Thursday, November 08, 2012

Skyline to the Sea: Day 1

So, travel back with me to mid June. Ed had just finished the famous Double Dipsea race that morning. We had enough time to get home, shower, and get all packed up, and we were off to the trail head for my first backpacking trip ever!

With all the stress of our impending move, the school year ending, Ed graduating, etc., it was such a breath of fresh air to, well, go out into the fresh air. 

Our first day (afternoon really) was an easy 6ish miles to Waterman Gap. I was a bit nervous about impending darkness, even though Ed promised we'd get there in time. But, as we traveled down the trail, with our packs, and took in possibly one of our last forays through these California forests for a while, we couldn't help but be so happy. Even now, recalling the whole trip, but especially that afternoon, I can't help but feel more relaxed. 

When we reached our first viewpoint, looking out over the 25ish miles we still had until we reached the ocean, it was exciting and exhilarating. 

We knew we couldn't spend too long admiring the view, so we one last look, 

we headed back into the forest. 

Singletrack redwood trails are some of my favorites (as I've mentioned more than once), especially since they were leading us quickly to our resting spot. 

Before we knew it, we're arrived!

We set up our tent. Well, Ed's tent really. The one he's had since he was a kid. The one we shared 3 weeks into dating on our first camping trip ever. I have to say, it was a lot smaller than I remembered. Also, sleeping on the ground? A lot harder than I remembered. But, we still had a few hours before we went to bed, so it was time to dig into our dinner. 

On the menu? We'd made two not necessarily backpacking friendly meals (in terms of weight), but very yummy. Walnut pesto kale and quinoa salad. We decided to have a little of both. 

I've got to say, I did miss the hot food, especially as the temperature dropped. But, it was yummy and very filling.

We were very happy with our little log bench, sitting on our pillows to make it extra comfy (we'll more comfy at least). 

We brought a few books, though I can't say I had any interest in Ed's "light reading." I spent time planning our Hawaii trip :)

As soon as it got dark, we headed to bed, mostly because we were so amazingly cold. Especially on that cold, hard ground. But, sleep came pretty quickly. We were excited to start our first full day on the trail!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Four and Seven Tenths

Yesterday morning, Ed left at about 5:20 to go run in a race. I slept until 7, and then I got up, wishing just a little bit that I was also out there running with him. I'd decided not to sign up since trails and I haven't really gotten along here in Arizona, and especially since I gone on all of 3 or so runs here, it seemed like a good decision.

But, running itself sounded good, and I started wondering. Wondering if it would be cool enough, if my body would be fit enough, if I would be motivated to get out there. So, I decided to check out the weather first, and saw temperatures below 70. This is such a crazy difference from a few months ago, when the lowest low was in the 80s.

I realized to answer the other two questions, I couldn't do much else but head out the door, so that's what I did. Lacing up my running shoes, I felt excited, but a little nervous, too. Because I like a challenge, I envisioned a potentially challenging loop that I had been thinking about for a while. It basically just used the major streets near us, making a big square around where we live and not crossing any major streets (so no lights to navigate). Now, it would not challenging for a regular runner, but it was much longer than anything I had attempted since our more. I honestly didn't check to see how far the loop was, because I was worried numbers might scare me off. I just hooked up my iPod, grabbed a bottle of cold water and a visor, and headed out that door.

A blast of cold air (okay, not warm air) hit me as I headed outside, reminding me that it may still be hot by the rest of the world's standards, but we have definitely hit Phoenix's fall.

The loop itself was pretty uneventful, punctuated by waves of pride as I realized how great the run was going, and waves of reflection. I think I'd almost forgotten how lovely it is to be alone with my thoughts. That lovely feeling where thoughts enter and then leave your mind with each falling footstep, letting you process your life without the usual stress that accompanies that kind of processing.

About halfway through, a woman ran by in the other direction, sporting an Arizona Marathon shirt, and before I knew what I was doing, I started speeding up as my mind starting throwing thoughts at me: "What Bout signing up for the half marathon in January? I could do that! Running is amazing! I feel awesome! I can do-"

In the middle of this stream of consciousness, I realized that my breathing was getting heavy and my legs were starting to burn a little.

Oops. Guess I got a little too enthusiastic. I slowed down my thoughts and my body and felt much better. I think I'll keep those ambitious thoughts on hold for a little bit, at least until I start being able to run more regularly.

As I rounded the corner onto the 3rd street (and the 3rdish mile), I could tell my body was starting to get tired. I started thinking about  that feeling you get around mile 20 of a marathon, when you're just feeling tired and sort of done and all you can think about is getting to your destination. The only plus side about being sort of out of shape, is you get to experience that marathon feeling in a much shorter run :).

Heading back onto our main street, I knew I was getting close, and finally, I was back on our block and in front of our house. I felt tired, but pretty darn great, and not even close to as overheated as I'd been on every other run so far here. When I got on the computer, and discovered my run was actually 4.7, I was so thrilled. That's the furthest I've run in such a huge amount of time, and I ran it all!

As I seem to say after every run, I'm going to have to see how things go in terms of regularly running. Nerve pain is still very much aggravated by the running, as my hurting feet will attest, but I am going to use some of my break time this week to line up a new doctor and hopefully get this taken care of.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that yesterday, I was decidedly a runner.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Escaping to Payson

A few weeks ago, Ed's brother Tom came into town, and we decided to take that as as great opportunity to, well, get out of town, with him in tow!

A sad fact we've realized is that getting out of town takes a bit of time. Read: an hour of driving and you are still firmly in the Sonoran Desert. I'd be lying if I didn't say that Ed and I feel a bit disappointed about this, but I suppose it makes sense. We are basically in the middle of the desert, and there are really only a few places in state (or even near the state) that are something else. But, the desert has it's redeeming qualities (like 70 degree winters!), so like everyone says, we're giving it a year to grow on us :)

As we drove, we did start getting some elevation and some views along with it. I do love sweeping views, and this one had enough green to classify as pretty for me. When you got closer, though, it was impressive to see just how many saguaros there were crammed into that space.

Finally, though, after almost 2 hours of driving, we made it! We reached Payson and with it, real trees.

Tom and Irma were also happy to be there, and we were all excited to start our hike. Forwarning, this is not the kind of hike that we use to go on in the bay area, with 8 miles and over many hours. It was closing in on the heat of the day (we got a bit of a late start), and we wanted to take it easy. 

The trail was a short 1/2 mile, perfect for our mid 90s day (much cooler than Phoenix,  but still warm). It was a very well maintained and popular trail. It we impressive to see the number of people out, everyone looking forward to enjoying the bridge. On a side note, on our way out of the park, cars were queued up, as the park had apparently reached capacity! It was definitely a popular day.

Soon, we rounded the corner, and could see our destination! Tonto's Natural bridge - the largest travertine (i.e. the stuff that is used to make big, fancy tiles) natural bridge anywhere. 

We continued down the trail, enjoying the trees around us. While you certainly didn't feel out of the desert (there were enough cacti and dryness to keep you from forgetting), real greenery was certainly a lovely change of pace. 

Finally, we reached a bridge over the creek, that was actually full of water! We had seen  "waterfall" signs, but I was sure we'd be out of luck this time in the season. Glad to see mother nature was still working down here and keeping things nice and wet :)

Some hardy souls were swimming in this apparently surprisingly cold water. Sometimes with all this heat, it's hard to believe anything stays cold, but somehow, it does.

Once we got to the viewing platform, we could see through this tunnel, and enjoy the huge temperature drop the rock afforded us. 

We also enjoyed looking up at the small waterfall coming down over us. 
Then, we joined the rest of the tourists under the "bridge" itself.

When I was a kid, I vaguely remember visiting some caverns as a child. While very cool, this was even better, as you got the experience of being inside the earth (cavelike) with the natural light of being outside. It was a great place to escape the harsh rays of nature while concurrently being embraced by a different facet of nature.

We chatted a bit with a park ranger, who told us that most people climb through the tunnel to the other side to a smaller cave and, theoretically a trail that would make a round trip back up to the cars. Now, considering I was having trouble staying vertical on the slippery rock just to this point, I decided to bow out, along with Irma. We gave our blessings to the boys and they headed through the slippery rock while we hung behind and chatted. 

Ed took the camera to show us their adventure. Apparently it wasn't as slippery as it looks (supposedly. I'm still glad I stayed behind). 

They were treated with checking out another cave,

Complete with a huge moth!

He snapped a picture of Irma and I chilling back towards the mouth of the tunnel, and in no time, were with us again. I have to admit, it was very nerve-wracking watching them climb all over those rocks, but of course they were fine.

After enjoying the coolness, we were finally ready to head back out into the summer sun. 

We even got a very nice fellow hiker to take our picture!

And then it was back up the steep climb. It definitely reminded me that I haven't been doing nearly enough running lately!

Before we left, it was time to check out one last part of the park. Standing on the actual bridge itself! A slightly scary but very cool treat was looking through a hole down those hundreds of feet to where we were. 

And then looking down to the bridge that we were walking on about 20 minutes earlier.

We were even treated with a pretty rainbow.

We took one last look of this pretty valley, and then headed back to the cars. 

At this point, we were definitely starving, so we headed to the Buffalo Bar and Grill for some food.

And, of course, we had to get buffalo burgers while we were here. Verdict? A little more gamey, but still quite tasty. 

As we drove back home, we were all pretty darn tired, despite the short outing. That's another big difference here. The sun seems to pull away your energy faster than normal, whenever your outside. But, it a way, that makes you feel more appreciative of your time our in nature. You really feel like you accomplished something, even if it was only a mile hike.

We saw one last unusual site on our way back, this one 100% man made. Fountain Hills' fountain. Supposedly, this is the largest man-made fountain in the world, or something like that. It was pretty crazy to see! (Jean, apparently this is where you used to live?)

In another 30 minutes, we were home, to rest, recuperate,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saguaros are the New Redwoods?

Hi everyone! Sorry for the abandoning of my blog. I promise, I haven't been holding out on you, this is just the only trail/running experience I've really had since we've moved! Now that the weather is changing (it's going to get down to 95 later this week!!) Hopefully more will be in my future :).

It shouldn't be any surprise that our natural surroundings here have taken a little adjustment.
Okay, make that a lot of adjustment. Ed and I both agree that as long as we're in town, it does feel a bit like we could be almost anywhere. Sure, there are a few more cacti than in California, but there are a surprising amount of trees, too.

But, leave the safe haven of suburbia, and you're reminded exactly where you are.
Which is the Sonoran Desert.


Needless to say, I may have been avoiding trails, mostly because I have what I believe to be a healthy fear of rattlesnakes (substantiated by a recent tv report that I saw last week about how rattlesnake bites are almost double this year, and that this is their most active time of year). But it's also because being on these trails is a little, well, depressing. Mostly because it just isn't the same, and I'm not exactly good with change.

So, when Ed and I decided to finally hit the trails, it was with some level of trepedation. In fact, we'd first planned to go someplace different, and I had second doubts (it was going to be exposed, rocky, and very steep), so we rerouted and headed here instead, to McDowell park, for a somewhat better option.

I have to admit, a couple of tears may have been shed as we started. I told Ed I couldnt' promise more than a 10 minute hike. It was emotionally and physically tiring and I just didn't really want to be there. Plus, it's possible that my soon to hit stomach flu was already making me feel off. Just like our first trail experience back in April, I kept repeating to myself, "this is pretty," trying to make myself believe it.

Ed was a great support, totally willing to do whatever I wanted/needed. He even put up with the mandatory photo ops.

We ended up making it a mile. Something I was really proud of myself for. It helped that there were plenty of other people out there enjoying the day.

As we turned around, and saw the beautiful mountain sillouettes, it really did look pretty.

But being in the desert is almost like being on another planet. Everything is so very different.

Out here, these are our "new redwoods" - the mighty saguaro. These giant plants are pretty impressive, if a little less friendly looking.

Ed's been doing a much better job adapting. He even ran 9 miles on trails this weekend! I'm so proud of him for getting out there and doing awesome. I'm still not totally sure if I'll ever get there.

Our final, prehaps ill-fated, stop, was for breakfast at this place we saw on our way out. There's a chance my flu was in fact food poisoning, a good enough reason to not revisit this place, but it was fun in the moment to be out together for breakfast after our outdoor experience.

The active part is certainly the hardest adjustment and one I'm not totally confident about conquoring. We'll just have to take it one weekend at a time.

In the meantime, I wanted to share something that I'll be posting about soon. I got contacted recently by an runner/author to read and review his book! Now, reading is my favorite pastime, and running books? I love. So, I'm getting going on that and will share about it when I'm done. (Side note: anyone else out there with a book they want me to review? Since I'm not running as much, I'd love to stay involved in the running community this way :) ).

The Longest Race: A Lifelong Runner, an Iconic Ultramarathon, and the Case for Human Endurance

The book is called, The Longest Race, which is by Ed Ayres, and is about his running of the 2001 JFK 50 miler, through which he also recounts the history of endurance running in general. Totally right up my alley, and I can't wait to read it! So excited about this opportunity, because, really, getting a free book and then getting to talk about it is pretty amazing!

So, through books or trails, I'm glad to be posting again :)