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 :)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Celebrating Two Years of Marriage

Okay, so let's be honest. Me and running? Not really happening since the move. I'm still really struggling with nerve pain in both feet that just keeps getting worse, what with being on my feet all day at work. Added to which, I still can't quite convince myself that desert scenery is really my cup of tea. I'm still working on it :).

In the mean time? Let's relive some California running together :)

So, let's rewind to June 27th. Picture a young couple, their furniture gone from their home, having just returned from 2 nights of backpacking. This is their last taste of California, before they head to this:

If you can put yourself in their shoes, you can understanding how wonderfully excited they would be to be staying in such an amazing place.
In true to form fashion, we arrived early so that we could go on a wonderful trail run before check in. Ed left the planning up to me, which was good and bad. The bad part was that one of my favorite trails (troop 80) was closed, so it knocked out a whole bunch of my favorite loops. The good part was that we ended up doing an amazing loop I never would have otherwise chosen that gave us the perfect goodbye taste of Mt Tam.
We began by heading down the Ocean View trail, one I apparently had never taken Ed on that is actually one of my favorites.

 I couldn't believe how much fun it was running down this trail. It brought back so many fun memories of running this trail in college, back when trail running was brand new and surprisingly amazing at every step.
If I could only run one trail for the rest of my life, single track redwoods might just have to be it.

In what seemed like next to no time, we hit the bottom of the valley and entered Muir Woods, complete with lots and lots of tourists.However, our time on the valley floor was all to short. 
In next to no time, we were climbing rapidly, at which point I started to question my loop choice quite seriously. 
Now, don't get me wrong, it was beautiful. Jaw droopingly, I miss those redwoods so much I could cry right now, beautiful. It was also crazy steep. I may have made Ed stop and pose for pictures so I could catch my breath. 

I made Ed pause with the switchbacks because it was so exciting to hit a less steep part of the trail.

Finally, we hit the pan toll sign, and I knew we were getting close to the end of this slogging uphill, which made me very excited.

Once we got there, we stopped, we rested, drank water, and, if I''m not mistaken, ate some cookies we'd packed.

Then, we were back on the trails, Matt Davis, to be precise. I was worried, because in my memory Matt Davis was full of exposed uphill, and I was so not ready for that, after 30+ miles of backpacking only two days before. 

But, since there really wasn't any other choice, we kept going.
And, I am so, so thankful we did. Because, what I did forget was that this part of Matt Davis was actually quite flat and/or downhill, and full of spectacular views.

Seeing San Francisco from this vantage is one of my favorites.

And, the Pacific Ocean from here is even better. I have to admit, looking at these pictures right now, when I feel so far away from California, almost makes me a little teary. I cannot wait to make another visit sometime soon. 

I know I said redwood single track was my favorite, but this comes a close second.

We grabbed a quick "us" picture, to commemorate our anniversary, as we came to the close of our trail.

Finally, with one last glance at the view, we headed downward and we were back at the inn, done.