I had forgotten about the sandy trails at Joshua Tree. It is like running on the beach - uphill. Not my favorite. But those yuccas and rock formations are surreal. I love the place. Started before sunrise to beat the heat and was rewarded with views of the new Sand to Snow National Monument across Morongo Valley as well as every other direction. A very tough trail.
The Woodchute Wilderness Trail along the top of the Black Hills Range of central Arizona. The Verde River Valley is to the east and Prescott Valley to the west. Cool, windy, rugged trail with long sections of loose cobble. Painful in minimalist trail running shoes, but what glorious views as a reward.
Yesterday I spent a blissful few hours slowly riding a bit over forty miles, including every mapped bicycle trail extending from the main visitor center at Grand Canyon National Park, twice. I expected to avoid the legendary crowds because I reasoned: 1) summer is over and the kids are back in school, 2) it is a very early weekday morning, 3) the temperature is 38 degrees, not including the wind effect. Well... at the entrance gate, past the IMAX and the six tourist helicopters warming up, I came to this:
When I think of endangered landscapes in America, I default to remote places like New Mexico's Otero Mesa or Utah's Bear's Ears. I realized that is not wrong, just incomplete. Endangered landscapes also include those that we have "saved".
OK, maybe it is more complex than that. On the entrance road's parallel bikeway to Tusayan, fourteen miles roundtrip, I was the only human. Is that a travesty or ... an opportunity? Behind the windshield, you don't know the sound of elk chewing on browse or that the pines here smell like butterscotch. But you could.
I never run at night, never run with earphones, never run on urban pavement. But tonight I am in north Scottsdale, Arizona, and I did all of this. It's a surreal journey through endless contemporary architecture -- ridiculously unsustainable, all of it beautiful. Without a light or reflective clothing, I was just an invisible bit of this city's evening subculture: Wide immaculate sidewalks lit just enough by landscape lighting, used by not a single human. Of course it is a full moon, and Mazzy Star was in my buds. The temperature was almost down to 80.
Because my feet got beaten up on the Lime Kiln trail, this was supposed to be a easy recovery thing. No. After a few minutes I was into something different. For the sake of my feet on concrete, I finally forced myself to stop at one hour.
With every building glass-fronted, there was no hiding the show: yoga, Crossfit, indoor baseball training, volleyball camp, interspersed with perfect Dwell-picture offices and the occasional late night executive still at her desk, still in her heels. Lines of Mercedes SUVs picking up kids from aqua camp and the climbing gym. The equestrian center, the convention center, all lights and water sprinklers.
Once again I was reminded of where my feet can take me - not always where I expect. Serendipity in this weird dreamscape.
A perfect morning in the high desert of Arizona, running the trail from the red rocks near Sedona to the Verde River Valley, traveling through three biome types. And as always, solo and self-contained. Made the 16+ miles back to camp by brunch, including getting lost six times.