August 25, 2011

Flagstaff & Sedona

Three years ago my long time friends and teammates Kris Roth and Tibor Vegh moved out to Flagstaff Arizona to continue their long distance running goals.  Flagstaff is the home of Northern Arizona University where I almost went to college.  Tibor and Kris had been asking me to visit and though I have taken trips to Alaska, California, Washington, Texas, Florida, Maine, etc.. I had never been able to make out to Arizona.  Finally, after Lisa and I graduated in May, we had the means and time necessary to visit.  On Thursday July 14th, we pulled of Interstate 40 and met our friends from Flagstaff.

The small city of 60,000 inhabitants is perched 5000 ft above sea level with the towering San Francisco peaks rising to well over 12,000 feet as a backdrop.  When we arrived, Tibor was returning from camping trip at 12,500 ft on Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona and the most prominent peak in the San Francisco range.  Now that we were in Flagstaff it was time to run.  For the first run Tibor send me to the top of Mount Elden at 9,000 feet.   It is always interesting to run alone in a foreign place.  I kept a watchful eye for bear, elk, mountain lion or anything else that might try to interrupt my steady ascent of Elden.  After reaching the top I was rewarded with more than an altitude headache and shortness of breath.  The top of Mount Elden provided me with a spectacular view of the city and the neighboring San Francisco Peaks. 

Our days were jam packed with long runs, couscous, episodes of 24 and ROM infomercials.  Everything a vacation should be.  To fully recover from this excitement we took a short trip South to Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona was beautiful.  How do they keep the desert so green?  The views were breathtaking.  Both the landscape of the Oak Creek Canyon and menu prices ($20 for personal pizza!) took my breath away.  It was so nice to be with friends again.  For the first time since we left Ohio, Lisa and I had our picture taken together.

Each rock formation in the Oak Creek Canyon (below) has its own name.  My personal favorite was submarine rock. 
Our reason for coming to Sedona was to cool off in the waters of Oak Creek.  And that we did.  We brought googles, beer, cherries and a fish net. The bare necessities.    

This part of Oak Creek funnels into narrow chutes that you can ride!  We bared the bone chilling water for the amusement of being violently thrown down steam.  Tibor seemed overjoyed to watch me hit the rocks below and a low lying tree branch each time I shot the chutes.  Eventually I wised up, took one of the old stretching mats from our days with the Wolfpack, and enjoyed my own private rafting trip.  The other creek visitors shot me looks of approval with my new innovation.   I responded with my best albeit artificial confident look until I hit that damn tree branch again.

As soon as we would reach the end pool of the chutes we immediately ran to the hot rocks to bring the body temperature back up.  Tibor quietly ate cherries and studied the trout swimming below us.  I was beginning to understand why we brought that fish net.

After several long efforts to touch a trout with our hands we resorted to the net.  Tibor sat patiently, waiting for the trout to come close to his two foot long net.  Despite our best efforts of hand and net, we came up empty. 

Well not completely empty.  While Tibor and I were on the hunt, Kris had effortlessly caught several tadpoles.  For the next twenty minutes we debated how many legs a tadpole needed in order to qualify as a frog.  Our debate was inconclusive so we released the tadpole or frog back to the creek.

With the sun heading westward, the availability of warm rock rapidly diminished.  Just as we were leaving we saw two cute pooches playing games in the creek.  We definitely missed our little Chloe Chloe who was across the country, probably asleep next to Dave on the couch. 

Time to head back to Flagstaff for some more 24 and ROM.

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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.