Do they even have anything in common? How could it possibly be? Well, it's action-packed Vegas trip! And if you are reading this blog, it means you, like Larry and I, prefer running wild to gambling and shows!
Friday's introductory was great. Practically straight from the airport we drove to Red Rock Canyon park and changed into our running clothes after talking with rangers and looking at the maps (note - Larry is a total nerd when it comes to maps:)). We opted for a long rocky jeep road to some pass for about 4 miles, ran it down, and then embarked on a 7M loop of single-track trails. At the end of the road section the weather threatened a bit with a some rain and winds, the temperatures dropped a few degrees and Larry wasn't happy. After all, he is not a high mileage runner - he is a quality runner. But poor soul is stuck with me, as I rather go long and slow, and did I mention long?, and simply wander around:) Luckily for me, the sun came out again and the single track brought our spirits high up to have an awesome outing for the day!
For the next day we had different plans. At some point somewhere I didn't for the life of me remember where I read about an 18M loop in the mountains 60 miles off Las Vegas. I had no further information. At the same time Larry found Mt. Charleston exactly 60 miles away with a ski resort and a simple trail map off internet, and we thought we'll do some running and may be later - some skiing. Boy, were we glad we had at least some warm clothes! As we approached the area, it showed snow - and the more in we drove, the more it was white!
As we looked at the map Larry had printed out, he pointed at 16.6M horse-shoe loop, and if we connect it with 1.4M road section we get that perfect 18M loop - I am positive that was what I read about! So, we parked at the end we would finish, and pulled on all the clothes we had in the car. As we reached the trailhead, the beauty was absolutely stunning and what was even more striking - seeing it was the last thing you'd imagine when talking about Vegas! Deep fresh snow, bright sun, all smiles, we were making our way up. The starting point was at some 7,000+ feet and the peak of Charleston mountain would be looming at 11,900 feet. That was a big "wow"! We couldn't stop enjoying it!
We followed a couple of fresh footsteps, probably made about 2 hrs prior, and in a few places Larry taught me how to recognize trail under snow (it somewhat leveled versus a sharp slope of the rest of the mountain) and connect a very well marked trees with blazes. The guys ahead of us went off the original trail, and I was happy to be the one in the lead doing the trail search! I, an infamous lost case when it comes to finding the trail! Hey, I get lost in 80% of the races on well-marked courses, yet along unknown trails! It was fun...until the weather begun to turn to the worst.
Looking back at the pictures, it is obvious we are embarking into a typical white-out on the mountain. But I get very single-minded and stubborn when run (or do whatever), and it's nearly impossible to turn me around. Soon after those 2 guys who's footsteps we roughly followed turned back - and they had full mountain gear, completed with crampons, ice axes and heavy boots! We, on the other hands, had our trail racing flats on (Fireblades) with skimpy windbreakers. There was no more steps to follow, and I was the one breaking the trail in over a foot of fresh snow - which started falling rather heavily. Winds picked up, and temps dropped far, far below freezing. We stopped eating and drinking, my hands wouldn't move (thankfully, Larry had an extra pair of gloves!), and we didn't feel our feet for a long time now.
Soon after not only dehydration and glycogen depletion caused some tunnel vision and headaches, I begun to develop my favorite loss of vision due to altitude (gladly - or not - I already knew what it is after loosing one eye's vision completely and another almost when attempted Handy's peak in CO last summer first day off zero altitude). I still wasn't going to turn...
Slopes became more and more treacherous (if possible to be more so), and Larry firmly said we will turn around at 2pm. I heard it before from mountaineers - finish all you do in the mountains before noon and head back, this is when the weather is dangerous. It was my third time living it. At some point, finally - thank God! - I realized that climbing last 0.7M with 1000 feet of gain to the top and then dropping on the other side, with no trail to follow, snow blizzard, exhausted physically and mentally, frozen cold, is simply stupid. I agreed to go back.
Wow...what an adventure. Even making same steps was pretty hard, but we came down, and only with about 2 miles left did we see the sun again, and funny thing - that last piece of trail totally melted by our return. I guess this side of the mountains never had a storm...
All in all, we still made it 18M that day, just different, and it was so much fun, sick as it was, I wouldn't have it other way. Next day the sun shone brightly, not a cloud in the sky, but we had no regrets. Obviously, we didn't go skiing that day, taking over 2 extra hours longer than expected...
Sunday was all about local again. All that time we stayed in a nicest place right next to Red Rock canyon, and we squeezed a 7M loop (in opposite direction than Friday's run) at a very good clip before checking out of a hotel.
After a shower and a breakfast we went back to the park and added on some couple of hours of hiking on boulders in canyon. I was out of running clothes and opted for a dress, for what got form a couple of groups "look, there is that girl in sundress" exclamation. Our reaction was "hell, yeah, and I can kick your behind with it! If I can run a 100 miler wearing a skirt, what's wrong with doing some measly hike wearing a dress? As long as I have my trail running shoes on..."
It was an awesome weekend, just a dream. Everything - everything - was simply perfect. A huge shout out of thank you to Monika and family for taking care of Stephen this weekend, he had a grand time with them! And on top of it - I passed my by-pass challenge Pathology test! Yeah, man! Life is good!