Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hualapai Triple Ascent

Hualapai Mountains
Kingman, Arizona
Mileage - 12.25
Time - 6 Hours
AEG - 4,074ft

After returning home from a place like Lake Tahoe, I knew I would find myself "chasing the dragon" to discover something new and match the sheer beauty only the Sierras have to offer. To my surprise, the Hualapai Mountains were waiting just 3 hours from Phoenix.  Matt put together a group of 6 hikers to venture up North to the Hualapai Mountain range outside of Kingman, Arizona.  To be honest, my expectations were pretty low going into the day thinking this was going to be another hot trek in the high desert.  I couldn't have been more wrong!

Matt and I debated where to spend our Saturday and went with this mountain for one reason; it's the 9th most prominent peak in Arizona and the highest point in Mojave County.  Driving 3 hours through the desert along route 93 was scenic enough to hold us over until our final destination, although it wasn't until we arrived in Kingman that my expectations about this trek completely changed.  Here lies an 8400+ft jagged granite peak covered in pines and aspens.  The excitement began to build as we neared the Ranger's station to obtain a map and a little guidance before starting the hike.  At 9:00am we were off and looking to summit the high point before any afternoon thunderstorms rolled in.  Luckily they held off and we were able to reach all three accessible peaks in this range (Hualupai 8417ft, Hayden 8250ft, and Aspen 8196ft).

Everyone was in good spirits, even on the hot, steep climbs to each summit.  I would chalk that up to the incredibly scenic landscape, sweeping high desert views, and the occasional wildlife encounter.  This mountain range truly is a great refuge for a variety of animals, especially migratory birds and big game animals.  We had an up-close view of a golden eagle and Ben made friends with a couple turkey vultures as they circled and waited for him to fall off the east face of Hualapai Peak (pictured above-right climbing near the summit).  Six hours and 12 tough miles later we were back at the trailhead and ready to call it a day. 

Aspen Peak Summit (pictured right)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tahoe or Bust

I made the decision to withdrawal from the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 a few days prior to the race due to another injury.  This time it was my calf that flared up around the 4th of July and didn't show any signs of improvement, even with two weeks off of running and a ton of rehab.  Frustrating is an understatement!  These overuse injuries seem to come at the worst time...but is there ever really a good time?

This didn't stop us from taking a 5-day trip out to Lake Tahoe for a summer get-a-way!  If I look on the bright side, it was way less painful hanging out by the pool than running 50 miles.  Well, now that my Saturday was free, lets get on with the vacation.  Brandon, Lindsey, Brittney and I flew out to Reno on Thursday and stayed with Lindsey's Dad for a couple days, which was great.  Thank you so much Bob (and Becky), you guys were incredibly generous!  We had a blast over the weekend kayaking, hiking, swimming in an alpine lake, riding bikes, trying new restaurants, and making an incredible dinner at home.  OK, so I really just watched and helped eat that one.

On Saturday around 11:00am we drove up to Spooner Lake State Park, the location of the race start and finish.  We hiked along the Tahoe Rim Trail in the opposite direction where runners would be finishing their final 5 miles.  No familiar faces until nearing the trailhead/aid station where the car was parked at Spooner Summit.  We heard someone say "Is that Boone and Brittney?"  It was Alex, another Phoenix runner on his way to a first place finish in the 50-mile.  Nice to see a local guy picking up the win!

There are millions of photographs of Tahoe, and the lake is as pristine as you would imagine.  In my opinion, there's no way a picture could ever do this place justice though.  Emerald blue waters surrounded by dense pine forests, crystal clear lakes and streams, massive granite rock formations and jagged snow-capped peaks make this place visually stunning.  I can't wait to go back!       

Hiking up past Eagle Falls with Emerald Bay in the distance.

Brandon and I taking a chilly plunge in Eagle Lake!

A 22 mile ride along the lake...before the thunderstorms rolled in.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

East End Peak

East End Peak - Hike
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
North Scottsdale, Arizona
Mileage - 5.7
Time - 2:35
AEG - 1,980ft

Ben and I ventured into the McDowell Mountains late Sunday afternoon in the blazing heat (108 degrees) with two destinations in mind; Tom's Thumb and East End Peak.  It was a definite first for Ben to explore this section of the preserve, and my first attempt to reach the high point in the McDowells (that being East End Peak, resting at 4,057 feet). A little cloud cover and the shade of a few massive boulders made the summer temps tolerable, and by sundown it was really quite pleasant. 

After a quick stop at the thumb, Ben and I hurried over to complete the ascent up East End as the sun was setting and we didn't feel like scrambling off trail in the dark.  Every time I hike through this area I'm always amazed by the rock formations and surrounding landscape, it truly is one of the most amazing places to see in Phoenix.  Soon many will have that opportunity with the new facilities going up at the North access area.  Ben and I had a blast up there this evening, which reminded me how much fun it is to get out of the house and immerse yourself in nature...even when its extremely hot outside!

Rock formations taken from Tom's Thumb

Ben climbing East End

The summit of East End Peak

Tom's Thumb at dusk