I had a work function in Las Vegas last week. Now – I have a serious dislike for places like Vegas but I figure a positive mental attitude is an essential feature of an ultra-runner. To test this resolve, I planned on getting some serious dirt trail training in. It’s been months since I’ve run on anything but snow so I packed some warm weather clothes, summer shoes and a headlamp.
I arrived late Sunday afternoon and I headed out to the closest spot I could find with trails and hills – Red Rock Canyon. I arrived about an hour before dark, ran the Calico Tanks, up on top of Turtlehead Peak and on my way around the mountain on the White Rock Trail it got full dark. So I headlamped it around the backside and followed the lights of the city across the open desert, sans trail, for a couple hours.
Intrigued by this spot, I was back in Red Rock Canyon at 3 am on Monday. Since the park was closed, I parked on the highway and I headed up the east side of the Red Rocks. I followed a wash into a canyon and followed it like I was caving. It is spectacular to run these canyons with just a headlamp switching up between boulder jumping, running on sand or on solid smooth rock. I went up and up until I reckoned I was on the east side of Turtlehead Peak. It started to get light just as I hit the summit. This was followed up by some very fast downhilling on the main trail and back out to the highway. I made it to the conference by 8 am.
I pretty much repeated this procedure the rest of the week except to take a different route each time. Why not? It was close and I hadn’t run much of the same trail twice. Most mornings, I think folks were perplexed to see someone heading back down the trails at sunrise in the opposite direction they were going.
On Saturday, I got to run in the full light again. A nice wide loop around the whole place. I had run six days in Red Rock, barely on any of the same trail twice but I was running out of room.
For something different on Sunday I made the trip out to the Valley of Fire. I was a little dismayed at the short lengths of trails listed on the map and in the interpretive center. To compensate, I parked and just headed due south across the desert. I followed the shaped terrain , following the winding washes towards the mountains. After about an hour, I set my sights on a big set of red rocks. As I was heading up to them, I spooked about 30 Bighorn Sheep. I got to the rocks and did a semi-rock climb up between them in large, smooth crack. Once on top, I cut back to the highway by way of a steep ridge.
I crossed the highway and I headed directly up into the gnarly ground. The top is totally non-trail but the traction is amazing. It’s either huge stable boulders or solid sandstone bedrock so one can run up and down anything. I played and played following mazes of ridges, getting cutoff a large drops then back down and back up to try and find another way. About an hour or so later, I made my way back into a canyon and came out into a large, wide sandy wash and then back to the car. What a different and diverse running experiment. I’d love to play on that kind of terrain regularly.
Here’s a couple of videos of what Valley of Fire is like. There taken from my iphone so pardon the rough footage.
And 30 hours later, back on snow: