As high temperatures dip into the nineties here in the Phoenix area, we are gearing up for the first race in Aravaipa’s fall race season. Our first event this year takes place in the rolling, mellow valley of Sonoran desert in between the McDowell Mountains and the Verde River. This area was first inhabited by nomadic hunters and later thousands of Hohokam Indians who made their home near the confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers. Presently, it is home to McDowell Mountain Regional Park and the over 50 miles of scenic trails that meander through hills and across numerous desert washes that drain the McDowell Mountains.
The most well known trail in the park is the 15.4 mile Pemberton Trail that makes a large loop across two-thirds of the park’s 21,099 acres, butting up against the north and west boundary lines with the town of Rio Verde and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve respectively. The trail head is centrally located along the east end of the loop close to the overall low point of 1800 feet. The trail climbs a steady 600 feet in either direction up to the high point of 2400 feet near Granite Tank and the north west corner of the park. It is comprised of mostly non-technical wide gravel trails and old jeep track making for nice running.
The Pemberton Trail has been a favorite of valley trail runners for many years as an “easy” and scenic long run especially with the stunning scenery of the McDowells, Superstitions, Four Peaks and Mazatzals surrounding the park. The fact that the trail’s high point is half way around the loop means there is always a nice easy downhill back to the trail head. It’s no surprise that in 2001 a two loop trail race was organized and dubbed the Pemberton Trail 50 Km. Two years later, a six and a half loop 100 miler was created by Geri Kilgariff and named the Javelina. For several years Geri held an unsupported training run under the full moon the month before the 100 giving runners a rare chance to see the trails at night, as they are normally closed at sunset.
This year’s Javelina 12 Hour night run will be held under the full moon on October 15-16, starting from the Pemberton trail head. With the full moon overhead, expect stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges. When the moon is directly overhead, there is typically enough light to see the trail without using a flashlight or headlamp (but please bring one anyways)! There will be a fully stocked aid station at Granite Tank (mile 8.5 in the clockwise direction) and lots of goodies back at the start/finish. There is no set distance, so you choose how far you want to go at the race (1 to 4 loops). If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Javelina out on the trail.
At last year’s night run, we had three runners complete 100 Km (Tamas Varga, Brandon Wyatt, and Kris Milobar), twenty-eight runners complete 75 Km, forty-seven complete 50 Km, and one hundred four run 25 Km. The moon won’t rise until 8pm, so if you want to experience the full moon effect, be sure to head out on a second lap. Everyone who finishes at least 25 Km will receive a Javelina 12 Hour pint glass.
Here is a breakdown of the sunset and moon rise. Remember, we start at 6pm!
Saturday 15 October 2011 Mountain Standard Time SUN Sunset 5:54 p.m. End civil twilight 6:19 p.m. MOON Moonrise 8:06 p.m. Moonset 10:41 a.m. on following day
Phase of the Moon on 15 October: waning gibbous with 88% of the Moon’s visible disk illuminated.
Jamil Coury founded Aravaipa Running in 2009 to share and pursue his passion of long distance running in the mountains. In addition to creating and directing trail and ultra running events with Aravaipa Running, he has run over 45 ultra marathons since 2005.