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Friday, November 14, 2014

Living With Great Gratitude

It has been one year since my last post on this blog and what a year it has been. I have struggled with a serious dry eye issue that has fundamentally changed the way I function and view my existence. The dry eye issue has kept me from running or any other outdoor pursuits and I have seriously struggled with family and work life. Because of these struggles, writing posts on this blog took a big time back seat to my struggles with the bare basics of living (read my account of the last year at the Nathan Sports blog HERE).

Moving forward I'm not sure where I will go with this blog. It feels so strange and surreal to be now slowly recovering and taking the baby steps to getting out again, running and functioning in productive ways, thus, I'm still forming my vision for how I will express my thoughts. Will it be through this blog, other social media, a few articles here and there, through a few photos and memories I share only with those who ask and my family? I'm not sure. I'm not even sure how my running and life in general is going to move forward. I need time to re frame my life and how this blog fits in it. So, maybe there will be some adventures that rekindle the psych to share through this blog. We will have to wait and see. 

One thing is for sure... I'm going to savor every moment with my wife and daughter, my friends and family, every step outside, every run, every climb, every hike, every everything. Life and the quality to which we live it is precious, fragile and fleeting and I intend to live my life with great gratitude. 

(On top of Mt. Humphreys savoring the moment.)


Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Top Ten in 2013

I just noticed that I have zero runs from 2013 on my Top Ten Most Memorable Ultra Runs list on my blog.... Hmmmmm. Hopefully, 2014 can remedy that.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chasing the 10,000+ foot peaks of Northern Arizona

It has been sooo long that I'm having a hard time remembering the sensations and emotions of a real adventure... but last week I made up for it. I went big and all those wonderful sensations and emotions came back, all the good ones and the bad. Lucky for me... it was mostly good. ...and I soaked it all in.

Last Sunday I had a small window (early morning until about 4 pm) to try to squeeze in something big. It had been a long time coming so I went for something I had been throwing around in my brain all fall that was really inspiring me locally, hitting all the named summits in Northern Arizona that are above 10,000 feet in a day while on my feet (no car or bike) and no support or drops (carrying everything, including water, on my back). Everything above 10,000 feet includes Schultz Peak (10,083), Doyle Peak (11,489), Fremont Peak (11,969), Agassiz Peak (12,356), Humphreys Peak (12,633), Abineau Peak (11,838), Rees Peak (11,474) and Kendrick Peak (10,418). I wasn't really sure if I could get the full tick by 4 pm but I was sure going to try.

I started at 6:05 am at first light at Schultz Tank (around 8,000 feet) super psyched. While jogging up the Weatherford Trail for about a mile in the dark, I vowed to savor every step, every view and every bit of potential suffering. A whole day out in the middle of nowhere, adventuring... I cut off the Weatherford Trail and headed cross country toward Schultz Peak. It was on.

The rest I'll tell in pictures and captions...

(Sunrise from near the summit of Schultz Peak. Awesome morning!!)

(What's left of the forest on Schultz Peak from the Schultz Fire a few years ago...this was typical terrain for most of the ascent of Schultz Peak.)

(Schultz Peak (10,083 feet).... there was a bit of a game trail for a short while near the summit. Great spot to soak in the morning.)

(On top of Schultz Peak with Fremont Peak behind me. I was headed that way soon.)

(From Schultz Peak, there is a nice ridge with a slight trail (as I would soon find out, this section was luxury compared to the rest of the day) that connected me with the ring of peaks that make up the San Francisco Peaks. Above photo is the view toward the distant Humphreys Peak from the point where I connected with the ring of peaks.)

(From the ridge, the travel got slower and involved a little easy snow. No more faint trails. Just bush whacking. View in above image is from the summit of Doyle Peak (11,489 feet). This was the first point where I could really soak in all the tallest peaks. Left is Fremont Peak, center is Agassiz Peak. Humphreys is to the right, just out of the image. Lots of fun ahead:)

(Doyle Peak)

(Good view of Fremont Peak, the next objective, from Doyle Saddle, after descending steeply off of Doyle Peak. At Doyle Saddle I crossed the Weatherford Trail and kept traveling cross country toward Fremont.)

(Fremont Peak proved to be one of the slower peaks to summit as there was a fair bit of scrambling and snow travel along the way. I thought this summit would be the extent of my slow travel for the day but I was proven otherwise as the day continued... although slow moving, it was a really good time getting to the top of this peak.)

(The hard work was worth it! The summit of Fremont Peak (11,969 feet) was sublime. I could have hung out there for a long time... had to keep moving though. Still a long way from Humphreys (peak in photo) and still had a peak before it and a few after. Time to move on.)

(Great view of inner basin from Fremont Peak.)

(Sweet view of Elden, Dry Lake Hills, changing aspens and the city of Flagstaff from Fremont Peak.)

(Top of Fremont Peak. Three summits down.)

(Steep, loose and snow covered on the way off Fremont. Looking up at Agassiz Peak from Fremont Saddle where I crossed the Weatherford Trail again, continuing off trail. Slow moving (I'll probably sound like a broken record about my speed of travel). Travel between each peak so far was pretty slow, much slower than I anticipated. Maybe that was fine though... I was plenty out of shape for killing it on this adventure anyway.)

(On top of Agassiz Peak (12,356 feet). I was lucky enough to be able to summit this one. This summit is only legal to climb when there is snow on it due to protected plant species. It had snowed a week ago and the ridges of Agassiz were still holding snow. I carefully followed the snow covered ridges to summit. Felt very fortunate to nab this one legally! I would have had to traverse around it had there not been enough snow. Lucky day...and a rare one.)

(A short distance after Agassiz, I had the luxury of following the Weatherford and Humphreys Trails for about 1.5 miles over to summit Humphreys Peak (12,633 feet). Pure luxury. This image is from the summit of Humphreys looking at my next objectives Abineau Peak and Rees Peak.)

(From the top of Humphreys Peak looking back at the snow covered Agassiz Peak. Beautiful Day!)

(Heading off Humphreys toward Abineau and Rees proved to be WAY more work than I thought. It had been pretty slow moving up to this point with all the off trail scrambling and sliding but the off trail descent off of Humphreys and on the ridges of Abineau and Rees were SLOW and with plenty of snow and loose talus to move around. I thought I was back home in the Cascades for a while there! CHOSS. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just super slow off trail mountain travel. I actually got a bit grumpy in this section because I knew I wouldn't have time to get off the mountain AND  get over to Kendrick Peak to nab all the summits above 10,000 feet before 4 pm at my slow pace. After a bit more frustration than I should have allowed, I decided to get back to why I was up here and just enjoy being out and soak it all in. Once I let go of the end goal, I started really enjoying myself again. What an amazing place to be for the day!)

(After teetering on a bunch of ridge talus I finally made my way to the summit of Abineau Peak (11,838 feet). Fantastic views from a very lonely summit. Really tried to soak it in here. View in above image is of Agassiz to the left and Humphreys on the right.)

(View of Fremont Peak and Agassiz Peak from Abineau Peak)


(Soaking it in on top of Abineau Peak)

(Somehow I couldn't find any images of me on Rees Peak (11,474 feet). Bummer. The views weren't any better than other peaks but the final ridge was pretty cool. Really neat rock formations. Once on top of Rees I knew the adventure was nearing it's end so I tried to really absorb as much as I could before descending the north side of the mountain back to humanity. The descent off Rees was pretty sweet. Much of the higher sections were covered in snow and I got to practice my run/slide snow technique. Good fun! It all petered out into slow travel through a maze of down fir and aspen trees before I found bittersweet freedom from my rough, trail less travel upon reaching the Waterline Road and Bear Jaw Trail, my exit from the mountain.)

(Bear Jaw Trail. LUXURY! I can not overstate how amazingly plush a trail seems after bush whacking all day.) (7 hours to be exact...)

(After floating down the Bear Jaw Trail, finally able to really run, I contacted Susan (my ride home) and told her that I was indeed not going to be able to make it to Kendrick in the time window. I ended up finishing my adventure in an unlikely way, running down the paved Hwy 180 toward Flagstaff until Susan found me and picked me up. Above photo is looking back from a junction with 180 toward the San Francisco Peaks where I had just spent my day adventuring.)
Final thoughts:
I feel a little silly for trying to squeeze all 10,000+ foot peaks in Northern Arizona in on a day where I had some time constraints. I had a good feeling that it would be unlikely I would finish in time. I just really, really wanted to give it a shot. In the end, it doesn't really matter. I can always tick it off when I give myself a full day and now I got the thing dialed. It was well worth the adventure just trying to make it happen. I have no idea how many miles I traveled before I got picked up and I can only guess that I got in 7,000-8,000+ feet of elevation gain in the day? I'll have to look at the maps. Anyway. I got in a bunch of big peaks, had a huge adventure and reminded myself why I love this stuff so much.

Here's to adventure!

Friday, October 11, 2013

As The First Snow Flies

As the first snow flew yesterday in Flagstaff, I felt another summer season of activity in the mountains of Flagstaff coming to a close. I have had a building awareness of this closure over last month as aspens turn, grasses brown and alpine flowers wilt.

This has been a summer like no other for me. At work, we have been ramping up to build a new bouldering Gym in Flagstaff (which started construction yesterday). At home, we have been 'all in' caring for our, now 8 month old, baby girl Addie. Swimming through this new busy schedule has been quite the adventure and challenge. It has taken pretty much all my focus. Doesn't leave a lot for running. As a result, I haven't been very active. No big adventures in the wilderness for this guy this summer. Pretty much everything I had planned at the beginning of the summer (big off trail canyon running and mountain adventures) didn't materialize. All the adventure came at work and home.

With the little extra time I've been able to eek out, I have been running to work on the trails from time to time and have learned to squeeze in a lunch time run here and there along with some short stroller runs with Addie. I had a good stretch earlier in the summer of running 20-25 miles a week, even nabbing the odd summit on Humphreys, but then as work got busier and all the rest, my running has dropped to 0-10 miles a week with the odd 15 mile week.

With what little running I have been able to do, I try to get the most adventure I can out of it. I pretty much stay off trail and wander through the woods a lot. When I'm at home with Addie (I part time it with Susan) I have been going on some hikes from home with Addie strapped to my chest and generally wander around off trail or on rarely traveled foot paths finding steep hills to crank up and down.

As hard as it is to see a prime summer and fall go without any real adventures, I think that this summer off from serious running and adventuring has been good for me in the long run. Beyond feeling pretty exhausted at times from lack of sleep from taking care of Addie, I have felt energy in my running (in what little I do) that I haven't felt in a couple years and I feel like my weary body has been able to mend all of it's minor tweaks and pains. To top it off, I think all the lack of sleep caring for Addie will make me tougher mentally and physically when I do get back out there and deal with sleep deprivation and extreme exhaustion during long adventures. We will see.

All that said, I can't wait until I can start adventuring again. I've got plenty of epic ideas... just gotta make 'em a reality. Now to find some free time:)

A sweet moment during a hike out with the family a short walk from our home.
Susan and Addie enjoying Fall colors a few days before our first snow. I love this photo!



Monday, September 30, 2013

Sharing My Love for the Grand Canyon Backcountry

Follow the below link to see my latest blog post over at nathansports.com about sharing my love for running in the Grand Canyon Backcountry.

http://www.nathansports.com/blog/09-30-13/sharing-my-love-grand-canyon-backcountry

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grand Canyon Backcountry Running article published in Trail Runner!

A long time dream of mine came true this month with my article about running in the Grand Canyon backcountry making it into Trail Runner Magazine (October 2013 Issue 91). My hope for the article is to inspire some people to go beyond the corridor and check out the amazing GC backcountry. It has inspired and changed my life in so many ways that I wanted to share that opportunity with others that may not have realized the potential.

A lot of people helped make this come together and I owe all of you big time. My wife Susan gets the biggest props for letting me go in the canyon with Ken Etzel for photos while we were just figuring out how to function with a three week old baby! Ken Etzel for the inspiring photography! Everyone that gave me input, info, gear and modeled: Mathiew Brown, Adam Gifford, Davey Crockett, Joe Grant, Meghan Hicks, Rob Krar, Christina Bauer, Ashley Maryn, Nathan Sports, Patagonia, among others and of course, Trail Runner for publishing it! ...and big thanks to the Grand Canyon, the most inspiring place to trail run anywhere!!!  




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Put a little running adventure in your commute

My most recent blog post over at nathansports.com is up. Check it out here.
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