Sunday, August 10, 2014

A High Desert Drive

My Grand Canyon experience fortified my soul and enriched my sense of adventure. That may sound corny, but it is true. Physical challenges, when pursued amidst the mercurial beauty of nature, tend to mellow, refine, mould, and direct me. Those factors lead me, and many other people, to the road - to the trail. Each person is, of course, effected in ways and to degrees that are determined by his/her state when they arrive, but the effects are real and deserve recognition and reflection. For me, the journals I keep before and after serve the purpose of seeking the full value of the experiences. This blog is a small piece of that reflection that I am willing to share.

Upon leaving the Grand Canyon I had a couple of personal missions to complete. Those objectives took me to Durango and then to Albuquerque. All along the way I traveled through some incredibly gorgeous scenery, met several uniquely interesting people, and physically tested myself a few times. The roads, in a round-about way, led me to such places as Lee's Ferry (AZ), Monument Valley (AZ), Mexican Hat (UT), Mesa Verde (CO), the Jemez Reservation (NM), and almost to Sandia Park (NM).

Oftentimes, I paused or blue-blazed along the route. I ate a leisurely meal while watching the shadows cast by dark clouds as they floated over Monument Valley. The cold gurgling Colorado River chilled the midday desert air for me as I sat on the bank and pondered the building of a dam as told by the desert anarchist, Ed Abbey. On the banks of the San Juan River near Mexican Hat I recalled a rejuvenating sunrise run I took after an hour's rest at a motel while crewing Ken Souza during the 2006 RAAM. I paused while sipping a yerba mate latte in Durango when the sound of the narrow gauge train whistle stirred memories of the many train rides I've shared with family.

At one point, while enjoying an Estival Cream Stout at Ska Brewing, I found myself discussing torture and murder with a local gentleman. Well, we started out talking about the organic tomatoes he had offered to another local. Talk of the joys and benefits of organic gardening quickly and horrifically veered into a list of ways to rid a garden of the menacing hornworm. Methods involved various blades, mallets, shovels, and even fingers.

I couldn't resist telling my new friend about the time my sons, ages three and five, watched as I feverishly plucked several hornworms from my tomato plants and threw them into the grass. The oldest, Brandon, asked me what I would do with them. "I'm going to stomp on them!" I replied. Without hesitation the boy jumped onto a thick five inch leaf eater. As if it had been guacamole squirted out of a stopped up bottle, the entire innards of the critter shot onto the chest of my youngest, Tyler. We all froze for a second. Then Tyler began to scream "Get it off of me! Get it off!" as he ran toward me. I "saved" him despite nearly choking from laughter.

It was on the Durango high school track that I managed to cover 3200 meters in 11:42. That attempt at a tempo paced altitude (6512 ft) 5K followed the big hike/jog in the Canyon which, because it had zero after effects, had offered some hope of my physical recovery. However, I was forced to lie down and stretch for about 30 seconds at about 3500 meters due to a sudden tightening of gluteal muscles. The muscular engagement differences between jogging and running is absolutely amazing. I researched and pondered that fact while I sipped one of the best mochas EVER at the Durango Coffee Co. OK. Perhaps I exaggerate, but it seemed perfect in that time.

My fourth visit to Mesa Verde gave me the opportunity to finally tour the Wetherill Mesa on a bike and to tour the Step House. I've now experienced all of the major features of MVNP. That bike ride was a long time coming!

While approaching Albuquerque from the north on HWY 550 I saw a forest fire for the first time this year. It was in the Jemez Mountains near Coyote, NM. It took several days for fire fighters to get the blaze under control. The dry weather fire hazard caused the closing of Sadia Park just east of Albuquerque. That, in turn, stopped me from completing the Sandia Challenge. I chose, instead, to ride climbing intervals up the lower slopes - turning around at the barricades and park rangers. I stopped to chat with the rangers and learned that one of them was an ultra runner. Both men were kind and congenial. In a quarter century of visiting state and national parks, I have yet to meet a ranger that I didn't like.

Shortly after that ride I enjoyed a tasty pizza and a long conversation with my uncle, Pete, who lives just southwest of Albuquerque. The pleasant visit ended with a tour of his home. I learned that we have similar interests in art. The road from Albuquerque (I-25) led me back to Boulder in an overnight drive that allowed me to reach an appointment with minutes to spare - even after a stop for an exceptionally voluminous and much needed mocha.

Below are some of the photos from this segment of my long summer journey. More to come. Enjoy and make your own travel plans!

Monument Valley

Vermilian Cliffs and Lee's Ferry

Historic Navajo Bridge

The old (left) and the new.

Mexican Hat Area

Throwback: Souza

Ken topping Wolf Creek Pass, CO . . .
. . . and back when he ruled duathlon
Jemez forest fire meets clouds
"All use" includes bikes on roads,
so I resorted to hill repeats
Brewery #150 had some unique glass
chillers built into the bar.
An urgent, single study break led to a bookstore visit.
New in IB Chemistry - The Nature of Science
“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” - Edward Abbey

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