Tuesday, December 9, 2014

North Face race weekend

Jason invited us to join him for some race volunteering at the North Face trail champs last weekend.  Sounded like fun - and it was!

Team V, getting into Trouble:

Love the big bridge:

All smiles as we prep to hang glow sticks on the course:

It's a beautiful course, lots of spectacular views:

We hung glow sticks on Friday, then got up at 0-dark-hundred on Saturday to crack the ones hanging along the first section of the 50-mile course (the race started at 5 am).  It was relaxing being out in the darkness and walking along the trails.

Watching the huge lead pack run down stairs around mile 18 or so:

Challenging lighting for early-race photography, but anyway, there are a bunch of runners on the trail across the way:

Back at the Tennessee Valley aid station where we helped with traffic control (cars and runners) and got to watch the leaders of all the races run through before the final section of the course.  Here is Sage Canaday on his way to an impressive 50-mile win:

And Dakota Jones nipping at his heels, finishing in 2nd place:

Timothy Olson covered in tattoos and mud:

Hey, it's Ryan!  He and Kelly ran the 50K and it was great to see them.

He accepted an offer of a beer, which we thought was pretty funny:

Kelly opted for more "normal" race liquid:

Fun times at the race - and only just a bit of cleanup from the mud.

On Sunday we took a little tour of downtown San Francisco.  It's about time John and I made it into the city.

The Christmas tree at Union Square:

This is also where we caught our very first live flash mob!  We just happened to be there at the right time.  Either that or Ryan is incredibly adept at planning city tours.  Very cool.

A bit of the flash mob experience:

A neat Irish bar that Ryan and Kelly knew about:

Another giant Christmas tree, this one with a wonderful set of lights strung to it, and a nighttime selfie attempt (bonus points if you spot John):

On Monday Jason suggested the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.  Beautiful, peaceful, quite lovely place.

Hopefully not too spoiled with the addition of selfie-takers:

From one side this looks like a tree growing out of the water.  From the back you can see that the tree grows out from the bank, turns upward, and is supported by a post that looks like a tree trunk.  OK, that's hard to explain, so you should go there and check it out.  Pretty amazing.

Lovely waterfall:

What a fun weekend!  Thank you Jason and Ryan and Kelly!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Welcome to California

We're excited to be visiting my brother Kip in California!  It was especially fun to be together on Thanksgiving.  We ran to Mountain View to participate in a Turkey Trot 5K.

John even ran fast enough to take 3rd place in a large (and competitive) field!

That was without knowing he was competing for pie!  Thanks for winning Thanksgiving dessert for us, John.

It was also entertaining running back to Kip's house carrying a pie.

Yay pie!

The next weekend John's parents came to visit.  They enjoyed a tour of the Google campus:

We were excited that they got to see several self-driving cars:

And a conference bike (amid other normal Google bikes):

The dessert sculptures in their new location:

With the new lollipop.  Go Team V!  :)

A fun start to some Bay Area time, thanks Kip!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death Valley National Park

With a plan to drive from Las Vegas to the Bay Area of California, I of course got out the map to see what we could see along the way.  How about Death Valley?  This seems like a good time of year to visit the hottest place in the US!

We started at Badwater Basin to check out the lowest place in the US.  It's a large salt flat in a wide valley, surrounded by mountain ranges:

Required selfie at 282 feet below sea level:

Lots of evidence of evaporation:

Curious bumpiness in the ground:

Tough to see in this picture, but WAY up high (over 200 feet high) there is a sign in the hill over Howie that marks "SEA LEVEL":

We stayed in a quiet campground for a couple nights so we could explore the area a little.  There is a lot to see, spread out over a lot of area, and quite a bit of variety.  We had to pick and choose to decide on a couple shorter hikes.  Looks like we found another "running destination" for future reference.  Also for future reference - winter is a great time to be here.

There are many off-trail options for hikes, especially since you can make up your own and go almost anywhere you want.  We opted for a ranger-suggested hike for the first day, up Fall Canyon for several miles.

Much of this and other Death Valley canyons reminded us very much of the Desert Winds race we did around Lake Mohave.  Good memories.

Fun wash to walk up (and run down), a nice intro to the area.

We later drove through the "Artist's Palette" area, admiring the colors in the rocks:

So much to see that we didn't expect:

The next day we set our sights on a large alluvial fan that climbs 3 miles from the valley up to the entrance of Little Bridge Canyon.  It's not often we have a chance to climb an alluvial fan, especially one bare of trees and extending such a distance.

We started some distance away at a paved pull-off so we could leave the truck and the trailer.  Taking aim at our target, we set off across the desert.  First, some curious sand dunes:

Dune Runner:

Soon we were on the rocky part.  It's a gradual climb on a rocky expanse, and the character and features changed as we went up.  Different kinds of rocks, little and large washes, sandy and hard-packed.  Very cool.

Tiny cactus - we didn't see many signs of life, so every little bit was memorable:

Looking back the way we had come:

Finally the entrance to the canyon:

More pretty colors and curious formations:

John had a great time running back down the fan:

Our vehicles, with John perched on top of the trailer, patiently waiting for me in the desert:

What an interesting and varied place - looking forward to going back sometime!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Scenes around Las Vegas

Some pictures from around sunny downtown Las Vegas:

No desire to eat at the Heart Attack Grill, but it's a curious place:

The Praying Mantis at the Container Park - seen in the evening with torches flaring!

John discovered that the World Series of Poker final table was going on while we were there.  We were curious whether we could get in - and we could, cool!  We arrived Tuesday evening when there were 3 players remaining.  It was pretty fascinating watching it live:

We were even more excited to be there for the final hand - and it was over, celebration!

Confetti everywhere!

Another evening - watching the Rock and Roll Marathon.  It took place in the dark, starting on The Strip and running through downtown.  We hung out with a fun band for a while and cheered on the runners:

Meb Keflezighi was running with one of the half marathon pace groups, neat!  It wasn't easy to spot him though:

The same group coming back the other way - this time I captured the "Meb" sign but still not the actual guy.  Oh well, it was fun knowing he was there:

The split in the course where the half marathoners went back down The Strip and the marathoners ran through the Fremont Street Experience:

One of the quieter evenings on Fremont Street:

Must have been fun to race through, twice:

And finally, some scenes from "near Las Vegas" - at Red Rock Canyon.  We camped there for a week and did a bit of hiking.  These are from our day going up Turtlehead Peak:

Beautiful desert:

Love the rocks and interesting trails there:

Even better scenery as we climbed up:

And the top!  With Vegas in the background, a nice finale to our time in the area before heading further west...