, supplies, coordinating drop-off and pick-up rides, etc. – it was all handled for me.  I was able to simply grab my normal running kit and a couple personal items after work on a Friday, show up at the designated rendezvous point and have every detail taken care of. I was able to focus on soaking up every last breath-taking view of one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier hiking / running trails—all of the joy and little to none of the “other stuff” that goes into pulling off an epic day of trail running.

As an added bonus, my wife and our 18-month old son were welcomed along on the pre and post portions of the trip for a nominal fee to enjoy all the gourmet-quality (not kidding!!) food, camaraderie and logistical support of “my” big adventure.  Ultra running can be a somewhat selfish pursuit at times, but even though my wife was along for the ride, the Aspire team made sure her experience was unforgettable. They coordinated her hike in the final mile at Mowich to meet me so she had photo ops on the trail.  It was well deserved payback for the woman who has crewed, dropped me off / picked me and kept me fed on plenty a mountain run.

With every trail course Aspire offers dishing up a gourmet, bucket-list running adventure, I am positive we’ll be a repeat customers. In fact, my wife thought it was so great that she thinks it might be something “I” should do every year (just so long as she can come along…)!