It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes in Southern California, we have a brief season of leaf change. It is upon us now, until the next Santa Ana wind strips the sycamore and liquidambar of their ephemeral technicolor dreamcoats.
On Thanksgiving Day I was blessed to end the day running near Irvine Park; a welcome chill and dramatic clouds and bit of sunset rainbow–combined with a unusual lack of trail users–made for an ideal outing.
Earlier this month, on these same trails, I was pleased to meet up with some local residents who are always around, but usually out of sight.
And then there’s that crazy barefoot shadow lady who never fails to find me when the sun dips low:
The week before Thanksgiving, I was happy to hike some less familiar trails in Orange County’s Laguna Coast Wilderness Park with two local writers who were part of my Grand Canyon Field Institute “Writing On The Edge” workshop last summer at the North Rim.
We enjoyed getting caught up as we wandered along the ridgeline for a couple of hours (such fabulous Pacific Ocean views!) then wound our way back down to the trailhead on the tree-canopied Laurel Canyon Trail.
It was delightful to have a chance to sit and write trail-side again with these ladies; there’s something magical about the spontaneous creativity that arises when one hunkers down in the dirt and starts paying attention to what is: right there!
After we sat in silence for a while, jotting down whatever caught our eyes/ears/noses/skin, we read each other our observations; Terry LePage agreed to let me share her letter to the oak that sheltered our writing fun.
by Terry LePage
Laurel Canyon, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
I wish you would come and live
in my yard. Make your statement
about time and beauty and
keep the squirrels amused . . .
wrap your gnarled branches
around my wall and coat
the earth with your little
sharp shell leaves . . .
Shelter jays and mockingbirds.
in your bark trails.
Home Depot cannot sell you.
You are beyond price.
Come home with me. Oh,
maybe I am home.
What a blessing to have enjoyed not one, but TWO trips to Grand Canyon last month to hike Rim-to-Rim.
The first time I hiked with a wonderful group of folks from the Phoenix area; the second time, since I was by myself, I thought I would have more time to set up my little camera along the trail and record bits of video . . . yes, I had a “grand” idea to create a documentary about my adventure.
It was tough enough to be hiking . . .
In the dark
In the COLD . . .
When I started out from the North Rim . . . to be fiddling about composing shots seemed almost foolhardy, given my numb-toes predicament and need to get down to a lower, warmer part of the trail as soon as possible.
As the day (and my toes) thawed out, it became apparent that I needed to keep moving moving moving to make my 4 pm meeting time with my gracious husband who had dropped me off at the North Rim trailhead and was then driving hundreds of miles to meet me at the South Rim . . . so my grandiose dreams of an Oscar-nominated documentary got left along the trail.
I did manage to “re-enact” my passing along a few sections of trail . . . these clips (plus a little “interview” I created at home) I stitched together in a video (click here).
Happy (Hollywood?) Trails!
I just got home from another beautiful 21-mile trek across the Grand Canyon on Monday, Oct. 26 . . . more photos (and of course words words words) will follow this brief, but extremely celebratory, post.
My little pocket camera’s date/time stamp came in handy as a way to track my progress (I did not carry a phone or other device with GPS capabilities, and it felt WAY too mentally taxing to take notes along the way), beginning with the first photo at the North Kaibab trailhead at 6:05 am, and ending with a picture at the top of the South Kaibab trail at 4: 44 pm . . . about 10 hours and 39 minutes from rim to rim.
Since my goal was to increase my pace from my Oct. 10, 2015, adventure (12 hours and 20 minutes) I was pleased . . . but . . . still a bit bummed that my old left knee pain, just like earlier this month, surfaced after five miles of downhill hiking. Back to the physio doctor I go . . .
Here’s a few photos . . . there are hundreds more (which may have slowed me down a bit, ya think?!), as well as lots of video bits which I hope to splice together into a movie some time after this weekend of family fun (nephew’s play, three granddaughters’ soccer games, visit to 89-year-old mom, etc.)
Some acronym definition to begin:
R2R= Rim to Rim, or traveling on foot from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other, usually along the “main corridor” trails of South Kaibab or Bright Angel on the South Rim, and North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim.
FKT= Fastest Known Time . . . Here’s a succinct explanation from an article on the Trail Runner Magazine web site: “A fastest known time is the fastest reported time for an effort on a specific trail or route. This roughly corresponds to a race’s course record, except that FKTs are usually solo or near-solo efforts.”
BF=Bare Foot . . . my preferred method of trail travel.
I was able to put all these ideas together last weekend (Oct. 10 to be exact), and with the cooperation of some glorious fall weather (thanks be to God!), complete a shoe-less, 21-mile Canyon crossing in 12 hours and 20 minutes . . . not even close to the 2 hours, 51 minutes, and 28 seconds by the legendary Rob Krar in May 2012. BUT (and it’s a big one). . . I like to think I’ve accomplished something that even Rob K and his beard could not pull off: crossing the canyon in one day, shoe-less-ly. (I did a barefoot crossing in two days back in October 2012.)
It’s an odd distinction, to be sure, but all my googling related to “barefoot Rim to Rim” turns up nothing on the subject (except for the above-noted blog post by yours truly).
So I’m gonna go with me being the “grandmother” of this new game.
My route was chosen ahead of time by the group I was assisting (the National Park Service requires first-aid-trained helpers AND and a permit for organized group crossings these days): the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail down.
While the SK is a bit too steep for my tastes–I would have preferred the longer Bright Angel Trail–it does come with spectacular views out and over and across the ever-changing canyon.
On the other side there is but one “main corridor trail”: the 14-mile North Kaibab Trail. This kind of South Rim to North Rim crossing is considered a little more challenging than the reverse, since the North Rim rises about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. More stats: the Colorado River is about 5850 feet lower than the North Rim, and 4860 feet below the South Rim (about 10, 710 feet total elevation change).
I was privileged to travel with such a wonderful group of hikers . . . and all of them were so well-prepared for the 21 miles of muscle-straining down and up that I did not have to bust out any WooFeR skills (one more acronym: WFR, or Wilderness First Responder, a certification I earned last year). The fastest of the lot were hours and hours ahead of me, but my job was to serve as “sweep,” and make sure no one got left behind . . . a pace well-suited to barefoot wandering.
After a leisurely Sunday sightseeing drive from the North Rim back to the South Rim (I visited the historic Lee’s Ferry for the first time, among other diversions), I immediately went to the Backcountry Office to get on the waiting list for a permit to stay at Bright Angel Campground. Yep, back down in the depths. That’s how good I felt the next day.
And when I returned to the Backcountry Office the next morning at 8am, I was #4 on the wait list, and able to score a camp site for the next night. Woo hoo!
So . . . Monday I hung out at the South Rim, wandering and writing (hey . . . that’s the title of this blog!), and then at the end of the day stuffed some food and sleeping gear in my backpack so I could get an early start on Tuesday.
Not too early, though. I had also thought it would be nice to have a hot meal down at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, so there was another waiting list to sign up for, and another nerve-wracking wait from 6:30-7 am Tuesday morning in the lobby of the South Rim’s Bright Angel Lodge while the very nice people working the concessions desk figured out if there was going to be a seat for me at dinner. There was! (So that was less food to have to bring, a sort of trade-off for the moderately high price of food that is all carted down via mules; all trash leaves mule-back as well.)
Tip for travelers: if your plans are flexible, you can sometimes get last-minute arrangements for Phantom Ranch accommodations. (This also worked for my previous R2R in 2012.) Otherwise, most folks make plans 13 months out, which is the earliest time frame the reservation system allows.
Enough logistics dithering: on to the adventure, via photos.
My little pocket camera does not do too well with moon shots . . . Tuesday morning’s image (above) is about as good as it gets.
Here’s a very blurry picture of Sunday night’s lunar eclipse . . . what a spectacular show that was!
Summer ended with a blaze of hot days that continues through this week; to deal with it I’ve taken to dawn patrol trail excursions as I prepare for my October Rim-to-Rim adventure at the Grand Canyon.
Since I’ll be hiking across with others, I’m wondering if I’ll have to wear sandals to keep up. Right now, as fall begins, my bare feet have a summer-ful of experience on lovely rocky trails.
Here’s a poem that happened as I posted these photos:
Rocks and cactus . . .
. . . raven ruckus . . .
. . . vultures thinkin’ . . .
. . . beetle stinkin’. . .
. . . full moon show . . .
. . . ridgeline glow.
Happy Autumn Trails!
On stop #3 on the So Cal book tour for the Grand Canyon anthologies Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon and On Foot: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories, I’ll be joining the editor and other authors to present photos and stories from our adventures in the Canyon at REI Tustin tonight (Sept. 18) at 7 pm.
In other news: It rained here this week . . . much needed and appreciated rain (and mud!).
Click this for a link to my video “I like mud (and barefoot running)” from a few years ago . . .
Last weekend I was privileged to be a part of the Northern Arizona Book Festival (in conjunction with Colorado River Days).
On the way to Flagstaff, I camped at Lynx Lake outside of Prescott (where I was part of a slide show/poetry presentation at an event at Peregrine Books . . . a wonderful book store!).
On an afternoon wander around Lynx Lake, I saw this inspiring “young” lady:
Here’s the view in the other direction that we were enjoying:
Also–in downtown Prescott: the biggest, loudest cicadas I’d ever come across:
The next day, I did some hiking at Buffalo Park at the edge of town; I was stoked to discover they had old-school “fitness stations” (that seems to have been more of a “thing” in California about 20 years ago). My favorite: the “hand ring bridge” . . . sort of what I’ve been practicing the last few months. I was pleased to discover that my ability to do it 2+ times qualified me for “advanced status” (because with several other challenges on the loop–especially the vertical rope climb–I did note even make novice status; note to self: find a fat vertical rope locally and get to work).
Then it was time for the extremely fun poetry reading: I joined seven of the 61 authors from the brand-new anthology of Grand Canyon poetry (mentioned above: Going Down Grand) at the Orpheum in downtown Flag (that’s what the locals call it) for a word-packed hour of Grand Canyon delight.
I got the luck of the draw and went first–shoelessly, of course–and to my utter delight five of the seven readers who followed kicked off their sandals and took the stage barefoot as well. Here’s Danny Rosen, owner of Lithic Press (the book’s publisher), reading some of his fine work.
Still more Book Festival fun: Sunday’s reading at the Whyld Ass Coffee Shop, also in downtown Flag.
On the lovely rooftop patio, three of us read from our essays in On Foot: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories . . . and what an honor it was to share the stage with such experienced canyon veterans as Nathaniel Brodie and Wayne Ranney. My story about hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim . . . without shoes! . . . seemed a bit out of place in this gathering of experienced hikers who “know” that to hike the Canyon one must, no really, MUST! wear the “proper” footwear. Oh well . . . maybe I gave them a reason to question conventional wisdom . . . always my goal . . .
(Oops . . . I guess the nice lady I asked to take my picture didn’t realize how necessary it was to include my bare feet for the purposes of blog documentation.)
Under fabulous clouds, here’s Wayne reading his helpful “On Being a Trail Guide in Grand Canyon” . . . I definitely learned a few tips to keep in mind as I continue my WFR-ways . . .
Not to be missed when you’re in Flagstaff: the Museum of Northern Arizona. I was especially interested (of course!) in the Native American “Sandals” exhibit:
While I was “OK” with wearing my sandals in the museum–and around town–my feel definitely felt happiest when they were free.
And . . . speaking of happy feet . . . this morning’s run, back on Santiago Oaks’ familiar dusty trails (for some geological reason all the Flagstaff trails seem overly speckled with tiny sharp gravely rock-ettes) was: exquisite.
Happy happy barefoot trails . . .