As many of you in the Portland running community know, a member of our own, Nick Wells, passed away earlier this Fall from a tragic accident in the Columbia River Gorge. Our hearts and condolences go out to the entire Wells family and his wife, Amber. Not only was Nick an avid adventurer and trail runner at heart, but he was also a son, a brother, a husband, and a friend to anyone he encountered.
I first met Nick at the Thursday night group run hosted by Wy’east Wolfpack Fall of 2019. Standing over 6 feet tall, he’s hard to miss. I remember not long after meeting Nick, we realized that we lived less than a mile from each other. As the pandemic soon unfolded and uncertainty loomed, running outside with his company created a comforting routine during those unpredictable times.
Throughout all of 2020 and most of 2021, Nick and I would meet once a week at the “Beaver Statue” in SW Portland at 5:30 AM, rain or shine. Whether it was a bluebird summer day or nippy, dark, damp winter mornings, he always showed up in his vintage black shorts, orange tech shirt, and running sleeves. He always had a calming presence and was easy to be around. Sunrises over Tilikum bridge will never be the same without him.
One of my fondest memories of Nick will forever be pacing him at Oregon Cascades 100 miler last year, which happened to fall on his 32nd birthday. The night before the race, his mom asked me to record a video message of her singing happy birthday to her son. So as the clock struck midnight and some 55 miles into the race, I played that birthday song to Nick as we meandered through the Deschutes National Forest underneath the stars witnessing him doing what he loved doing.
Like many others, I was devastated when I heard the news about Nick’s passing. Late last summer, my friends and I were stranded overnight, not too far from where Nick had fallen. I couldn’t help but think it could have been my friends and me on the news instead of him that weekend. Had it not been for a stroke of luck and a few other factors, I wouldn’t be here writing this 14 months later. Knowing that Nick was an experienced trail and ultra runner who was never one to take unnecessary risks became a stark reminder this incident could happen to any of us who decides to recreate in the wilderness. It pulled into focus the fragility of life, to slow things down from our hectic lives and savor the little moments that we may take for granted from time to time. Anytime I go on an adventure now, I always remember to carry the ten essentials (https://www.nps.gov/articles/10essentials.htm), if not for myself, then for those on the trail that maybe having a rough outing because that person is someone’s brother or son and or significant other.
A special thanks to all those friends and family members who were out searching for Nick that weekend, including:
- Hood River County Sheriff’s Department – especially Detective Caitlin Please and Deputy Chris Guertin
- Hood River County’s Medical Examiner – Dr. Christopher Vantilburg
- Hood River County’s Media – Sergeant Joel Ives
- Hood River County and State of Oregon’s Search and Rescue team
- Hood River Crag Rats: https://youtu.be/Rwedw1py1Uk
Below are just a few examples of the profound impact Nick had on those he met:
Katie: “Nick was always up for a spontaneous hard trail run or photo op with a heavy metal band. He would show up and bring his smile and sweat. He was infamous for his sweat… I think I asked him if he went swimming at the end of every run, and he would just grin and roll his eyes at me. I don’t ever recall him being in a bad mood or complaining. He was the easiest person to be around. Thursday nights won’t be the same without you, Nick.”
Matt: “Nick has always been there to accompany me on my crazy run ideas…Putting aside his needs to do anything to support others. I will never forget how caring and supportive Nick was to everyone, and I’m forever grateful to have been able to spend so many miles running with him over the last five years. Love you, Nick!”
Nick’s first 100-mile finish at Mountain Lakes 100, 2019
Marya: “Nick always brought a smile to our group runs and never seemed to have a bad day. We’ll miss his smiling face on all our future group get-togethers.”
Backcountry Rise, 2018
If you would like to contribute in honor of our dear friend, his family has requested to donate to the following causes:
- https://gobeyondracing.com/trail-mix-fund/ (Please note: In honor of Nicholas Wells)
- https://www.trailkeepersoforegon.org/donate/ (Please note: In honor of Nicholas Wells)
You’ll always be in our hearts anytime we lace up, Nick. Love you, brother.