Pikes Peak (7.02.13)

I know this is pretty late, like three weeks late, but whatever. I’m back in Michigan now and since I finally went to an Actual Doctor who Actually Told Me that I Actually Shouldn’t Run if I ever want my Actual Stress Injury to Actually Go Away, I have some time on my hands. I’m starting biking and climbing again, and once I have access to a pool (aka once classes start again), I’ll be Actually Swimming and maybe pool running. (How does pool running work? I need to look that up.)

So! Pikes Peak happened. It was a great hike. I went out not for speed because I didn’t think I had a chance of beating my time up from last year, since I was in kickass shape last August and I hadn’t been able to really run for six months this time. So I went up to just enjoy the mountain, take it all in. Funny thing is, I ended up beating my time. Last year was 4:42, but I didn’t count time spent resting/breaks. This time was 4:47 counting breaks, and I know I rested for more than 5 minutes last time. So that was satisfying.

As always, the mountain was glorious. I started off early to be at the top before noon. The trail goes something like this: first three miles, uphill beginning switchbacky sections, not too much fun (but still fun). The next three miles are really runnable – nice flat dirt, even some downhill sections, smooth nontechnical trail. You could fly through here. The next three are more rocky, technical, mountainous-feeling miles, very fun. The pines and aspens are close to the trail here and towards the end you start to see a lot of lightning-struck trees. It feels very… mountainous and rocky. Is good. Then come the last three miles, which are above the treeline. Now, the last time I went up, I remember thinking that they lasted forever, but this time they went by pretty quickly, relatively speaking. Especially the last mile with the dreaded 16 Golden Stairs.

It started out a clear blue sky with a ground temp of between 60 and 70, meaning that it would be pretty chilly at the top – but absolutely perfect for hiking. Maybe 8 miles up, I noticed that clouds were really starting to gather and wondered if I should worry, but they seemed to be mainly fog-type clouds, nonthreatening. Sure enough, the only harm they did was block off some views by providing cool clouds-rolling-up-mountains views anyway. I talked to some lovely people on the trail, got passed by a 10-year-old-ish kid running up (actually running, camelback and inov8s and salomon socks and all!)(I was too stunned to be able to say anything to him), got passed by two glorious Krupickza types, saw some cool birds, didn’t encounter any dangerous wildlife, ran a couple middle miles, and had a great finish at the top. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of reaching the top of a mountain.

Picture time!


Setting out.


One of the nice path sections along the ridge at about mile 3-4, I think.


Favorite sign. It means I’m at the treeline! And being above the treeline is one of my absolute favorite things ever.


Oh hello entire world. (I didn’t bother taking too many picture below the treeline because 1. it’s less spectacular, and 2. I was busy hiking and just enjoying everything.)


The clouds


The Barr Trail is so perfect.


Getting closer… with clouds all around…


These went by so much faster this time.


Da daaa! It’s cool. If you hike or run up, people are in awe of you. I had one guy tell me I looked like “a hardcore hiker,” and the woman who took this picture gave me a big hug and her congratulations, others too. And this might sound terrible, but it kind of bothers me that they have a train going up. I think you need to earn the view from the top (unless you’re handicapped or elderly, then it’s great).

So there you have it. Happy hiking, everyone! Climb a mountain at least once in your life.

peace love and colorado,
bec

PS. Sorry the pics are just from my phone, but whatever.

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I’m coming for you…

I hiked 3.5 miles up Barr Trail this morning (and ran back down in less than half the time, that’s always fun!). I was uncertain about when I’d be able to go up because of my shins and now my quad, but when I saw this sign… man, I was feeling it. I had the itch. The only reason I didn’t keep going was insufficient water, and I had someone waiting for me at the bottom. But I knew – I know – I’ll make it up just fine, assorted semi-injuries or no. My goal is sub-5, which is totally doable. Last time I made it up in 4:42, I think, and that was with basically no running on what I can now recognize as extremely runnable trails even if they are at 10,000 feet. That last mile will still probably take an hour, but if I maintain about 3 mph the rest of the way, I should be fine.

Flashback: August of last year. 4:42 ascent.

A few other shots from today’s little jaunt:


The peak peeking at me… I see you! 

Columbine flower.


I love these – mountain bluebells or something?

Also in the works for sometime before I leave CO: a few days on the Colorado Trail, somewhere in segments 10-14, about 60 miles-ish, 3 or 4 days. So pumped.

peace love and MOUNTAINS!
bec

The Grand Adventure (May 11 – June 2)

I’m back! After a month of various traveling – first down to Texas for my boyfriend’s graduation from Air Force basic training, then up to Colorado, then out for three weeks in Utah and California – I’m finally back in Colorado Springs, where I’ll be spending some if not all of the rest of the summer.

While my shin/stress fracture was sadly still acting up, the trip was still a great success. We came, we saw, we climbed. And we napped. There was a lot of High-Quality Hot Desert Afternoon Napping. And we ate probably more than our weight in corn and beans. I’d never been to Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, or Arizona before (plus the states I drove through to get to Texas), so it was pretty cool getting to really see this part of the country.

THE TRIP
We set off on a bright May morning, out around 8 a.m. We drove straight through to Moab, Utah, where we spent the first couple days. Massive rocks, a deep saturated red, surrounded us; the Colorado river flowed through the parks, wide and muddy. The dust here is infamous for getting on and staying on everything it comes in contact with. The area is best known for mountain biking; unfortunately, we didn’t have ours. We made up for it by hiking around lots of red rocks and arches and canyons under an equally saturated blue sky, usually cloudless. The heat wasn’t crazy, but I got burned on the very first day out, leading to a month of deep tan/molting skin barnacles cycling around and around. In this area we hit up Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as Dead Horse Point State Park. Arches had arches and rocky trails; Canyonlands had awesome (in the literal sense of the word) canyons; and Dead Horse was a canyon so great we later decided to skip the Grand Canyon because the ones we’d already seen were so cool.


Moab at dusk


Dead Horse Point State Park

After a couple days in the Moab area, we continued our trek through Utah and camped in Red Canyon (State Park, I believe), about 15 miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce had been our main goal in this area – it’s also where the 100-miler than I had wanted to do was, just two weeks after we were there – but Red Canyon ended up being far more fun. Red Canyon offered gorgeous pink, orange, and yellow rocks, most formed in towering hoodoo formations, as well as miles of trails that wound all through them and into the pink canyons deeper in the park. The trails here were a nice mix of that sweet natural ‘gravel’ that forms in these rocky sorts of areas and good soft dirt. The first run we did here (yes, I did run a couple times) was only about 3 miles, but I had inadvertently chosen an extremely steep, roller-coastery trail. Challenging, especially at about 9000 feet (coming from 6000, and for me, coming from the lofty 800 ft altitude of Michigan!), but extremely fun with absolutely stunning views of the pink canyons and hoodoos. There were a few points along that trail that had us running along totally exposed gravelly ridges, followed by steed gravelly downhills that sent us skating. Towards the end of the run, on one such ridge, the wind really started gusting and we noticed that dark clouds were gathering. That put a bit more spring in our step and we rocketed back down the hill. The fear of being struck by lightning does that to a runner. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me that time.)


Red Canyon!

Dana and Drew leading the way.


Me with rock. I think I was planning on living there.


Red Canyon camp.

After a few days in Red Canyon, we decided it was time to venture into Bryce and see what all the hullabuloo was about. There were massive hoodoo cliffs, although their colors weren’t as saturated as Red Canyon’s – drier and duller. Still a very pretty and interesting area… but we simultaneously decided that we’d rather play in Red, so we just drove through Bryce, stopping at every single overlook to ensure that we weren’t missing something. All in all it took about 45 minutes. ‘Underwhelming’ is a good word to use. Very cool, but Bryce failed to meet my expectations. (But still stop by if you’re in the area, for sure!)


Bryce Canyon National Park. Hoodoos galore!

Since Bryce was over, we looked at a map and thought: Hey, Escalante National Monument is right there. We’d heard it was cool, so we figured we’d drive over there for the day. However, it was farther than we thought: the visitor center was about an hour away, and from there it would be another 45 – 60 miles on washboard dirt roads to get to the slot canyons and cool things. There was no way that poor van could take 90 miles of washboard, so we ended up turning around and heading back to Red anyway. A good run at the end of all that saved the day, though. Plus we had a great campsite there.

After a couple days, we decided it was time to move on to our last Utah destination: Zion National Park. I’d heard only rave reviews of the place, so I was excited. It didn’t disappoint. Even the drive in was gorgeous. (I’ve come to realize that Utah is very, very gorgeous, as a general rule. Driving through there was fantastic, hardly a spot where I wasn’t going, “AHHHH BEAUTY IS ALL AROUND ME.”) The visitor center is basically halfway through the park, which meant that we spent a good while driving through the massive rounded, stratified canyon walls for which Zion is famous. Just a breathtaking place. We set up camp maybe 15, 20 miles outside the park, next to a river.
It’s kind of a shame, but we only really spent a day in Zion – we did the Angel’s Landing hike, which ascends a 1400+ foot rock formation by way of a chain attached to a cliff, basically. It was gusty when we were there, with some clouds potentially threatening rain. My friend Dana and I went about halfway and decided that that was a good spot to stop, while our other trip friend (and Dana’s brother) Drew sped ahead and went all the way. At the time I had no regrets for stopping where I did, and still don’t, but I know that if/when I go back, I’ll be all the way at the top.


Yup. Good place to stop. (Angel’s Landing)

After Zion, we were headed into California by way of Death Valley. All we wanted out of the trip was to Not Break Down In Death Valley.

You can see where this is going.

The van we took on the trip, our trusty steed, was a 2004 Honda Odyssey with a fair amount of miles on her. The timing belt had been replaced within the last month. The engine light had been on for several (but then, whose isn’t?). She’d been performing well so far, not a hitch. When we entered Death Valley and saw what it was – a black and grey and tan desperate wasteland, but not flat, oh no! There had to be massive winding mountains in there was well! – we gulped collectively and crossed our fingers. But wouldn’t you know it, we were halfway through the park (“park” is a generous word, how about “hellscape”?), grinding up a long hill, when we noticed the van wasn’t accelerating. It was stuck at about 20 mph. Not only that, but it also started vibrating massively and making terrible grumbling groaning noises. Great. We switched it off and nervously flipped through the manual. The VSA light had come on; none of us knew what that was. (Vehicle Stability Assist, we quickly learned.) But all the manual said was to take it to a dealer.

Well, we couldn’t really do that in the middle of Death Valley, now could we? There was no phone signal, of course, so after asking a passing car just how far it was to the nearest town (too far for comfort), we really had no choice but to press on, take it easy, and switch off the van whenever it got finnicky. Which was pretty frequently.

It was a stressful couple of hours, but we did eventually make it out of there. As soon as we got signal, they called their dad, who immediately said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, that’s happened before. You just have to disconnect and reconnect the battery.” So along we went, driving through the deserty eastern edge of California, until we finally hit a town with an auto shop to diagnose the problem for real. (Big shout out to Casey’s Automotive in Lone Pine, CA, for not charging us because they couldn’t find the problem!) As I just mentioned, their electronic diagnosis didn’t show anything, so we drove on to Bishop, CA, where we finally set up camp by a river, inexplicably surrounded by middle-aged fishermen. Must have been a hot spot. We spent the rest of the afternoon basically lying on our crash pads in the sun, saying, “I’m glad we didn’t break down in Death Valley” about once every thirty seconds. It was an extremely stressful day to say the least.


Coyote, harbinger of death and despair in Death Valley.


It was stressful.

The next morning, we bought a wrench, disconnected and reconnected the battery, and everything was fine from that point on.

Bishop! Land of the Buttermilks and the Happys and so much more (although those are the only two we climbed at). Also home to Shaat’s Bakery and the best town park in existence. I’ll leave the descripting of Bishop to the pictures. My high point was sending a V4 – a not-quite-slabbish face with a kind of crimpy upwards traverse. I hopped on not seriously, realized I could do it, hopped off and actually looked at it, then send the thing. It was awesome and definitely the most satisfying moment of the trip.


Bishop camp.


They napped while I tried to locate various boulders. Did I mention that crag navigation is my least favorite thing in the world? I was designated Expedition Leader. I wandered around in the sun with a guidebook being frustrated until I decided to nap too. It all worked out in the end.


Drew doing something funky.


Me doing something funky.


Sunset.


Me on the lip of Hero Roof (Buttermilks).


The V4! Hager Face, Buttermilks.

[v4 video]

Bishop was awesome, but we did eventually have to leave. We found ourselves on something of a schedule, since we were meeting David in Monterey (my boyfriend, their brother) for his long weekend for Memorial Day. We were sad to leave Bishop, of course, since it’s a wonderful town with killer climbing, but we were also psyched for some non-desert landscape. We had originally planned to spend a couple days backpacking in Yosemite, but that got cut out because we didn’t know he had a long weekend. We ended up driving through Yosemite, stopping for some pictures and a few little walks, but ultimately we decided to speed on to the coast. Also no regrets with that decision because really, in an area as vast and awesome as Yosemite, one hike will not satisfy you. I definitely plan on returning for a couple weeks to really explore it. (I plan to return to pretty much everywhere we went on this trip. It was kind of an introductory, snapshot tour of Utah and California.)

Driving through California that evening was absolute bliss. We had the windows down, good old country going loud, singing along, the valleys were deep and green and lush and the countryside was that classic California gold. The sun was at just the right angle and the world was magical, basically. Today Is Mine by Jerry Reed fit that drive perfectly. We camped an hour outside of San Francisco and had our first shower of the trip. That was wonderful, to say the least. My hair was so gross that it stayed in its ponytail shape even after I removed the hairtie.

The next day we hit up Muir Woods for some redwoods, then headed into San Francisco. Cool city for sure. We wandered around, ended up getting Chinese food and going to City Lights, where Ginsberg et al were first published. That places just oozes hip. We only spent about five hours there, since we were heading down to camp in Big Sur and it was a bit of a drive.


These lit up at night.


Tiny apartments.

The drive down the coast was glorious. It was sunset. Enough said, I believe. California has the most delicious strawberries, btdubs. They are sweet and fresh and delicious. Also, avocados 10 FOR ONE DOLLAR. What.

Anyway, we spent the next four days in and around Monterey, including the Aquarium, back to San Francisco, and Big Sur. California was chillier than we were expecting.

Big Sur

After we departed, it was on to Joshua Tree, of which I have scant photographic evidence. Basically, it was hot, we climbed some and hiked once, napped in the afternoons, and were ready to be back home.

Highlight of J Tree: this desert tortoise crawled out from under the boulder I was sit-starting, quite surprising but very cool.

Also notable from J Tree: the coyotes in our camp (like, growling right outside our tents) the first night. No pictures of that.

Last camp of the Grand Adventure.

Sunrise, driving out of J Tree on our way home.

We made it back to CO Springs from J tree in one day – that’s over 1,000 miles, kids – and it was actually a pretty good drive. We got back at midnight exactly, chatted with their parents for a while, then crashed. Oh and I showered. Glorious shower!

So that’s it, Grand Adventure May 2013. It’s too bad my camera crapped out, this would have been a much longer and higher photo quality post if it hadn’t. Ah well, c’est la vie.

Sorry this took me so long to get up, I kept procrastinating by being in more mountains.

peace love and ‘venturin!
bec

Glorious distances travelled on foot!

So I set out to actually Do Things in the mountains today. I glanced at the map and thought ok, looks like 8 miles, that’s fine. Got out, did the loop in 4 hours (with one lovely 10-minute waterfall break), got back, and checked the distance – only to realize that it was 14, not 8. Which is great. Now that I know that my shin(s) can take the distance/time, there’s nothing stopping me from Pikes Peak. Muahahaha. I’ll probably go for it in a couple days, during the week so it’s not crazy crowded.

But anyway: today’s hike was just fantastic. I started out in kind of a down mood for some reason, but after maybe half an hour of trekking uphill in a trance I realized with a start: Hey! I’m in a good mood again! Yay! and the rest of the hike was wonderful. I got up to around 9500 feet, so the middle bits were nice and cool with those life-giving mountain breezes. There’s nothing a good solid long hike (or run) can’t solve – except for stress fractures, unfortunately.

One thing I like about hiking compared to running is that it gives you more time. It just has a different pace to it, even if you’re hiking hard. There’s a little more time to really look around and get a feel for where you are, to soak in the mountain environment and groove with it. Sounding like a hippie but whatever. And I definitely feel less guilty about taking a break while I’m hiking than while I’m running. (Another plus: moving a little slower means less chance of missing a turn/giving you more time to think about where you’re going. I didn’t get lost today. Hooray instincts!)

The most perfect little waterfall. I took a 10-minute break here; so rejuvenating!

Nice aspen-y area.

Runs this pretty make me want to cry.

So yep, today’s hike was good. Real good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat everything in sight. (Another thing I miss about running 15 miles a day.)

peace love and hiking and running!
bec

Hiking can be good too.

I’m being good and resisting (successfully!) the urge to get up and runrunrun 24/7 now, so today I went out and hiked with NO RUNNING AT ALL for about four hours, a little more. I wore my Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2s (longest shoe name ever) to prevent myself from running even if I wanted to, since they have a massive drop for anyone who’s used to 0-4mm as well as a fair amount of support and a lot of shoe underfoot. Aka, not what I’d run in.

So I went out to the North Cheyenne Canyon area outside of CO Springs and just hiked. Without getting lost, I might add, despite the fact that I didn’t have a map and my GPS wasn’t picking up satellites. Hell yeah internal navigation skills. I took it easy, taking a couple longish (5-10 minute) breaks to enjoy the scenery and give my shin a rest, just in case. There was also a mountain bike race happening on part of the trail I was on and I waited 15 minutes for them to go by, but they were taking forever to get there so I moved on. Too bad, I wanted to see a real live bike race down a mountain, but I also wanted to hike.

‘Twas a goodly hike. I’ve no idea how far I went, but it was beautiful and I got off the mountains before clouds started rolling in. I also met some hobbyist geology nerds (self-proclaimed) and a very, very adorable corgi (mix?) named Heinz.

And although you probably don’t need them after that bundle of cuteness, here are some trail pictures. Pssh, boooring.

So many bright new green aspens. The picture, of course, doesn’t do it justice.

And now I’m going to sleep. Goodnight moon.

bec

Always go back down the mountain, even if you’re not sure. (aka, one HAIL of a run. GET IT GET IT)


The clouds before they got really ominous.

I headed out for a hike (I promised myself I wouldn’t run, I’m being good since my stress fracture is being good too), hitting the trail shortly before noon. I had planned to be out for three or four hours, but the weather changed my plans for me.

Hiking out (about an hour), it was sun and blue skies, with the slightest of breezes. Some clouds floated around the mountains south of where I was, but they didn’t worry me; in fact, a biker and I agreed that the storm was looking like it would pass right by us. Happy, I hiked on.

I began part of the trail that summits a peak (nothing crazy, but exposed). About a quarter of a mile up was a nice view spot, so I took a break and walked up to that before getting too high and exposed. I noticed that there were a lot more clouds now, and some of them were looking ominous… and I’d been hearing a few rumbles, but nothing that had me concerned in the least. I watched the clouds for a couple minutes: watched them darken and begin to broil, really move and twist, and then I realized they weren’t moving away from me, but toward me. Great. Still, they looked cool and maybe I could just wait it out and carry on –

CRRRRRASH.

You know that thunder, the slow ripping kind that takes forever and shakes the ground? There was one of those guys, and it sounded like it was pretty much above me. At that moment, I did what I probably should have done a couple minutes back: call it a day and begin hightailing it back to the car. Now, I still wasn’t too worried; I’d be headed pretty much downhill from where I was, meaning more tree shelter and lower chance of getting struck by lightning. I started out hiking, since I didn’t want to endanger my possibly-recovering stress fracture, but before I’d gone for thirty seconds the thunder really started going, and that started me going. I managed a heel strike for the whole way down (it took about 25 minutes) to spare my shin, but my knees killed for a while. But anyway, back to the trail.

I started running pretty damn quickly and not soon after, I started feeling giant freezing raindrops splat all over me. These quickly turned into not insignificantly-sized hail which, as you may imagine, were not so pleasant to run through. I was pretty much sprinting downhill at this point, with the wind picking up, the hail falling harder, and the thunder pretty much constant. Luckily, the vast majority of the lightning was cloud-to-cloud rather than cloud-to-ground… until it wasn’t. Then, of course, it was right behind me. And that’s not me being dramatic for a good story. You know when lightning strikes about 100m behind you. I let out a shriek, no shame, and absolutely pounded my way to the parking lot from there, maybe five minutes. Both my shoes were untied, I was freezing, I’d lost feeling in the lower half of both my arms, and the trail was flooding almost as fast as I was running down it. I tried to avoid running through the red muddy water since it’s such a good conductor.


Apparently when I picked up my phone after it fell out of my vest pocket, it took this picture. Glamorous, no?

I finally made it back to the parking lot, where I immediately stripped off my soaked and freezing tank and threw on a sweatshirt I luckily had in the car, covered up with a blanket, and cranked up the heat. So, moral of the story: if you’re standing halfway up a mountain gawking at dark, menacing bunches of swirling clouds, don’t be an idiot and debate whether or not they’ll come your way and take pictures, like I did. Just go back and go run some more once it’s not going to hail on you.

peace love and getting of mountains in time!
bec

PS. I’m working on my trip report, but it’s taking a while… since I do have a month to cover. But yep, my stress fracture seems to be tentatively okay-ish, so I’m slowly adding some running into hiking and that sort of thing.

PPS. Another moral of the story: keep your phone in a zipped, waterproof or -resistant pocket. My iPhone fell out once and it was soaked because it was just in a mesh pocket, so now the speakers don’t work, and neither do the volume buttons… making it useless as a phone. That’s what I get for bringing a phone with me to be safe.