Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grand Canyon running

Hey, a blog post!  I've got some catching up to do, more of which will happen after the end of this October "mileage challenge" that Kip got us into.  Yes, I'm indirectly blaming my brother for keeping me thoroughly distracted this month.  I could take it a step further and call out our genetics for our competitive and slightly compulsive natures, but then it might sound like I'm blaming our parents.  Who have nothing whatsoever to do with the lack of October blog posts on my part.  So anyway, enough blathering and blaming already.

The important thing is that we were at the Grand Canyon earlier this month.  Love, love, love that place!  It didn't take any additional motivation to get in some miles there.  The main challenge being that many of the miles were fairly slow (at least for me), but at least we had all day to enjoy it.

I was coming off a long (for me) issue with an IT band - finally got the knee pain diagnosed and on the way to a fix.  Thank you Dr. AJ Gregg in Flagstaff!  He did some amazing work, sent me home with hip exercises, and told me to test out my knee by doing something that would previously cause a problem.

Well, running downhill was the biggest problem.  Can't imagine a better place to test it that in a big canyon where you start out running downhill and turn around whenever you want.

The spectacular canyon (finally, it says, we can focus on the important stuff):


Starting down Bright Angel trail, lots of great colors:


Happy to have shade part of the time - and beautiful things to look at:


On my first foray I made it 3 miles down the trail - no pain, just some discomfort but learning ways to work it out and minimize it while on the run (lighter steps, glute activation, e.g.).  I was so excited to make my goal for the day that I had to take a picture:


Ranger talk about condors - we didn't see any flying up close on this trip, but learned a lot of great info about the giant birds.


Mule train on the way down the trail - I passed them in my next descent down Bright Angel to Indian Gardens.


Another successful (and longer) downhill run!


I went out to Plateau Point for the first time - now one of my favorite spots for a view all around and down to the river:


Back to Indian Gardens, I took the Tonto Trail across a few miles and over to South Kaibab to climb out.  Along the way I spotted a possible cave up high:


Day 3 of knee testing - all the way down to the river (on South Kaibab) and back up on Bright Angel.  Everything was still working well, yay!  More amazing scenery to boot:


Look who I found!


John doing the reverse loop, stopping for a kiss and a selfie.  I think the Grand Canyon inspires us to gesture with big arms:


Almost down to the river...


I made it!


Bridge over to Bright Angel:


A couple days later, on Grand View trail:


Ruins near an old mine:


Horseshoe Mesa - fun place to explore:


Century plant, I think:


Some scenes from John's long run from Grandview to South Kaibab via the Tonto trail (he also did a rim-to-rim-to-rim on another long day but didn't stop to take pictures on that one):






Yep, it was a long day for John - all the way to sunset!



Thank you, Grand Canyon!  What a great place for exploring and training.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bandera/Ice Caves - and wolves

Day 2 of playing tourist in western NM.  We ran a couple of scenic trails at El Malpais NM.  Lots of volcanic rocks, cinder cones, lava tubes - back in volcano country!

Nearby we stopped to see the Bandera Volcano/Ice Caves.  Bandera is a large cone, and there is a nice road walk up to it.

Silly selfie to start things off:



This was a new one for us - a Spatter Cone:


The Ice Cave is where the temperature is always 31 degrees F, and water drips in and freezes.  Apparently the ice is like 20 feet thick!


The green is from algae:


Lava flow - those are some crazy abrasive rocks.  The Zuni-Acoma Trail at El Malpais winds through a couple of these, and it's pretty slow going:


Saving the best for last - the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.  They rescue wolves, wolf-dogs, dingos, and a couple other canine species.  Many of the wolves are aloof, but several are curious about humans, and one even comes over for petting (by our guide):


The tour was super interesting and informative, detailing the lives of the animals, how they are kept entertained and healthy, how they end up there (people try to make a wolf into a pet, but as a wild animal that tends not to work).


Several of the wolves were at the NM State Fair that day, acting as ambassadors.  Part of the goal is education, part is fund raising to maintain such a large facility.


There is a even a fox!  Totally adorable (but apparently really smelly - also not a good pet):


A New Guinea Singing Dog - like a dingo, but smaller:


It was a fun weekend, now off to Arizona!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

El Morro - and camels

On the way from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, we found a few fun things to do on the western edge of New Mexico.  We also scored a lovely, and free, campsite at El Morro NM, awesome!

It just happened to be the weekend that the camels were visiting to commemorate an 1857 Army experiment (the Beale Expedition).  Doug from Texas brought his camels to the park and spent 2 days telling stories and relating the history of camels in the American Southwest.  The stories - and especially the camels - were fascinating.

Doug and his main camel Richard:


Following the talk we were allowed to approach the camels and give them a pat:


Thank you Richard!


Just too cool:


Also at El Morro - more history and an awesome little trail across the top of the rocks.  Here is the pool that attracted cross-country (and other) travelers amid the dry desert:


Tall sandstone walls:


The walls near the pool have been inscribed for centuries (until it was banned in the 1900's).  From the Ancient Puebloans:


To Spanish explorers:


And settlers from back east, along with Army expeditions (hard to see):


It's a beautiful site, a wonderful park that was well-worth the stop:


Interesting art just outside the park - hope you can see these:


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Chaco Culture NHP

Driving from SW Colorado to Albuquerque, we had to make a stop at Chaco Culture National Historic Park.  Several years ago while at another ancient Pueblo site (maybe Mesa Verde), someone told us that we HAD to go see Chaco.  I'm always interested in places that we HAVE to see (feel free to suggest some).

So we braved the bumpy, washboarded dirt road to get there - yes, it was worth it, but what is the deal with that road?  It was a rather extreme test of how things are packed in our trailer.  Happily everything made it through (twice) with no obvious breakage.  I've never seen our table migrate so far or fling the cup holders away, but other than that, it was all good.

The campground at Chaco is great - right next to some cliff dwellings and a couple trails, good sun (which we prefer now that we're solar-powered), nice atmosphere.  I should have taken a picture.

I did get a photo of the nearby butte that you can see from miles away:


Between the afternoon of our arrival and a good 2/3 of the next day, we covered pretty much the entire trail network and sights of the park.  We even got out the bikes, always fun when we manage to acquire that motivation.

I took a whole slew of pictures of old walls, so this is probably less impressive from your vantage point.  But if you ever get a chance to visit in person, it really is amazing.


Different styles of stone walls, built extra thick to hold upper stories:


Enjoying the morning sunshine:


Intricate architecture, with sandstone cliffs in the background:


A large kiva, and a view of the wide valley:


The extent of the excavated sites was amazing, also the idea that there is a lot more still unexcavated that we can't see.



In one place, a huge part of the cliff wall fell and landed on top of part of the pueblo.  Luckily no one was living there at the time (I believe it happened in the last century).


Trying to imagine how it looked during the heyday of the culture.


One of the multi-story walls, and signs that some sections were added on later instead of being integrated into the structure:


A doorway in a shape you don't see every day:


Starting a run up onto the sandstone mesa, checking out another site first:


John is on the other side of the valley, looking down at some "stairs" carved into the rock.  Probably difficult to see, but let's just say I won't be taking those stairs without being tied into a rope.


Here's John!


And there he goes!  He's fast.


Top view of one of the villages:


And another:


We enjoy running where we can also go exploring.  This place sure fit the bill for that!