Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tom's Thumb: A Granite Treat

   I found myself rousing my sleep deprived body from the concentrated mess of the bed and sitting upright, feet gently touching the cool wood floors. Two hours of sleep had once again reared its monstrous face upon my world leaving me staring blankly into space gauging my coming approach to the new day, with a sun rising quickly and sharply outside to the east as if to say:

"I wait for no one. Follow if you choose. If not you will not be missed on this day."

   My goal was to wake my sleeping beauty as is nearly almost always needed(then again who would want to wake to this world on most days?), drop her upon her place of employment doorstep and from there follow a carefully calculated route across Maricopa County zig-zagging the jumbled hulking city all the while ascending and descending six of the highest points in Maricopa County by foot.
   But, plans are futile. Plans, are, plans.

   When a sun rises and sets there within lies our chances to explore our gift of life, existence. To some that may range from reading a great book from dawn to dusk while to others it may mean spending a day standing over an operating table, hands fumbling, angling throughout, piecing together bodies in the way they were mean to be, leaving their hands aching with pain awaiting the next life threatening injury to bound through the adjacent double doors. There is no tried and true path to this exploration, only the guilt that comes with letting night fall over us with nothing gained, nothing learned.

   After waving off my beloved and curling up fetal style in the sea of striped sheets and pillows I dozed in and out of consciousness for ninety minutes dreaming of worlds and yearnings that no human has before been given nor granted, before finally accepting my fate and pivoting up angrily feeling my heels dropping to the wood beams laid out below. My mind races with a somewhat controlled and confused rage before finally rising and commencing with my days activities.

   Striding slowly to a stop atop the saddle below Tom's Thumb I am devoid of any thoughts of sleeplessness, anxiety, confusion. Instead I am drinking in what comes with the exploration of this world. Granite pillars stand around me like the fair skinned cousins of Stonehenge, gathering together as if spreading gossip or admitting a secret crush to one another. I glance up the ridge to the base of the Thumb to the north following the thin vein of trail that delivers us all to its vantage, catching a family of five all in unison hurriedly scurrying up the well packed path in anticipation of the fruits of their labor.
   Good for them, I bemuse.

   As the parking lot splays itself into view in between each rolling hill on my descent I realize that life is quite simply just that, a series of rolling hills, peaks and valleys, with an intangible reward awaiting those who make it to the other side.

   A new day.



Monday, May 20, 2013

A Breath Of Fresh Air

   So I knew from the week that had just faded into my past that I would surely need something to ease my mind and body. That paired with the fact that Michelle was out of town for a batchelorette party in San Diego made it eternally harder to resist leaving town albeit for only a day and a half. So after tying up loose ends early Saturday morning with the mortgage team over at Bank of America(some real winners they have working over there lemme tell ya) I kissed the wife on the lips, watched the Jeep Patriot roll out of the driveway and with that came the instant satisfaction of knowing for the rest of the weekend I would not have to hear: "Can you please.... please just turn off the lights when you leave a room?"

   You know I love you Michelle. I know you love me, unconditionally. So we can joke like this.....umm right?

   Soon, after doing up the dishes, laundry, and of course turning off all the lights, I made the decision that I would head to the northwest into the Yavapai County hills, to Prescott, Arizona to not only drink in the simplicity of the life that is so entrenched there but also to see my good friend Jon who also just so happened to be in a Battle Of The Bands competition out at the world famous Prescott Valley fairgrounds. You know the PV fair grounds? It's where Dwight Yoakum played all those years ago after resurrecting his music career after a couple of failed attempts in Hollywood? Think Panic Room.
   Anyways, you get the picture. It was gonna be a good time.

   So I gathered enough supplies and clothing for not only a good nights stay under the pine studded skies but  also I knew I would have to enjoy the trails at least one time if not twice while up there, so I dutifully grabbed my running gear and as a last minute decision grabbed my bike and hit the road for the drive.

   I always love the drive up off of the 17 freeway because once you get through the outskirts of Phoenix the landscape slowly melts into a almost at times extraterrestrial world full of cosmic like shapes of the geologic features which hug the freeway and surrounding boundaries that frame the view heading up. But also the people, the houses, the cars. It takes a different breed to live in the desert but it takes a different animal to exist in mere solitude in the relentless drought ravaged deserts of south central Arizona. Yet, they hold their ground. They watch you from their porches and turn away as if a ghost had passed, which in time we will all be.

   I curved and the western horizon caught my windshield, and as I passed and briefly contemplated the turnoff to Arcosanti I felt the gas pedal become a bit lighter, the sun a bit brighter. I settled in and rolled the windows down and the mid day sun hovered above with just the right amount of anger. This was gonna be worth the drive.

  Coasting past the V A cemetery and into old town Prescott I made the quick decision, after futilely racking my brain over the course of the 10 miles between PV and Prescott for someplace different for once, that I would head out for a run in the Prescott National Forest just north of Thumb Butte Regional Park in the western reaches of Prescott. After finding a good pull off spot where I was hoping I would not get ticketed for parking on someones front lawn, though I can never tell where the road shoulder and someones front yard ends in Prescott, I locked my bike to a nearby ponderosa pine and headed up the roadway leading into the park with the intention of doing a 8 mile-ish loop which would give me some great views of the surrounding valley and both Granite Mountain as well as a bagging of the iconic Thumb Butte.

   I knew my attempts at any kind of a decent day on the trails would have to be put aside since I had not run a step in nearly 2 weeks so I tried to go in with the goal of just getting some good rhythmic movement over a long period of time on foot as well as take in the nice early summer day in a beautiful locale. However, though my physical body, mind, and even my uphill speed climbing legs decided to make this trip with me(I really appreciate that also), my quads, my lungs, and even my flat as all hell very runnable terrain legs were essentially non-existent. And you know what, let me back track. NO, my mind did not make the trip because one simple rule that anyone of sound mind would not have forgotten was to remember that they would be running at 5,900 feet altitude all day and that that alone should be taken into account when they jot out a mapped route with plenty of climbing in it.

   I didn't. And soon I found myself a bit dizzy, sweating profusely, cursing somewhat profusely and already resorting to the euro style power hike at some of the early semi moderate climbs. I tend to do this a lot, that is underestimate not only the terrain but the conditions. I have grown up quite a bit over the last 4 years since I decided to punish myself with shoes, shorts, and anaerobic activity. Yet, to this day I still find myself hovering near the danger zone occasionally, dipping in with cupped hands and gorging myself on the darkened ledges of our lives. And in some way, when I emerge from the shadows I feel stronger. I feel like the more I test those waters the more the winds calm, unfolding a day, a life in front of me like a clean white sheet waiting for a warm body to stretch its limbs across its cool white surface.
   My predetermined route was to take me out from the parking lot connecting on trail 315 heading northeast which would round to the west gaining altitude before connecting to 317 which would give me some great peeks of the valley to the north and even the red rock formations of Sedona in the far distance. However, I went off route and accidentally took 316 off in a switchback section that emptied me off off the western side of the hills leaving me at a cross section of cabins along the hillside. I was well aware heading down into the rural area that I had gone off the route I had readied myself for but figured I would see where it would take me as I had never ventured into this arena.
   So as I took in the views, took a quick but shameless number two behind a accepting pine, and drained one of my two bottles down the hatch, I powerhiked back up the hillside and reconnected with the 318 trail which then got me back on course. At this point though I only had 4 or so miles on my legs I was a bit drained so I just let my body take me on a stroll through the woods. It was a bit slower than I would of liked, and definitely a bit under what I would call a good effort on my part, but it felt good to just let my body do all the work and give my mind a breather. I turned on the auto pilot and just tried to keep the engine running with a couple ounces of H2O every 5 minutes to stay on top of my intake.
   As I approached the roadway on the descent and connected to trail 392 I drifted under a thick canopy of skyscraping ponderosa pines. I welcomed their arrival as I knew their fallen needles would provide the nourishment that my feet were yearning for. Their visage and towering beauty always greets me with a sense of a past life. Oregon shaped me. Its trees, they spoke to me. I have always been fascinated with trees and the way they cling to this earth, roots clenching and digging into the flesh of the world readying themselves for   what is to come. And these, these ponderosa of the west, were no different. They sat quiet as I danced below them and whispered to and from as I dissolved out of view and into their distant families arms which speckled the hillside.

   Upon reaching my final destination, my F-150, I unchained my bike from the tree and tossed it in the back and with the truck in neutral coasted the 3 miles back into downtown Prescott. Along the short drive back into civilization I found myself asking why anyone would not want to live here? Why the easy going life of small town America seems to be stretching further and further beyond our reaches? Are we losing our connection or our yearning to this minimal, simplistic style of life, or better yet are we just simply going with the flow? Keeping up with the Joneses.

   I can say this much, upon leaving town I stopped for gas. After grabbing a Gatorade and snack, the young, fresh from high school clerk looked me in the eye smiled and said,
   "Hope to see ya next time your in town?"
   I might as well of had Mr. Jones etched on a name tag.