Monthly Archives: September 2016

Moab: Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

We arrived in Moab late so we went straight to bed… in a hotel room that was ah, well let’s just say I checked for bedbugs before getting into bed.

Because we were right on the highway and unable to sleep we were up early and into Arches National park before they even opened to start charging, so we got in free, and beat the crowds.  I was surprised that Arches was mostly a driving park.  What do I mean by this? There is a paved main road that has several pull outs for photo taking, mostly they want you to stick to the very short trails that lead from the pull outs up to the arches and back to your car so as to not disturb the land.

There was one hike that we were able to find.  If you drive all the way to the end of the road into the park there is a lollypop hike around, through, and over the arches.  Devil’s Garden is a mix of sandy, and rock hiking and climbing.  The guide said it was 7.8 miles, my watch had it at under 6 miles, though we didn’t do each and every little overlook.  It was actually a lot of fun, the rules are mostly if its a hard rock you can climb on it as much as you like, if its sand or dirt, stay on the main trail to minimize erosion.

The 1-2 mile hikes to the arches were super crowded, the hike around Devil’s Garden thinned out once you got a mile from the parking lot.  If you don’t like heights, this may not be for you, if you hike clockwise you begin hiking up a slickrock arch with drop offs on either side.  The drop isn’t terribly far, but seemed to unnerve some of the other hikers. Also, the slickrock wasn’t slick as long as you weren’t wearing shoes with just flat soles, the rock is actually sandy, like sandpaper.  My shoes gripped fine, my husband was wearing shoes that had been totally worn out and he had a slightly harder time, but it still wasn’t bad. Most guidebooks call this strenuous and say it takes 5 hours.  Hiking took us 3 hours and the hardest part was the walk through sand.  For an active person this hike was fairly easy, again, as long as you are comfortable climbing up and down the rock.  There was a little route finding as you followed the trial downhill, but as long as you kept an eye out for the cairns it was no problem.  Note-its well marked, if you don’t see a cairn for more than a few minutes, back track and find where you went wrong.

We finished the entire park by 1pm and headed back to town for lunch.  After lunch we headed over to Gearheads Outdoor Store to find a map and decide what to do in Canyonlands the next day.  We had wanted to do a bike tour of Canyonlands but there was a really big storm with high winds, lightning, and even snow headed our way, so we picked something we could finish by noon.

With a map in hand, we decided we could do one more short hike before dark, so we headed back out to Corona Arch.  As the sun was setting we finished this 3 mile, 440 foot gain, round trip hike just before dark.  It was an easy hike, able to be completed by people of all ages, no special equipment needed. The colors were really amazing!

The second day in Moab we hit Canyonlands.  Canyonlands National Park is almost as otherworldly as Arches, except you drive up and up and up to a plateau, called Island in the Sky, and look down into all the canyons below.  It felt kind of strange with all the storm clouds blowing in over sandy dunes that eventually would open up to vast reddish canyons below.

We had hoped to do Upheaval Dome, but with the winds picking up, and the storm nearby the Park officials strongly suggested we skip the hike.  Instead of doing the 7.8 mile hike around it through canyons and washes, we opted for the 2 mile out and back up it to see down into the crater.  It was still amazing even if we couldn’t do our planned hike.

From there we drove to Murphy Trail. It was a mile hike through a sandy prairie to the top of the rim, and then dropped 845 feet in just .95 of a mile.  There is a 10 mile round trip hike that sounds really cool, but trying not to get blown off the canyon we just went down and back so we could experience the fun part of the hike, the loop just goes along the flat section of canyon below.

We ended the day by hiking out to the very tip of the Island in the Sky to look over all of the canyons.  This is an easy and very popular hike and many tourists do it.  By the time we had gotten out there the wind had picked up and was whipping sand at us.  We snapped a few pictures and called it a day.

Next up: Santa Fe!



Post Run Rabbit Run Adventure-ing: Aspen, Maroon Bells, Rifle Mountain State Park, Moab

Because I am just not ready to rehash Run Rabbit Run 100 yet, I though I’d get to my post race vacation adventures instead. (not to leave anyone wondering, I did finish RRR100, I did buckle, I did finish in the allotted time for hares-with no pacer, with no poles all 105 miles.)

I will, however, just leave this here.


Back to adventures! I always try to come up with a fun vacation after my 100 milers as a thank you, and recovery time for my husband.  This year we decided to road trip, see some national parks, do some hikes, eat lots of food, and see some friends.

We had to make our usual stop at the Strawberry Springs just outside of steamboat.  Love that place to soak my tired feet after 29 hours of running around the mountains of Steamboat.

From Steamboat we drove a handful of hours down to Aspen, much like we did last year. There is a nice, quiet, cheap condo right in downtown that allowed us to recover well last fall, so we went there again.  Last fall, even though I DNF-d at mile 70, I was actually more tired and way more sore so we mostly stuck to the river walk and things downtown.

This year we HAD to do the Maroon Bells hike and see the Apen trees in all their glorious golds and oranges.  You park and take a shuttle because a few decades ago people we parking all over and the exhaust was killing much of the vegetation, so now the park has set up a nice shuttle service that will drop you off and pick you up about every 15 minutes.

Rachel BELL Kelley with the Maroon BELLS in the background. Husband thought it was pretty funny 😉


The Aspen trees were amazing and well worth it!  We had hoped to make it up to Willow pass, somewhere around 12,500 feet so we could see down into the valley on the other side to Snowmass, but somewhere around 11k my vision was starting to get weird-see stars and I decided that the view wasn’t quite worth it… not that I need to recover for anything, but vacation! Still we got to 11,500ft and just to above tree line and a fantastic view. I was happy with that.

More Aspen trees


If you don’t want to walk, the views from Maroon Lake are still spectacular, and that is less than a 5 minute walk from where the shuttle drops you, making Maroon Bells very popular, accessible, and busy(especially in September when the leaves change!)  If you can make it just a bit further, Crater Lake brings the Maroon Bells even closer into view.

The next day we had just a half of a day, so we decided to do the Rio Grand trail around town.  The John Denver Sanctuary is a favorite of mine, so while Drew ran, I ran/walked/tested out the legs for a few miles, and then relaxed in the JDS.

Me, probably wondering how I am going to make it up there.


We had a quick lunch with a friend, and then hopped into the car.

Rumor has it that one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite movie’s, Tombstone, was buried in Glenwood Springs…which happened to be on our way to Moab… so I might have made Drew detour to the cemetery.   Hey it was nice to stretch our legs, and the view wasn’t bad.

Doc Holliday’s grave..or is it?  He died penniless and was buried in what was once the public cemetery.  Since then the map has been lost and its now a memorial, so this is just a guesstimate of where he lies. Either way, his schenanagins entertain me, thanks DOC.


Back in the car I started to get antsy again, so we veered off to the north in Rifle CO and saw some cool caves and waterfall at Rifle Mountain State Park.

Rifle Mountain Park

Just another nice stop to stretch our legs and then into Utah.

Leaving CO for UT!


We got the inside scoop that from Cisco in UT we could take 128 down through some very pretty canyons on the way to Moab, so we did.   It was raining, and at first seemed so sketchy as we almost ran into a huge deer, but as we got closer to Moab our breaths were taken away by the amazing buttes and canyons we drove through.

Seen on the drive to Moab, make sure to take the backboard down 128!

Finally arriving in Moab that evening we were wiped out, so many things in one day!  Unfortunately we could literally only find one room available in Moab, right next to the highway with broken AC so we alternated leaving the window open and being vibrated by the trucks whizzing by, and closing the window..muffling the sound, but making the room so unbearably hot.


Hey, its an Adventure!


Up next Moab: Arches National Park, Canyonlands and Santa Fe NM!

Telluride Taper Pictures

Along with reading lots of wonderful books, I have been doing some shorter runs and hikes around town.  The weather has been quite cooperative giving me some pretty clouds to back light the mountains…. we even got some snow up on a few peaks to add to their mountainous drama…

Sunset Clouds over the house after a storm

View across town from Jud Weibe Trail


Aspen trees-my favorite- with Telluride in the background


Storm clouds over Telluride


Hiking with Miss Molly


Mt Wilson

View of Ajax from downtown


Bear Creek Falls


Molly gazing at Silver Lake-trying to decide if she wants to jump in after the fish


Good Morning!


Even dinner view

Book Review; Deep Survival By Lawrence Gonzales

I found Deep Survival to be a riveting read.   Its given me a lot to think about, and I devoured it almost in its entirety over the last two hours of my flight from RDU to SLC on my way to Telluride, CO.  I have this desire to digest it some, and thought a short blog post would be the way for me to do just that.

Image result for deep survival by laurence gonzales

Laurence Gonzales, the book’s author, is a contributing editor for National Geographic Adventure Magazine, has written for Harper’s and Conde Nast Traveler among other publications.  He is a pilot, a climber, and an overall seeker of adventure.

His story begins with his Father’s nearly improbable survival during WWII when his B-17 was hit and his parachute didn’t open.  After falling 5 miles out of the sky, a soldiers gun misfired, and instead of being shot upon landing, spent time in a Nazi concentration camp…. and survived it all!

Gonzales grew  up entertained by his Father’s tales of adventure and survival, which shaped him as an adult and eventually led him to explore who survives and why.

The book is broken into two chapters; “How Accidents Happen,” and “Survival.”

He relays his findings through several stories full of both survivors, and those who did not.  From failed plane landings, to climbers struck by lightening, people stranded out at sea, and hikers lost in the woods.

A few of his ideas stand out to me.  Many of these tragic adventures follow a pattern.  We our minds create the world we live, in a way.  Its like when you ask a child to draw a girl.  Many children will draw an image of a “girl” that their brain has created, rather than an actual person.  Maybe the child draws a ponytail, a dress, long hair, its a version of a girl that their brains make up-just a standard go-to image, rather than really seeing a girl and drawing what’s actually there.  We also tend to create standard-go to- adventures from past experiences.  Maybe we hiked that mountain last summer and the weather was beautiful, so we strike out on a hike expecting the same to be true, or maybe we sort of check the weather but see that there is just a small chance of storms, pushing it aside for our previous mental image.  Then as we get up to the top of a mountain an electrical storm strikes… that’s one way that accidents happen.

Another is overconfidence, he writes that often its the newbie of the group that survives over the hardened adventurer whose hubris leads them to be underprepared.

I know I have fallen into that in the past.  Growing up we used to travel to the White Mountains in NH every summer.  My dad and I would hike Mt Washington, and usually my mom and younger sisters would drive to the top and meet us up there.  We always checked the weather, and my dad would carry extra jackets and food etc, but as the child I never really thought about the planning.  On stormy years we would skip the hike, so in my memory I could only recall any number of times hiking up in beautiful weather.  My experience never really having bad weather (because we prepared) Mt Washington was just a long fun hike that we would go up, and as I got older would race each other down.  There is a wall, a memorial to all the lost souls up there on the mountain, both recovered and never seen again.  I never gave it much thought as a kid-it was always sunny, maybe windy so those people must have gone off trail, or in the winter during a storm.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school.  A friend of mine had relatives that lived about 30 min from Mt Washington so we decided to drive up one weekend and hike and hang out.  It was close to 100 degrees out and we spent the first day swimming in a lake.  We slept in the second day after staying up way too late, saw the weather outside was in the 90s again and headed to Mt Washington…. in our cotton t shirts and shorts.  Had we actually checked the weather report we would have known that there were storms that afternoon, and we were hiking right into them.  With no jackets, no extra food, no plan we hit a freezing cold hail storm just as we got above treeline.  Being stubborn 18 year olds with no concept of our own mortality we pushed on, past hikers bundled up in their waterproof and puffy jackets. Fortunately at the top there is a building with a cafeteria and a gift shop.  We didn’t have enough money to take the tram back down, we were frozen and hungry, trying to warm our numb hands under the hand dryer.  This was before the advent of cell phones, so we decided there was only one plan of action…. to run back down to stay warm.  Fortunately the storm passed and the hail and clouds moved on, but needless to say… we could have ended up on that memorial wall…

It goes on to talk about the personalities of survivors.  There are a handful of traits, and these aren’t all of them;

  1. Keeping your head about you.  Many people panic and give into the feeling they need to do anything it takes to- get off the mountain, get out of the woods, get off the life boat.  Needless to say with out a plan or keeping a somewhat level head you can burn out all your energy before you even figure out what to do.  Our basic instinct is to do what our brains tell us will make this uncomfortable situation end asap.
  2. Not freezing up.  Deer in headlights die for a reason.  If you can’t move away from danger; well being in the way of an avalanche is not something many can come back from.
  3. Living in the moment.  If you are in a survival situation people who accept it and start taking the necessary steps to survive in their new reality fare better.  Think Tom Hanks in Castaway.   When he accepts the situation and starts building a place to live and starts fishing, his chances of survival went up.  People who realize that they might not be rescued right away have better chances of surviving emergency situations.
  4. While you are making the here and now your new reality, keeping hope or praying is essential to survival.
  5. Staying alive for someone else.  Many people stay alive for their kids or spouses because they want to see them again… or they think about the pain their death would cause their loved ones.
  6. Trusting your gut.  He said over and over he interviewed survivors that said before they got stuck in a survival situation many of them said they had really bad feelings in their gut.
  7. Having someone you feel you need to care for.  Doctors and nurses tend to survive in places of life or death because they are compelled to keep others alive, which in turn keeps them alive.   Wheather its giving them a reason to live, or keeping them level headed so they can’t panic, caring for someone else can keep you from panicking and doing something to endanger your life.

Not that I have ever been faced with imminent death, but I would like to think that I have several of these instincts.  I do not freeze when things happen.  I have left friends high and dry in the water when someone yelled “shark” after seeing a fin.  I jokingly say I have a strong will to live, but I don’t wait around, I bailed so fast out of that water.  I mean have you ever watched Shark Week on TV? The NC coast is displayed prominently during that week!   It turned out to be a porpose,  but I didn’t wait around to find out if that fin has teeth on the end of it or not.

I do try to listen to my gut.  In general I am an emotionally reactive person in my real life, but in more dangerous situations I am surprisingly level headed.

I would definitely recommend this book to every adventurer and outdoors person.  Even if you already know a lot about survival, the stories are very entertaining.