Something New...Something Solo
The Painted Desert by Garrett LeSage
I've been out of the running world for a few weeks now, just getting by with a few runs here and there with no real training mentality or objective. In the past I've always tried to have some money invested in a race to motivate me, push me out the door at 4am but not now. Not since I finished Cascade a few weeks ago. I'm just ambling along without any real purpose. I originally was thinking of entering Man Against Horse for the 50 miles up Mingus Mountain but plans changed, I wasn't able to do it so I let go of that idea. Now I'm not actually going to be out of town and in fact could go do it but at this point I'm not trained or mentally ready for a fifty mile race. With that in mind I think I am ready for a 50K trail run, maybe unsupported, map & compass? Yes. Definitely.
Arizona Badlands...like the Moon almost. Or I'm just weird.
Painted Desert by Sean Cupp
The Running on the Moon 50K isn't a real race. It's just a name I made up a couple months ago when looking around maps of Arizona and dreaming up places I'd like to run. I've mapped out a "course" across the open desert that I'll plan to loosely utilize as a route. There are no trails in the Petrified National Forest, no water stations, no rivers, no springs. Nothing. The terrain is wide open badlands with loose sand, hard rock, craggy surfaces to scurry up and over and around. The landscape looks like the moon. Barren yet beautiful, beaten yet alive. It's an amazing difference than other areas of Arizona and something I've very excited to see.
There is very little elevation change, barely under 2,000 total climbing, if I followed the route I plotted. That's a far cry from what I'm used to but I'm sure still a time consuming route given there is no trail and the terrain is unpredictable. I plan on carrying a SPOT messenger as I do typically on off trail adventures. More so for my wife than anything as it's not all that far from the I-40 yet far enough after a run in with a rattler or broken ankle.
If all goes as planned I hope this run to be a good sample size of what to expect should my planned excursion through the Navajo Reservation comes to fruition. Running on flatter surfaces, forcing the run, holding a steady pace is something I'm not strong at. Given all the "running" I've done I'm not really a good "runner." Instead I'm simply decent at maintaining forward motion, not necessarily at a running pace. I'll admit with no humility though that I have mastered the Ultra Shuffle. I'm an expert really. So this run with such little climbing will be a good test for me mentally to push through some miles and reach the mileage I need without coping out and shortening the route. As it is, the elevation gain across the Reservation is less than 12,000 feet of climbing over 200 miles...not exactly a mountain climb.
Off We Go
So while all my friends are running against some horses in Prescott I hope to be in the Navajo Desert running along some ridge lines, across the Badlands and back safely to my truck. I'm excited for something so unknown to me, so unique and with so many possibilities. Just knowing that I can go right...or left...at any time and I'm not left to the direction the trail is going is such a dynamic shift from what I've grown to be accustomed to with races, training and the life on the trail.
Now if I can only find that SPOT messenger. Ironic that I always lose the one thing that is supposed to save the lost hiker.
Is this the Moon?
You think all along that you think you know what Arizona looks like. You've seen the Saguaro, the lizards, the blazing sun. You've seen the Grand Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks, the Mogollon Rim. All very different in their own ways, all with their own geological significance. So that's everything in Arizona right? Of course not. It's Arizona, the ever new, ever vast state of "Where the heck are we?" Like Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. This entire area is so diverse we are luckier than we know.
3D Google Earth Course Overview and Link to Map Info
Map of the Park, complicated by Private Lands within it...
Sandstone rock faces, gullys, and open range
Those that have driven through Navajo Nation on the way to Moab or Colorado have a sense of the northeaster region of Arizona. Sandstone rock, high plateau desert, desolate Indian Reservation. Sections of the area are so barren, vast and empty you have to wonder what is really out there. Is it just a flat desert? Are there rivers? Where do the animals find water? What's that shadow over there? Is that a drop off?
Canyon de Chelly
If you've visited Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the reservation you know that there are hidden canyons out there in that seemingly open desert. It looks flat and then all of a sudden it drops a few thousand feet STRAIGHT down and into a lush green river valley below. Out of nowhere. It's that unknown that draws me and makes me want to experience what is out there, even if it's wide open and free of any real peaks. So in my quest to run from the Petrified National Park north to Monument Valley, off trail, I'm going to run first a 50K loop around the Petrified National Park and Painted Desert. There are no organized trails in the park so it will be 100% off trail, route finding and orienteering. The badlands out there produce very uneven terrain and sketchy sections of getting up and over mesa's and ridge lines. Very different running than mountain running or traditional single track running anywhere. Sections of high mesa flat running that overlook the Painted Desert and Petrified wood. Petroglyphys are everywhere, fossils are still being found. Just a spectacular area.
As there are no trails and this being a very remote and desolate high desert there is little to no water supply along the trail. ALL water and supplies will have to be carried for the length of the run. So along with route finding along the course, no trail, there is also no water sources and it will be fully self-supported. Which is my kind of run.
October 15th is the goal weekend. Ready for another adventure.