Monday, March 25, 2024

March wanderings

This month (yes, I'm actually blogging about events in the same month that they happened for once!) started out with a big week.  Southwest Spring Week (SWSW), 8 days of orienteering in the desert.  Super fun!  Almost non-stop, daily navigating (and usually picking up controls afterward), several social events, and driving to different, varied and interesting locations.

I offered to help hang controls for the first day/night events, something fairly new to me.  I got to see more of Catalina State Park and perhaps got less scratched up from catclaw than if I had run the courses instead.  It was also neat to watch the Night-O from on top of the hill - so many lights going all different directions.

The Night-O map:

John had a couple good runs on Saturday and then we both did the Javelina Hustle long course on Sunday.  Not only did we climb fairly high up on the ridge, we also got to see fields of yellow poppies in full bloom.  I'm not sure who to credit for this photo except it was someone from the Tucson Orienteering Club:

Sadly, John had to go back to work on Monday.  At least he had been helping to vet (pre-check) the Monday course at Ironwood and the Thursday one at Chimney Rock, so he didn't miss everything.

The Ironwood course had my favorite format - the Cholla Chaser.  It's a mass start, beginning with up to 11 (or 12, if you feel like doing extra) controls in a "box".  Depending on your gender and age, you had to get a certain number of those controls.  I had to find any 5 of them.  If I had done that without making a large error (d'oh!) I might have been near the front of the pack.  As it was, I came out of the box for the 2nd half of the course with a group of runners right about at my speed.  It's always a balance between doing your own nav and following other people.  If I had balanced it better (i.e. not getting pulled toward the wrong area when I had the better idea initially), I might have even placed ~4th overall.  Maybe another year - there is always hope  :)

The Cholla Chaser map and handicap chart:

Tuesday was a 3-hour Score-O up in the hills with more grass and less desert.  Back to running on my own and enjoying the much-more-calm experience.  It was just large enough of a course to be a good challenge while being still (barely) clearable by yours truly.  Plenty of ups and downs and interesting terrain.

Afterward I picked up a few controls.  Can you spot the one in this picture?

Spoiler alert...'s in here:

The rest of the week involved some sprints on the university campus, some interesting rock formations up in the Catalina hills, one bruised ankle from jumping off a rock and accidentally coming down on a small tree stub, and 3 entertaining events east of Phoenix (with John back in the game) where I was very careful with my ankle and managed to walk a portion of each course.  Happily, the ankle recovered quickly.

Thank you to the Tucson and Phoenix clubs for so many entertaining and enjoyable map-filled days outside!

It's flower season in southern Arizona.  Lots of little flowers, various colors, coming and going over the weeks as rain (and snow up high) passes through the area and then the sun comes back out.  A couple examples from Finger Rock trail:

It's not Texas Bluebonnets but I love the resiliency:

Looking down the trail toward town on a lovely morning:

So delicate and pretty:

On a "mural run" through downtown - the parking lot murals have been redone and now we get to see Tina Turner and the Thunderdome:

And... whatever this is:

One of my favorite murals in Tucson:

John had recently pointed out this large tire sculpture so I went over to get a closer look.  And I was surprised to get squirted with water as I walked through!  The plaque explains that it is called the "Wet Wheel" and that "You were warned!" except my mistake (or not) was coming through it from the other side.  Good for a laugh!

Rivian spotted in downtown:

We have driven past Picacho State Park many times while driving to/from Phoenix, and we finally took a weekend to camp there and explore the trails.  Picacho Peak is a big rocky feature with desert all around:

More flowers to admire:

There's a trail up to the top, or should I say a "trail" - cables are a big part of the experience.  That didn't seem to faze most people.  So I grabbed onto the cables and hauled my way up.  Looking back at some of the landscape:

John is on his way down in the above picture.  I zoomed in with the next shot but he's still hard to see (in gray on the upper left, waiting his turn to descend a rocky slot):

Views from the top are most excellent.  Glad I did it.  Once.

Funnily, I didn't realize I was wearing the extra cap when I took the picture.  John had found it and given it to me to transport (I was wearing a small pack and he wasn't, but I hadn't stashed it yet).  I plum forgot I had it on.  Bonus - our truck is in a parking lot somewhere down there:

One of the easier cable spots:

Looking down the slot.  Going up, I had been wondering how hard it would be to descend, and it turned out to be easier than expected.  Which is always nice.  I was glad I had experience with rappelling, as it was similar to that.

Going down the alternate trail around the back side of the peak -- more cables.  I had no idea just how long this part lasted.  Here is about half of that section:

Phew, I did it, glad that's over!  The rest of the running in the park was much more my speed and very enjoyable.  A look at Picacho Peak from the other side:

We did a guided hike, part of the bird watching walk, and a wonderful morning yoga class.  The camping was great too.  Highly recommend.

Well that's all of the pictures and blogging for the moment!  Stay tuned for whatever other adventures we might get ourselves into.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Super Supes

After an incomplete attempt at the Superstition Ridgeline crossing in December, I came back with a different plan.  The scenery up there is so fascinating and the technical parts of the trail so interesting that I knew John would want to experience it too.  So what if we have only one vehicle and we wanted to do the one-way traverse?  Another runner took trails around the base of the mountains to return to his car afterward, I could do that (all in the name of good training).

Also, selfishly for me, I would have a spotter for the "boulder problem" near Superstition Peak.  It's not a problem for everyone (or apparently, most people), just a bit of a high-up move that I don't do every day.

We started early on the trail toward Siphon Draw.  I gave John the camera to carry and since he climbs faster than I do, he had plenty of time to take pictures:

Finally got a shot of the fun slabby section:

Nice timing on this photo, thanks John:

And a bunch of pictures as we worked our way up the steep trail:

John did a selfie at my request - we need to show that you were here too:

We finally climbed the Draw without making any errors, yay for multiple efforts up the same hill!

It was a nice partly-cloudy and cool morning, looking out across the landscape:

Starting along the ridge:

I mostly remembered the way and hoped to limit our unintentional detours.  This might be our first look at the Weaver's Needle in the distance:

We recently learned from a "Geology of the Superstitions" signboard that these mountains are the result of a resurgent dome - a caldera filled with rhyolite material that was later pushed upward by magma pressure.  As everything around it erodes away, we're left with these awesome features:

John continued to take lots of pictures.  I'm not used to being followed by my own personal photographer, that's fun!

Looking good, rocks!

John did little side trips to stare down at the various drop-offs toward the valleys on either side:

I focused on the ups and downs and scramble sections:

Lucky for us, the trail does not go this way:

Over here instead:

Time for a quick refuel aka a Spiz pause:

Such tall and multi-layered cliffs, it's amazing we're even up here:

Getting closer to the Needle:

Agave goal posts:

Scenery in all directions:

At the boulder problem, John "bip bip bopped" right up and I climbed as far as I had reached previously.  It took one leg swing and one hand from John and that was it.  Yay for getting past that!  Everything else on the route is well within my wheelhouse.

Happy to be in new territory:

Thumbs up for this trail and this weather:

The trail continued its "easy to follow -- oops it disappeared" pattern.  John started watching the route on the Gaia app, which helped several times.

Enjoying more wide open views:

I think this is just past a tricky creek crossing (tricky as in figuring out where to go, not an actual water challenge).  Time for a little snack to celebrate:

We found the trail that drops quickly down the other end of the route - not nearly as tough as Siphon Draw but still nowhere near runnable (at least for me):

It seemed like we had a long way to go even though we could see the parking lot most of the way down.  Finally we could move faster for the final mile so we made a modest attempt at breaking 5 hours:

No dice, 5:03 will have to do.  No matter, it was super fun, especially sharing it with John!

The run around the base back to the truck was uneventful and happily not too hot.  Another excellent weekend exploring trails in Arizona.

A summary and a few more pictures on the FKT page: