Sunday, July 27, 2008

Viva la Vida en Las Vegas

Yep, I've been livin' the life. Unfortunately, its the life of a trail runner trapped in the concrete prison of suburban Las Vegas. We've been staying in a condominium a couple of miles off The Strip. We are here for my son's basketball tournament. I've been getting up in the mornings and hitting the roads to get in some miles before the temps hit triple digits. We are in the southwest part of town where there is still a little space for the sprawl to continue. The only good thing for running here is that the roads are wide and some even have bike lanes. In a few places the sidewalks are not yet done so I was actually able to get my feet in some dirt. Aside from the tournament, my wife's friend, Charters, came in from Kentucky to stay with us. She'd never been to Vegas before (or even in a casino) so we, of course, had to head out on the town.

Here we are ready to hit The Strip (yes, a rare photo of me in non-running clothes)...

...and the inevitable result.

I think this was supposed to be photo evidence that she literally drank me under the table. I really just fell asleep there beneath the coffee table; I swear! Needless to say, I didn't manage to get my run in the next morning. I wasn't hungover, but I was pretty tired from a couple late-night/early-mornings in a row. That and the fact that the temperature read 100 degrees at 1am when we returned to the condo made the idea of a 6am jaunt around the neighborhood a bit uninviting.

The tournament ended a little early on Saturday as Freddy's team was knocked out in the second round of bracket play. The team actually did pretty well given the level of competition from all over the country at this tournament and Freddy played very well overall. The free time allowed us to take Charters on a tour of some of the great sites on the outskirts of the Vegas area such as Lake Meade and the Hoover Dam and, my favorite, Red Rocks Canyon.

If you haven't been to Red Rocks you should definitely check it out. It is one of the great sites of the southwest desert. Beautiful and bizarre sandstone formations. You can hike or run or climb or just scramble around on the rocks. On Saturday we just walked around and took pictures.

This is the Calico Hills area.

I decided to take the opportunity for a little foot strengthening going barefoot for our walk and scramble.

The variation of rock formations and coloring is amazing here.

In fact, we like it here so much that on Sunday, after taking Charters back to the airport, Zane and I decided to head back out to the rocks for a hike. That last photo is of Turtlehead Peak which was the destination we chose since Zane said she wanted to try something strenuous. We sort of got more than we bargained for as it climbs about 2000ft in under 2.5 miles and because you are in the desert it is easy to forget that you are starting out at around 4400ft to begin with.

It starts along a nice flat and wide trail.

But, eventually, you know its going to have to start heading up pretty dramatically.

You can start to see over the whole valley as you ascend

The average grade of the whole hike is about 16%. However, the second half is more like 20% and the final 3/4 of a mile is an average 27% grade. A little past a mile an a half into the hike, my wife, who started the day tired to begin with, told me to go head up to the peak and take some pictures. She wasn't feeling great, so was going to head down in a bit. I should try to catch her on my way down.

With that, I pushed towards the peak and boy did it get steep.

The views were quite dramatic and well worth the effort.

From the very top, you could see further peaks in the distance beyond the next valley.

You could see the whole Vegas basin and The Strip

And, of course, Red Rocks in all its glory

This is the route via which we came

Since I had been told to catch her, I took off down this thing a lot faster than prudence would have allowed. I did the last .75 miles to the peak (over 1000ft) in about 30 minutes. I came down the same section in 17 minutes, but the distance was more a fair bit less since I lost trail on numerous occasions and had to resort to some precarious down-climbing before I could regain it.
Eventually, I returned to the flat section of trail along the side of the strange and interesting rock formations.

I found Zane relaxing in the shade of a big rock, much further down than I expected. She said she felt much better once she started the descent and made pretty good time. We ended the day hiking back out of the valley at a relaxed pace together.

While my overall mileage for the week was pretty low, it was great to get in this short intense hike and I always enjoy being out at The Rocks. Zane and I agreed that next time we come to Vegas we will plan to head out here more and do a number of hikes as there are many interesting trails leading around the rocks, into canyons and just around the valley floor.

Despite its reputation, there are some great outdoor opportunities in Vegas. If you can enjoy both the exciting night life and the amazing desert scenery in the same trip then, as far as I'm concerned, it really is "living the life."


olga said...

Oh, I remember my family's trip to Vegas and Red Rocks! It was pretty good (Red Rocks, not Vegas:)).

And man, you are on for a pacing competition! Who are you pacing?

Anonymous said...

gorgeous. thanks again for counterbalancing the prevailing national opinion that nevada is a wasteland chock full of radiation, neon, and sin.

-Cameron in Reno