I accidentally ran a marathon…

15 10 2008

This past weekend Rinne & I headed to Jackson for my neighbor’s wedding in beautiful Mississippi.  It was a challenge giving up a fall weekend in NC or North Georgia for a trip to Jackson, but well worth it.  The service was beautiful and it was an added bonus seeing f my sister who was also able to come in from Phoenix.

According to my running schedule I needed to get a long run of 18 + miles in one day.  This can be challenging enough to find suitable trails around here for this, much less in Jackson MS, but at least it was a guarantee it would be a flat course.  I woke up early Saturday morning at my father’s house and left from there heading toward the trails of the Pearl river.

I have been playing in these woods since I was about 10, and by playing I mean doing what stupid young boys do, starting fires (on the beach of course), making little bombs, smoking cigarettes and other recreational agricultural products, drinking, going off rope swings, doing the past 3 things listed simultaneously.  I come back to visit these woods on almost every trip home and find a new appreciation for them each time.  And over the past 10 years or so it is nice to see them in a healthy manner.  The woods seem the same as they always have, except now it  just seems a shorter distance on the trails to reach the river.

I ran for about half a mile on road until I reached the entrance to the trails which was afield overgrown with tall grass, and my dry foot-ware became immediately soaked from the morning dew. Cest lavie.  I ran past points along the trail that threw my memory back in time and brought what I am sure was a stupid grin to my face.  A tornado had touched down here in the spring so the trails were not as clear as I had hoped but thanks to the ATV enthusiasts everything was easily passable.  I never thought I would be grateful for the ATV riders, but if it were not for them, none of these trails would even exist.  I kept moving at about a 7:15 pace for the first part of the run.  For me, going long distance, this is flying, I could get used to running in Mississippi.  The trails dumped me out at my old soccer fields, ( I really sucked at that sport, but had a blast playing it).

I meandered through a few neighborhoods until I could reaccess the trails along the river.  I had to back track now & again when the trail would just suddenly stop. At about mile 7 I found myself in the middle of a cypress swamp and about 20 feet of water separating the other part of the trail I was supposed to be on.  The swamp seems to be unaware of the drought going on around the Southeast.  I walked up about 30 feet and crossed the water on a beaver dam, where from the looks of it some deer had had the same idea.

Kermit in swamp

Kermit in swamp

In my mind I was completely expecting to see Kermit the frog here, but he made no appearance, which is just as well as I am not fond of hearing banjo music when I am in the woods.  (Mental note, must sneak the duelling banjos tune on a trail runner’s ipod).  After the swamp crossing, a mile or so more through the woods, I made it to an aid station (translation convenience store) and loaded down on Pringles, Gatorade and more water.  Life is a bowl of cherries. I crossed a bridge to get over the river, and my plan was to head back upstream on the Pearl river on trails the whole way to the Reservoir, that was my plan anyway.  I headed back into the woods and was on great single track for a mile or two and crossed some ladder bridges over a creek, and was soon on fairly well maintained gravel roads on the edge of pine forests.  I had seen this area from google maps which meant I was on course for 18-20 miles.  What google maps did not point out, was this was private land.  I figured it was a hunting camp of some kind, and the deer stands on the edge of the forest with steps up to them affirmed my hunch.  I knew it was not season, so I figured it was allgood. The road was very straight and I could see a T intersection ahead, and I had my eyes set on it for what seemed to be 15 minutes, and when I was about a 100 yards from the intersection I saw a large white F-350 cruise by.  Uh oh.

As I made it to the intersection, I could see the truck making its way toward me at a high velocity in reverse. Ok, I thought this is going to be intereseting. The man driving the truck rolled down the window and his first words were “you’re not from round here are you?”  I already knew the answer to this question, “hell, no, I’m lost as I can be.”  This nice older gentleman who was obviously not too thrilled to see me on his private hunting grounds gave me a small lecture  about private property and public property, which I took several notes on, and thanked him for setting me straight.  He had a gun sitting on his passenger seat, which he never let his eyes direct to, but which mine were setting up a permanent camp at.  (I know I ended the sentence with a preposition, however let me remind you the setting is Mississippi, so when in Rome…) At the end of my lecture about property and property rights he pointed me ever so kindly in the direction to leave his property, which was only a bout a half a mile to the gate. I gladly started off in that direction, but about 5 steps into it, I realized my run was going to be a lot longer than I expected, and even worse I was going to have to run on the road.

Running on the road was not as bad as expected, but contending with motorists on a Saturday in MS on their way to watch football, aaiiyyyeeeeeeee!!!  I kept cruising along the roads hoping to find another way into the trails.  I took a turn after the trailer park at the Shady Oaks RV Park sign, which seemed like a good idea…  I am not sure if I was seeing things or not, but there was an Indian temple under construction on this road.  My first thought is I am hallucinating, this is not a site I expected to see on a run, much less what started out to be a trail run in Mississippi that has already gone through a swamp.  So I stop and look at this place a little befuddled, and I ask one of the workers what is going on.  It turns out he is the foreman from India and he invites me in for a tour of this 80% complete temple.  Now 80% of the construction is done, but none of it has any color, it is just grey.  If this were not surreal enough already, now I am seeing real life in Black & White.  I satiate my curiosity of the place, thank the workers for the tour and make my way back toward home.

I run along the edge of another hunting camp, knowing that my tress-passing, at least on hunting camp property for the day has ended.  I climb a fence into the Jackson Country Club and run along the levee separating the golf course from the river and with each step getting closer and closer to home.  I was only supposed to do 18 or so miles, but I am already at 25 by the time I hit the country club. I arrive back at my dad’s house with a little over 27 miles on my legs and am beat, but at least no one asked me to squeal like a pig.

Click below to see a map of the run, minus 3.5 miles or so of it.



Pinnacle Peak

1 10 2008

“Did the pilot just say  the temperature is 98?” I ask no one in particular, and the answer from a few natives on the plane was,”oh yeah, that’s nothing.”  What is wrong with these people?  98 degrees at 8 o’clock at night, no big deal?  This last week Corinne & I went to Arizona to visit my sister Elizabeth & her husband Brandon in Phoenix.

The next morning  I wake up at about 5:30 Phoenix time and take myself for a walk toward Starbucks.  As light begins to shed itself over the landscape I notice my sister’s neighborhood is surrounded by mountains; large rust colored mountains.  Being surrounded by mountains out West has a completely different feel from being surrounded by mountains in the southeast.  For example in the mountains here people do not talk as funny as they do back home in the mountains, “how you’ns doin?” was a phrase I did not hear in Arizona.  Additionally the sun can be seen as it’s first light hits over the horizon.  On my way to Starbucks the sunrise provided the most color contrast for the day  with purples, reds & yellows all reflected off long cottony stretched clouds that looked like they were installations in a very large art museum, hovering just below the ceiling.  You know the ones designed to give the patron a feeling of… I wonder what the hell those things are supposed to make me feel anyway.

The point is the sunrise was beautiful, and it became difficult to not stare at it, but alas like some peon from a greek myth, if you stare at the sun too long you might run into a cactus.  Ok so maybe it was not a cactus of the normal variety but it was a prickly plant of some sort protruding directly into my path. And maybe in greek mythology or Aesop’s fables there were no cacti, but my lesson was learned anyway, no more staring at the sun.

We spent Friday checking out the Cave Creek area and went for a little hike before visiting the Mayo Clinic, for a tour, not a “real visit.”  Elizabeth works here.  I have decided if you need to be in a hospital, this is the place to be.  I have not seen a hospital like this before, nice wood floors, open atrium where the patients rooms faced.  My perception could also be a little distorted since this is the first time I have been to a hospital in a long time where me or a loved one was not a patient.

On Saturday, we woke  and headed North to Flagstaff where the weather would not be as hot and we could see some trees.  It took a few hours to get there, but the scenrey on the drive was amazing.  It was really cool to watch the landscape change from Phoenix as we moved further north and reached the higher elevations.  Trees began to appear, the green began to mix with the rust colored mountains, and then taking it over;  forming a landscape, that while much larger than what I am used to it did have a similar paint job.

We arrived in Flagstaff, to much cooler temperatures than when we awoke and had nice casual lunch a couple blocks form Route 66.  After lunch we began our assault on Pinnacle Peak which begins at about 10k feet. I offered to go back to the car when we realized we had forgotten a few things a couple hunred yards after we started our hike.  I thought I was in pretty decent shape.  I have since changed my thinking.  Upon running a few hundred feet my body suddenly gave me the “stop this right now, or their will be consequences” speech.  I listened.

We entered the woods after we crossed a large field and made our way up the trail though a forest of aspen trees.  My mind kept telling me how I could run this trail, but on closer inspection, although the grade was acceptable it was rooty and technical for the majority.  I was happy to be hiking and visiting with my family.  We hiked for a couple of hours and made it to a point that we deemed was a good pinnacle for us.  We shot a few pictures and talked about Sedona and that it would be good to see and a great place for dinner.

Cathedral rock, oak creek,  sedona

Cathedral rock, oak creek, sedona

As we made our way toward Sedona on back roads, the views were spectacular along Oak Creek heading down into Sedona.  The road drops what seems like 2000 feet in a very short distance.  And with each foot of descent the shadows became greater and sun reflected off the top of the canyon walls. There were jagged peaks and rough cut rock like the picture to the left, but also smooth rounded cliffs that look like they were formed with clay and a puddy knife. This is one of the prettiest drives I have been on.  We passed a few campgrounds along the creek and I was beginning to make plans in my head to revisit  this area with climbing, camping & boating gear.

We kept moving forward and it continued to be pretty, but something was telling me Sedona, was not what I was expecting.  I think the first clue might have been the Dairy Queen, but I am not sure.  When we finally arrived in Sedona, I realized to my horror, I am in the Gatlinburg of the desert.  This is what it must feel like after having been a great trip in the Smokies, only to leave the woods and be bombarded by funnel cakes and airbrush t-shirts.  Do not get me wrong, there is a time & place for everything, I was just not expecting this.  On the main strip in town there were lots & lots of large people, fat guys on motorcycles chewing on toothpicks with leather vests.  I did not see a fudge shop or a place to purchase Christmas ornaments, but I have no doubt there were a few shops that could satiate those urges if you had them.  There was even a a touring company with pink jeeps that would take you on “safari.”  A pink jeep in such a truly beauitful landscape is an assault to the senses.   Seriously Sedona is the type of place you go to buy art (I use this term loosely) by Thomas Kincaid, the painter of light. For those of you who do not know Thomas Kincaid  is to art what Esteban, the guy who does the informercial about his guitars is to music.

Luckily I think most everyone knew it would be best if we got as far away as possible from this particular strip and Brandon located a nice restaurant away from the pink jeep tours that had amazing views.  The cliff lines at higher elevations were white that flowed into the red cliffs that surrounds the town.  This is a city worth seeing, but be forewarned, if you wear Nascar paraphenalia you will be embraced as their brethren.  But at least you’ll get a funnel cake and some Christmas Ornaments for your time.