Thursday, March 31, 2022

National Trail FKT run

An FKT run attempt - it has been a while!  I have a few on my radar, just haven't gotten things to line up properly lately.  Since we're in Phoenix this week for John's solar class/conference, I was hoping to have a chance at the National Trail.  Normally I would have opted for the longer out-and-back, but some recent longer training and a small Achilles niggle made me rethink that.

The great thing was that the weather changed in the past couple days.  Instead of highs in the 90's, the morning was in the 60's.  Too good to pass up.

Originally I was going to park on the west end and take a Lyft to the start on the east side.  Elevation-wise, this made sense since the west terminus is a couple hundred feet lower.  However, when I drove there I didn't see an obvious place to park - it's a dirt road with private property signs and no trailhead parking (not to mention no obvious trail).  On-the-fly problem solving, a useful skill for FKT's.  I drove back to our AirBnB which wasn't far away, and took a Lyft from there.  Post-run transport would either be another ride share or perhaps I'd feel good enough to trek back.

Doing an FKT on zero scouting is always at least a little risky, but I was OK with the possibility of failure for this one.  I also had to beat a previous time set last month by Rachel and Julie, and there was the above-mentioned Achilles liability (which thankfully was never an issue).

Armed with a turn sheet and the map downloaded to Gaia on the phone, I was ready to roll:

Go that way:

Up the dirt road for a bit over a mile, to a view of some ruins that would be interesting to check out another time:

Happily the trail is super well marked, just pay attention to the post at each intersection and there shouldn't be any question about where to go.  Thank you, trail people!

First view of the city, climbing up the long (but not steep) hill for several miles:

Hello, lone saguaro!

An occasional rocky section to keep things interesting in between the runnable ones:

It was nice having frequent intersections so I could keep an eye on the distance and my watch.  It was really nice that my legs felt springy and happy - what a lovely day!

Looking over toward downtown Phoenix (hello John!):

Someone put some work into these steps leading up to an overlook:

Following the purple "N" markers to the next trail section:

One of the few roads up into South Mountain Park:

As I was in kind of a hurry, I was taking pictures mostly on the move.  Surprisingly, many of them came out decent.  I didn't crop a single photo in this post.

The road crossing on the way to the traverse below TV antenna hill:

Desert flora:

Thumbs up for this trail and the excellent markings!

I knew I was taking too many pictures, but sort of couldn't help myself.  I had two hands free, since I was using a Camelbak bladder instead of the usual hand bottle, so it was easier than normal to whip out the camera whenever the mood struck.

After the descent to Telegraph Pass, the trail took a steep upward turn.  At least it wasn't a huge climb, and I was still feeling great.

Scenery to the south - so many great views:

Another interesting stone structure:

At the top of the climb I followed the trail along a long ridge - pretty!  I really like this section:

It made me happy :)

Just avoid the pokey things, as the trail traverses the side of the next hill:

The National Trail continued along the ridge, up and down, occasionally meandering.  I didn't see every side trail that was marked in Gaia, so for a time I lost track of my exact location.  Just keep moving west as fast as you can, toward the Estrella range in the distance:

One of several holes in the ground, I assume part of the "lost mines"?

My downhill speed on the slightly-technical trail wasn't quite as fast as I'd hoped, so I got slightly concerned at my time when I found the intersection with the Bursera trail.  I hustled down the rest of the descent and over to the little saddle that marked the entrance to the big valley I needed to cross.

Another photo on the fly that came out surprisingly well, on my way to the ramada near the Bajaha trail (the "Bajaha ramada"):

I followed the trail around and through a couple small washes, past an intersection where the Maricopa trail takes off, and up to the next trailhead:

The San Juan Lookout is a nice spot with a great view, and possibly even the end of the National Trail proper (per the signpost).  Except it might rarely be open for vehicle access, so the FKT route continues on just a bit further on trails.

This was the only spot I needed to check the route on my phone.  It took a few seconds to figure out the right direction, heading for a low saddle and down the other side toward Estrella Drive.

The odd thing is that the trail ends at a barbed wire fence and no obvious trailhead.  A bit weird, maybe this access point is something the park is working on?

Anyway, this is clearly the end of the route, and I was psyched to make it in plenty of time.  Fun run across South Mountain Park!

I even felt good enough to walk/jog back to the AirBnB for some bonus miles.  Happy to get this one in before summer arrives soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Star Trek The Cruise V - 2nd half

Time is flying... already halfway through the cruise and the days are sailing past.

On day 5 we docked at St. Maarten, and I enjoy this island more every time we have a chance to visit.

We decided to take the opportunity to experience the "beach at the end of the runway", which is fairly famous around these parts.  Planes of various sizes land right over your head, which is not something we see every day.  They do a turnaround at the terminal and then cruise to our end of the runway for takeoff.  That's when things get wild sometimes, with the strong gusts of winds from the engines.

Plus it was a chance to hang out at the beach for a couple hours, something we don't often do.

Enjoying the beautiful day, lovely blue colors, and an occasional plane right overhead:

A plane that made a rather sharp bank on the way to the runway:

Scene from the beach during takeoff - hang onto everything!

A plane in the hand is worth...

Dave took a selfie while the above picture was in progress:

Having a good time on St. Maarten!

Until next time, you pretty little island:

Walter Koenig, aka Chekov from the original series, did a really interesting Q&A on the main stage.  He spends less time in the spotlight compared to Sulu and Kirk, but seems to enjoy interacting with fans and talking about his long Star Trek-filled life.  So great to have the chance to listen to him, and he's still as sharp as a tack.

The Starfleet museum had some costumes from the upcoming Strange New Worlds (yay for Anson and Ethan!), neat to get an advance look:

Tim Russ dressed as... I don't know... doing the introduction for Robert Picardo and Jordan Bennett's show:

We enjoyed the music, comprised of mostly new (to us) songs and acts, and the occasional interjection from one of Bob Picardo's alternate personalities - fun!

As dressed up as we get, for our renewal of vows with John Billingsley:

Aww, they made us a "Live Long and Prosper" cake:

Dr. Phlox performed a really nice and also humorous ceremony, thank you sir!  Then he surprised us by offering to let everyone take their photo with him.  What a wonderful gift!  I hope I expressed enough gratitude:

Dave got our picture as our picture was being taken (ECP will eventually have the official version available for us to download):

"Getting some action" figures:

What a wonderful evening!

The next day I took naps in between activities.  I wanted to do more, but the combo of lots of talking (for the first time in a couple years), staying up late (also not normal), and mingling with a large # of people (ditto) conspired to throw a minor cold my way.  At least the covid self-test was negative, and I had plenty of masks I could wear to try to keep from spreading it to too many other people.

Happily I was able to make it to morning yoga with Mary Chieffo, such a calming and joyful way to start the day.

My favorite science talk of the trip was Erin MacDonald's "Time Travel in Star Trek" presentation.  Especially her brainstorm list of all the scenarios she could come up with and how they related to each other, this made me laugh, thanks Erin!

I saw the end of the Dungeons and Dragons game with Anthony Rapp and friends - quite an ambitious undertaking, even if I didn't follow along completely.

The highlight of the evening was John de Lancie's Lost World play.  The actors were all superb, the story was entertaining, and the guests who signed up to do the audio effects were fantastic.  Lots of jungle noises and even a dinosaur.

Dave captured one of the exciting scenes of a boat floating down a fast river:

I came back to our room to find this note on our door - Garrett Wang and his girlfriend Megan roamed the halls and left messages for a few lucky people!  Well that completely made my day:

Glad to hear more music from Tim Russ and his talented band - so good!

With my recovery naps I was ready to stay up a little longer to see the costume party.  There are great costumes all week on this cruise, but this was the night everyone pulled out all the stops.

Hey, it's Leeloo!  We're not the only ones inspired by The Fifth Element:

An alien and an astronaut walk into a bar...

Rodney and Siobhan did a really nice take on characters from The Expanse:

Abe Lincoln strolling down the promenade:

And... I'm not quite sure:

Hanging with Dave and Michelle where we can costume-watch and drink coffee:

A costume party isn't complete without Austin Powers and a T-Rex:

Going all-out with Star Trek inspiration:

Friendly Andorians:

And one last thing for the night - John, Isa, and Evan introducing the premiere episode from the next season of Picard:

Last day - so sad and yet still so happy just to be there.

A fitting door decoration:

This simple meme just made us laugh:

And this one is rather disturbing:

It's the Voyager!  Wow, I can't believe this cake is structurally sound:

Nana Visitor did a program called "Ask Mama Nana", answering questions from people seeking advice.  She's so sweet and insightful, always listening and staying present in the moment.  Love her.

On a different note (literally, in some cases), the Gorn's Gong Show was entertaining, partly due to the talent (or lack thereof) of the cruisers who came on stage to sing or play an instrument, and partly because of the Enterprise actors who were the hilarious judges.  I believe John Billingsley was so enamored with this lady's opera singing that he ended up at her feet:

The final evening's entertainment was a variety show, which was great!  Many of the stars came out for short bits of performing or skits or to participate in a JT game show.  Perfect way to finish the week.

Thank you all, especially the wonderful and funny Star Trek doctors we got to get our picture with:

Until next time!

[Photo credits include Dave Bogle and John Beard]