I confess that my knowledge of world geography is pretty limited. I blame it on being a product of the American educational system and the insular perspective that we often have in the states. Fortunately, I have one of the coolest mothers in the world. As a geography teacher and a world traveler, she tried hard to enlighten my sister and myself – whisking us away to Spain for a year when I was twelve,  and later talking me into joining her in China when I was seventeen. We never had a nice car but we had great adventures. All along, she gently reminded us that there is more to the world than our back yard.

Mom and Rafael met up with me last year
during my transcon run in NY.

Listening to my mother’s stories of living in far flung places across the globe have always filled me with a bit of adventure. In her early 20s she worked for two years in a leprosy colony in Tanginika (before it became Tanzania) and she also visited the beaches of Zanzibar. It would take another 50 years before my feet walked the same beaches – but I happily followed in her footsteps and hope to follow more in the years to come.

Earlier this year on the Olympic Peninsula at the Mary Robson Garden
(best garden in the world!)

Climbing Kilimanjaro twice in two weeks and running 27 miles around at 13,000+ feet will make you weary, dirty, and long for a cold beer on the beach. Zanzibar fit the bill and a sub $100 round trip flight from Kilimanjaro International Airport also fit the bill.  Within a few hours of leaving dusty Arusha, I was watching dhows sail past the sunset, beads of condensation run down my cold beer, and I was digging into the sand with my bare feet (condition not to be described). A full set of picture (28, none of my feet) is available online in my picasa albums.

Zanzibar is one of the ‘spice islands’; it has strong Arabic flavors having been colonized by the Sultan of Oman who profited off trading in spice, ivory, and the slaves trade.  Something like 95% of the population is Muslim and the competing calls to prayer from various mosques were quite beautiful even if I didn’t understand a word.

View from my hotel roof top.
After a couple days getting lost in the narrow streets of ‘Stone Town’, I escaped to a small beach on the east side of the island… I swam with dolphins, hung out with monkeys, learned to kite surf (still a long way to go at that), lost track of a  little too much time in a Rasta bar on a beach, drank an inordinate amount of ‘Kilimanjaro’ beer. I even managed to get a little work done on my laptop. Imagine that.
I spent a lot of time with some new friends who were also exploring the island. The Rock Python below does not count as a new friend. These were great people to hang out with and I was sad to say goodbye to them (literally watching them sail away).
Jolien, Tamara, Julie from Belgium and Trésor from the Congo
My last day in Zanzibar was July 14th and the start of a long, slow journey east with stops in Kilimanjaro, Nairobi, Amsterdam, New York, Boston, and finally Seattle. On the flight back to Kilimanjaro, as we punched through he cloud layer, I got to see a the amazing saddle between Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi Peak (on the right).
This is a picture from two weeks earlier, Jacob running across that saddle with Mawenzi as a backdrop. Kilimanjaro is behind me when I took this picture.
Many hours and miles later, I stumbled into an apartment in Queens, NY for an 8 hour layover before heading to Boston. My friend Courtney opened the door for me and we ended up staying out late eating Mexican food and talking about old times. The next morning I was at a desk at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston working with my friend and mentor Dr. Donna Berry. I spent the next three days wrestling with an obstinate eye tracker machine we are using in a research study before landing in Seattle on Thursday the 17th. On Friday I was back at my desk trying not to eat all the chocolate nice co-workers had left on my desk.
It has been a busy week since then…after avoiding a sunburn in Africa, I managed to land a nice one biking ~40m to my friend Stephanie’s cabin on Whidbey Island. She had just finished the 196m Ragner Relay on the island with a bunch of friends, the team covering the distance in under 24hrs. The stories and post run beer consumption on the cabin deck were really quite impressive, and it was interesting to be the non-runner in the group.
Ferry from Mukilteo outside Seattle 
Sunset on Whidbey

On Monday it was time to see if there was anything still left in my legs for my 50m trail run this weekend. The test was best left to Nichole who took me out on an 18 mile run up Thorpe Mountain in the Cascades. It felt like home to be on trail in the pacific northwest. We got back to the truck dirty and thirsty and sat with our feet in a river, drinking IPAs that had been on ice in the cooler all day. Not a bad way to spend the day.

It doesn’t get much better than the Cascades.
Gearing up for her own “Pedal for Parks” adventure, Nichole leaves in 10 days for a 3,000+ mile solo bicycle journey around the west followed by points unknown. Raising money for national parks, she will also be stopping in many and doing some epic (what else?) trail runs.
As many of you know, Nichole gave me a tremendous amount of support when I ran across the country last year, and we shared many adventures together since then, please consider viewing her itinerary online and seeing if you know anyone along her route who may be able to give her a hand. If you regularly donate to nature conservancies and parks, please consider donating through her site. If you don’t, consider starting. I wish her the best of luck; adventures like this are close to my heart. I hope someday to cross paths and run some trails again with Nichole. Bike safe.
As for me, I am packing my bags right now for a road trip to White River, just outside Mt. Rainier. Tomorrow will be my 3rd time running (or trying to run) this 50 mile trail run, but I have butterflies. It pretty much wrecked me last year, even after 107 days of running across the country. All that said, I’m looking forward to meeting old friends, making some new ones, testing some limits, and seeing some amazing views. Wish me luck and have a great weekend.
White River 2009. Photo by Photo by Glenn Tachiyama,

7 thoughts on “From the beaches of Zanzibar to White River

  1. Is Nichole a member of the Warm Showers list? If not, she should be! I was a member back in the 90s – hosted some pretty cool peeps! See YOU at Fawn Ridge tomorrow! Aloha!

  2. Wait. Is your father Miles Wolpin PhD? Is he still involved with the CCC?
    They’re listed as a hate group with the SPLC. I hope you don’t subscribe to his views.

    1. Yep, that’s him. I have no idea if he is involved with the CCC. I hope not, it is a shitty organization with shitty views. But if you are going to anonymously accuse me of guilt by familial association (on a blog post about running?) nice try but I think you have a few things of your own to work out. Good luck.

  3. One of the famous fact about the Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru is the Meru is Highest peak of the Africa before many years but due to volcanic eruption its height is less today, but Visiting to the Mt. Meru no doubt make proud to you as from this fact you say that you are at top of the African Highest Mt.

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