What happens when you are forced to ignore heat training advice? You know, the articles where they give varying degrees of heat and what you are supposed to do in each scenario. Invariably there is a section that tells you to cut back once it gets too hot or stick to running indoors for faster recovery. There was a Runner’s World article I read not too long ago that described racing in 80° as “gruesome conditions.” However, as many of us know, living in the desert, trying to train for a fall race, and being morally opposed to spending hours on a treadmill leaves you with little choice about braving the heat.
I could listen to the “leave water along your route” recommendation (which logistically would work better if I ran roads) or run on small circuit trails, but that hardly mimics my race strategy. So I acclimatize as best as I can for 110°+ heat and I run in the heat and other like-minded runners do the same.
To rewards our efforts (or to punish… not sure which) Aravaipa Running puts on the Insomniac Night Trail Run Series during the summer months (and into the fall) where the unsuspecting believe the lack of sun will ease their passing though gnarly desert single track. Instead, they find large pockets of stagnant super-heated desert air, terrible footing with only a headlamp to illuminate the way, and the realization that 104° without the sun is still triple digit heat that the sane majority of the world seeks to avoid. With daytime temperatures reaching 116° just days before the 2014 July version (Vertigo), and minimum temperatures not dropping below 93° a runner isn’t going to find much solace in the dark.
The Aravaipa Running Insomniac Night Trail Runs are almost a monthly occurrence throughout the summer starting in May and not ending until mid-November. Usually 3 distances are offered: 10K, 25-30K, and an ultra-distance for those humans who suffer better than others. The competition in each distance can be as fierce as the heat. There is no getting used to one venue either – every month runners find themselves lining the start at a new trailhead, each with its own perils: some are sandy, some are entirely too rocky, some have imperceptible dips that the headlamp cannot catch, and all have cactus – so a fall isn’t exactly a nice little roll into the bushes.
Before working for Aravaipa, I made the Insomniac Series my reward for summer heat training: a good test of my fitness once or twice a month and a chance to socialize with friends from all over the valley. This year I get to be behind-the-scenes and my excitement is only heightened as I am able to watch these events come together into what can only be described as big parties in the desert. For 2015 almost all of the races except Blackout (duh!) will be near-full moons! If you haven’t already heard, the Insomniac Series is all grown-up and we are now offering a Beer Garden at our events to help support the local chapter of Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB). Both Huss Brewing and Blasted Barley have signed on to sponsor the Beer Garden and are generously offering multiple cold-beer options for runners at the end of their race (or in the middle… if that’s when you decide it’s necessary). A BIG thank you to our other sponsors: Black Diamond & Nathan Performance Gear. You can pick up a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp for a 25% discount when you register online or race-day ($30). Nathan will also be doing product giveaways at every race!
Team RWB will be hosting training runs for every Insomniac Series race so look out for Facebook events with further details on each one. Even if you can’t make the race, you can always go check out the training run for a minimally supported weekend long-run.
One of the great things about the Insomniac Series is how it allows for safe, fun, and effective night-time training that many of us who train for ultras seems to neglect. However, if it’s just not for you then make sure to check out some of our volunteer opportunities and be part of the fun while saving those race credits for a cooler fall race!
Can’t wait to see you out there for the biggest party on the trails this summer!
“So how does a 50K work?” I was asked this question the other day and it completely confused me; I didn’t understand what was being asked. “Well, I mean, you don’t run it all at once right?” Oooohhhhh. Me: “Well, yes. You do.” I think there was confusion on their face.
It’s mind-boggling to me that there are people who haven’t heard of ultra-marathons; it is what I breathe. All I seem to be able to talk about is either geeky immunology or microbiology (or some other “ology” entirely), or running ultras and the best trails. Everybody I know is the same… well, at least regarding the latter part. I’m always wanting to hit that next trail, it’s constantly on my brain.
Perhaps this is the beauty of the trail running community here in Phoenix. We actually are a community. There are so many people who love the same dirt baths that I love, who aren’t afraid to push their bodies and indulge their curiosity to see how far that trail goes. Every day I see posts on Facebook asking if anyone is free for a run at this trail or that trail, or at a completely new trail. Any time, day or night (more nights as the temperatures begin to climb) people are usually able to find someone who is willing to hop on the trail with them. There are people here who want to be a part of what I love to do, as much as I want to be a part of what they love to do.
There is something incredibly freeing about running long. I know my body now better than I ever have. I know how to fuel it and hydrate it so I can keep going strong. Running long has given me confidence in my physical abilities, and given me reason to believe I am capable of many other things as well. I am seriously incredible. No really, you are too! Look at how our muscles all work together to propel us up a trail. It’s amazing: the brain is firing, the heart is pumping, feet are carefully placed, muscles strain, and sweat flows, all in perfect harmony that feels like agony that is beautiful. Incredible.
As I pursue my dreams and try to encourage others to pursue theirs, I often hear, “Oh no. I’m much too old for that now.” Wha…?????? How is this a thing? I desperately hope that I never, ever find myself in a place where the only reason I won’t pursue a dream is because I believe I’m too old. Too old to climb a mountain? No. Just… no. There is a difference between age and physical capability. If I am unable to climb a mountain because some part of me doesn’t work anymore, or is otherwise not well enough to do so, well then at least I climbed as many mountains as I could while I was able. But to forgo climbing a mountain only because of my age? This is absolutely not acceptable. The same with any other dream- to skip it only because of a strongly held belief that I am too “old”? Again, no. Something I have learned is that our beliefs shape everything about us. They shape our outlook on life, how we view others, how we view ourselves. All of this is simply a belief. When we change our beliefs (No, I’m not too old) our whole world changes.
So this ramble of a blog begins with consternation at the idea of running a 50K, moseys along into my amazing, local trail running community, and culminates at pursuing dreams. How does all of this tie together? Running long is not everyone’s dream, in fact, it’s not most people’s dream (weird, I know). And yet, we all have dreams. Some we have left behind for whatever reason, some we set on a back burner as life rushes by. Running long is how I grow in strength and confidence. It is my foundation for pursuing life. I fully believe I am meant, we all are meant, to pursue life. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s really not, but give me my long run, and I can promise you, I will live this life to its fullest. You should join me.
We’d like to thank Amber and look forward to more of her adventures this year. You can read more at her blog: “Runner Girl Go”
Check your calendars, get rid of existing plans, and make way for the 2015 Fall Desert Runner Trail (DRT) Series! The series is an opportunity to experience the best parks and trails that Phoenix and the surrounding valley have to offer. Each race in the series highlights trail-systems, mountains, and parks to make sure runners are never bored and are given the chance to explore new ground while surrounded by family: the Aravaipa Run Tribe family.
The entire series runs from October 2015 – March 2016 and offers a point-series for runners in two different categories: Trail and Ultra. The Trail Series encompasses distances from 24 KM up to 35 KM while the Ultra Series has both 50 KM and 50 mile options depending on the race. Competitors can choose to sign up for each race individually or save some money by registering for each “set” (Fall and Spring DRT Series Passes). Spring Series Passes and races will open later in the year. Passes are offered for the middle and short series to save you money but do not count toward a point system.
The Fall Series Pass includes Cave Creek Thriller (10/17), Pass Mountain (11/14), and McDowell Mountain Frenzy (12/5). The races offer a multitude of distances ranging from 5 KM to 50 miles. These three races highlight the East & Northeast Maricopa County Parks with the events located at Cave Creek Regional Park, Usery Mountain Regional Park, and McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Both Thriller and Pass Mountain offer night time runs at the same location as part of the Insomniac Series: Thriller and Punisher respectively.
All Insomniac Series Races Now Open for Registration
Whether you are training for a fall 100 miler, want to race while escaping the day-time heat, or just want to experience the trails at night with good friends the Insomniac Series is calling your name! Nighttime running is an important part of you training for any longer events but it isn’t always safe or easy by yourself. Hence, the Insomniac Series to help make your training and racing in the dark just that much more fun! There are 8 races in the series with Blackout Night Runs new this year in Flagstaff!
Flagstaff Extreme Big Pine at Fort Tuthill County Park June 13th promises to be epic. Register for the event, and buy 1 or more Flagstaff Extreme Passes (discounted 10%) and get a free $10 Run Flagstaff Gift Card!
If you live in Phoenix make sure you join us for one of our weekly group runs!
Monday: 5:30 AM – 6:30 AM, Phoenix Mountains (32nd Street & Lincoln Trailhead)
Tuesday: Track Workouts, 6 PM – 7 PM, Camelback High School (4612 North 28th Street)
Wednesday: Rotates parks weekly, meets 6pm for a 1hr run, followed by social hour at a local restaurant. Join our Facebook group for more details!
The 24th Crown King Scramble 50K is in the books and ‘the hill’ was conquered by many with the sweet reward of beer and a festive finish line. This year had the noticeable disadvantage of high temperatures throughout the day but the advantage of flowing creeks from the rains earlier in the month. The starting line was relatively cool but as soon as the sun peeked its head above the horizon it started to scorch the trail and those on it. Almost 75 runners took advantage of the early start and an additional hour of darkness with the remainder of the total 234 starters heading out an hour later.
With the remote nature of the course the Maricopa County Emergency Communication Group was out providing radio support and being our eyes and ears as the spectators, volunteers, and event crew drove up to Crown King to await the first runner. The finish line came alive quickly with the help of our amazing volunteers which was good as it did not take long for Art DeGraw of Flagstaff, AZ to fly through the finish in first place with the 3rd fastest time ever on the course in 4:05:37! As Art was finishing Jacob Puzey and Dean Dobberteen were battling it out for second. Jacob Puzey, also of Flagstaff, bested Dean about 3.5 minutes in the end by seeming to fly down the final stretch to the finish in a time of 4:23:48.
In 3rd place (4:27:24), Dean may have been just as excited about getting to keep the $20 he had pinned to his shorts for beer (a reward he could keep for not letting Angela Shartel or Tracy Dimino beat him to the finish). Team Aravaipa member, Michael Carson, finished fourth (4:30:44), Harlow Robinson bested the men’s masters crowd, and Ian Torrence checked off ultra #190 with a 2nd place masters finish in 4:50:08.
Angela Shartel of San Diego knocked out the 8th fastest time ever on the course with 5:06:36 and an incredibly strong finish and win. In an emotional finish, Tracy Dimino finished second in 5:15:09 and was greeted to a big embrace from fellow San Diegan and friend, Angela.
Mary Houchin of Birmingham, AL rounded out the top three in 5:40:48. Laura Sweeney came through as first master’s female in 6:02:24.
As the runners rolled in, or cartwheeled in, the band, Cellmates Traveling Roadshow, kept the beat. Runners were treated to a lunch from the Crown King Saloon and the bar was packed with sweaty, salty runners who, from the seeming collective dismay of the town, were offered showers from a nearby hose. For the town of Crown King this is a community event and everyone from the General Store to The Prospector Mall came out to support the race in one way or another. Everyone (population 104) knows about “the race” and the crazy runners who run up the 4×4 road. Aravaipa is incredibly thankful to the town and its hospitality.
As the last of the runners crossed the line and the course sweeps and volunteers made it up to the top from their shifts it was apparent that the volunteers had stolen the show. From beer and whiskey offerings at Fort Misery to Ice Pops at Silver Mountain this race could not have happened without the passion and dedication of the volunteers out on the course and at the finish. The shuttles soon whisked away tired runners and family members packed drop bags and weary but victorious finishers into their cars and drove off. However, about 100 people still remained. Those lingering individuals danced the night away to a revival of Cellmates Traveling Roadshow that night inside the Crown King Saloon. It was a party worth the climb.
Thank you to Ron Ceton and Sweet M Images for being out on the course to capture the emotions of the day! Photos will be available within the next two weeks.
Are you ready to Test Your Limits? Big Pine just got even bigger with the official name change to Flagstaff Extreme Big Pine and some serious fun in store for all runners, crew, family and spectators!
If running at 7,000’ elevation just isn’t enough for you we have teamed up with Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course to take your journey higher: up into the tree tops! Zip, scramble, balance, climb… The Adventure Course is designed to challenge you both mentally and physically with courses that get harder the higher you climb.
Anyone registering for the race will receive a 10% discount off the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course Passes (Adult passes with discount are $44 and Kids are $22.50) – there is no limit to pass sales so bring the whole family! The passes are also good for the entire year so buy now to get the savings and you can store them for a future Flagstaff adventure! Just want the discount and don’t want to run? We call that crazy! Nonetheless, here is the link.
While we are incredibly excited about how many activities are available on race weekend, we do want to make it clear that hotel bookings and start times on the adventure course fill incredibly quickly. This is a busy weekend for Flagstaff and we don’t want you disappointed to find a hotel or the perfect Adventure Course time slot is sold out.
We have decided to help make your registration decision a little easier! Thanks to Run Flagstaff the first 50 people to register for the race (any distance) and purchase at least one Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course Pass will receive a free $10 gift card to Run Flagstaff!
Wanderlust Brewing will be sponsoring the Team Red White & Blue Charity Beer Garden at the event and hosting our Thursday Packet Pick-up at their Tap Room! Wanderlust is quickly growing their name in the running community and loves what we do as much as we love their beer! You never know… you might even find a running-celebrity pouring your drink!
Aravaipa has secured a $169 room rate at Little America Flagstaff Hotel for Saturday June 13th. However, Friday bookings are not guaranteed and need to be made ASAP as the hotel is almost sold out. Hotel Information: Little America Flagstaff, 2515 E Butler Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 (928)779-7900 *Ask for the Aravaipa Room Block
Of course, we have tent camping options secured at Fort Tuthill County Park right by the start/finish. In fact, you will run past our campground each loop for easy access to your supplies and crew. Camping options are also available on Ultra Signup and we can make it even easier for you by setting up your tent and cot rental prior to your arrival if you don’t have or want to bring your own!
If I register for a Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course Pass how do I sign up for a time?
If I register for the race and purchase an Adventure Course pass how will I get my $10 gift card?
As a few of us sat around Friday night preceding the 6th annual Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs finalizing a few details for the race, drinking a couple of beers, we would usually be sitting around a campfire. With warm temperatures already greeting the Phoenix area in mid-March there was no need. We sat around in short sleeve shirts and took in the night. The race starts on the Eastern end of the White Tank Mountains, a range that marks the Western boundary of the metropolitan Phoenix area. Looking towards the peaks we could see hundreds if not thousands of stars, constellations and more. Gazing back towards Phoenix, the stars slowly give way to a soft bright glow that drowns out the night sky and instead we see twinkling city lights. It was going to be a hot one in the morning.
Runners began to arrive and check in at 6:00am to an already brightening sky. Our propane heaters stood silently inside of our box truck and the neatly stacked logs in the fire pit unlit. Friends greeted each other and pre-race rituals were performed. Volunteers checked in and loaded up backpacks of goodies to transport to our remote aid stations. This year they hauled shade tents too, a welcome reprieve from the coming relentless sun.
At 7am 22 hardy souls toed the line for the 50 Miler. Warnings of extreme heat and recommendations to carry multiple bottles and hydration packs fell deaf on some ears. A few runners left the start line with just one bottle in tow. The first few miles of trail along the Ironwood and Waddell Trails are flat and wind through giant saguaro forests – the signature plant of the Sonoran desert. At mile 2.5 things change as runners turn right onto the Mesquite Canyon Trail and begin a rocky climb up to the top of the range, passing one aid station and an old ranch along the way. Once along the top of the Ford Canyon Trail heading towards Goat Camp, the trail mellows out and a perfectly cut single track snakes its way in and out of canyons below the communications towers sitting atop the mountain peaks. Early leader Chris Palmer of Scottsdale was the first 50 miler into Black Canyon but he must already have been feeling the effects of the heat as he was beat there by 50K leader Charlie Ware of Tucson who started 30 minutes later. Palmer later dropped which opened things up for Ben Volk of Paseo, WA to take the lead and hold on to the win in 10:58. Michael Mayberry of Tempe was 2nd in 11:15 and right on his heels was our lead woman and 3rd overall, Jana Gustman of Pacific Palisade, CA in 11:16. The attrition on the 50 miler due to the head was especially brutal this year with exactly half (11) of the field finishing the full distance.
The 50K was next to go at 7:30 with 67 runners toeing the line. The race featured strong local runners from Tucson (Charlie Ware), Prescott (Michael Versteeg), Flagstaff (Bret Sarnquist), Waddell (Arrick Nietert) & Mesa (Adam Steidler). Charlie took the early lead and was the first runner into Black Canyon and Mesquite Aid Stations with Versteeg close behind in 2nd. The rest of the front runners battled close through the heat of the day as everyone descended into Ford Canyon, the most treacherous and hottest part of the course. Charlie emerged through the canyon first and held on to win in 4:24 with Versteeg 2nd in 4:32. Local Arrick Nietert placed 3rd in 4:43. On the ladies side, local Phoenix runner Laura Encinas was 1st woman in 6:18. Erica Smith was 2nd in 6:26 and Meggin Kirk of Scottsdale was 3rd in 7:02. The 50K finisher rate was much higher with a total of 60 finishers.
The 30K is comprised of a single loop utilizing the flatter Mule Deer trail before ascending the brutal Goat Camp trail at mile 7, a climb that is featured twice in the 50 mile race. Once runners top out, it is a fast section of single track along the top of the range with expansive views of Phoenix out to the East and a screaming 1800 foot downhill from the top of the Mesquite Canyon Trail down to the valley floor. 58 year old Kevin Tuck ran away with the victory in 2:34 ahead of Schuyler Hall of Tempe who finished 2nd in 2:38. Rock Steady Running founder John Storkamp of Minnesota rounded out the top 3 in 2:41. On the ladies side, Jane Murawski fresh of a win at the Elephant Mountain 50K a few weeks back took a commanding 1st in 3:14. Contance Wannamaker of Texas was 2nd in 3:37 and Jaclyn Knoll was 3rd in 3:39.
Over 100 runners participated in the classic 1/2 marathon course which completes a lollipop loop of the Willow & Mesquite Canyon Trails. This is not your average 1/2 marathon with over 1600 feet of climb! Ryan Warren of Litchfield won by a wide margin in a time of 1:43 with David Santiago 2nd in 1:52. Huffman Shorty was 3rd in 1:55. The women’s race was won by Kelly Nichols of Flagstaff in 2:08 who also won last month’s Elephant Mountain 12K. 2nd place was Jessica Goswitz of Houston in 2:09 and 3rd was Ashley Crump of Mesa in 2:14.
The 8K is our shortest offering at Mequite Canyon and features and out and back course along the flatter, winding Ironwood and Waddell trails. Brett Dubois won in 30:52, Blair Zimmerman was 2nd in 31:40 and Garrett Godoy was 3rd in 31:43. Deana Hall-Ollis of Scottsdale won for the ladies in 38:21, Erica Miles was 2nd in 38:41 and Jen Laughlin was 3rd in 39:31.
We want to thank all of our volunteers who really made this race a special one this year. Maricopa County Emergency Communication Group provided amateur radio support at all of our aid stations for the sixth straight year. Despite the hot temperatures we had a record number of total finishers for the event. This concludes the 2014-15 Desert Runner Trail Series. We will be posting overall winners of the series shortly and look forward to hosting the 6th year of the series starting with the Cave Creek Thriller on October 17!
Full Results are now available.
Photos will be uploaded soon here.
Sweet M Images was also out on the course – look for photos from them in about 1 week!
After a 4 year hiatus (it went off to college), the Copper Basin 50K returns to Prescott, AZ on April 11, 2015. Keeping in tune with the past two editions in 2009 & 2010, Aravaipa Running will be hosting this as an unsanctioned “fun run” on a new section of the Prescott Circle Trail that we’ve yet to incorporate into the previous two editions.
We created the Copper Basin 50K to introduce trail runners to the Prescott Circle Trail and to escape to the pines as the valley begins to heat up into mid-April. Now that the run has “grown up”, we’ll be starting and finishing downtown on Whiskey Row. A short mile or so through town and you’ll be on trails heading towards the South Eastern portion of the Prescott Circle Trail. The 50K will be an out and back course with some limited aid along the way.
If you don’t want to run the whole 50K, we won’t stop you. Well, we mean we won’t make you continue all the way to 50K. It is a fun run so we really don’t care what you do. Well, except have fun and run. The finish will hopefully be at a bar on Whiskey Row that has an outside patio where you can go immediately from a tasty finish to a tasty beer.
Write down your time when you are done and how far you ran. Simple.
Here are the basics:
In addition to this “fun run” there will likely be a happy hour gathering Friday night at a bar in town as well as bar hopping after the finish on Saturday night. We will be on Whiskey Row after all.
There are plenty of camping options both free and for a fee around Prescott and lodging options in town. Please consider joining this gathering of friends to run in Prescott and do a shot with us!
Team Red, White & Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Team RWB members from the Phoenix chapter have been running alongside Aravaipa Running for a couple of years now. Our organizations typically cross paths the first Wednesday of each month at our Aravaipa Group Trail Run whenever we host a location at Papago Park in Tempe. Team RWB is easy to spot with their bright “eagle” logo shirts and positive attitude. Team RWB had a large presence at last year’s night run series and it is only natural to increase our partnership with them in 2015.
Aravaipa Running is pleased to announce Team RWB will be the official charity partner of the Insomniac Night Trail Run Series for 2015. With this partnership, Aravaipa Running will be serving beer at all series events with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Team RWB directly. Additionally, Team RWB will have a presence at all series events both on the participant and volunteer sides.
The complete race calendar can be found online at the Insomniac Running website or below:
If you are interested in finding out more information about Team RWB please come to our local group run the 1st Wednesday of each month at Papago Park, visit them at any Insomniac Night Run or find a local chapter to join. Remember, not just veterans can be members, but also anyone interested in connecting with veterans and encouraging them to become active through physical or social activity.
Founded in 2013, the Insomniac Night Run Series features eight night trail running races from May through November across Arizona. Each race features multiple race distances with courses completely on trail systems at regional parks.
The 6th annual Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs are upon us. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. Not just the time this year, these first two months of 2015 but even the last 5 years! Just 5 years ago I was preparing to direct my first ever 50K that I created from scratch at a mountain park that I’ve been hiking, camping and mountain biking in since I was a kid. This would prove to be not just your ordinary 50K either. I was sending runners through two “hazardous” sections of trail, deemed the “most extreme” by the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation department. So much so that they highlight the Goat Camp and Ford Canyon Trail on their park maps with a very appropriate “double black diamond”.
The Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs take place in the White Tank Mountains which run North / South along the western edge of metropolitan Phoenix. The great thing about the trails at this regional park are that they actually climb up to the top of the mountain range. They rise sharply out of the saguaro studded desert floor through several named canyons riddled with boulders, rocks, differing species of vegetation and plenty of wildlife. I’ve seen families of Javelina, lizards and snakes in these mountains and I remember seeing a photo posted at the front of gate of a wildlife camera in the high reaches of the park capture a mountain lion on film.
I’ve always loved the White Tank Mountains and the ability to share their beauty and ruggedness with others really gives me great joy. I like hard, tough and adventurous places to explore and the White Tank Mountains offer that all on marked trails (ok and the occasional creek bed).
Mesquite Canyon also marks the conclusion of Aravaipa Running’s annual Desert Runner Trail Series which I created to highlight the best of trail running across the Maricopa County Regional Park system. I wanted to get people out to the parks and on to the trails. I’ve been given so much by them that I wanted to share that with others. We offer an opportunity for participants of all abilities from hikers to elite mountain runners to test themselves on these amazing trails and locations on the edge of our city.
If you haven’t yet checked out any of the Maricopa County Regional Parks, I encourage you to give this one a try. Come camp with us, run, hike, or heck even volunteer. Get outdoors and experience what nature has to offer. Getting away from the city for a night or even a few hours can be a restorative experience for the soul.
If you are serious about getting involved here is our schedule leading up to the 6th edition of the Mesquite Canyon Trail Runs which is sure to be an amazing day of trail running:
March 6-9 – Hauling water up to Mesquite Canyon Aid Station (required hiking a 50 pound pack up 1.8 miles)
March 7 – Mesquite Canyon Training Run #2 (Goat Camp Trail)
March 11-13 – Course Marking
March 13 – Race Setup & Camping Pre-Race
March 14 – Race Day & Camping Post-Race
March 15 – Final Cleanup
If you’d like to help haul water or course mark I’d be glad to exchange volunteer credits for this or a future race.
This is the first in a series of “Adventure Run Reports” that we will be hosting on the Aravaipa Running blog. Our first comes from Aravaipa Ambassador Amber Fifield who regularly seeks out adventures in remote mountains and canyons across Arizona. Here first report comes from the Black Mesa Loop in the Superstition Mountains.
Sometimes I need to get out into the wilderness and enjoy a little quiet wild-time. However, I don’t always have time for a long jaunt, and need to just “get my fix” and get home. This morning was one of those days.
I met a few friends out at the FIRST WATER TRAILHEAD, which was fairly busy since the weather is nice and the population in the Valley has seen its usual winter influx. My plan for the day was just to do the 9 mile (my Garmin gave me 9.2 miles) Black Mesa Loop (Dutchman Trail #104 > Black Mesa Trail #241 > Second Water Trail #236 > Dutchman Trail #104). One of my friends was getting over being sick and was out to simply enjoy some desert time. The other two were looking for a longer run and would be heading out to the Canyon Lake Marina and back after running Black Mesa. After signing the guest register, we began from the trailhead on Dutchman Trail (#104) with a nice, fast, gentle downhill. The desert was looking lush from all of the recent rains! About a quarter of a mile in the trail makes a fork. We went right to stay on Dutchman. Most people tend to stay left at this fork onto Second Water Trail which is wider and smoother, so we quickly had our solitude.
The Dutchman Trail through here is very clear and easy to follow, plus quite a bit of it is nice, tight single track. Because we have had rain recently, we had numerous stream crossings this morning, which is always a treat in Arizona! When crossing the streams it is important to look up to see the cairn on the opposite side marking the trail. I often run with my head down watching my footing, so sometimes I end up doing slight side jaunts until I regain the trail. Dutchman Trail has nice rollers giving you some climbing to keep it interesting, but nothing major. In general, the rocks are also not too bad, just watch your footing.
I think in the next week or two it will be the perfect time to head out to see the wildflowers. If you don’t know, as I did not know for years, Arizona has an incredible wildflower season. Each spring, the desert is absolutely blanketed with delicate flowers: oranges, yellows, purples, whites, reds, and pinks carpet the landscape. Different areas and elevations get the flowers at different times. This morning the Black Mesa loop was just starting to get a few flowers poking their heads out. I think any rain we get will cause an explosion of color!
The next trail we came to was the Black Mesa Trail (#241) which cut back to the left. One of these days, I plan to stay on Dutchman and head out towards Weaver’s Needle, but that will have to be a different day and different blog entry. Weaver’s Needle is very prominent here and the mountains surrounding the area feel welcoming.
We met some campers back on Black Mesa and said hello, and then proceeded up the one “big” climb on the entire loop. I think the toughest part of this climb is the rockiness. If it weren’t for that, it would be much easier for me to run up; it certainly isn’t very long. As it was, today I hiked it. It was here that my friends and I completely split up, and I didn’t see them again (but I checked in, and we all had a great run!). Once I got to the top of the hill, I began running again. It was cloudy this morning, with all the hallmarks of a storm rolling in, and on top of Black Mesa itself the wind was gusting and I felt a deep chill try to crawl into my bones. Thankfully I was quickly off the mesa where the wind was not quite so strong.
Running down the west side of the mesa is a blast! It’s fairly rocky in places, but the downhill just sings. Plus, the views here are gorgeous- they look out onto more wilderness, which at the moment is incredibly green.
The base of the mesa to Second Water Trail (#236) is smooth and easy to run. I was at the intersection in no time, where I turned left back towards the First Water Trailhead. I knew I had about 2 miles left to go, so I began to push.
As I mentioned at the beginning, most people who hike from this trailhead head out on Second Water Trail. I had to slow down quite a few times for groups of people who were also out enjoying the outdoors. I saw a father and his children, a group of campers, a boy scout troop, and numerous other small groups of individuals all soaking in the beauty of the day.
Second Water Trail is relatively smooth. It does have some rocky areas, but nothing too major. It has some fun places to hop over boulders and a few corners to zip around. The way back to the trailhead has one climb up out of a wash, but it’s perfectly runnable, unless you’re tired, as I was today. However, before I knew it, I was back at my car where a friend of mine who is injured was hanging out waiting with donuts!
This loop is a great trail for a quick run, or a relaxed hike. My Garmin read 1,068 feet of elevation gain over the entire 9.2 miles. This trailhead is a great place to start at if you want to enjoy some time out in the desert with your children, or introduce visiting family members to the beauty of Arizona. You could of course do a simple out and back if you are looking for a hike or run that is perhaps not quite so long, or that is a little easier.
The only amenity at the trailhead is the pit toilets which are kept clean and well stocked. There is no water, so make sure you bring plenty of your own.
THIS LINK will take you to a map showing the trails we ran today. They are on the left side of the image.
We’d like to thank Amber and look forward to more of her adventures this year. You can read more at her blog: “Runner Girl Go”