The Tri-Cities, Washington is my hometown. West Richland is where I actually grew up right on the banks of the Yakima River. Those were simpler days in a smaller town. Nevertheless, I call this home where most of my family and many of my friends still live. At times there is a tug at my heart to go back home to experience and embrace the changes since the days long ago.
Seeing the Columbia Valley, where the rivers that all join together at the very heart of this great community, I remember the many hours as a kid I spent enjoying all that it had to offer. I rode motorcycles in the hills, rode my bike freely in the streets, swam at the public pool and water skied on the rivers. It holds many fond memories of my younger years.
Starting in the 3rd grade I went to Hanford when it was at the time a K through 12 school, later graduating from Kamiakin High School in 1982. In high school I ran track one year but my love was playing JV and Varsity basketball. After graduation I went away to college because of course back then there was no way to get a 4-year degree locally. I never returned Tri-Cities to live.
It was much later in life, after my kids were grown that I took up trail running as a hobby. It wasn’t long before I found myself drawn back to the Tri-Cities to run the Badger Mountain Challenge Trail Race. To run the hills and mountains that surround the area where I grew up, I would see it all with a whole new perspective, a “Vantage” point if you will.
The Badger Mountain Challenge is put on by a local race director and draws runners not only from the local area but also from many other towns and states. The race is a one of a kind, top notch race experience. It’s held in the early Spring at the end of March and provides multiple running distances from 15K, 50K, 50 miles and 100 miles. My favorite distance is the 100-miler where you can go big or go home, and here I could do both!
The 50 and 100-mile distances start off at the base of Badger Mountain in Richland then the course takes you up and over the mountain, across to Candy Mountain where you again go up and over it. You run alongside orchards as you travel out towards McBee Mountain in Benton City. Next, the course goes up the face of McBee and along one ridge line before coming back, circling across the other ridge and down, following the same path back to the start at Badger Mountain. The 100-mile runners do this twice. In addition to the long race distance, the challenge with this race is often the ever unpredictable weather that mostly includes very cold temperatures and wind that time of year, especially in the overnight hours.
For me it was a time to come home to see and experience my childhood stomping grounds more on foot. The mountain top views give you the chance to take in every part of this beautiful valley, appreciate all that it has to offer and really see how it has grown over the years. I was able to watch the sunrise over the Columbia River and see the surrounding mountains while running where my younger feet had not traveled before. I made many new friends during the race and walked away with an unforgettable experience when some of my family came to watch me finish a race for the first time.
There are several trail and ultra races of varying distances in and around the Tri-Cities area. You can find them with a simple search on the UltraSignup.com website.
I ran the race a few years ago. Now when I’m in town, these mountains call me once again to come run and hike them, where I capture new memories and see my beautiful hometown from a whole new perspective all over again. This year’s Badger Mountain Challenge will take place March 26-27. It just might be the perfect time for me to go home again.