Tuesday, January 23, 2024

October Tucson/November Grand Canyon

Here's a random set of pictures from our late October/early November goings-on.  We were getting settled back in Tucson for the "winter" and continually finding things to see and do.

I'm enjoying the Tucson Trail Runners Sunday events whenever I can fit them in.  Great for training and motivation to move faster than my normal runs.  Even better was the chance to ride a shuttle to one trailhead and finish at another, with a big hike up to The Window in between.

This spot is visible along the northern skyline from much of Tucson, if you know where to look and have binoculars to pick it out.  I was lucky to spend some time with Cristina from the orienteering club on the hike up, even luckier that she took some pictures to share:

This is such a cool spot, thanks Cristina for the company and photos!

Don't let him out!

On one of my runs at Robles park, I scared up a javelina and somehow managed to get my phone out in time to get a shot of it trotting away - sorry to disturb you!

One of the funnier sightings at an orienteering meet, Billie dressed as a "mobile control" that we had to find along a path.  She added other little challenges to the event and it was entirely the most fun sprint we've done in some time.  I'm not sure who took this picture, but it's a good one:

More Halloween entertainment - the yearly (as of last year) software update from Rivian that included spooky sounds like organ music for the door lock/unlock and new visuals for zombie pedestrians.  Also for people on bikes - she's a witch!

We popped in at the Irish and Celtic festival, where we enjoyed some excellent music and browsing the markets.  Always fun watching sheep herding demos:

People throwing heavy things:

And tossing cabers:

Seen in Phoenix:

Also in Phoenix, at our truck's yearly checkup - so many Rivians in one place!

The big adventure in the first half of November was a trip to the Grand Canyon.  Some friends of ours were running the rim-to-rim-to-rim and we were excited to spend some time with them.

John dropped us off at the South Kaibab trailhead before dawn, and Andrew was excited to get going:

Kiefer, Andrew, Chris and I - the guys were doing the full R2R2R, while I was headed to the river and partway up the north trail.  I didn't have any particular need to do the whole thing, just enough to have a "big day" and see some things I hadn't seen in a while.

The descent down Kaibab was magical.  I loved taking it easy, absorbing the darkness, and stopping occasionally to appreciate the absolute silence around me.

The trek through "the box" was also excellent.  I had time to look around, and it was especially nice to have cool weather after previous memories of rather-hot times down here:

Sunrise on the temples:

I debated a side trip over to Ribbon Falls, but that would have involved a creek crossing and I wasn't excited about getting my feet wet on that particular day.  So I took a picture from afar:

Zoomed-in view of the falls - looks pretty, maybe someday I'll get over there:

Heading back toward the river:

I met up with John and Steve who had come down Bright Angel Trail.  Steve continued north to look for his buddies while John turned around and climbed back up the trail with me.  We were still near the river when we spotted a cute little bighorn sheep just above the trail:

The whole family ran down to the drainage below us to forage - super cool!

We were nearing Havasupai Gardens when we passed a version of this sign.  A group of guys approached, took a look at it, and one of them said with apparently seriousness, "Damn brah, he drank too much!"  John and I were still laughing at that comment later so I took a picture of the same sign up near the rim:

We were over there earlier:

More adorable bighorns near the rim:

Enjoying the other end of the day at the Grand Canyon - so lovely:

Thanks Andrew for inviting us along!

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Petrified Forest orienteering weekend

Once we were afraid - we were petrified!  OK, not really afraid, but there was petrification.  Ancient trees that are now WAY heavier.  Strewn all over the landscape and protected in a National Park.

And there's an orienteering event that runs through there every October!  If you've ever wanted an opportunity to do a race in a National Park, here's your chance.

The Phoenix orienteering club puts on a 2-day meet in Petrified Forest National Park, and we've been lucky to make it the past two years.  Last year (excuse me, 2022) was rather exciting and rainy, while 2023 had the normal gorgeous weather we've gotten accustomed to in Arizona.  When it lined up perfectly with the Canyon de Chelly race the day before, how could we NOT go?

Our friend Andrew drove over from Flagstaff for the Saturday edition.  It was great to see him, and he had an excellent first solo run.  Well done, Andrew!  I only regret we didn't get a group photo to share.

The most exciting part of the weekend was actually not related to orienteering.  We got to experience a partial eclipse, just as the Saturday event began.  Ron handed out eclipse glasses to everyone (thanks Ron!) and we watched the sun get partially obscured by the moon.  Super cool!  We weren't in a location where we could see the "ring of fire" but close enough to get a dimming/cooling effect.

And John managed somehow to get a picture using his camera and the glasses!

OK, time to "go!" and we were off and running.  I took off down the paved road, which gave me a couple more chances to pause and watch the shape of the sun through the eclipse glasses.  Then I really needed to turn my attention to navigation.

I remember having a lot of fun, seeing new (to us) areas of the park, doing some decent nav, and running hard to get to the finish on time.

John, on the other hand, was recovering from his big race the day before.  He obviously had zero interest in running.  He was happy to wander around, not too far from the start/finish, and take some photos.  So this is mostly the story of what he found.

The first of many petrified pictures:

You have to wonder how many of these are still buried, to be exposed and eventually visible to passers-by:

A teeny tiny hoodoo!  Nice shot, John.

The erosion continues:

John's map and pack for scale, I guess?  And some pretty colors:

Wood in the wash:

Once a giant tree, now a natural phenomenon:

I just love the petrified wood chips scattered everywhere:

But I honestly have no idea what this is:

The park is sublimely pretty, and we're so lucky to get to wander around and see these things:

On Sunday John ranged further afield, collecting a decent number of controls while still finding time for a couple pictures.

Is potato?

Aw, I love you too!

I had another fine day of running, working hard to cover as much ground as I could.  What a fun place to run!

Thank you to the Phoenix club for another unique and wonderful event!  Highly recommend.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Canyon de Chelly ultra

Our friend Robyn told us about a special Canyon de Chelly 50k in northeast Arizona.  It's run on Navajo land in a place you aren't normally allowed to go unguided.  Such a beautiful place and an amazing experience - no wonder there are always many more people who want to run vs. the number of slots in the race.

I put my name in the pot, and John said "what the heck", put an entry in for him too.  It's entirely fitting that he got in and I didn't - I have so many big adventures, it was time for John to get one of his own.  Whether or not he was completely trained for it... at least we had had an adventurous summer on foot.

We camped in Chinle near the race start/finish and picked up his number the day before the race - are you ready John?

Staying warm (sorta) on race morning:

Since we were there anyway, I put my name on the "last minute" wait list in case any slots opened up.  I had been quite far down on the original wait list so I didn't expect anything.  I did show up fully dressed and carrying everything I'd need because you never know...

Which was good, because I was one slot away from getting in at the very last minute!  That made me smile.  No matter, I was perfectly happy driving around to see the course from the canyon rim.  Whatever happens, it was going to be a lovely day.

And they're off!  Go John go  :)

The first several miles are in a sandy wash, a challenging start (and later a challenging finish).  I'm sure the runners were looking forward to the sunrise, and also to the more-solid trail further along the way:

I checked out the National Monument visitor center, then started along the rim to see the various overlooks.  Love the sign on this truck:

Eventually I reached the overlook toward the turnaround; it's the last place where spectators can watch for runners (since we weren't allowed at the turnaround aid station).  The views all along the way are stunning and well worth the drive even for those of us relegated to the rim.

And somewhere down there is the race trail, possibly with tiny little runners who aren't super visible without binoculars:

I hung out there for a while, finally deciding I had missed John on his way out.  Looks like he was running well that morning, excellent!

Enjoying the scenery in the meantime:

The funny thing is that if you yelled from the overlook, the sound would bounce off the canyon walls and eventually make its way down to the runners.  Other people managed to get the attention of racers they knew.  When I saw John coming back from the turnaround, I did a "pew!" call that he would recognize, but I think it was difficult for everyone down below to tell where we were hanging out up above.

I drove around the corner to the next overlook:

It was fun watching John run along the dirt road.  The camera is zoomed in and the photo is cropped, so perhaps you can barely see him:

I had time to admire some cliff dwellings across the way (hard to see under the shady overhang).  It would be neat to return for a guided tour someday and learn some stories from the locals.

Not quite a bird, or a plane:

Bug in the rocks - what a cute surprise:

Another overlook where friends and family could watch for their runner.  I was so glad I'd remembered my binoculars.  Of course, the bigger picture views are awesome in their own right:

John heard and saw me from down there this time, yay!  Go John!

Another picturesque spot along the canyon rim, keeping an eye on the racecourse:

And enjoying my afternoon!

The runners are approaching the sandier sections of the return trip:

John is in the grey shirt in the front of this group crossing the wash:

I parked at the finish line and moseyed back to the bridge that crossed the final mile of the course.  The sand slowed everyone down a good bit, but John was still moving strong.  Woo hoo!

We actually got to say hello to each other at this "overlook"

I booked it back down the road and around through the finish area, which was just as sandy as what John was running on - and somehow he beat me to the finish line!  He's just about to cross it in this picture as I slogged my way over there:

He humored me with a re-creation, thanks John!

Ready for a sit-down while I fetch some fry bread and lemonade:

The awards ceremony, as seen from where John was sitting - congratulations to all runners, fast and not-as-fast!

What an incredible event - highly recommend (for anyone that can get in).  The atmosphere, caring spirit, and uniqueness makes it truly memorable.  Thank you to Shaun Martin and his team and everyone in the community who welcomed us there for the race.