Sunday, April 22, 2012

Woodchute Mountain

Woodchute Mountain Trail #102
Woodchute Mountain Wilderness
Jerome, Arizona
Mileage - 20.5
Time - 3:16
AEG - 3,068ft

Since most of my "running friends" were at the Zane Grey 50 yesterday, I couldn't find anyone to join me for a run up Woodchute Mountain on Sunday morning, so I went alone.  No worries, I actually enjoy running solo from time to time.  I choose this route for a couple reasons, the first being temperature.  Phoenix hit a record high today at 105 degrees (it's still April), so I was in search of cooler weather.  Secondly, most of this run was above 7,000 feet in elevation, which is something I'll need to get accustomed to before summer when I start preparing for the race in Tahoe.  The main reason I drove 250 miles just to get in a long run is because Woodchute is on the Arizona prominence list (number 27), and I got to bag another peak!  Sweet!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Black Canyon Trail - Section 3

Black Canyon Trail Run
Black Canyon City, AZ
Mileage - 30.1
Time - 4:45
AEG - 2,504ft

One word: Done!

No, I'm not talking about my legs, although they are a little fatigued after logging over 80 miles this week in just five days! What I am referring to is the Black Canyon Trail. One of my goals for 2012 was to complete the entire BCT from North to South, all 68.5 miles of it (based on my Garmin). Jamil and I checked off the first 40 back in January when the weather was cool, and with summer approaching, I was nervous we weren't going to get it finished before the 100-degree temps overtook the valley. Then a cold front moved in. Perfect! This appeared to be our last opportunity until late fall, and since the mileage tied into both of our training schedules rather nicely, we went for it.

Jamil and I started the run on a cold morning (by our standards) at the Black Canyon trailhead near Rock Springs, AZ. From there we ventured South for 13 miles to our first destination (Table Mesa trailhead) where a jug of water was stashed to refill our bottles. As cool as the temperatures were today, it was almost unnecessary. For some reason we thought these 30 miles were going to be easy, that proved not to be the case. Those first 13 miles had the most climbing of any other section of the BCT! So with 17 miles to go we're both tired, yet we managed to press onward. Jamil said that after 20 miles he would start to "warm up." He was right. Around mile 21 we had a stretch of dirt road to follow and the two of us were easily running sub 7-minute miles until picking up the main trail again.

This area has an interesting mix of recreational activities from ATV to horseback riding, 4-wheeling, hiking, camping, mountain biking, and several shooting ranges. At times it felt like we were running through a gun fight. It really is the wild west out there! Clouds loomed overhead all day, and the forecast called for a 60% chance of rain, though it wasn't until we passed the New River trailhead that any precipitation began to fall. It came in the form of hail! We donned our rain jackets and ran for about a mile while being pelted by BB-sized hail. All part of the adventure I guess. The run came to an end when we reached our vehicle near Pioneer campground, and the two of us were excited to have finished the entire BCT. The celebration didn't last long, as both Jamil and I were talking about what we were going to eat when we got home, and wanted to make that a reality as soon as possible.

-Boone at the Aqua Fria river crossing on the Black Canyon Trail

A glimpse of the well established (older) section of the Black Canyon Trail

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Grand Canyon Trek 2012

Hermit-Tonto-Bright Angel Loop
Grand Canyon National Park
Mileage - 24.6
Time - 8:33
AEG - 6632ft

Easter Weekend was around the corner, so I pitched the idea of returning to the Grand Canyon to Bob and Mark, hopefully to re-create some of the fun we had last year hiking up North. Mark had to pass on this one, Bob on the other hand, didn't hesitate for a second. The only question was "what route do we take?" I have been trying to complete a double crossing of the canyon (also referred to as a Rim to Rim to Rim, or Rim-cubed) for the past few years now, and have had to cancel last minute for a number of reasons including inclement weather, a sprained ankle, logistical issues, and this weekend presented a new hang up. A water line broke leaving Phantom Ranch without water, creating a huge obstacle for a 42-mile run across the canyon. Without the ability to filter and treat water from the Colorado river, it wouldn't be possible to run and carry enough of the precious liquid to make it from the South Rim to the North Rim and back.

I was certainly disappointed by the set back, although, this presented an opportunity to explore a new section of the Grand Canyon. I researched maps and trail descriptions and came up with a loop hike connecting the Hermit Trail to Bright Angel via Tonto Trail that would total almost 25 miles, and give us nearly 7,000ft of total climbing. A shuttle bus is required to reach the Hermit trailhead (Hermit's Rest pictured top right), so we had to factor in those details, along with what time to wake up and where to park. The hike was set for Saturday, so upon our arrival Friday night, we got a closer look at the park layout and how all these pieces were going to fall into place. Everything worked out perfectly.

We woke up to a bitter cold morning... 18 degrees at Mather Campround, and got moving fairly quickly. After breakfast Bob and I drove over to the Bright Angel Trailhead where our trek would be ending, and caught the bus over to Hermit's Rest. The thirty minute ride was certainly interesting, and watching the sun come up over the canyon was a real treat. Our hike began promptly at 6:30am descending the Hermit trail in route to the Tonto. I started off with 5 layers of clothing and was down to a t-shirt and shorts within a couple miles. The Hermit Trail showed little signs of life until we neared the main intersection as backpackers were beginning their ascent out of the canyon. Carrying only a daypack, the two of us were often asked; "Where are you guys headed?" When our answer was given, the response was usually similar. "In one day?" most people asked, as this is mainly a backpacking route. In their defense, I wouldn't be lugging a huge pack across that many miles in one day either!

The trek continued. On, and on, and on we hiked across the Tonto. A rolling 12 mile section is what separated the Hermit and Bright Angel trails, as the miles added up, so did the fatigue. By the time we reached Indian Gardens at mile 19 (marking the end of the Tonto, pictured below), we were pretty tired. The Tonto trail offered great scenery, incredible views of the river, and enough variety to keep it interesting over the course of a few hours. The highlight for me was the hair-raising section of trail just a few feet from a 1000-foot drop into the river! A water stop at Indian Gardens would be our last real "break" before grinding out the last 5 miles (and 3,000 feet of vertical gain) to escape the canyon. Bob picked up the pace and we cruised along past all the toursits still making their way down. Besides the changes in rock color of the canyon walls, the best way to tell you're near the top is when you start seeing people hiking in jeans, sandals, and usually carrying little or no water. The trek was over just after 3:00pm, even though I was physically beat, it was sad to end another adventure below the rim. I guess I'll just have to go back up there soon. Perhaps this time for a double crossing!