In November, Brent and I took ten days to climb the varnished Navajo Sandstone of Indian Creek, hike crests and washes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and run beneath 200 million-year-old walls that have been whittled into canyons, arches and towers.
In Yosemite, we hiked along the rim of The Valley and around Half Dome. Our goal for the week: cover 100 miles on foot between California and Utah.
Every time we tread west, I find the community I’ve been seeking: the people with worn gear and good food. The people who lead conversations with experience, not opinion. The folks with patches in their clothes who call their senators. I like the dirtbags who understand the way things work.
After camping in Camp 4, we headed toward Sequioia National Park to see the largest trees on earth.We racked up more miles on foot and bought oranges and olives on the side of the road. The Generals are worth the stop.
When you enter Zion National Park, you experience something really cool. The main road is winding and hilly. The landscape is beautiful but not astounding. Suddenly the road delves straight into the cliff and you travel through a super long tunnel. It’s so long, in fact, there are several small windows and telephones in it. When you finally reach the end, you are blinded by the bright colorful walls encircling you. Squinting and Blinking my eyes back to focus, the beauty of the place washed over me and made my heart double beat.
Our miles racked up – both on foot and on our road trip – and our vacation became a Tour of National Parks: Arches and Capitol Reef next.
We took a hiking break and stepped into our harnesses.
There are named, unmarked routes through the Fiery Furnace that require scrambling, rappelling, hiking, and crawling. Together, we linked Krill and Lomatium to navigate through the maze.
Canyoneering in Arches was an unexpectedly amazing piece of the trip. With GPS and decent data (it’s still a lot of searching and then set up to find the routes even with a guide), canyoneering takes you to interesting places way off the beaten trail.
I finished our trip with a race, Dead Horse 50k. It is named after Dead Horse State Park, which has the iconic gooseneck mesa with cliffs guarding the muddy Colorado. The course starts just outside of Moab and runs a lollipop loop up single-track slickrock mountain bike trails at the foot of the La Sals.
The morning of the race was cool, nearly cold. It was not high altitude by any means, but it’s a few thousand feet higher than MN. My turf is woody, brushy, muddy trails with low visibility. This race was hard-packed sand and bare rock. It nearly felt like pavement. I vaguely wondered if it would be a fast course.
We started out as a herd. Then, we were a pack. The sun rose over the mountains a few miles in.
I started to accept that this was going to be a rough run.
How had I not noticed that the lollipop was slanted? The whole first half goes up, the second half takes you back down.
The next part of the race is known as Bull Run. It is dancy downward steps on stone, and it is fun. A dude in a Colorado buff flew past me yelling, “Downhill is new life!” I laughed, but I also agreed wholeheartedly. Rather than aching, my legs turned over easily and quickly beneath me.
Our merry company picked up another runner (affectionately nicknamed “Run Bum,” the race director of the Ute 100 as well as the Georgia Death Race), and we all pushed each other to finish fast, fueled by jokes and stories.