Sunday, June 25, 2006

Desert runs (part 2)

My other desert runs were done near Las Vegas. My wife, Zane, had a conference in Vegas so I decided to come along for the free hotel. While she was in sessions and meetins all day, I headed out to the desert. Despite the ever-growing suburban sprawl that extends in all directions from The Strip, there is still amazing and varied desert environs sourounding Vegas on all sides.

Red Rock Canyon

Famous for rock climbing and hiking "Red Rocks," as it is often called, is the most well known desert area outside of Vegas. I had only driven through the area in the past and definitely wanted to return to do a run. I chose the La Madre Springs/White Rock Loop as my introduction to the area. I did the loop in the reverse recommended direction in order to include the La Madre Springs out-and-back section near the end. Total mileage should have been around 8 miles, but confusion over where the trail went after the White Rock parking lot caused some extra backtrack-and-return mileage for a total closer to 9.
The variety of climate, terrain and plan life here were increadible. I took full advantage of the photo ops to record this wonderful diversity. The trail starts off in a typical Red Rocks scene of desert trees and shrubs along the base of the red sandstone walls.

As the trail name indicates, the red rocks give way to white rocks as you head around the the side of the mountain. This is also where the trail begins to climb a bit, though never becoming too terribly steep.

As you head further up and around the pine becomes thicker and views of the greater Vegas area come into site. The best view to be had is just before heading around the back side of White Rock Mountain.

Once on the back side, it begins to feel perhaps more like a forested mountain run than the deserts I had experienced in Arizona. Since the temperature was starting to rise this little bit of shade in the desert was very welcome.

Before completing the loop, I hooked up with the La Madre Springs trail to see what sort of springs one might find in this (now hot) desert climate. This trail, while short, added a bit of "real" climbing to the trip. It was strange to find this little pool of water sitting basically in the middle of nowhere. The spring is certainly not something that you could drink from, but dunking my head in was a nice cooling experience.

Finally, the run down back to the parking lot was great fun. Enough of a slope to let gravity do its thing and soft desert sand let me pick up a bit of speed. That combined with my now wet hair helped a add a bit further cooling. While my single hydration bottle did me fine for this run, I was reminded of how easy it is to dehydrate in the desert. My shirt was never really wet, but already had the tell tale signs of whiteness letting me know that plenty of sweat had already passed through and evaporated. I took one last look up the canyon before heading back down to the crowds and noise of Sin City.


matt said...

I ran across your comments on Miki’s site and wanted to introduce myself. I am going to be running my first 50 miler at Firetrails this year and I am considering the Mt. Diablo 50K in September. Do they share any of the same trails? Good luck with your training and I hope to meet up with you at the race in October.

Eudemus said...


I'm not planning on Diablo since I hope to be on vacation in September (though it is still "my mountain"). Firetrails traverses a number of parks up on the east ridge of the bay above Castro Valley, Oakland and Berkely. It's an out and back course through all these parks. Diablo pretty much stays on Mt. Diablo which is further east and inland. It is basically two loops going base to peak.

I am planning to do Santa Cruz 50k and probably Big Basin 50k in preparation for Firetrails. From looking at your site it appears you may also be at Santa Cruz. I may also be planning some further training along the Firetrails course now that I know where the turn-offs are :-).

Jessica Deline said...

Red Rock Canyon is awesome! I was in Vegas for work in May and did a run there. You took some great pic! Puts mine to shame but they are over here :)

Eudemus said...

Thanks for the comments. I enjoyed your pics also. Once again, it shows how varied the desert landscape is. If your in Vegas again you should try some trails over by Lake Meade as well. I also hear that Mt. Charleston has some nice places to run. Enjoy!