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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Live from Arizona

Bec, Dawsen, and I are pretty much stuck here in Arizona until the adoption paperwork is approved by the State of California.

So in the meantime I've been exploring the local urban desert.  The trails are quite well used, since this section of desert is easily accessible to a little over 3 million people.  I haven't seen quite that many folks out on the trails, but you certainly aren't likely to die and get picked to nothing by buzzards before someone finds you.

The trails are rocky and loose, unlike the hard packed earth trails that cross the Bay Area hills.  Some of the way, the trails are several inches deep with large, jagged, flat stones - the size of a shoe and smaller - which crunch and shift as you plow through them.  Other areas are stepped with jagged rocks that make me wince at just the thought of taking a tumble.  The herds of cows that thrashed the soft Bay Area trails in the winter rains, adequately prepared my ankles and coordination for this little adventure.

I'm forced to stop and look around periodically to fully appreciate the grand beauty of the place, since so much time is spent looking intently at the trail, the overhanging spiny branches, and specifically the next place to put my foot down, and the next, and repeat.

Every bush has thorns, or in some instances - is simply one thorn arrayed with other smaller thorns.  With so many opportunities to completely thrash the skin off your shins and elbows, it's amazing I have successfully finished 5 hours of running over 3 routes with no more than a few scratches on my shoulders.

The distances are deceiving.  The mountains can look so close at times, and at other times, impossibly far away.  The first day, I decided to run to the top of the nearest peak and then head home, since it was soon to be dark.  I was at the top, down the other side and back to the condo far sooner than I had hoped - an hour run was cut short to 40 minutes for lack of adequate optimism. So the next run included that peak, and then the next one across the valley - a brilliant morning run that landed me back at the condo in perfect timing.

For my third foray into this urban desert I headed east, rather than west toward the now familiar mountains.  My goal was the mountain the locals refer to as "Squaw."  Here my optimism took full control.  I had made it just over half way to the base of the mountain, and due to my lack of familiarity with and lack of a portable map of the area, I had headed toward the wrong summit.  I chanced on a lady hiking who turned my attention from the nearby hill to the towering peak across the next valley.
     "That's what you're looking for," she said.  And then added, "Don't get lost - lots of people do," as I reversed my course to pick up the main trail again.

I crossed the valley, jogged through a tunnel under the highway, and soon arrived at a visitor center and a spiderweb of trails which circled, climbed, and in no apparent logical way crossed and re-crossed the mountain.  I was running out of time, as I could only be out for just over 2 hours, so I got directions to the top from several different hikers, each a variation on the same theme - It's still a long way away.

Looking east toward "Squaw"
Looking west from the foothills of "Squaw"
Both pictures were taken within 20 minutes of each other, with a stop for water and directions in between.  It's amazing how much ground you can cover in just a few minutes of running.

Having now approached the foothills of the mountain, I could no longer see the summit beyond the nearby peaks - bad for morale - and the impossibility of my objective was settling in, so I headed up to cross the first ridge and call it a turn around point.  I made it back to the condo in the allotted 2 hours, but I fell 3 miles and about 1000 vertical feet short of my objective.

If they don't hurry up and get us out of here and headed home, I'll be forced to go attempt Squaw one more time - this time with 3 hours free.