Kathy “OBAL Unbranded” Vaughan

Bio: Kathy Vaughan (trail name: “OBAL Unbranded”) is an endurance adventure athlete. She is a mom to a 24 year old daughter named Angela, who is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar. She thrives on spending as much time as possible on the trails fast packing, thru-hiking, thru-skiing, peak bagging and trail & ultrarunning. She loves being solo on the trails, or having a partner to share the experience. Kathy and her husband Ras go by the name Team UltraPedestrian and together they run trails, climb mountains and go after huge thru-hiking projects. They enjoy completing hiking routes that are lesser known and attempting Only Known Times (OKT’s) or Fastest Known Times (FKT’s).

Kathy can remember always enjoying spending time outdoors, exploring the country property and back roads where she grew up. She would go on long bike rides, challenging herself to ride as far as possible.  As she got older, this transitioned into enjoying long excursions on trails. She dabbled in trail running, backpacking, power walking, hiking, downhill and cross-country skiing. Her first backpacking trip was into the Olympic Mountain Range at 21 years old.

She held on to that memory for many years, but it wasn’t until she married  Ras that they began putting big packs on their backs and attempting some of their first backpacking trips. This was nearly ten years later. Kathy looked at a map of the North Cascades and saw an obvious loop, the well-known, yet quite challenging Devil’s Dome Loop, 42 miles with 12,000 feet of elevation gain. She was such a newbie that she broke that loop up into four, ten mile days without any thought to the climbs, water sources, technical aspect of the trail tread, or anything else worth considering.

Four days later, in the pouring rain, she and Ras huddled together on an exposed section of trail overlooking Ross Lake. He was shivering so she made him hot tea. They had about 13 miles to go. They were in way over their heads, yet hooked. They made it out and tried to hitchhike the final three miles along the rainy highway shoulder. They were ignored. They limped and staggered along until finally reaching their car. Now, they’ve run that route in a day numerous times. They went on to do the 94 mile Wonderland Trail loop around Mt. Rainier with Angela when she was seven. This trail changed their lives, improved their health and has beckoned them back as a family, solo, and with others many times.

Kathy was 44 when she transitioned into ultrarunning and fastpacking, carrying lighter loads and moving swifter on the trail. Now, her goal is to be a full time adventurer, spending all of her time on the trails and writing about her experiences, participating in speaking engagements, encouraging others to get out and enjoy the trails, and helping to promote gear that she believes in with enthusiasm.

Kathy’s accomplishments in the endurance scene are as follows:

  • Completed the Methow Trails 200k Challenge in one push, two times, with her adventure partner Lisa Eversgerd. They became the first two people to ever complete this ski challenge in one go; it’s normally completed over an entire ski season.
  • Set the women’s inaugural Fastest Known Time, Accompanied and Supported, on the Arizona National Scenic Trail. (with Ras Vaughan)
  • Set an Only Known Time on the Arizona National Scenic Trail for completing a self-supported, feet-on-the-ground Yo-Yo (with Ras Vaughan)
  • Kathy and Lisa Eversgerd became the first women to complete the 88 mile unsupported UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge Mind/Body Challenge, a route that summits Desolation Peak two times for a total gain of 14,000 feet.
  • Run over 45 ultramarathons, both unsupported and race formats. Included in this number are several 100k distance, one 100 mile distance and two 150 mile distance races.
  • Completed the 770 mile Grand Enchantment Trail and an additional 550 miles towards an uncompleted Yo-Yo OKT attempt, feet-on-the-ground style. A forest fire on route ultimately ended the attempt.

In addition to endurance pursuits and training, Kathy enjoys cooking & baking vegetarian fare; writing projects which include journaling, adventure & gear blogging, and book writing projects; growing herbs and flowers; hand sewing small wool trail totem dolls from recycled materials; and hanging out with her pets when at home and wildlife while on the trail.

Home: Currently in Coupeville on Whidbey Island in Washington. She and Ras spent most of their lives together, raising their daughter, off -grid in the Okanogan Highlands of North Central Washington. They own a small cabin there with a creek on five acres. She calls this home.

Outdoor Organization Involvement: Kathy is a member of The Mountaineers, High Heel Running Group, Seattle Mountain Running Group and the founder of Middle of Nowhere Trailrunners (MONT). Together with Ras, they organize and conduct a challenge each year called the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge. New routes are designed each year. Sometimes local ultrarunners are chosen to design one of the routes.

The routes are ultra distance; run, hiked or fast packed at the participant’s own chosen time; signed up for on UltraSignup; and challenging, scenic and in wilderness areas. Participants must complete a blog afterwards and are judged and awarded on their writing and other unique factors of their adventure, other than speed. At the end of the year, a party with awards is held at Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle and the next year’s routes are introduced. It has become very popular, now in it’s 5th year.

Favorite Training Ground: North Cascades, including the Pasayten Wilderness and Ross Lake National Recreation Area.

I Never Hit The Trail Without: A pack, loaded with food and water supply appropriate for the distance. My goal is to be able to hit the trail at a moment’s notice, fit and ready to go. In order to push long distances on a regular basis, I feel consistent and healthy nutrition and hydration are key.