Sunday, May 7, 2017

Grand Circle Trail Fest & sister trip #4

My sister and I are signed up to run the first annual Grand Circle Trail Fest.
This is a 3 day camping event. Starts Wednesday night - we check in and set up camp, Thursday morning we run 13ish miles at Bryce Canyon, then we return to base camp and have cool activities and food, the next day we run at Zion National Park 13ish miles - and more activities at base camp, then Saturday at the Grand Canyon 19 miles...

That is the main event for our trip, but we added a few things along the way. Here is what has happened so far:

Fist off, my job is really stressful right now - i'm a Project Engineer for a commercial general contractor - and I have 2 problem projects right now and one project starting.. .So Monday Morning I had a lot to do, pretty much I got up at 5:30am and started working till I got to the air port - then tried to finish sending emails on the plain with the $6/half hour internet but failed, I had an oversized email stuck in my outbox, it was SO frustrated.

We arrived in Las Vegas at 2:35pm Local time and headed to get our bags, then to the rental car. I was still getting emails and phone calls for work, so I was still on the phone trying to solve problems. We had a car with Enterprise - got a Hyundai Santa Fe - black - for $20/day. not bad.

We headed out to our first hotel - the Holiday Inn Club Vacation Dessert Resort. The lines were a little long, but the room was GREAT. We loved it and wished we had more time to spend in it. We were both very hungry and decided to change and go get food right away. We went to the Battistas Hole In the Wall Italian place about .7 miles down the street from our hotel. It was REALLY good. I got Chicken Alfredo and my sister got Egg Pant Parm. mine was about $30, and my sisters was about $25 and it included really good soup, garlic bread, our meal, table wine that was

actually really good, and home made cappuccino for dessert with whipped cream on top. The service was excellent, food came out fast, one of the best dining experiences I have had in a long time. After that we headed to "the strip" - and walked through everything we had time

for... We made a mistake and ordered drinks (captain and diets) with out asking the price -it was $26 for 2 small drinks - wow. we felt awful. We wanted to play black jack and had practiced on the plane - finally we found a place with $10 tables and 2 open spots. The game was black jack, the strategy was $50 each - lose it all and quit or double it and quit. We discovered that we got free drinks if we played, and both got 2 glasses of wine while we were playing, and both doubled our $$ - we headed back to the hotel in a bit of a non conventional way - and that was it.. great night. We ended up with 6.9 miles of walking that day.

The next day (today) I got up early and got some work items wrapped up - things seemed to be improving at that time in the day...We packed the car up and headed out right at sun rise - headed to the hoover damn - it was really cool - we just parked at the garage $10, and walked around... after that we went to Red Rock Canon. it cost $7 to get into the visitors center - we geared up and decided to try Turtle Peak - a 5 m "difficult" trail. First we got lost for about 2 miles or so, oops. it was still fun rock climbing.. then we found the trail, and wow, it delivered the "difficult" that's for sure. loose rock, intermittent trail - very steep. Had to scramble up a lot of it.. take some walk breaks, drink lots of water... but we made it - it was really pretty, we could see the strip from the top, and the awesome canyon rocks.

The way down was rough - loose rocks now slide (DOWN) my shoes were not thick enough so my feet hurt, I forgot to cut my toe nails so they were killing me... all the pointy plants had made their marks on me.. it was a little rough, but a good challenge. Not for everyone - but we enjoyed it (now anyway that i'm relaxing in bed in a nice hotel room)

After we made it down we headed around the 14m road with really great views. then we were going to our hotel when we noticed a cool ranch/haunted town/ zoo/bar/.... lots of stuff, so we did a U turn and went to check it out. It was pretty cool, but kinda closed mostly on tuesday, so we just wondered around, the restaurant was open though and we ate next to a window with a large pond outside with ducks and turtles, they also had a bunch of chickens and peacocks. I got a bison burger, Debs got a veggie burger - and we got a Tippsy turtle drink to go with the theme of the day. it was good... good food, good service, great day!

We headed to the hotel after that, checked in at a holiday inn about an hour from Death Valley in Pharo (something), and we got a room upgrade due to my Chase IHG reward card. It was a really nice big room - 2 queen beds, a sitting area, 2 TVS and little entry way. Thats it for today. We Ended up with 9.6 miles. 181 floors.

I seemed to have stopped writing after this... It's May 2017 so it's been a few months, but i'm going to continue with the rest of the trip as I remember it:

The next day we started out early on our way to Death Valley. I believe we had breakfast at McDonalds and I remember the coffee being exceptionally hot. The 1 hour drive was very pretty - unique terrane we had not previously seen in our travels. We stopped at a lookout area and climbed up a big hill - it was stunning. the pale sand/gyp materials with the blue sky - it was a sight to see. We purchased a yearly pass to all the national parks for $80 knowing we were going to be entering 3 more before our trip was over. After that we found a trail on the all app that had good reviews. It started out through a valley, with lots of rocks and gyp crete. We saw an old boarded up mine along the way, and found some cool rocks. The views were super interesting, and of course it was hot. The hike was fairly easy, a few big hills, but mostly flat through valleys. It was a loop and we ended up coming up where we had first stopped at the look out - then went back around to another trail that linked up to our parking lot. After that we drove around a little. We went to below sea level, but did not travel do the lowest point, although now I wish we had. I did not realize that it was the lowest point in the whole USA, but at least we were close to it.  We wished that we had more time, but we had a 3 hour drive to get to Kanab Utah, so off we went. We stopped along the way at a Walmart to get beer/wine/snacks. We went from CA to AZ to UT that day, and the time zones were starting to confuse us, so we just gave up on trying to figure out what time we would get to the camp. When we arrived we checked in and were given a tag to clam a tent. We picked on a few rows in. They had set up a LOT of tents (see pictures below) it was kinda cool. We had dinner at one of the food trailers, they had a place where they were making stone fire pizza, a BBQ place and a waffle trailer. All of them were good and I forgot what we got each night, but I believe I tried all of them, my favorite actually being a grilled cheese waffle with tomato soup. We went to sleep fairly early after sitting around the fires talking to fellow runners and having some wine... After settling into our tent we discovered that our new Therm-o-light mattresses were not very padded or warm. We were cold and the ground was hard... we got about 7 miles in that day.

We did not sleep very well, but were up early and headed to the restrooms (typical park restrooms as the camp site was set up in a baseball field) 2 sinks, 3 stalls, at least we had running water... We decided to follow the vans to the location so that we could go hiking in the park after our run. It was about a 45 min. drive to the start of the run - I think that we were around 8,000ft + in elevation - i'm not 100% sure on the temperature - but it was in the low 30's I believe - our car only told us in Celsius and I had forgotten the formula to convert it. We parked at a restaurant and took the vans after that because the trail head had limited parking. The restaurant was not overly happy about all the people in line to use their restrooms and I do not blame them. The vans were late because of a miscommunication so we waited around for quite some time... oops... Finally the vans came and we were off to the trail. It was very near Bryce Canyon National Park and it seemed to be a horse back riding / hiking area and was beautiful. Before we started I used my "go girl" for the first time and was pretty happy with it, although it was still a little strange. I won't go into details, but if your a girl and you sometimes need to use a restroom when only woods are available I suggest you try one - it's an upgrade.

The course was mostly single track - winding, rolling hills to start with, very steep hills later. For me the 12 miles flew by, it was just such a fun trail, SO beautiful, I was loving it.  Debi was having trouble with the elevation, but was still enjoying the views. For some reason my camel back bladder was leaking, so I had ice cold water continually dripping down my back the whole run, but the amazing views made up for it. The scenery was similar to that of the actual park, but much less populated - a good representation of the park for sure. The last few miles of the race was a lot of switch backs - up then down... the finish line was down the last set of them. We got an arrow with "Bryce Canyon Grand Circle Trail Fest" and the date engraved on them. After the race we headed to the actual park and cleaned up/ changed at the visitors center before heading to check the park out.

We took the shuttle around and got out at one of the main viewing areas. it was breath taking - one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. I was in love with it and could have stood and stared at it for hours. We went down for a 2 mile loop or so to see the hoodoos up close. Bryce Canyon is the ONLY place on earth (that we know of) that has this rock feature - the hoodoos. It was eye candy. so unique and just... if you have not been there you must go. After exploring a little we headed back to camp for dinner and the film festival. They had the guy that had ran across the sahara desert there to speak, and showed a video of what they are doing now with teens. They pick a group of kids I think ages 15-18 to go on some sort of an extreme trip with them, make it a learning experience and send live feeds back to the classes... pretty cool. The stars were out, we saw bats flying by... it was a beautiful night. Before dark we also went on sunset walk up a canyon, it was pretty and a native american came up to show us what they did for a sunset ceremony. One thing he said is they never say "good bye" they say "see you next time" he said that they never leave bad feelings between each other, and that they respect the earth like they are visitors not owners. We got 17.3 miles in that day and 206 floors.

The next day we were up early also, it was cold and dark again and we were headed for a run around Zion National Park. We opted to follow the busses again and headed out with the first set of busses.  It was about an hour drive I think, and the final few miles were down a dirt and rock road that was VERY bumpy and it was still dark, so that added to the challenge. Thankfully we had the SUV. We arrived and parked along the dirt road and walked over to the starting area. the sun was just coming up and I was able to get a cool picture of it rising. This course was strange, and my least favorite but still fun. It was a mountain biking trail and had tons of rocks - big rocks, that you had to jump up on and follow dots that had been spray painted on the rocks so that you followed the "trail". A different type of trail than I was used to and I got tired of jumping on rocks after a few miles. It was slip rock, i'm guessing it's slippery when wet? it was not wet though and was actually very grippy, so you were able to jump mid way up a rock then make another leap to reach the top, pretty fun for a while, but not for 12 miles (for me anyway) it was really pretty though when we got to the look outs. After the run we headed out to the park in the direction that our GPS told us to go... The road was VERY rough, we bottomed out once, then came to a VERY steep hill, and my sister, being the more cautious of the 2 of us REALLY REALLY REALLY - REALLY did not want me to drive down that way anymore... SO I gave in and we did a 22 point turnaround and headed back. I wish I would have taken a picture of our SUV though - we stopped on the ledge of the hill, one tire was on a big rock, another was just... hanging... and the other 2 were back on the dirt... we got out to walk down a bit to see if it got "better" after the hill... would have been an awesome picture.. I wish we had gone down that hill, still think we could have made it... But we did not, another day, another trip.

We headed ALL THE WAY back on the horrible road to the main road. Our SUV was a filthy mess after that, and a piece of plastic was hanging off the bottom of it from when we bottomed out on a rock. We squished it back up and it sorta stayed. We did finally make it to Zion National Park and went on part of the Angels Landing hike. It was really pretty. The bus ride back was beautiful. Great way to see the park. We went back and got our car, and as we were leaving the parking lot someone backed into us and tried to drive off!! We took off after them yelling and pointing (that may have been more me than my sister), thankfully a park ranger saw us and I yelled and pointed again all the while pursuing them in our SUV. The park ranger did get them, and pulled them over. They played their old person card quite nicely. We had a big white mark on the front bumper of the 2017 SUV. We got their insurance info, called my insurance CO to report it, and headed on our way. That was a wasted hour, but at least they didn't get away with it. The nerve of some people. We had dinner, hung out at the fire etc. after, and went to bed early again. 15.4 miles 77 floors for the day.

That nights dinner in town
We were up even earlier the next morning (Saturday) because The Grand Canyon was farther away from the other parks. This time we decided to just go in the van since it was a 19 mile run, we decided we would go spend the day at the Grand Canyon Sunday. We stopped to use the restroom on the way but it was closed, one guy from our van got out and when everyone else was back in the van, he was still gone... all the other vans left.. we waited and waited... nothing. His stuff was still in the van and everything. FINALLY he just came back got in sat down and didn't say a word. For some reason non of the rest of us said a word either - it was really awkward... and strange. Debi and I beat him on the run at least. We arrived at the start of the run - I had some coffee and looked for a place to take a picture of the sunrise - found it! it was SOOOO pretty. The place was called rainbow trail or something like that and had a lot of people camping... lots of evergreen trees... was really pretty. We headed out through the trees and windy trails. it was peaceful, mostly single track trails not as hilly as the other runs. Every few miles we would have a look out opportunity on a finger of the trail that never disappointed. It was a super enjoyable run, and I enjoyed almost every mile (I had maybe 2 rough miles near the end, where I started to not feel the greatest) but overall loved the trail. When we got back it was around noon I think, maybe earlier. We got our first shower in 4 days - the park district opened up the showers that were for the pool, it was pretty gross with all the people that needed to use it, so I'm glad I had flip flops, it was cold too, water heater could not keep up I suppose. I did feel better after though, so it was worth the discomfort. We went to this friends of Animals place that took in cats, dogs and horses. It was pretty neat and un-usual, many acres and buildings. They had a pet cemetery too. After that we drove around a little and then went back to Kanab for dinner at one of the local places. It was delicious. We used our last food coupons later that night for pizza - we were pretty hungry that day. We packed up some stuff in the car to make the departure faster the next morning. 20.5 miles for the day 60 floors.

We got up before dawn again - packed the car and headed out. I though we were going to miss the sunrise and I was really sad - but right at the last min. We saw a "look out" road and veered on to it. It was perfect. we watched the sun rise over the rocks and a lake. It could not have been planned better if we had tried. After that we grabbed breakfast and then saw the moon still out - it was full and the sky was blue. I took out my big camera lens for the first time the whole trip and was able to get one of my bucket list photos of the moon over the rocks. We stopped by Horse Shoe Bend after that - it was spectacular. Then off to our final stop -  The Grand Canyon North Rim. We were looking for the prefect trail and having trouble finding it. After going to a few look outs we decided to just head down to the canyon as if we were going to do the Rim to Rim. It was a really fun trail, and got a lot warmer as we got down farther. I think we did maybe 4-5 miles down, we kept wanting to see what was around the next bend... One day we will be back to do the rim to rim - maybe the rim to rim to rim... would be awesome to stay at the ranch in the middle some day also. After that we got a beer and a huge slice of pizza and headed to another trail for a few miles. We had planned to hike more, but decided we were done hiking, and we were tired. We headed to our last hotel near the airport. 12.2 miles for the day 233 floors.

The next day was packing day. We had a LOT of things to fit in our bags and it was a challenge. We headed to the car rental place to drop off our car thinking it would take extra time because of the accident... our car was filthy and as we waited in the check out line with the car we realized that other people had clean cars... then we wondered if we should have cleaned our car - it was covered in dirt, had a big white scratch on the front of it and the plastic under-covering had seen better days. We waited dreading the inspection. The inspection guy came over, walked around the car and said "ok, your good" I felt I should let him know about the accident, so I said "we are? what about this" and pointed to the big white scratch. he looked at it, shrugged, pulled out his special paper with a hole in it to check on the size - it was right on the edges of it... he shrugged again and said "its fine go ahead" so we did. We got a cart and carted our stuff off to the bus going to the air port and that was that. I believe the flight home was without a hitch. 2.4 miles for the day.

The trip was wonderful. Saw so many beautiful things, and had a awesome travel companion. Met some cool people. ran, hiked, or walked 108.2 miles 827 floors (8,270FT) I wonder if our vacations are more active than that of others? hmmmm... we're normal, right?

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