Time to Train for the Summertime Adventures

AKA: There Will Be Sweating

Lower Ice Lake – Colorado

The yearly Colorado backpacking trip can be a challenge, mainly because of the altitude. Coming up from Phoenix, AZ (elevation 1086’), makes for a tough first few days. I like to enjoy myself as much as possible, call me crazy, so being fit is the only way to get past the altitude problem. The main challenge during the summer in Phoenix? You guessed it, it’s hot. The good news: as long as you don’t mind early mornings Phoenix is a great place to train outdoors year-round. As I’ve gotten older the heat has started to effect me more and more, and every summer the news is filled with stories of people taken down while hiking in the heat, so you need to be careful and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I’ve got another Grand Canyon hike coming up in September as well, so being hiking fit and well acclimatized to the heat is required!

I try to make it to the gym for some strength training twice a week, get in at least one swim, and a hike or bike ride. Usually on my hikes I run the flat parts and try to hike quickly up the steep sections.

I’m not really a fan of training with my pack on, I prefer to just work on overall fitness, so that I’m prepared for the adventures I have planned and anything else that might pop-up. Last year there was some suffering on the uphill hikes, perhaps my plan needs some adjustments…


Summer Fitness Goals


I am fortunate to live right next to South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the United States, and a fantastic collection of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and in general enjoying the outdoors. I love the fact that in my neighborhood I’m surrounded by other active people who like to enjoy the excellent outdoor recreation opportunities that Phoenix provides.

The map below shows all the trails and such.


Pyramid Trail is my standard training hike, a mile of slightly up, then a mile of lots of up!

Pyramid Hike

Once you get up to the top you can add some fun mileage by traversing the ridge line all the way around and descend a few different ways. The ridge is great for running, a nice rolling single track!

Pyramid – National – Lost Ranch
Panorama of the Area 620 Trails

I try put together some videos of various adventures, check’em out!

Have any great training tips? Feel free to share!

Touring around the Old Stomping Grounds

On our 3 trips to Kentucky together my wife had never been to the Red River Gorge. We were in Kentucky this time as a quick trip for my nephew’s graduation, and since we had some time on Monday we made the hour drive down the Bert T Combs Mountain Parkway. Back in the early 90’s rock climbing was my passion, and the Red was the mecca of sport climbing for me and my friends.

We didn’t have a whole lot of time and weren’t prepared for a long hike, so the sky lift to Natural Bridge and a little driving tour around seemed like the way to go.

Top of Natural Bridge

While the Appalachian nature of the area was a bit new for her, she totally enjoyed the beauty of the place. The trail to the one crag we were going to hike to was super muddy, so we didn’t get to any actual rock climbing areas, maybe next time.

The sky lift was a great choice, we got up to Natural Bridge without the uphill hike and then could just walk around on the short trails up there, cruised through Fat Man’s Squeeze, and took in the view.

Fat Man’s Squeeze
Underneath Natural Bridge
Looking across at Natural Bridge

We drove through the ‘burg of Nada. This was truly the the eye opening part, it’s a very different place than we’re used to now. But we did get to drive through Nada Tunnel, a one lane tunnel carved through the rock!

Since I was talking about rock climbing, I had to throw in one of the best rock climbing pics ever taken of me! (probably 25 years ago)

Snooker at The Motherlode

This Summer’s Adventures

Working in the restaurant industry in Phoenix necessitates taking vacations during the summer. While it can be a little warm in Phoenix, I’m still able to do a decent amount of outdoor activities and get away for some cool backpacking.

One of the first escapes should be a few days car camping with my wife. I just recently got us a 6 man tent, for excellent comfort in the campgrounds. While I enjoy the backpacking experience immensely, some comfy car camping is fun as well!

Only place in the yard I could try to set up the tent

After that comes the Colorado backpacking trip, usually the highlight of the year for outdoor adventures. The past few years, for various reasons (impressive volumes of rain and wind or serious lack of precipitations), we haven’t been able to have a campfire. Really hoping for a few small campfires to sit around this time. Heading to an area around the continental divide, moving between some lakes. After a long hectic season of work the simplicity of backpacking and the beauty of the mountains help recharge the spirit. I feel like I can live pretty comfortably while backpacking, the REI Co-op Double Shot Press Mug doesn’t hurt (apparently it’s not available anymore, but I bet you can something similar). A real cup of coffee sure makes mornings in the mountains exceedingly nice.

This was my view for 12 hours 2 years ago waiting out a torrential downpour

Then in early September it’s back to the Grand Canyon! There will be four of us this time, should be a fun group. We’re going about two weeks later than last year, but it’s early September so it will probably still be pretty hot! As usual, i’m sure we’ll challenge ourselves. So we’ve got that goin’ for us , which is fun. The canyon is such an amazing place, around every turn is another incredible picture!

If I mix in some SUPing out at the lakes around Phoenix, it should be a good summer.

Who else has some sweet summer adventure plans?

Making it a Habit

I’ve been able to continue the heading down to Tempe Town Lake for some post-work Stand-up Paddleboarding theme. I’m new to the paddling, so I’m just looking to get in some miles and a good workout. I very much enjoyed listening to an audio book and putting forth effort, it’s a great way to decompress. Much need lately.

My Garmin Forerunner has always struggled a little with elevation, obviously the website will correct after the fact, but it is always very evident when I paddle. The graph below is my elevation while paddling Tempe Town Lake,,,

Tempe Town Lake Elevation per Garmin..

Wednesday on the Lake

My 3rd time on the Stand-up Paddleboard was pretty nice, it has become an excellent Wednesday afternoon pastime. I feel that it can become a good workout, but mainly it’s just super relaxing to cruise around Tempe Town Lake. It is unbelievable how many buildings are being built along the lake, 20 years ago when I moved to Phoenix it was a dry riverbed!

I wore the earphones today and rocked my AC/DC playlist, ripe for digging in. I definitely need to get some good technique, I feel like the main limiter in it being a cardio workout instead of just pleasure is my poor paddling stroke, so any knowledgeable tips are appreciated! Perhaps I should watch some YouTube videos. Fortunately for me, the people who’s totally awesome pics of paddling around made me want to try it are gong to start paddling around soon .

#FloatinAround

There was some actual going where I wanted!

TTL Paddle #3

Effort #2, so much better than the first time battling the wind.

TTL Paddle #2

This mess was my first SUP time, because I had decided to go and just because the winds are gusting to 25 ain’t no thing. apparently…

SUP #1
#FloatinAround

Grand Canyon Backpacking

In the 20 years that I had lived in Arizona I had been to the Grand Canyon once, and didn’t venture below the rim. I had heard such cool stories and seen many amazing pictures. I knew that I needed to experience it for myself, Fortunately, I was easily able to convince 2 friends to come along.

I applied a little late in the application time frame, but since it was an August date, not too much of a problem. We all live and recreate outdoors year round in Phoenix, So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

This was an awesome trip. Headed out from Phoenix around 10am, I love the excitement of leaving town for an adventure , you feel the city melt away! It’s about 4 hours from Phoenix, it’s a cool drive as you pass from the desert to high desert to mountains and back to high desert.

Approaching Skeleton Point

I Love This Sign

.The Heat Warning Sign

This sign is posted around the National Park Corridor Trails, it warns people of the challenging, extreme conditions hiking in the canyon can expose you to. While the warning is written in a few languages, I love the visual they gave to get the message across to almost anyone…

The Hike

We could not have gotten luckier with the weather, we hiked in the around 4ish. We parked at the Backcountry Information Center and had to hop 2 buses over to the South Kaibab Trailhead. It’s amazing the number of foreign visitor the canyon gets. On the second bus I didn’t hear a single word of English. The first mile or so of our hike we were surrounded by a group of younger Italians, after Cedar Point we saw very few people, just us and the awesome canyon views!

The Tip-Off
Bright Angel Camground

It was dark by the time we got to Bright Angel Campground, we quietly set up camp, around many sleeping people. We strolled over to Boat Beach to chill for a bit, so as not to make too much noise. The only bummer about the campground is how close the sites are to each other, but flat space is pretty limited down there. One huge highlight, a flush toilet!! Here’s my Garmin track from the hike in.

The next day we hiked up North Kaibab Trail for a ways, just exploring around and enjoying being in such an amazing place. After that we headed back to the campground and cooled off by sitting in Bright Angel Creek, sooo nice!

Bright Angel Creek

A little later we walked over to the Canteen at Phantom Ranch and enjoyed a couple beers, not something that happens too often while backpacking. We started talking to the guy working the counter there. Pretty interesting guy who lives in upstate New York. He had been retired for 5-6 years, his wife had retired just a few years ago and told him he needed to get a job, so he did… at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

The Black Bridge from Boat Beach

We woke up pretty early the next morning, packed up camp and headed out for the Indian Garden campground about halfway up the Bright Angel Trail. This trail is completely different from South Kaibab, as it winds its way up through the natural weaknesses. Here’s my Garmin track from the hike to Indian Garden.

Bright Angel Trail

The hike to Indian Garden was a lot easier than I had expected. I suffered some at altitude in Colorado, apparently the altitude really kicked my ass because this entire hike felt relaxing. Indian Garden is another excellent campground. With ramadas and picnic tables at each campsite, it’s living in luxury!

Indian Garden Campground

We hiked out to Plateau Point for the view and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately for me the wind was kicking up and it looked like rain. I left my rain fly off to let the tent air out a little, so I got to run the mile and a half or so back to camp to get my rain fly on, good fun, I’m a genius!

After another even earlier wake up, we packed up and headed for the rim! The trail looks impossible when viewed from the campground but winds its way up though the weakness. The 3 rest-houses on the trail are great, nice little stops with water. Here’s my Garmin track from Indian Garden to the Rim. This was an amazing trip, and I can’t recommend it enough. I liked it so much I just faxed in my application for this September!!

Bright Angel Trail in switchbacks from Plateau Point

Last Year’s Colorado Backpacking

Been slacking off on the blogging so trying to catch up a little bit, so here’s an overview of last summer’s Colorado backpacking adventure!

Trail to Ice Lake

In late July we hit up 2 spots in South Central Colorado, the Blue Lakes and Ice Lake. They are both amazing alpine lakes, they do get some traffic, so during the week is the way to go!

Lower Blue Lake

The Blue Lakes of Colorado are near Ridgeway and Telluride. We drove up from Phoenix and made it to the Alta Lakes campground near Telluride. Cruised around Telluride a little the next day, picked up some supplies and off into the hills we went.

It’s 3 miles to Lower Blue Lake from the trailhead, feels pretty tough with a full pack and coming from the lowland of Phoenix doesn’t help. Found nice campsite and moved in. The past few years our backpacking as featured a lot of rain and this year was no exception!

The next morning after enjoying some coffee and waiting for the rain to stop, we head up to hike to the Upper Blue Lakes and I wanted to give Mt Sneffels a shot, the local 14er’. It was a nice hike up to and over the pass into Yankee Boy Basin, I made it about 2/3 of the way up the Lavender Couloir, before an approaching storm made me turn around. By the time I made it back to camp it was a full on thunderstorm. Hooray for smart choices in the mountains!

Lower Blue Lake
Blue Lakes Pass Trail

After hiking out from The Blue Lakes we drove over the huge Red Mountain Pass and into Silverton. After a quick resupply we headed off to the Ice Lake Traihead.

After a rainy, tough, but cool hike in we found ourselves a nice campsite, set up, got some dry clothes on and relaxed. Which is easy to do with views like these!

The hike to Upper Ice Lake is short but super steep! It is an amazing high alpine area once you get up there. We hung out up there hiking around and enjoying the area.

Ice Lake
Fuller Lake
Trail to Fuller Lake
Island Lake

After 5 days in the tents it was time to head back to Phoenix, there’s nothing like these mountain escapes, so good for the mental state! The simplicity of backpacking and living out of a tent in an amazing place can’t be beat. Get out and Go!

SUP

Always in need of an afternoon, post-work summer activity I decided to get a Standup Paddleboard. While the first experience on Tempe Town Lake was more of an exercise in stubbornness, the 2nd time was super fun. The first time I had 20+ mph winds, the next time pretty calm. The Garmin track will show the difference! Fun so far, stories to come…

First time fighting the wind. (Click the pic)

The second time, so much better! (Click the pic)