Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Four Corners Road Trip

This trip was a long time coming, though it felt like it happened overnight. On Wednesday I found out that a four day weekend might become a reality, so the planning began. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were highest on the priority list, so I did an exhaustive search for any type of accommodation in the Moab area.  I may have chose the busiest travel weekend of the year as my search turned up nothing. No hotels, cabins, lodges, or campsites were available. I called the BLM field office and the gentleman told me my odds weren't very good as most established campsites had already begun to fill that week. This almost kept me from going, as an eight hour drive is a long way to go without a place to stay. I went for it anyways.

Friday morning I trained a few of my clients and left Phoenix around 8:00am. From there I made great timing heading up North past Flagstaff and across the Navajo Reservation. Traffic was pretty light and five hours later I crossed the border into Utah, making my first stop at the famous Monument Valley. These iconic formations are the backdrop to just about every Western print or movie and considered to be one of the most photographed places in the West. The crowds kept me from staying longer. That, and the eagerness to find a place to crash for the night near Moab made me keep rolling. I stopped at the visitor's center in Blanding looking for maps and some information about the area. The lady on staff was a tremendous help and guided me towards a nice campground in the La Sal mountains. She forgot to mention it was at 8,500ft and snow fell a couple times that evening. I didn't waste any time in the morning waking up to sub-freezing temps. I packed up quickly, blasted the heat in the car and drove to Arches National Park. 

Double O Arch
One hundred million years in the making, Arches has over 2,000 cataloged natural stone arches within a 75,000 acre park. There's no question why this place was designated as a national park. For the most part, the trails are pretty easy and offer so much to admire around every corner. I felt like a kid climbing around the boulders and checking out the view from either side, framing up different photo angles and sharing in the excitement with other visitors. It's amazing what the natural world can do to the human spirit.  I hiked three different trails, saw over 20 arches with my favorite being Double O (pictured below). Before leaving, I made the surprisingly steep 1.5-mile climb in a driving wind and rain to see Delicate Arch (above). Next to the buttes in Monument Valley, this has to be the most recognizable piece of landscape in the southwest, which the state of Utah proudly represents on their license plate. This may be one of the best parks for a day trip, especially for families. It's a short, scenic drive from Moab with plenty to see for everyone. 

Immediately following my visit to Arches, I drove out to Canyonlands National Park. I really didn't know what to expect. How could you possibly top the last one? How about converging two canyons, each having their own river, with about the same land mass as the Grand Canyon? Add that with unique geologic formations and an endless array of colors as far as the eye can see and you have Canyonlands. I'm really disappointed I didn't allow enough time to stay longer and explore the depths. The will certainly be a "next time."

Grand View Point Overlook - Canyonlands NP

Mesa Arch - Canyonlands NP

Spruce Tree House
 My lodging situation was a bit stressful, as most people know doing things last minute is really not my style. Primative camping during a storm was not my idea of a good time, so I searched for hotel rooms. The closest available site was two hours away in Cortez, CO. The drive wasn't appealing, but a comfortable bed sounded quite nice. Plus, that would put me just 10 miles outside of Mesa Verde National Park and closer to home whenever I decided to go back to Arizona. The rain continued through the night and into the next morning, so I knew my hiking and running with be at a minimum. I was fortunate enough to get out and snap a few photos of the "houses" throughout the park. Mesa Verde is home to numerous ancestral cliff dwellings dating back to AD 1200, most of which are still in tact. The architecture is amazing, the rooms seem to tell a story of how the Pueblo people lived hundreds of years ago. It's easy to see why they chose this area for protection against the elements, natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. I chose to do the self guided tours, simply based on the amount of time I had, and that they opened earlier. Some areas required a permit pass and are only accessible by guide. The national park service is making great efforts to protect this area and all of the ancient features in the park.

Four Corners Monument - Final stop on the trip.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Santa Catalina Hiking

Edge of the Catalinas with Tucson below
Pusch Peak Hike
Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage 4.47
Time - 2:44
AEG - 2,695ft

My favorite mountain range in Arizona is without a doubt the Santa Catalinas. Bordering Tucson to the north, it appears as a fortress rising up from the desert floor with castle-like features on each distinct peak. I first set eyes on them back in 2008 when visiting friends in the area and said to myself "I must see what's behind those walls." Here we are seven years later and I'm still in awe every time I set foot in the Catalinas.

Bob climbing up Pusch Peak
Bob asked if I wanted to get another hike in this weekend and of course I was game. Considering the unseasonably cool May weather we are having in Arizona I said we should take advantage of it and go south. I looked at a few options and came across Pusch Peak. It has a distinct summit on the edge of the mountain range closest to town and only two miles to the top. Sounds simple enough, right? Only catch is that it was going to require 2,700 vertical feet of climbing in those two miles to get there. It was every bit as steep as we expected and I loved every minute of the climb.  A big payout waited for us at the peak. The far reaching view into the canyon depths and surrounding pinnacles to the northeast and city to the southwest was quite impressive. So glad we made the effort.


Blacketts Ridge with Thimble Peak in the distance
Blacketts Ridge Hike
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage - 6.2
Time - 2:19
AEG - 1,965ft

We didn't drive a hundred miles to only hike four, so we decided on a second and drove over to Sabino Canyon for another more moderate trek. I have wanted to do Blacketts Ridge for years now and coupling these two together made perfect sense with a short break in between. This route has all the making of an ideal day hike. Moderate distance and elevation, a well defined route with mostly subtle switchbacks, and finally a great ending point with awesome views of Mt Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range.

Boone hiking up the Phoneline Trail to Blacketts

One of the brightest Collared Lizards I've ever seen

Pat's Run 2015

Pat's Run
Tempe, AZ
Mileage - 4.2
Time - 21:46
Pace - 5:11
Place - 7th 

The 11th annual "Pat's Run" kicked off Saturday morning just outside of ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. This is a great local event with nearly 30,000 runners and walkers, which just might be the largest road race in the Southwest. This day is dedicated to Pat Tillman, a former ASU football player who died in combat in Afghanistan. The 4.2 mile course ends on the 42 yard line in Frank Kush field, representing his number in the stadium where he played during college.

 So how did the race go? Well, as of Friday I wasn't even sure if I would be participating. Ever since the Phoenix marathon in February my training has been inconsistent without any real structure. A couple minor injuries sprung up as well as seasonal allergies, keeping me from running well these past two months. After a couple treatments and massages these past two weeks, I decided to go for it. All I wanted was to finish under 22 minutes. That meant 5:20 pace or better. In the same fashion as two years prior, a huge pack took off from the start with people dropping off within that initial quarter mile. I felt strong the first two miles and surged to put myself in fourth place at the halfway point. Too early for this strategy, as those high school kids I thought I could drop used me to draft and passed me at the three mile mark. Well played boys. I regrouped with a half mile to go and picked up the pace. I could hear someone closing in and I laid down another surge going into the stadium and the crowd erupted as a footrace ensued as I finished side by side with another guy. His chip time proved to be faster than mine, and I could care less about the actual place, just happy I held my own through the finish chute. After all that, my time was only six seconds behind my 2013 finish.

Thank you Tillman Foundation for another great run and all the volunteers who helped out today!

From their website - Founded in 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships – building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.