Thursday, May 31, 2007

Back home

Well, that was interesting: Three days and nights of eating, drinking, cruising the casinos, people watching, and otherwise experiencing the weirdness that is Vegas with relatives who range in age from 22 to 80. The theme was set the first night as our crew dined at "Big Kahunas" in Treasure Island while my sister, niece, and two cousins polished off drinks of the same name before moving on to the long-necked margaritas on The Strip. It's so entertaining to watch people get blitzed. Everyone kind of did their own thing during the day; I was the only geek opting for Bodies - the Exhibition. (Yeah, we WERE in Vegas, but it's not what it sounds like!) The above photo is of part of the the lighted ceiling show of Fremont Street--it's a runner! Speaking of which... I did squeeze in two rather pathetic runs, one of ~7 miles up and down The Strip, the other only ~5 miles in Red Rock Canyon, a nice escape from the craziness nonetheless. It's good to be home... I'm exhausted.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Off to Sin City!

I'm off to Vegas on Monday! My Aunt Irma is turning 70 and her daughter thought it would be cool to throw her a party there. About 10 of us--my mom, sister, niece, aunts, uncle, and cousins, from California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Vermont--are converging on Sin City for a few days. What a hoot. My last trip there was for the 2005 Vegas Marathon, my first official marathon in 9 years... as well as last official marathon--they hurt too much. Vegas isn't exactly my first choice for a vacation destination, but it'll be nice to see my relatives, some of whom I haven't seen in 15 years.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to sneak out to Red Rock Canyon ... or I may have to settle for some early morning jaunts up and down the Strip. (O_O)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Change in Plans

Rarely do I end up not running a race I've entered, but that's what happened with last weekend's Jemez 50. My buds Deb & Steve moved to the Los Alamos, New Mexico, area last year and raved about the course's beauty & difficulty. I was easily sold. "We'll do another roadtrip; it'll be a blast!" However, as the weekend approached and I finally got around to Google mapping exactly how far this trip was going to be (1800 miles round trip, yikes!), it began to look more like one of those "This seemed like such a good idea in January" kind of ideas. Gas is up to about $3.50/gallon in California ($3.99 in Malibu yesterday). Because it was going to have to be a "quick" drive over and back, I just couldn't justify the trip. :(

BUT it ended up all working out for the best: I hadn't yet performed the required trail work for the Angeles Crest 100, and it just so happened that a work trip was scheduled for Saturday, with a training run on the course the next day. And, because I'm going to be out & about all summer, it just so happened that THIS was the only work trip I could make. Our merry band of 12 worked on the Idlehour Trail--I was a "clipper." (Ouch--the forearms were not pleased the next day.) One guy wielded a chainsaw for the bigger stuff, while others focused on trail rehabilitation and stabilization.

I have to say that I enjoyed the Sunday run a little bit more. After a restful and mostly peaceful--a couple of yahoos thought it was really, really cool to howl like coyotes at 11 pm--night of camping at Chilao, about 15 of us ran the 27 miles from Islip Saddle back to Chilao, roughly the second quarter of the course. We passed 7 or 8 PCT thru-hikers and a Boy Scout troop but otherwise had the trail mostly to ourselves. A nice run on a beautiful, sunny day with some cool people. :)

I felt a little bad about missing Jemez but knew it was the right decision.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


"Fillmore" was adopted from the Ventura county animal shelter and named after the town in which he was picked up as a stray. He pretty much has life all figured out. Do you think there is one tense muscle in this body?? (Okay, maybe that right front paw.) :o) There's just so much to respect about cats, IMO. If only we humans could be so totally relaxed and living in the moment!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Finally climbed Mt. Baldy

Mt. San Antonio, more commonly known as Mt. Baldy, tallest of the San Gabriel Peaks at 10,064 feet, looms over the LA Basin, the view which, disappointingly but not unexpectedly, was obscured by smog on the day I chose to climb it. Due to time constraints, I opted for the 11'ish mile loop from Manker Flats: up the Baldy Bowl Trail, across Devil's Backbone (above photo), and after a stop at the ski lodge (I highly recommend the chorizo & egg burrito, mmm...), down the ski area service road. One of these days I want to go back and run the old Mt. Baldy 50k course, hopefully on one of those rare, low-smog days.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Grey whales!

While driving down PCH to run in the Santa Monica Mountains this morning, my peripheral vision caught some movement in the water as three California grey whales skimmed the surface and made little "leaps" above the water. (Okay, I confess: they didn't actually soar out of the water like the whale in the above photo, but I COULD make out the greyish-white spots on their skin.) It was a pretty cool sight for this near life-long Vermonter. What a treat. :) While running up and down the Ray Miller Trail I intermittently scanned the water for these magestic beasts to no avail. It was a good run anyway.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Grand Canyon Double Crossing

On Friday, May 4, four of us--Deborah, Lori, Herb, and myself--successfully completed a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim. The others had done the R2R2R previously (Deborah six times!), but it was a first for me and I was duly AWED--what an incredible trip!!

We descended the South Kaibab starting just before 5 a.m. under a just-past full moon. The jog down to the Colorado River was pure joy, even when we had to wait to pass an early morning mule train. We arrived at Phantom Ranch (see above photo) to the smell of frying bacon, but alas breakfast was for the paying guests, not "runner trash" such as ourselves. :)

Pressing on up the North Kaibab Trail, we marveled at the high, narrow canyon walls and delighted in the incredible display of yuccas and spring cactus flower blooms in shades of pink, purple, and yellow--what beauty! After passing Cottonwood Campground and Roaring Springs (water at both), the trail steepened and became more fun, but I wouldn't recommend anyone with acrophobia do this section as the trail was cut into the rock wall, with severe dropoffs that reminded me of the Ouray Bear Creek Trail on the Hardrock course. I wondered "Are we going to RUN down this section?!"

We finally hit the South Rim (no water turned on yet) and, as the temperature was only about 50 degrees, got chilled waiting a few minutes for the others to show up. The return trip was a blast, and we were blessed with an almost unbelievable high of only ~75 degrees in the inner canyon. What a treat!

After downing some Tecate (holy moly, they sell BEER!) at Phantom Ranch, we exited the building only to encounter a group of five guys from Montana we were also doing a R2R2R. They'd started in early afternoon and intended on doing most of the run at night under the near full moon. (We saw them the next morning; they successfully completed their own double crossing.)

As we ascended the Bright Angel Trail, the wind started to blow, dark clouds filled the sky toward the North Rim, and light rain began to pelt us around Indian Garden. Fortunately it quickly stopped, long enough for Deborah and I to get to the tunnel near the top, at which point it began to... SNOW!?! We finished this awesome run bundled up in all the clothing we'd brought, in temps in the 30s, and with huge smiles plastered on our faces. Our total time was somewhere around 14 1/2 hours, including lots of stops.

So, I was really happy to successfully complete my "Arizona Triple": Zane Grey, Humphrey's Peak, and the Grand Canyon within a week. Now for some rest.......

Feelin' tiny

...on the way down the South Kaibab Trail!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Arizona's high point

I've been working on climbing the high points of all 50 states for a couple of years now and am up to 36. After two days of rest post Zane Grey, we did Arizona's Humphrey's Peak (12,633 ft.) yesterday via the shortest route from the ski area, a climb of about 3,200 ft. and just under 10 miles round trip. Less than a mile up the trail, we encountered the first patch of rotten, hardpacked snow, and for about a third of the hike were walking on the stuff. (But Montrail Highlander's nubs were nice and grippy!) Reminded me of spring hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

Once atop the ridge, it was another mile or so to the summit of Humphrey's. Supposedly on a clear day, one can see the Grand Canyon, about 75 miles away, from the top, but for us it was not to be. While the sky threatened with ominous-looking clouds all morning, precipitation held off until we'd started down. Mostly it was just flurries, but during a heavier squall at one point, we could no longer see Fremont Peak across the basin. Hard to believe that just three days ago on the Highline Trail temps were in the 90s!