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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Recap

When I look back at 2012, all that comes to mind are the problems with my calf and hips.  Nothing major, just overuse injuries that once again prevented me from entering a few races and accomplishing my goal of 3,000 annual miles.  I think the reason they stand out in my mind is because it seemed as though they had a tendency to pop up right before I had something big planned.  Disappointment was an understatement, especially after spending months training for a specific event and having to watch from the sideline. 

Enough about the bad, let's take a look at the good.  After achieving two personal bests in both the marathon and 50K, Jamil and I ran all 70 miles of the newly completed Black Canyon Trail by the end of April. Once summer rolled around, I had a handful of "epic" trips scheduled for 2012.  Those included an overnight backpack to Havasupai Falls as well as a road trip to Zion National Park with Brittney in May.  Then came a summer vacation to Lake Tahoe in July followed by a successful summit of New Mexico's highpoint (Wheeler Peak) in Taos over Labor Day.  The month of September freed up enough time for a two-day hiking trek in the Grand Canyon NP that involved heavy mileage, cave exploration, and Ben's first taste of the canyon.  On Thanksgiving weekend I returned to one of my favorite places in Arizona; Chiricahua National Monument.  During Christmas break Bob and I reached the summit of Miller Peak, the highest southernmost point in the continental United States.  Not a bad year for hiking!

Along with hiking as many new trails as possible, I made a point to visit more places in Arizona like national monuments, ruins, restaurants and anything else unique to the state.  We also camped more often this year than ever before, and typically turned those into weekend getaways to escape the summer heat.  Once summer broke I was on a roll bagging peaks summiting 30 new ones this year alone!  Five of which were in the top ten on the Arizona prominence list (Mica Mountain, Miller Peak, Chiricahua Peak, Halalupai Peak, and Mount Baldy pictured above left).

Once I was able to run more consistently, it was back to road racing for the Phoenix 10K in November and Tucson Marathon in December.  Even though I only completed 5 races in 2012, the times were respectable for the amount of weeks I had to prepare.  I guess we will see what 2013 has in store...            



Here are a few notable stats from 2012


Total Miles - 2,501.39

Average Distance - 8.66

Longest Run - 48 miles

Longest Hike - 24.6 miles

Fastest Marathon - 2:45:46

Runs of 26.2 miles or longer - 9

Total Elevation Gain - 314,216 ft

Average Elevation Gain - 1,087 ft

Approximate Calories Burned - 300,000

Treks with over 5,000 ft AEG - 6

Treks with over 4,000 ft AEG - 13

Unique Trips (New Trails) - 132

Number of New Peaks Hiked - 30

Number of Prominent Peaks Hiked - 10

(Stats courtesy of Hikearizona.com)





Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best of 2012

So here's the top 20 peaks summited in 2012.
(Listed in order by date)

 


 Mount Peeley 7,033ft - Sunflower, Arizona

 


Mule Mountains AZ

 Mount Ballard 7,370ft - Bisbee, Arizona




Summit of Window Peak

Window Peak 7,458ft - Tucson, Arizona







Mica from Rincon

Mica Mountain 8,666ft - Tucson, Arizona




A shot of the view along the...

Woodchute Mountain 7,860ft - Prescott, Arizona





Angel's Landing 5,785ft - Zion NP, Utah








East End AZ

East End Peak - 4,067ft  N. Scottsdale, Arizona




 

Spooner Summit 9,214ft - Lake Tahoe, Nevada



 
The summit from about the...

Halalupai Peak 8,417ft - Kingman, Arizona




Mount Baldy 11,420ft - Springerville, Arizona



 
Wheeler Peak from Williams Lake.

Wheeler Peak 13,161ft - Taos, New Mexico





Mount Taylor 11,301ft - Grants, New Mexico





Bear Mountain 6,506ft - Sedona, Arizona



 

Bill Williams Mountain 9,256ft - Williams, Arizona





Mount Hopkins 8,560ft - Madera Canyon, Arizona



Daisy Mountain AZ

Daisy Mountain 3,716ft - Anthem, Arizona




Table Top from the trailhead

Table Top Mountain 4,373ft - Gila Bend, Arizona




Chiricahua Ridge

Chiricahua Peak 9,759ft - Rustler Park, Arizona





 

Cochise Head 8,119ft - Chiricahua NM, Arizona




Miller Peak 9,466ft - Sierra Vista, Arizona


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Miller Peak - Arizona

Miller Peak Hike
Miller Peak Wilderness
Coronado National Forest
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Mileage - 10.92
Time - 4:31
AEG - 3493ft

Miller Peak is the highest point in the Huachuca Mountains, and comes in at number five on the top 100 most prominent peaks in Arizona.  Located just outside of the Coronado National Memorial (the place where the Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado first entered what is now the United States), Miller Peak sits only four miles North of the Mexican border, and is the Southernmost 9,000 foot peak in the continental United States.  Several peaks in this range rise impressively above the nearby town of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca to the North. 

The route I chose to the summit started from the South at Montezuma's Pass (6,575ft) and followed the crest trail for 4.5 miles to a sign indicating the final 0.5-mile stretch to reach the peak.  The Crest Trail leading through the Huachuca Mountains is a common entry route for Mexican immigrants and smuggling, so it's wise to take precautions and never travel alone through this area.  Bob and I headed up the mountain just before 9:00am and quickly made our way to the peak.  The trail is well maintained and easy to follow.  And the views...well, take a look for yourself.  The last half mile was tough because of a recent snowfall, in fact, most of the Northern slopes were covered.  The wind made our time at the summit quite brief.  Make that intolerable!  We backtracked that half mile to the crest trail junction and decided to make our way towards Carr Peak.  Since we were feeling good, bagging two 9,000 foot peaks in the same day sounded like a great idea until we discovered how deep the snow was on the crest.   

Hiking in deep snow was not suitable for our footwear and wet feet made our decision to turn around easy.  A little after noon we began the descent and were quickly confronted by two border patrol agents.  I was very surprised to see them on the mountain, especially so high up.  I had no idea they patrolled that far into the mountain ranges.  They asked us several questions and even wanted to get a look at the soles of our shoes.  Bob and I couldn't quite put our finger on why they were up there.  Was it routine patrol or were they looking for two guys hiking quickly up the crest trail??  Either way, it was nice to see them and it makes me feel a little safer hiking in these remote mountains of Southern Arizona.


 
Looking South from Sierra Vista, AZ (Miller-left, Carr-right)

 
Looking North at Miller Peak from Coronado Peak
 
 
Standing on Miller Peak Summit (9,466ft)- Carr Peak to the right
 
 
 
Montezuma Peak (Pictured top-left foreground)

 
Bob hiking along the Crest Trail (Miller Peak in the Distance)
 
 
One mile from the Mexico Border!
 






Sunday, December 16, 2012

Skull Mesa

Skull Mesa Hike via Trail No. 247 & 248
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
Tonto National Forest
Cave Creek, Arizona
Mileage - 12.83
Time - 4:57
AEG - 2800ft

Skull Mesa - a fitting name for a formation jutting eerily out of the clouds on a cold and rainy December morning in the desert.  Ben and I wandered into the mountains of Cave Creek expecting a nice and leisurely 6-mile hike to the top of Skull Mesa.  The return trip was an entirely different scenario.  Knowing full well we were in for some wet conditions and a number of stream crossings, I made sure we both had old shoes, moisture wicking fabrics, a hat and rain jacket.  What we didn't prepare for was the storm that was about to blanket the area.

The trip started from the Spur Cross Conservation Area, then traveled through the Cave Creek watershed before connecting with the Cave Creek Trail  No. 4.  Our route quickly departed that trail to the right and headed uphill on the Cottonwood Trail No. 247 for approximately 3 miles to a junction that linked the final 1.2-mile ascent on Skull Mesa Trail No. 248 (pictured below).  Everything was going fine until halfway up the hillside when the passing clouds turned to rain.  With rain came wind, and the more it rained the colder it became.  That didn't stop us from reaching the summit.  A quick break for a picture providing proof of our efforts was about all the time we spent up there before quickly returning back down the mountain.

The clouds reduced our visibility to less than 50 feet and the rain pelted us in what seemed like every direction.  As hard as it was coming down, staying dry wasn't an option.  My focus was solely on not making mistakes.  Ensuring solid footing and staying on trail were my main concerns.  Then it would just be a matter of time until we reached the trailhead.  A matter of 6 more miles that is...in a situation that was incredibly unpleasant.  We did manage to stay calm and keep each other thinking positive.  Cold, tired, a little delirious and completely soaked from head to toe, Ben and I fought strong headwinds in the final mile by running and yelling like crazy people.  Looking back it was pretty fun.  A good time I would never want to repeat!

   
 
A tough climb awaits - 1,100ft in 1.2 miles to the summit.
 
 
It's never a bad day in the mountains...even when you're freezing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

TUCSON MARATHON 2012

Mileage - 26.2
AEG - 366ft
Time - 2:46:23
Pace - 6:22/mile
Place - 12th Overall
(3rd Age)


The Tucson Marathon claims to be a fast downhill marathon, one in which you can run your best time. Granted the race does have a big loss of elevation (nearly 2200ft start to finish), it fails to mention how many rolling hills and uphill sections exist on the course. What am I getting at here? I grossly underestimated this one! Goal time was a sub-2:40 and I finished 6 minutes slower than that. Not my fastest marathon none the less.


Let's backtrack for a second. At 7:00am I was off to a conservative start the first 6 miles through the rolling town of Oracle to put me on highway 77 a little behind pace. That is if I planned on going through the half marathon mark at 1:20. Miles 6-10 were much smoother. I made up some time and took the turn down Biosphere Road feeling good and sitting comfortable in 8th. Something happened in the next 3 miles because right after I passed the the start of the half (in 1:20) my stomach went South. Cramps slowed my pace, and it continued to slow down when I anticipated speeding up along the next big section of downhill. The first female passed me at mile 14 and another few runners pulled ahead by mile 16. I continued to struggle (and I mean struggle) to keep my pace under 7:00/miles in those final 10 miles. I can't quite put my finger on why. I had a good taper, my nutrition was dialed in the past two weeks, plenty of rest the previous 3 nights, and was well hydrated the day before and on race day. I just couldn't move any faster. So I cruised into the finish not knowing my time or current place, I was simply relieved to be done with the race.



RACE NUTRITION

4:30am - 20oz Spring Water
4:30am - Oat Bar (380 Calories)
6:00am - 10oz Spring Water

6:45am - GU Vanilla Gel (100 Calories)

Mile 8 - GU Roctane Gel (100 Calories)
Mile 1-15 Vitalyte Electrolyte Drink (80 Calories)
Mile 20 - GU Vanilla Gel (100 Calories)
TOTAL CALORIES - 760



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cochise Head - Arizona

Cochise Head Hike
Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua Monument Wilderness
Mileage - 8.75
Time - 4:40
AEG - 3,074ft

Seeing it once was all I needed.  Two years ago when I first visited Chiricahua National Monument, all I could think was "I need to reach the top of that!"  Cochise Head is a fortress-like rock formation just outside of the park that commands attention when looking North.  Honestly, I cannot believe two years have passed since then, though I guess its better late than never.  Luckily I purchased at topographic map of the Chiricahua mountain range from the visitor center last time we were there because I couldn't find any other information on the route to the peak. 

Overnight temperatures made our camping experience rather pleasant in the national monument, and I would have to say that the Bonita Canyon Campground has to be one of my favorites in Arizona.  Our trek began around 8:30am from a pullout along Bonita Canyon Drive.  We walked two-tenths of a mile to a gate that led up an old mining road for another mile and a half to where the "trail" began.  I say it like that because it wasn't really a designated trail at all.  It was more like a game trail along a hillside.  At the three mile mark we crossed a wash and began the steep ascent along a ridgeline to the back of Cochise Head to make the final hand over hand approach to the summit at 8,113ft.  It was one of the hardest four and a half mile hikes to reach the top of a mountain that I've done in a long time, though well worth the effort.  I think the view trumped that of our hike the day before to Chiricahua Peak. 

The Horseshoe Two fire of 2011 ripped through the area, leaving most of the trail exposed to the sun and the trail that much harder to find.  Over 220,000 acres of wilderness burned and 93% of the national monument was affected.  If you're going to attempt this hike, I would suggest doing your homework.  Bring a GPS and a topo map, pack plenty of food and water, wear long pants and sleeves, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.  It's not one to take lightly.   

 



Cochise Head (Summit is left of center)



Victory!
 

 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chiricahua Peak

Chiricahua Peak via Rustler Park
Chiricahua Wilderness Area
Coronado National Forest
Cochise County, Arizona
Mileage - 11.77
Time - 4:24
AEG - 2,712ft

Southern Arizona is home to some of the most unique and diverse mountain ranges in the Southwest known as "sky islands."  Named after the Chiricahua Apache Indians, this towering range rises high above the desert floor with the peak gaining over 5,000 feet of prominence, ranking it 4th on the top 100 list of prominent peaks in the state. 

I was eager to return to the Chiricahuas after a trip to the National Monument two years ago on this very same Thanksgiving weekend.  This trip would be a little more ambitious in terms of hiking, reaching two high points in the Chiricahuas and checking two more prominent peaks off the list; Chiricahua and Cochise Head.  I chose to drive, so Matt and Ben met at my place around 5:00am Friday morning for the 4.5 hour drive to the Rustler Park trailhead in the Coronado National Forest.  Just outside the national monument on AZ 181, we headed South on the surprisingly smooth Pinery Canyon Road to FR42/FR42D to reach Rustler Park at 8,300ft. 

At 10:00am we began hiking South along the Crest Trail #270 towards our first destination; Flys Peak (above right).  Even though there is extensive damage from the 2008 fire, the trail is in pretty good condition and very easy to follow.  It's sad to see the forest destroyed, although the views are now opened to see for miles in every direction.  Just beyond the wilderness boundary sign we made our approach toward the summit of Flys Peak.  It was a tough climb, and an off-trail scramble at times, but the view was worth the effort.  We signed the register and dropped down the Southern slope of Flys to re-connect with the Crest Trail to reach our final destination.  Chiricahua Peak is one of those anti-climatic summits with the entire peak being covered with trees and brush.  The real significance was knowing we reached the highest point in the county at 9,759ft.  On the return it was the crest trail all the way, and the three of us made it back to the car quickly so we could set up camp in the national monument before dark.

 
Silver Peak (Far Right)
 
 
Matt, Boone, and Ben on the Crest Trail
 
 
A glimpse of Cochise Head from the Crest Trail

 
Park Ranger told us there was an estimated 400-500 black bears in the Chiricahuas

 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Table Top - Arizona

Table Top Mountain Hike
Table Top Wilderness Area
Sonoran Desert National Monument
Maricopa, Arizona
Mileage - 9.25
Time - 2:42
AEG - 2356ft

Cooler temperatures have finally made their way into the valley, and that means more opportunity to hike in the surrounding desert.  Table Top is considered a seasonal hike as the trail ventures up the Southern slope of the mountain rendering it unbearable in the summer with absolutely no relief from the sun.  Just to prove my point; we arrived at 9:30am and it was 58 degrees, when our hike was finished at 12:30pm, the outside temps rose almost 30 degrees!  I couldn't imagine what a scorching inferno this area would be in June or July.

Getting there involved a 15-mile stretch of unpaved road off of Interstate 8, which was mostly sand and rock.  Several signs were posted about land preservation and precautions regarding smuggling through the monument.  We were certainly on high alert as this area can be quite unpredictable.  Today was completely silent.  In fact, we didn't encounter another person or vehicle until Border Patrol stopped us less than a mile from the Interstate on our way out.

This hike is well worth the effort, especially when you're able to summit a peak (49th most prominent) within a wilderness area.  There are 486,000 acres of protected land surrounding Table Top, and the healthy desert life is evident of that.  Talk about pristine!  The first 2.5 miles of the trail starts out fairly gradual, and then it climbs 1,300ft in the final mile through a lava field to reach the end of what is listed as the Table Top trail.  A nice place for a break and photo opportunity, though our work was not done just yet.  The true summit lied ahead another 0.8 miles on the most Northern section of the mountain.  The three of us stopped briefly here to enjoy the view and soak up a little sun, then we were on our way.  An hour later we reached the car and congratulated each other on a successful completion of yet another prominent peak in Arizona!



 
Sonoran Desert National Monument
    

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day in the West

That was the name of the company Brittney purchased a deal through for our first Jeep Tour in Sedona.  After several visits to Sedona, I figured it was time to see what all the buzz was about, or at least why those jeep tours are so popular.  I'll have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first.  Turns out, our 'Little Rattler" 4x4 trip out to the West side of Sedona was a lot of fun!  

It also helped to have a great guide (Pioneer Pete), and a well run operation to make all of our arrangements go so well.  I would certainly take another tour through this company, perhaps when it's not 40 degrees outside! 

Click on A DAY IN THE WEST for more information!