“…where the deer and the antelope play…”

Spontaneous road trips are fun!  I spent the past two days sightseeing in and around Page, AZ with two friends and got a few decent pictures to boot.  We decided to check out Lower Antelope Canyon, which is a popular destination for photographers and nature lovers.  The canyon was formed by erosion during flash floods; rushing water and sand carved pathways through the narrow slots, smoothed the sandstone surface, and shaped contours into the rock.  Apparently, Lower Antelope Canyon (“spiral rock arches” in the Navajo language) is less popular than Upper Antelope Canyon (“the place where water runs through rocks”), mainly because the lower canyon has stairs.  The upper canyon is at ground level (flat) and boasts more sunbeams.  I think what we saw in the lower canyon was absolutely beautiful and the stairs were an added bonus (after all, I actually LIKE hiking). Since the canyons are on Navajo land, they require a tour guide for entrance.  Not surprisingly, the tours generate a significant amount of income for the Navajo nation.  We booked our tours through Ken’s Tours and our guide, Ben, was very patient and knowledgeable as he led us through the canyon and suggested different angles for the millions of pictures our tour members took. IMG_0618 IMG_0646 IMG_0640 IMG_0633 (Photo 1: pretty detail of the rock; Photo 2: reminds me of an eagle; Photo 3: I see a bear!; Photo 4: “Twin Peaks”.) IMG_0657 IMG_0658 (Photo 1: “The Lady”; Photo 2: I can see another, less pretty lady on the left…) IMG_0664 IMG_0665 (Photo 1: can you see an Indian chief?; Photo 2: “Elephant.”) IMG_0669 IMG_0674 (Photo 1: theoretically, one can see all the way through to the end of the canyon in this picture; Photo 2: casting my shadow over the top of Lower Antelope Canyon!) After our tour of the canyon, we drove a few miles to Horseshoe Bend, another picturesque and oft-photographed spot.  The Colorado River cuts through the rock in a horseshoe shape 1000 feet (300m) below the lookout point. IMG_0698 The rest of the evening was spent eating food and just hanging out at our campsite on Lake Powell, a few miles away from Page, AZ.  We slept in the next morning and took our time enjoying a leisurely breakfast before we all braved the refreshing lake water and immersed ourselves in it.  Our drive back was uneventful and filled with good conversation and plenty of junk food.  When’s the next trip?  🙂

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Holy Cra(m)p!

Yesterday, I suggested to my SAT that we go for a longer ride.  I decided we both needed some exercise and a reason to explore a different part of town.  Sadly, it has been months since 1) I last rode more than 20 miles and 2) I’ve cycled regularly.  So, last night, I did a little research and selected a route that seemed feasible.  It was a 70 mile loop around McDowell Mountain in the NE part of the city.  Note that it has been MONTHS since my last long ride.

The first hour or so was quite enjoyable, as the temperature was a very comfortable 18C / 64F and there was little climbing.  I felt great, I felt fast, and I was happy.  I said all that to my SAT and I think he was pleasantly surprised by my words (or shocked, I couldn’t tell).

Around mile 50, my right quadricep muscle suddenly tensed up and “freaked out.”  This was rather alarming, as that had never happened to me before while riding my bike.  (It DID occur on my recent hike in the Grand Canyon, but I digress.)  We took a brief pause at that moment to feed me salt pills, water, and encouragement.  I tried stretching my legs, but that resulted in ominous muscle twinges, so I stopped that in a hurry.  After pushing my bike up the current hill for a few minutes, I gingerly repositioned myself on my saddle and started pedaling.  My plan was to keep spinning my legs, remain in an easy gear, and focus on my breathing.

A few miles later, my right inner thigh muscles seized up and started complaining to me.  Crap.  This was not good.  I really wanted to finish the ride, but if my muscles continued to cramp, I may have to abort my mission.  I walked my bike a few more minutes, gently stretching my muscles as I hobbled along, then placed my posterior on my saddle, more determined to finish the ride.  I was SO CLOSE!

Well, dear readers, apparently my left leg felt neglected and desired my attention, for at mile 61, it decided to convulse and quiver.  “That’s it, you’re done,” my SAT declared.  “But I’m only 9 miles away!!” I wailed.  “NO.  Stay here and I’ll ride back and pick you up in the truck,” he said.  Humph. So, I waited in the shade, stretched out all the muscles I had, cramped or not, read a book, and drank some water.

I guess I should consider riding my bike a bit more regularly if I want to avoid experiencing muscle abuse!  (…or buy an electric bike…)

Readers, if you have incurred leg cramping, how do you combat them?  Avoid them?

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(“C” is for cramp.  I am amusing myself while waiting for my ride/support vehicle to pick me up!)

Help!

I haven’t updated in a while because I haven’t any new adventures to post.  I am at a loss.  It was easy to post when I was training for an event; after all, the focus was there, the deadline was looming, and the scheduling was relatively easy.  Yes, moving and adjusting to one’s new home take time and effort, but now that most of the relocation work is done, I want to have a goal again.  There are a few more factors that may prove to be more hindrance than help in this new city of mine, though, such as: HEAT, the sun, heatstroke, dehydration….ok, I guess the main one is heat.  Summers in the “Valley of the Sun” are hot.  I mean, really, a city does not have a nickname like “Valley of the Sun” without a good reason.  Average daytime temperature for the months of June through August: 104F / 40C (data collected from 1981-2010 and can be found here).  The coolest time of the day in the summer is early morning (like 4:30am-5am).

I bought a gym membership shortly after moving to the “Center of the Sun” (haha) to give myself a workout alternative to baking in the heat.  While I believe that sitting out in the sun can burn calories (and skin), I’m not a fan of intense heat.  I am coming to the conclusion that I will have to learn to be a “morning person” and get biking or hiking workouts done in the wee hours of the morning if I want any fresh air during the summer.

That said, I need help from YOU.  Ideas for new fitness goals happily solicited!  Some thoughts include training for the Rim-to-Rim hike in the Grand Canyon (and its successor, the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim), getting a mountain bike and learning how to stay upright on it, getting a touring bike and planning some bike trips….

…maybe I should learn how to swim.  That may be a refreshing way to spend my summer…!

Ain’t it grand?

In our ongoing pursuit of friends in our new city, my SAT and I are worming our way into whatever interesting endeavors OTHER people are doing….a couple of weeks ago, we went on a group hike, during which we met a guy who organizes a Grand Canyon weekend each year.  This was the 21st year!  I’m impressed.  Charles knows the southwest really well and wrote a book describing the best 60 hikes in and around the Phoenix area.  He’s kind of a local celebrity, at least in the hiking community.  Well, since Charles was gracious enough to invite us to his Grand Canyon weekend (despite not knowing us well at all!), we graciously accepted.  I mean, what ELSE did we have planned that weekend?

Indeed, we had a “grand” time!  The focus of the weekend was to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and then back up (17 miles total).  A “down-up” hike, as I call it, is a sick psychological game, really: for the first half of the hike, you are merrily and confidently striding along the trail, reveling in how fit you feel and how easy everything is.  Alas, what goes down, must go up, at least in this hiking situation, and that is when reality sinks in: the mouth becomes dry, the legs become lead, and the backpack becomes a burden.  Before I get into too many details, let me share a few pretty pictures…

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(Photo 1: alone on the trail; Photo 2: looking out from “Ooh Aah” Point; Photo 3: the warning we happily ignored; Photo 4: we were up there!)

When I hiked in Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas, I normally brought a baby Coke on my hikes to enjoy at the peak.  Well, instead of a Coke, I had a lemonade at the BOTTOM!  There is a little cafe at the bottom of the canyon (Phantom Ranch), from which one can buy a lemonade, some lunch, or even a beer.  You can also mail a postcard from the cafe that is carried up to the top by mule power.

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(Photo 1: the South Kaibab trail bridge that crosses the Colorado River and marks the end of the trail; Photo 2: mule train ascending the South Kaibab trail; Photo 3: Phantom Ranch, the oasis on the canyon floor; Photo 4: our drinks at Phantom Ranch!)

We took the Bright Angel trail back up to the trailhead because there were 3 water stations along the way; there is no water on the South Kaibab trail.  The hike back up to the top was hard.  Much harder than I expected.  I used to be in prime hiking condition last year and could easily overtake anyone with whom I hiked, girl or guy.  Sadly, as the adage goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it and boy, have I lost it!  I am way out of hiking shape.  I still finished the hike with my various body parts intact and I was faster than most of the other people, but I was in pain.  My legs were cramping, shaking, and seizing up.  My pace became slower and slower until it got to the point where children and 80-year-olds were passing me.  Granted, those people were doing a MUCH shorter hike, as they were not going all the way to the bottom, but still, it was still a blow to my ego!  Thankfully, the weather wasn’t as hot as we all feared, for we had cloud cover for pretty much the entire hike back up to the trailhead.  Things would have been even more difficult if the sun had been directly on us.  I was still able to appreciate the beauty of the Bright Angel trail, but that appreciation was viewed through a hazy, painful filter.  Despite that, I managed to snag a few photos:

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(Photo 1: Indian Gardens, only 4.5 miles to the end!; Photo 2: more beautiful Indian Gardens; Photo 3: lovely blossoms and prickly pear at Indian Gardens; Photo 4: a really cool rainbow!)

I was SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY to reach the top.  ‘Twas a humbling experience all around: the awe-inspiring beauty of the Grand Canyon, the pleasure and privilege of being able to do this hike, the knowledge that I am out of shape….ah well, I got a few good pictures, met some really fun people, and ate some great food.

IMG_0308(The end of the hike.  Hooray!)