Really, I have it good. There is a trail head for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail about 2 miles from my house. The trail isn’t anything over-the-top spectacular, but its great. I am so lucky to have nice easy trails so close. Also, it is perfect running weather. 50s. No overheating.
I found myself in Portland for a conference and was able to squeeze in a couple runs. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I was so fun to run on trails that look very much like “home.” Soft dirt, thick undergrowth of ferns, moss growing all over. Forest Park in Portland did not disappoint!
Back in town, but with my family still in California I tempted fate and ran 12 additional miles (on top of the 30 I had already done this week). That is pushing it for me, but I wanted to take the opportunity to hit the Wasatch Crest to see the autumn leaves while I could.
I started at the Big Water trailhead where the Mill Creek Canyon Rd. ends. I climbed up to Dog Lake, dropped down to Mill D North, climbed up to Desolation Lake and the Wasatch Crest Trail above, took the crest north to Mill Creek, dropped that down to the Little Water Trail, and took that back to my car. I could fill this with lots of blow-by-blow commentary, annoyance at dogs with muddy paws climbing all over me at Dog Lake while their owners say “Oh…uh…sorry,” NOT seeing any moose like last year on Mill D, the temperature dropping bizarrely cold (and damp) when the sun went down as I came off the Crest and into Mill Creek Canyon, and how I put music on loud on my iPhone while running through scary woods in the dark – hoping to scare off any potential startled wildlife encounters….but I won’t. 😉
Here are some pictures. One great thing about hitting the aspens in late evening light is how the sideways indirect light just sets everything on fire. Already bright colors just explode.
Also, I hit the Aspen Grove Trail for the first time with a friend who was visiting from Ottawa. The trail is rougher than Timpooneke. I think I like the other approach better.
I was in Flagstaff for a conference this week and had a free morning before the events started. How could I not venture over to the Grand Canyon?!
It was my first time and it did not disappoint. I started at the South Kaibab trailhead right around dawn and bombed on down. I had the trail mostly to myself, only passing a few hikers who must have caught an earlier shuttle to the trailhead.
The early morning light was just gorgeous. The red rock and green vegetation all seemed to take a deeper hue than was natural. The midday sun later washed the colors out quite a bit more. I had been warned that the trail was not terribly runnable – and much of it was not. It is hard to get a good rhythm or use a natural gait or stride between all of the wooden log steps, rocky terrain, etc… I did luck out in that rain from the previous days had left the trail nice and soft. Very little mud going down South Kaibab, just soft, slightly-moist, dirt. Also, a TON of mule dung. I have since been told that when the trail dries out, clouds of mule-dung-dust billow up with every step and you end up inhaling a lot of it. Yuck.
At 3 miles, I hit Skeleton Point and paused to take off some layers. At the trailhead it was chilly and I had a long sleeve shirt and windbreaker on. Those both went into my pack and I continued on in just a tank-top. It was still a BIT chilly (so I left my gloves on) but I was moving enough to be sweating and it felt nice to shed the layers.
I continued past Skeleton Point, down the switchbacks and then actually hit some nice runnable trail for a while as it wraps around to the left. I was pushing, hoping to catch up to the mules at The Tipoff, where I knew I would be allowed to pass them quickly. Unfortunately, I got waylaid taking picture of the morning light streaming in from behind some clouds to the east.
I did not catch them at The Tip-Off. There were some early hikers there, Japanese – I think, and they gave me VERY weird looks as I cruised by. I don’t know if it was because I was running or because I was wearing a tank-top at 7:30 AM. In any case, I continued on, finally catching the mules a bit later. They had me keep my distance until there was a wide spot in the trail. It only slowed me down for about 10 minutes – not bad.
After passing the mules (and another mule train heading UP) I started to notice how hot it was getting as I neared the canyon bottom. And HUMID! I could feel the humidity in the air – like a mist. Then, I looked up and saw what the sunlight and humidity was creating.
I crossed over the Colorado River on the black suspension bridge, and then ran up to Phantom Ranch for a VERY refreshing lemonade. I think it upset my stomach a bit, but it sure was tasty. I crossed back over the river on the Silver Bridge and started up the Bright Angel Trail.
After the bridge, you run along the River Trail, downstream. It felt great to actually open up my stride and RUN, albeit slowly.
By the time I hit the canyon where the Bright Angel Trail starts to climb, I was feeling the effects of the heat and humidity. For the next 3 miles, as I climbed up to Indian Garden I was sweating more profusely than I have in my entire life. It was, literally, a constant stream of drips off my brow and down my face. I refilled my waters, mixed a new bottle of perpetuem and soldiered on. At this point, 5+ miles and a few thousand feet of climbing left, I hit the mental state where you just want to get the thing done.
The psychology of this run was unique. I am used to running UP mountains, and then coming back down. Even if you are tired and wasted from the climb, the descent is always easier. Doing it in reverse was a mind-trip. Within a mile after leaving Indian Garden you get a view of the remainder of the climb ahead and it really sinks in what you’re going to have to do.
With about 3 miles of climbing left, the clouds that had been threatening to rain all day settled in and started to drizzle. It actually felt GREAT! I was overheating as I tried to make a strong steady power hike up. The cooling drizzle, however, quickly turned into a torrential downpour. This continued on and off for most of the remaining climb. I considered putting my windbreaker on, but just kept pushing. At this point, I was seeing a LOT of people. Going up, coming down, lots of day-hikers and back-packers. All of them giving me weird looks as I hiked past in my tank top, soaked to the bone. The rain made the hiking more difficult as the trail turned into a stream. Trying to keep along the edges of the trail to avoid the water slowed me down a bit. Worse, however, were the muscle cramps that started up. First, both of my calves started to cramp and spasm. Then, both of my quads. I thought I had kept up on my electrolytes, but perhaps I had fallen behind with all of the sweating. Or, perhaps it was just fatigue. In any case, I soldiered on.
Right at the top (1/4 mile left) I caught up to the only other runner I had seen all day – and the only person to pass me all day. In the days preceding the run, I had posted on a R2R2R facebook group for some advice and one other runner, Sierra, commented that she might do it too that day. Down at the river, I had seen her coming out of the restroom as I was going in, but didn’t make the connection that it might be Sierra. Then, part way up to Indian Garden, I passed her as she was sitting on the side of the trail taking some salt capsules. Later, she RAN past me and I finally realized who it might be. I called out and asked if she was from the FB group, and sure enough it was. “Oh yeah,” she said, “You said you’d be in a red bandana! See you at the top.” At that point, she was actually running, and I was just power hiking, so I doubted I would “see her at the top.” However, in that last 1/4 mile I did catch up to her. Her legs were cramping too. We hiked it out and shared the shuttle back to our cars. I wish I would have caught her earlier, as having a hiking companion up those last 3 miles in the rain would have been nice!
What a day! With the stop and rest at Phantom Ranch, the whole thing took me about 5.5 hours, which was faster than I had estimated it would take me. The Grand Canyon is a MUST-SEE / MUST-DO location for trail runners. However, it is actually not very good terrain/trails for trail running. I’m sure I’ll do it again though!