Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy holidays

I decided to do something a little different with my holiday letter this year. (Click to enlarge) :-)

We are off for the holidays & my b'day -- to Death Valley and the most beautiful place I've ever been...

Yep, Zion National Park! That's a previous photo of me about to traverse Angel's Landing -- love that hike!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Joshua Tree National Park

Al and me trying to get warm.

Chris and I left the Coast Friday afternoon for Joshua Tree to meet up with my best buddy Al, who was visiting the Desert Southwest from the frozen hinterlands of New Hampshire. He'd already done a Grand Canyon rim-to-river-to-rim as well as a couple of hikes in Death Valley earlier in the week, so Joshua Tree was the obvious meetup spot.

The campgrounds at JT are *awesome,* with tentsites abutting huge boulders, Joshua trees and other cool cacti all around. We heard coyotes, including pups, at night and saw lots of tracks in the sand by day. Its being mid-December, hardly anyone was there. It was also cold at night... darn cold when one has become accustomed to a Mediterranean climate. We hiked the Boy Scout Trail (ha) on Saturday and a section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail Sunday.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Noble Canyon/Piedra Blanca

Always loving to check out new trails, this week I ran two National Recreation Trails: on Wednesday the Noble Canyon Trail near San Diego (we were there for a few days this week), 21 miles out/back, and today the Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail closer to home, kinda-sorta near Ojai but really out in the middle of nowhere in the Sespe Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest, 19'ish point-to-point miles. Wednesday I baked in the sun and almost ran out of water; thankfully there was a spigot at the turnaround! Today I ran in about 4 inches of beautiful powdery *snow* -- a rare occurrence where I now live -- and temps in the 40s; however, it was sunny (as evidenced by my sunburned ears). Apart from a group of boy scouts about a half mile from the trailhead, I saw no one else all day. I did see lots of animal tracks -- bobcat, fox, squirrel, rabbit, deer. Always puts a smile on my face to realize how many creatures live out there even though we see very few of them. The trail really felt "out there" and longer than the stated mileage, especially in the lightly traveled middle section which was overgrown, rocky, and very wet -- most of the day the trail paralleled one stream or another -- and since I was solo and kinda skimped on food having thrown my pack together in a hurry last night. Both ends were quite nice trail though! Chris hiked in to meet me on the northern end, and we completed the final 3-4 miles together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Owens Peak


We spent the weekend in Ridgecrest, but having run a 50 miler and a 35 miler the previous two weekends, I had zero desire to run the OTHTC High Desert 50k/30k on Sunday. (No Monica or Hans am I!) After seeing friends off at the start, I ran a rather uninspiring ~7-mile section of the course... uninspiring to me because what I *really* wanted to be doing was climbing Owens Peak, at 8400+ ft. the first real peak of the Southern Sierras, which provide a spectacular backdrop to the desert towns of Ridgecrest and Inyokern. And -- oh no! -- it's on a list.

So, after my ho-hum warmup, I headed west for the mountains. Thanks to DeLorme, I found the trailhead easily and, although 4 WD was "highly recommended," I made it up the 8-mile gravel road in the 2WD Honda Element without problem. The hike was a steep one and, with one minor detour (I lost the trail), I summitted in about 1 1/2 hours. Cool, cool rocks on the ridge flowing east down from the summit which I will go back and explore some day with buddy Rick, who tells of Indian petroglyphs/pictographs (what's the difference?) further down the ridge; a Google image search produced numerous hits of some spectacular artwork.

Happily, I rock hopped and jogged back down to the trailhead, my peakbagging fix sated for awhile.