Friday, December 30, 2022

Arizona (and Palm Springs) adventures

The pace of photo-taking slowed recently, which is good because I might soon get caught up to "today".  The pictures below span from October to December, as we settled in at our current wintering spot in Tucson.  We're really liking this area, with plenty of trails and hills and bike paths and moderate temperatures.  John is also happy with his solar installer job at Technicians for Sustainability.

One of the first things we did was head up to the highest point we could see - Mount Lemmon.  Back in 2008 we briefly visited Tucson and started up the road on our bikes.  We might have reached the "20 miles to go - mostly uphill" sign (it doesn't actually say "mostly uphill" but it's obvious) before figuring out that we had no shot at getting to the top that day.

This time we were smarter, parking much closer to the summit and doing a reasonable up and back on trails.  An excellent view from the Sunset Trail:

Occasional autumn colors to make us smile:

We climbed Marshall Gulch to the saddle and then over to the top of the mountain.  Just as it's hard to glimpse the top of Lemmon from Tucson, there isn't a big overlooking view from here either.  The observatory grounds were closed, so we couldn't roam around willy-nilly to see the various sides.  Still, a solid hike and a great place to get into the trees:

I randomly came across info about a road race out at the Biosphere, including entry into the exhibits, so of course we were in for that.  We got to run on roads around the grounds with views of the futuristic buildings:

That's a chunk of malachite and azurite:

The experiment of "a group living inside an enclosed space for months" is long over (early 1990's) but it's neat that a lot of the sections are still viewable.  Quite the curiosity.  One part is still being used, a controlled test of erosion on a large soil slope:

There are different habitats with various climates.  This one looks familiar:

The desert section is quite large - an ambitious endeavor:

There's even a sizable indoor lake in the next zone over (upping the humidity):

And a wet jungle habitat:

Rather Star Trek-like buildings and a fun place to spend a couple hours:

Our Rivian truck got a software update before the end of October, allowing us to activate "Spooky Mode" - pretty funny!  The accent lights turned orange, the open/close chirps turned into an owl hoot and a wolf howl, and the pedestrians on the driver display showed up as zombies.  Thank you Rivian, that was awesome!

I drove up to Phoenix, or at least nearby, to volunteer at the Javelina Jundred ultra races.  It was fun seeing all the great costumes and some of the trails at McDowell Mountain Park.  Also the giant fountain at Fountain Hills, the closest town:

One reason for going was the chance to get together with my friend Jason who flew in from California to run the 20-mile night race.  It was great to see you, Jason!

He took a nice picture of me and Tug-E:

Jason is big into running in costume, so this was a good event for him to choose.  Hello from the aid station!

In November we drove up to visit the Grand Canyon, always awesome.  This time we took a new (to us) trail down, and I guess it actually is relatively recent because it's called the New Hance Trail.  It's definitely less traveled than others we have hiked, still decently maintained and only a couple spots I'd consider minorly sketchy.

And as is the case for everywhere we've gone in the Canyon (so far), there are beautiful views and spectacular colors:

Following the wash down to the river at the bottom:

We were here just over a year ago, and it was fun to return to the same spot except on the other side of the river (and staying on dry land this time):

Amazingly, our timing was perfect and we got to watch a rafting group run the Hance rapid.  Super cool!  The oarsmen did much better than we had, mostly hitting the "Duck Pond" and making a smooth run down the river.

Yay for another excellent Grand Canyon day!

A couple weeks later we drove over to California to see Danny and Emilio who are now living in Palm Springs.  Happy Thanksgiving from Joshua Tree!

It was (rather surprisingly) our first time at this national park, and I was excited to get out on the trails for a run.  Danny and John took a walk and caught me trotting toward them:

We knew about the unique Joshua tree agave plants, having seen a few from alongside the roads we have driven.  It was wonderful to drive through large bunches of them in all different shapes and sizes.  We didn't know the park also has a plethora of giant rocks.  Such a great place to drive through (thank you Danny and John for these pictures):

Love the big rock formations:

We hiked a short way out to see the arch:

Love the heart rock - and love you, John:

Whoa, don't touch the teddy bears, no matter how adorable they might look:

Hey, there's a Rivian R1S (SUV)!  We had to get a picture of the two cousins with their distinctive eyeballs:

Back in Palm Springs, on a little trail run above town:

And back in Tucson, on one of our local trails through the saguaros:

Our friends the Cooks came through town on their way to California for a holiday trip, and we were glad we could spend the day with them.  Art, Olivia, and Jillian hiked with us up to the Romero Pools, where we exclaimed that there is actual water flowing.  Probably not as big a deal to our Texas friends though:

Another heart-shaped geological feature:

Hiking through saguaros never gets old to me:

Thank you friends for a super fun day!

Friday, December 23, 2022

TN to AZ

A couple months ago we drove from Tennessee to Arizona, with some fun stops along the way to see family and friends... in other words, some random events strung together toward the end of our summer travels.  It was October by this point, so I suppose we hung onto summer until it was actually autumn.

First up!  The Little Dog backyard race, which I was nostalgic about after missing it for three years.  I haven't really been training to just RUN for long distances, despite the UTMB 100-mile finish.  All of that training and racing was focused on climbing and descending mountains.  Which went so well!  No complaints.

But leg speed?  Not a chance.  So I went to the Little Dog to see some people we haven't seen in a while and mostly to run in the woods that I love so much.  I honestly didn't think I would get very far and I set low expectations.

Which made every completed 4.16-mile lap a success.  And it made me happy.  No pressure, all enjoyment:

The little hills were so easy.  Obviously my climbing legs were still intact.  Running was great fun!  John crewed me again (thank you so much, my sweet husband) and got a few photos.  The race was earlier in October than the Big Dog championship, but the leaves were already turning pretty colors:

The low-key version of this backyard was great fun.  Especially for the first 4 laps which felt easy and flew by.

Coming in from another lap, woo hoo!

John took a walk in the woods and captured a shot of one of the new (and wonderful!) bridges built by laz and friends to make the course easier.  I highly approve.

Eventually my legs began wondering just how long they were expected to run today?  This was not something we had trained for.  I slowed down closer to my "ultra pace" and that seemed to satisfy them for the moment.  That wouldn't leave much time between laps, but no worries, I was used to that concept.

Then one calf started cramping, something I've been dealing with in recent longer races and haven't figured out a solution for.  With time, stretching, and short rests, I believe it would work itself out, but I didn't have extra time.  So it was that the 8th yard took too long, and that was that.  Thank you Sandra, here's my number:

Thank you laz for putting this on, I really enjoyed it!

After that it was time to start driving back west.  It was nice having an extra day to play with, and also nice not to need much race or sleep recovery for once.

Somewhere on the journey across Tennessee, we spotted an elephant made from tires!

It was great having the chance to visit John's parents at the Beard Farm for a couple days.  While we were there we helped change the angle of the ground-mount solar array (adjusted seasonally for varying sun directions).  Well, John helped, I'm not sure I was useful beyond taking a couple pictures:

Well done, team!

And we squeezed in a weekend in Austin - happy to get to see some friends, however briefly.  Robyn and Cathy took us on a fun hike in the hills to a spot where we could admire a pole covered in stickers.  It was so nice to cap off our travels with our adventure buddies.

We returned to Colorado to pick up our travel trailer and then started south/west to Arizona.  On the way we spotted a "crappy purple Scion" which is a rather obscure reference but perhaps one or two of you will get it:

Hey, we got extra lucky!  The Phoenix orienteering club puts on an annual event at the Petrified Forest National Park and we have wanted to go ever since we heard about it.  This year the weekend fit perfectly into our driving plans with only minor rearranging, so obviously we were in.

The weather forecast wasn't quite as perfect, but at least Saturday was beautiful and sunny.  We spent 4 hours running around in all directions, and we're still rather amazed that this is possible within a National Park.  Thank you, NPS!

John brought his phone along and took a bunch of pictures, so you get to follow him around for the weekend.  It was a hard (but enjoyable) task paring down all his great photos to include here.

One possible way to following a drainage - John actually dropped over this ledge, while I opted to take a slightly longer (and easier) way around:

Gavin and Sue working their way over rocks, with Sharon close behind:

The highlight was the incredible amount of petrified wood of all sizes and colors.  It was fantastic getting the chance to see all of this, especially when the course setter took us to some great parts of the park - thank you Ron!

Sometimes it was piles and piles of pieces:

The finish line tent on top of the hill; we had to work for the final mile, but the view from the top was great:

Tree rings now petrified into rock, so cool:

Wood chips - yep, petrified:

Sunday's forecast was for a rainstorm, but we were fortunate that it didn't start as early as we did.  So we had a couple hours of entertaining running before we got wet.

Which was good, because there were more things to see!

I suspect we could continue roaming for days and keep coming across new stuff:

Petrified wood, in a wash before the rain started:

Creative placement of the controls, and the skies are getting darker:

The ground was wet from rain the night before, which actually made some of the climbs up the dunes easier:

One of the longer examples of a petrified tree:

The rain started small and slowly built, which is also what happened to the rivulets in all the waterways we were climbing around in.  It turned into a truly amazing experience, watching the desert transform into a wet and muddy collection of streams.  I got to see a little waterfall where there normally isn't one.

When it became harder and slower to move around because of the slick ground and mud and wet grass, it was clearly time to start back well earlier than we normally would have.

John snapped a picture of the previously-dry riverbed on the way to one his last controls:

So much petrified wood!  Still incredible to look at:

John and another orienteer had seen the river (above) and figured they should cross it together.  However, when they got there, the water was still working its way around a long, meandering detour and hadn't yet filled up in the spot they needed to cross - wow!  Here it comes now:

He even got a short video of the river filling up:

A creek coming down the hill that John is ascending to get to the finish:

And a quick video of the creek flowing:

I came through just a bit later, easily forded the river (calf high and not moving fast), and then joined forces with another woman named Talia.  We had a couple interesting creek crossings and it took some effort to slog across the long open field then up the big hill.  I only wish I didn't have to pass up several controls along the way, but that was the only way to get back on time.

An incredible experience and totally worth going.  Welcome back to Arizona!  :)