FKT: Megan Lacey, Christof Teuscher - Willapa Hills Trail (WA) - 2023-02-11

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Mixed-gender team
Start date
Finish date
Total time
12h 59m 45s

The 57-mile Willapa Hills Trail has been beckoning for several years. Finally, everything aligned—schedules, weather, dearth of alternatives—and we decided to cover the route as a two-day out-and-back training run. 

On Saturday, February 11, 2023, we left the Chehalis trailhead amid freezing fog and just after 4 a.m. With a 114-mile weekend ahead, we clicked into a gentle and sustainable pace. The early miles were smooth, dark, cold, and unremarkable.  

Pe Ell Country Market (mile 22) was our first resupply, where we downed Gatorlyte, ice cream sandwiches, and stale croissants. On the way out of town, a well-armed local warned us to watch out for a protective mama bear and her cubs. No bears materialized (scare tactic?), but we did pass some sad, penned buffalo and a treefull of Canada jays.

The route was gently rolling, soft, and lush until the approach to Lebam (mile 38), which was riddled with fist-sized stones and puddles. Nothing was open in Lebam except the cemetery, so we emptied our shoes and carried on into the afternoon.

We rolled past manure spreaders and crumbling homesteads to our next resupply: Menlo Store (mile 47). Somewhat depleted, it took us longer than we would have liked to navigate the quaint interior and stock up on hot pockets and root beer. 

We hit pavement again just outside of Raymond. The nearly four miles between Raymond and South Bend look nice on a map; they wind along the Willapa River as it widens and joins the sea. In reality, the route is crammed between a busy arterial (lined with suspicious rental houses and fast food joints) and fetid fisheries. We trundled forward, unimpressed, until we reached the trail's eastern terminus in just under 13 hours (12:59:45).

After perfect pizzas at Willapa Brewing Co., we crashed at the Seaquest Motel until 4 a.m. the next morning (Sunday, February 23, 2023), when we shuffled the 57 miles back to the Chehalis trailhead. Various pains not withstanding, we clocked 13:06:53 for the return—just 7 minutes longer than the day before.