"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Andrew Holm: Running through landscapes

By on August 29, 2017 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments

Andrew Holm rounds a bend near the beginning of the Kanisku 50 this year.

By Rachel DiLorenzo

Sort of like the back-up generators he relies upon from time to time, Andrew Holm is powered by a steadfast stamina.

Often, he’s directed uphill, running toward the tops of ridges and mountains. Other times, he’s busily multi-tasking in the middle of the forest.

But whatever the situation calls for, he comes prepared with curiosity, cool composure and a craving for “the call of the wild.”

He is addicted to the accessibly rugged terrain of his neighborhood in the Cascade Mountains, and spends his spare time exploring it. On his runs and Nordic ski adventures, Andrew often recruits others, making friends along the way.

Inspired by a favorite aunt, he’s been running since the age of six.

“I guess I had an enchantment with track and field,” he admitted with a smile. That passion (for all types of running) continues to grow.

As he explained, “There is only one way to experience the feeling of simply moving quickly across terrain. That is incredibly grounding to me.”

Between runs, he is the operations officer of both Tierra Retreat Center and Tierra Learning Center (which includes Tierra Village, a residential program for adults with developmental differences).

These properties are located within Sunitsch Canyon, between Leavenworth and Plain. His duties can range from bookkeeping and project management, to weed whacking and toilet plunging. Andrew, it seems, is a genuine subalpine jack-of-all-trades.

Sunitsch Canyon is a tranquil, idyllic woodland community. Yet, there are challenges unique to Tierra’s location in the middle of Wenatchee National Forest.

“Power outages and water line breaks bring memorable moments. We’ve been out in the snow at midnight digging for breaks. Other times, we’ve strapped generators to golf carts, just to get the guest rooms vacuumed,” said Andrew.

At the retreat center, Tierra has played host to a diversity of guests. “Once, we had a group of Russian folks who effectively installed a miniature Olympic Village. On a Friday afternoon, we were surprised to find a large inflatable welcome gate, complete with techno music thumping. This all coincided with the local preschool finishing up for the day…” Still struck by the memory, he mused, “There are a lot of stories.”

Andrew and Shanda Holm moved to Plain in 2000. After spending a few years in the White River area above Lake Wenatchee, they moved off the Chumstick Highway in 2007.

Since they live on the Tierra property (Shanda is director of Tierra Village), the Holm family doesn’t worry about ‘taking their work home’ with them. “It’s inevitable,” he said, “but not something we’re all jolly about!”

Instead, they strive to work fun outings into their daily routine. The natural beauty of the Cascade hillside offers “large moments of quiet and stillness, even at busy times. The evening or morning light, and the diversity of birds and animals that pop up, create a fresh page every day.”

Over the past decade, Andrew has discovered some unique pockets. “The ridge on Rosy Boa above Ski Hill never fails to impress,” he confided, “and the White River, the Little Wenatchee drainages and the Napeequa valley are all incredibly special… and I really enjoy the state park at Lake Wenatchee.”

Then, there’s the head of Eagle Creek, where he has several favorite “unglamorous” routes that climb the Entiat ridge. “But as far as my home stomping grounds go,” he added, “the Chumstick crest, from Tumwater Mountain to Plain has some great hidden gems.”

Among the more memorable backwoods experiences, he has twice been charged by a mother bear.

“Both times were similar: I was rounding a corner or coming over a rise. I saw the cubs shoot up a tree, before I even had time to blink,” he continued, “and though I wished the mother had pulled up shorter, luckily my instinct kicked in. I put my arms up, walked back slowly, and attempted to make some calming utterances. Actually, everything was very calm while it happened. Only later did my heart start to race a little.”

In the end, “I wasted no time rerouting the run!”

Does all that running ever get exhausting? “Of course it does, sometimes.” Yet, this athlete approaches it as a form of discipline. “Running makes me feel fit, and teaches me forbearance,” he said, “I feel like an animal that has evolved to travel efficiently across landscapes.”

In fact, a recent July Saturday found him running his first 50-mile race. “This was something I had armchair-talked last season. This spring, I set out to actually accomplish the goal. It was a big push, a great race up in the Colville National Forest. I was fortunate to have one of my best running buddies come along, to pace me through the last 16 miles,” he said, “in 95-degree heat.”

But the next day offered no rest for the weary.

As it turned out, the retreat center was short-staffed, and Andrew came in to help. “When I can be available in these situations, I enjoy lending a last-ditch set of helping hands.”

Actually, staff assumed the chill fellow in the ball cap was the new guy. They had no idea he was their boss, out schlepping giant bags of laundry and recycling, delivering supply tubs, and even tracking down toilets to scrub.

This mountain trekker has no plans to slow down. When asked for guidance for the aging runner, he offered this: “There’s no reason why you can’t still run hard and fast. Experience and wisdom come into play. And you probably have some toughness built up, that’s an asset,” he added, “Just don’t quit!”

There’s a bit of motivation we can all embrace.

Rachel DiLorenzo is a Yankee-born, midwest transplant who loves the great northwest, and meeting new people.

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