Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 10 Reasons To Continue Running Barefoot

1. Everyone already now thinks you’re crazy, you have nothing to lose.

2. Someone has to show all those people wearing “barefoot shoes” what barefoot running really is.

3. Paying $100 for a pair of shoes still seems like a bad idea.

4. Your feet won’t fit in your old shoes anymore.

5. Shoes would feel like lead weights at this point anyways.

6. Still feels good to pass shod runners in races.

7. Every run is still a new adventure.

8. The question “Doesn’t that hurt?” has now been asked so many times that it’s actually funny at this point.

9. You’ve made at least a few other people’s lives (and knees) better by influencing them (not by preaching, but by modeling) to change to barefoot/minimalist running—maybe you’ll influence some more!

10. The older you get, the more shod runners will stop due to injuries, therefore the higher your ranking will be in race age-group categories.

What are some of your reasons? Share them below!

Check out my other Top Ten Lists:

Ten Reasons NOT To Run Barefoot

Top Ten Reasons To Run Barefoot

Monday, December 16, 2013

Checking in, and the importance of races, and yoga

Hello folks!

I just want to check in and let people know what I'm up to running-wise. I AM still running, I just have not been in any races lately. I continue to not find employment, so my willingness to pay 70-150 dollars for a race is just not high. Note too that since I don't own a vehicle (happily) I would have to get a zipcar for the day, which, while not impossible, adds to the cost of any race, unless it's right out my back door in Forest Park.

I'm not happy with this, but it's the way things will be for a little while. Only a year ago I was going to all kinds of races (see previous posts) and feeling pretty good. Having a race planned just automatically gets one mentally geared to get out the door and run, and if you do them on a regular basis, races become part of your training, rather than just a goal at the end of training. Races also force me (well...motivate me) to run faster while I'm doing them, thereby making me a 'better' runner, though of course the act of running is its own reward.

Still, ever since my burn out training for the Badger 100M (was that only last Spring? Man...) I have been running less. Interestingly, without actually running marathon type distances, I was still in shape physically, and more importantly mentally, to run the Forest Park Marathon this Fall. Another benefit of running marathons on a regular basis: you just KNOW you can do it, and KNOW how it will feel.

So depending on the week, and the weather, I've been running 4-5 times a week, with 1 or 2 2 and 1/2 hour runs up in the hills. Since the gravel fairies have been active in Forest Park, I've tended to wear minimalist footwear for the trail runs, and go barefoot for my pavement runs.

And...I'm ok with this, since my priorities, now, are to do a lot of writing, and search for jobs. I kind of cringe thinking of all the days that running took up while training for a Hundo last Spring. Not that it's a bad thing, and who knows, maybe again someday, but right now, with money running out, I can't justify taking a whole day to run (for example, running a looong run will leave my wiped out and not really up for engaging in any creative work for the rest of the day).

While the job search isn't going so great, my writing has been productive. Please feel free to visit my website,, for links to some published works. If only I could make money at it....

I've also continued to practice yoga this whole year, at Yoga NW in Portland, OR, and it has been a blessing. Note: I get classes in exchange for cleaning the studio. I think without this grounding work I'd probably be freaking out about my life right now.

I have found a balance between yoga and running. The main thing is to not run after a yoga class. That much stretching right before running will result in torn muscles. After a run is great, or alternating days. Yoga is a GREAT way to recover from long runs, and provide some cross-training muscle work. Much better than a gym, though that may be a personality choice.

So, as long as I am doing some activity every day for my body, I am happy. I may have to cut back on yoga this summer, and therefore be more likely to run more, because:

Plan C or D, whatever I'm on now, is that I've been applying for Forest Service/Park Service jobs for next summer, like I used to do. If nothing happens here in Portland, a good summer adventure out in the woods sounds like a good thing. I'll keep you informed. If I know I have a job in the works, I will for sure be more likely to sign up for more races. Let's hope!

I also have ideas for more footwear reviews, including moccasins and huaraches. Interestingly, my reviews are the posts that get the most traffic, though I like writing about races. I will try to get to some reviews!

I'd like to thank folks for reading, and especially for the kind words about the recent incidents with cafes in Portland. Once I have some basic life necessities taken care of, I think there'll be more race reports. In the meantime, again, I am running, and I hope you all are too!



Friday, November 22, 2013

Here we go again....

Well, that was quick: I've now been asked to leave yet another cafe for taking off my shoes and sitting at a table barefoot. I swear, it just takes one employee who thinks he knows everything, to ruin things. So, I wrote another letter to the owner (below). But man, I mean, I maybe Portland just isn't my town. I swear, I'm just being a quiet writing dude, keeping to myself, not even walking around the place barefoot! I just want to be left alone.

Anyways, here's the letter:


I have been a fairly regular customer for about a half a year now, coming in a few times a week, to write and read and generally hang out in a friendly place. I have always appreciated your friendly employees, and how they remember me and my drink. So I was really disappointed about how I was just treated at the 10th Street cafe this evening.

Here's what I was doing: I was sitting at a table, writing. I had slipped my feet out of my shoes in order to tuck my feet up under me and be more comfortable. After and hour and a half of doing this (and I've done this since I've been coming to your cafe), an employee, male, came over and told me, rudely, that I would have to put my shoes back on. His explanation was because of "safety." When I inquired what he meant, he said that there could be broken glass. Again, I was seated at a table, with my shoes right under me. I was not walking around. I informed him that I would watch out for glass. He then said, "Plus there are other people here." I asked him what he meant by that, but he repeated that I would have to put on my shoes for safety, and that there were other people there. I told him I would prefer not to put on my shoes, but he repeated himself again. I asked him if he was kicking me out. He replied that if I did not put on my shoes, then yes.

I was not doing anything wrong. I appreciate that your employees are looking out for my safety, but I can take care of myself. Though I don't think that's really what he was talking about, and I'm not clear exactly what he means by other people being there?

Just to be clear, there's nothing wrong with taking one's shoes off in public. There are no laws, no health codes, nothing like that. I'm sure you know this.

What I would like is an apology for his rudeness, and assurance that if I want to make myself more comfortable in your cafe, I can, just like I've been doing for the last half year.

I would really like to not worry about this, and continue giving you my business. I would like a response.

Thank you,

John Yohe


Well, I finally received a reply from the owner. She invited me to call her, which I did, with some trepidation. She does seem to be a sincere kind-hearted person, and to really care that her customers have a good experience at her place. That said, I don't think she has all her facts straight (surprise).

The good news is that she did 'give a talking to' the employee who was rude to me, about the 'how' he talked to me, if not the what.

The bad news is she basically used the employee's 'reasoning' to say that she couldn't allow anyone to be barefoot (again, surprise). That is, it was both a safety issue, and a courtesy to other customers.

Supposedly, another customer complained about me being barefoot. The owner wasn't there, so I'm not clear if this was just what the employee in questions told her, or if other employees said this. I kind of have my doubts, since I was, at the time, in a back corner and there wasn't anyone near me. But even then, I questioned why one customers opinion/feelings was more important than mine. She didn't really have an answer to that.

Instead she switched to the 'safety' issue, claiming that there could be broken glass. Then she paused, perhaps realizing that her cafe actually doesn't have any glass, and said that broken ceramics could be a problem too. I again said that I was sitting in a chair, but that didn't seem to matter.

She then claimed that there was a general 'rule' (I think that's the term she used) for all restaurants in the area (what area? I'm not sure. Sounded like she meant Portland). When I asked her if she could provide of copy of this rule, or tell me where to find it, she backed off and invoked the 'no shirt, no shoes, no service' signs “that you see everywhere.” When I told her that those had not basis in fact, and that there was no health code, she backed off and claimed what I take to be this ( as her reason, what she called the “innkeepers responsibility,” saying that it was an old “law.” She hadn't read any actual texts though, and just said I could find it on the internet. At least from this source, the emphasis seems to be that a customer has an obligation not to act boisterously (ie cause a scene).

At this point my patience wearing thin, as was her's, and I feared I would start to lose my temper, so, knowing she was being sincere (if misguided) I tried to politely say goodbye. I got the impression that she thought I was crazy to make a big deal out of wanting to take off my shoes in a cafe, which I think misses the point: that I just don't think I was doing anything wrong, and was being treated unfairly, based on ignorance of what is legal or not. What I could have pointed out is this doesn't seem to be about 'safety' at all, but rather the other reason: that my bare feet were causing a 'scene' and/or bothering other customers. I don't think that's true, and again, she wasn't there, and is going (I think) on what this employee said while being chastised. I could have also told her about how people in cafes do things that I don't like all the time (ie talk loudly on cellphones, have strong body odor, bring dogs in) but that I just deal with it. And I would ask her, if I complained to an employee about another customer, if she would be willing to treat them in the same way as I.

But, my heart was already racing, I already knew I was stressed out. Not worth more stress, and, like I told her, I've found other businesses that don't care, and I'm giving them my business. I just wish owners and managers had a better understanding of facts, especially since they seem so concerned with litigation. At least for safety concerns. I wonder what the legal implications are for this type of situation, ie if what they're saying would hold up in court. I wouldn't sue, I don't like lawyers and courts and stuff, but surely they're opening themselves up for something here? Maybe not?

Anyways, basta. Enough. I hate this. I just want to be left alone, and now I'm walking around with my nerves all raw. This is enough to make me re-think my desire for cafe culture, and city life, and instead get a cabin out in the woods and just have a bunch of cats.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stumptown Smackdown

So I was gobsmacked two days ago when a barista in Stumptown coffee on Third Ave. here in Portland went out of her way to tell me that putting my bare feet up on one of their couches was both a “health code violation” and that I also shouldn't do it “just as a courtesy to other customers.”

This is a place I've been hanging out for over a year, almost daily, for hours, because it's such a great place: Cool eclectic baristas and customers, where loud good music is played, which keeps the cellphone talkers at bay. I'm on a first name basis with some of the employees, and they all know my drink.

As soon as I heard “health code” my jaw tightened, I have a terrible poker face. But, her tone was surprising—kind of talking down to me, snooty. So, I couldn't help but snoot back, and asked her if she could provide me with copies of the 'health codes.' She said yes, flustered, but of course didn't, and backed down, though still saying it was as a courtesy to other customers.

So that just put me in a bad mood. I really like this place, it's a 'place I can trust', where I can do work and enjoy myself. Or, it was.

So, I wrote a letter to the company from the contact page of the Stumptown website:


Today, one of your employees at the 3rd Avenue cafe informed me that I am not allowed to take my shoes off when sitting on the couches, because it violates "health codes." When I asked her if I could see a copy of these health codes, she said, "Sure, but it's really because other people sit on those couches." Which, I'm not even sure what that means, but she didn't provide me with a copy. Because there are no health codes. If they are, could you please provide me with a copy? Or send me a link to where I might read them?

I've been a loyal customer, coming almost daily for over a year, and really like everyone that works here, and appreciate that they remember me, and my drink. I was actually really surprised I was singled out, and made to feel like I was committing a crime, by taking off my shoes. In my mind, Stumptown is like a second home, where I can feel comfortable. I suddenly don't feel comfortable.

Please clarify to me and your employees what is going on.

Thank you,

And here is Jason Overby's reply:

[begin quote]

Hey John,

I'm so sorry that you were made to feel uncomfortable at our downtown café. It is not a matter of health code violation by any means. However, as a courtesy to our other customers it is our policy that everyone must wear shoes while in the café. I've spoken with Jeremy who is the manager of the café, and he knows you well and has very kind things to say about you. I hope that you'll continue to spend time with us and feel like you can relax in our space. Could I send you a gift card as a token of our appreciation of your business over the years?

Please send your address to me, and I will get something to you right away.

Thanks and warm regards,

Jason Overby

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

[end quote]

Here's my reply. Please let me know if you think I'm being 'that guy' (ie crazy dude). And/or suggestions/comments.



Thank you for responding. I think we both agree that there are other things we'd both rather be doing. Still, I don't feel like I've done anything wrong, yet I'm still feeling that you think I'm doing something wrong.

To clarify: When I sit at the couches in the café, I like to tuck my feet up under me, cross-legged, to be more comfortable. I make sure to take off my shoes so as not to get any dirt on the couch. This is what I think of as 'courtesy.' Tucking my feet up on the couch, barefoot, is also what I would do at home on my own couch. It's also what I would do at a friend's house. To me, it's what couches are for: to get comfortable on. This is how I feel (or felt) about Stumptown: that's it's a comfortable place to hang out.

I think though, that by using the word 'courtesy' you are trying to be polite, and actually mean something else. But I don't understand what.

Please keep in mind that 'courtesy' is subjective. There are many things that people do at Stumptown that I think are not courteous, such as:

-Leaving dirty dishes on the tables when leaving
-leaving coffee spills on tables when leaving
-dumping paper on the floors in the bathrooms
-using the bathrooms without being a paying customer
-talking loudly on cellphones
-playing videos/music on electronic media without headphones
-using offensive language
-putting feet in shoes up on the couches

Please note that one of the reasons I like Stumptown is that this stuff happens less than at some other cafes. Also, I'm adult enough that if someone is doing something discourteous, I will ask them to stop. My point is, I don't see how having shoes on while sitting on a couch is a 'courtesy' to anyone, or is discourteous.

This situation is silly, and I'm sure you feel the same way, though perhaps for different reasons. Still, where does this go, logically? Is there a 'proper' way to sit on a couch? Is putting your shod feet on a couch ok? Are hands ok? What about babies? Can they, like I've seen, crawl on the couches without shoes? What about transients who haven't bathed or washed their clothes in a while? Are they even allowed to sit down at all?

Please understand that I don't have a problem with any of those situations, nor do I think most of your customers.

What I would like is to be able to continue to come to Stumptown and not made to feel like I'm breaking the law, and/or like 'that guy' for defending myself, which is how I feel now.

Thank you,

John Yohe

And his reply (surprise):

Hey John,

I understand where you're coming from, but this is a rule that we have to apply consistently to be fair to everyone. Again, I hope you continue to give us your business, but this is a general requirement in all of our cafés.


-J reply back:


I'm disappointed, for a few reasons. One, you haven't seemed to be listening to me in this whole exchange. Two, you haven't explained exactly what this 'rule' is, nor what you mean by 'a courtesy to other customers.' In fact, I'm left feeling that I haven't been treated with courtesy, by you or the Stumptown employee.

If I understand you (which I don't really, because you haven't explained yourself very well, or at all) sitting on the couch with shoes is ok (no matter, apparently, how dirty) while sitting on the couch in bare feet (in part, so as not to get dirt on the couch, but also to be more comfortable) is not ok.

I'm also not clear when/how/why this 'rule' was made, since, as I said, I've been going there for a year, almost daily, with no problem from anyone, including the employee who said something (again, rudely) this past week. No one else besides her, and you, seem to have a problem with what I've done.

I could speculate about the real reasons, but you have not been honest nor helpful in your emails to me, so I won't know for sure, though I suspect because you know that this 'rule' has no logical/legal basis.

I'm surprised that something like this could happen in Portland, of all places. I really enjoyed Stumptown Coffee, especially the people who work there, and I think the feeling was mutual. Except, I guess, this one employee. Nor did I ever get the impression that I ever offended any customers with the horrible offense of putting my bare feet on a couch.

I will take my business somewhere else, and I will be sure to share how you've treated me with everyone I know here in Portland.

John Yohe

Enough, craziness! Ya basta!

Just got this from the actual manager of the place (no relation to Jason, I think), which is interesting because he says he's a barefoot runner! I still don't think he understands what was going on, though he's surely seen me, and I've talked to him before. I just don't know if it's worth replying to him or not.

Hi John,

I manage the cafe. I am the tall thin guy with glasses. I am also a barefoot runner, trail runner and secret distance lover. Last week, I just did my first 15 miles barefoot on trail!

It is never easy to approach anyone with concerns, complaints and confrontations. Right or wrong..? I cannot make that judgement. I am sorry all this happened. I wear my Bedrock Sandals on my runs into work and put on boots while working. Unfortunately, as a barefoot health believer, I have to wear closed-toed shoes while serving and working behind the bar. It is required by the health department while serving food to have close-toed shoes. Moreover, I would bump, knock and destroy my strong lovely feet while working. The cafe also encourages customers to have shirts, bottoms and shoes on while in the cafe. It just is the case.

It is apparent you want to argue about why, and publicly tarnish the cafe I love and work in daily. And do this in a small community that I am part of. Ouch. You desire documented reasoning. My apologies, I do not have that for you. My employee's reasoning was incorrect, and she felt uncomfortable about the whole thing. Jason and I felt bad that this happened because I recognized that it was you who was singled out and I had a sneaking suspicion that you were a barefoot runner. From one barefoot runner to another, I have seen tons of glass broken on that carpet, and the cafe floor almost daily. Our professional carpet cleaner cannot guarantee that the carpet is hazard free. Don't hurt those feet! I am sure you have worked hard for them.

Again, I am sorry you felt singled out and sorry that this has spiraled downward. I am saddened and hurt.

Have a good run, man.

Jeremy Robillard
Downtown Cafe Manager
Stumptown Coffee PDX

My reply to Jeremy (note, this is after his note in the comments section below):


First, I am sorry have posted you personal phone number online. I thought it was the Stumptown number, since it was under your job title. I have taken it down.

Second, thank you for admitting that you do not have “documented reasoning,” though this leaves me wondering why you still seem to be implying that I did something wrong. To review:

-There are no health codes cantaining anything about bare feet. There are no health codes.
-The Multnomah County Health Department is more for things like medical and mental health services. If you can find anything about bare feet, please provide me with a link.
-The 'rules' you are talking about are actually OSHA guidelines, which are only for employees.
-I've seen you actually on the job, walking behind the counter, in your huaraches, and it was fine, nobody freaked out.

I'd like to clarify: we are talking about me putting my bare feet up on the couch, correct? That is was Sarah said to me, and that is what I stated to Jason. If we are talking about something else, please let me know. I'm willing to go there, but my complaint to Jason was about Sarah's complaint about me sitting with my bare feet on the couch.

As for glass, I'll take your word that broken glass happens there, but please give me the benefit of the doubt that I can see it. Anyways, I don't think you are proposing that there might be broken glass on the couch? This is what makes me think you actually mean something else besides sitting on a couch?

By “tarnish” Stumptown's reputation, you seem to be implying that I have been lying, and or changing facts. I haven't. I've been posting your and Jason's exact words.

As for the other things you said in the comments section on my blog, if you think I've insulted your intelligence, please imagine how I feel, since neither you nor Jason seem to be addressing my concerns, nor even really listening to me. As for your love of running, I have no doubt of it, nor of your love of coffee. I don't know how you got that impression, though I am sort of puzzled, you being a barefoot/minimalist runner, how you could feel that bare feet on a couch are not “courteous,” though again, I do not know exactly what you or Jason mean by that.

As a barefoot/minimalist runner, you might try visiting the Barefoot Runners Society website:

There's lots of information about running, health, and yes, legal matters.

Just to summarize: No documentation. No definition/explanation of “courtesy to other customers.” No evidence (presented to me anyways) that anyone other than Sarah and Jason and you care about me putting bare feet on a couch. And yet, you were all rude to me when I complained and defended myself. I would say Stumptown's reputation rests on your actions, not mine.

And yes, I will tell others about my treatment. If a company was rude and dishonest with you, wouldn't you do the same?

And now, in my best British accent, I say, “Good day, Sir.”


Monday, October 21, 2013

Run Like Hell (unless there's a train) Half-Marathon 2013

Chilly foggy morning here in Portland. Weather forecast is for a sunny day, which the race organizers were eager to share, but I don't think things will clear up until later, so I'm glad I opted for some layers for this half marathon, as have most of the other few hundred folks here. Though I am, of course, barefoot!

This is my second Run Like Hell half. I've been in Portland over a year now! How strange! This race is a costumed one, being close to Halloween, and this year's them is 'fantasy,' though I don't see much D&D costumes: Some unicorns (or...narwals?), and a whole mess of fairies, but also a lot of superheros. I guess dressing up in armor just isn't conducive to running? But my favorites are two women who have dressed up as zombies—their t-shirts sporting blood and white feathers, with these words on the back: POWERED BY tasty UNICORN. Well, I guess that counts as a paleo diet.

And no, I have no costume. I know, I know, I should have some fun, but I'm too introverted. Maybe if I were running with friends, but the only folks I know are running later in the 10K. My bare feet seem to be doing the job of a costume though: I'm getting some gawking.

The countdown to the start begins with the playing of Pink Floyd' (shiny happy) song “Run Like Hell.” And then we're off! heading north, up into the 'Pearl' district, the streets mostly empty at eight in the morning, though a nice rock band playing on Naito Parkway as we head south. I'm sure the neighbors love that! And past all the homeless people back in the downtown section.

Although this is 'only' a half-marathon, I'm thinking I'm not going to PR today. After my burnout from training for that ultra last Spring, I've cut back on the running, not doing any long runs (meaning nothing past 2-2.5 hours) all summer, except for one marathon, and I haven't indulged in a ton of races this Fall like I did last year, due mostly to lack of money more than anything. Which meant I had to pas on the Portland marathon two weeks ago, which I wasn't happy about. Run Like Hell didn't sell out, and I wonder if the marathon folks have stayed home for this one, still recovering.

But, because of not so many races run, the thing I'm worried about most is whether my soles will be up for this or not. Portland just has some really rough pavement, so I'm running on paint lines wherever possible, for their smoothness. Strangely, I guess, I'm getting lots of folks behind me with the comments like, “Hey, that guy's barefoot!” or “Oh my god, that guy doesn't have any shoes!” Which I thought we were all past at this point? That is, I don't hear any, “There's a barefoot runner!” comments. These people all seem to be surprised at a barefoot runner. Also, I don't see many minimalist runners, just one guy in VFFs. Theory: these are all the less-hardcore runners, those that didn't to the Portland Marathon and Half two weeks ago. But, I don't know.

Anyways, a couple people do actually speak to me, though in the passive-agressive kind of way:

“Hey, doesn't that hurt?”


“Didn't you have to get used to it though?”


(End of 'discussion').

And a woman as I pass her: “Aren't your feet cold?”

Me: No. (Though the rest of me is!)

I don't know, maybe I'm too self-conscious? But they're asking me yes/no questions? Am I expected to spout off? But then I'd be some barefoot zealot? Seems like I can't win. I just wish someone would ask in a more friendly manner, but in any case, it's kind of hard to have convo at half-marathon pace, especially when I'm trying to concentrate on finding nice paint lines to run on.

And to avoid people: Some buy adjusting one of the timer pad thingies is right in the middle of the lane, backing up, looking scared at the massed of people flying at him and even though I swear he looks right at me, he backs up into my path, causing me to swerve (“Dude! Dude!”) to the left near the shoulder where, ahh!, broken glass is scattered about. I hop/skip over it, concentrating very very carefully. With success. But, thus the reason I may not want to talk a lot!

A long gradual uphill has begun—the pack stretches and thins out. I'm feeling ok. Not pushing myself as hard as I maybe could, but the feets are feeling a wee bit tender. I seem to have lost my summer hobbit feet. But, I'm at least mid-pack. And yikes! One guy running right at the edge of the lane almost gets his elbow clipped from a city bus coming up behind him! That was close!

Still foggy, we head up into the foothills below OHSU, now on the sidewalk/bikepath, which is nice and smooth, though coming down (downhill from here!) at the halfway point, we're back on rough pavement, so I actually am running out on a bikepath white line, right next to oncoming traffic, though there isn't much at this hour. But yes, check my watch: About 55 minutes at about 6.5 miles. Hm, that's kinda slow for me, actually. Well, can I run a faster second half with the downhill? But suddenly I'm worried about just getting respectfully under two hours!

Barefoot still seems conducive to downhill running though, as I'm now passing a lot of shodders. I'm just trying to let gravity do most of the work, picking up the feets as fast as I can. Doesn't add to the aerobic workout any, though I must say at this point I'm nice and sweaty.

Back down to Naito Parkway, heading north. We pass the downtown section and I look west up the side streets, looking for runners heading back south on their way to the finish, but don't see any? But we're getting near the end? Surely we should be turning around at some point? It's Mile 11-ish!

But, oh: As I come around a bend near where the train tracks cross Naito, there's an actual train stopped right across the road, with about a hundred runners waiting. Uh oh....

The race officials had assured us that there wasn't supposed to be any trains scheduled during the race, but in listening into conversations, and from barely-audible announcements from the poor police officer who lucked out on this place to be stationed, there's been some kind of emergency, that some alarm went off ass the train was heading in, an alarm about something on the track. So, by law, the train has to stop, and by law, human beings have to come and physically 'walk the line' to check. When I get there, I hear one man say he was one of the first runners to be stopped, and that he'd been waiting twenty minutes already. Ten minutes after I arrive, the train dudes actually arrive. Surely, I think, Surely this won't take long.

But it does: We wait at least a half hour there. Some brave souls climb over the train, until the cop and train dudes stop them. Eventually, another large group of runners breaks off and just runs west to where the route comes back south. Many of us wait, because we know there's a chip timer pad thingie on the other side that we need to run over in order to keep out time official. Though, it's cold. I'm covered in sweat. My clothes are soaked with sweat. My muscles are tightening up. Just saying 'F-it' becomes more tempting. I mean, I already knew I wasn't going to PR, so do I really care?

Thing is, the last three races I've run that have come by this point, four maybe actually, have ALL been stopped by a train. I'm not saying the race organizers are to blame for a train emergency, but surely, by now, they could maybe find a better route? One that doesn't cross train tracks?

Finally, something happens, and the train starts to move. We all cheer (there's still a couple hundred runners backed up here, even with the ones that left). And....then we wait. The train is going very slooowwwly. And it's looooonnnngg. This is ridiculous. Well, we all started together, looks like we'll all finish together.

Finally, finally, the train passes, and we surge forward, and aaarrgh! My muscles are tightened up! I can barely run! I mean, I kinda sorta get things moving again, by the turn around, but there's only a mile to go! Craziness. And the course is now congested again, so I'm trying to whip and dip around packs of fairies, to do some kind of semblance of a strong finish.

And there is the finish. And I finish. And....meh. I'm not even that thirsty. Main priority: get my gear bag and change into dry clothes! Then some veggie chili. And, since the only people I know all ran in the 10K, which finished like, over an hour ago by now, I just head out. I'm not feeling exhausted, just still tightened up. The main surprise is how tender and raw my soles feel, making me wonder just how they would have done in the Portland Marathon! I might have been hurting!

Finish time (maybe): 1:52

[note: sorry, no pics! I did take some, but can't seem to get them to open]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hood 2 Coast 2013: Team BRS

I remember thinking after last year's Hood2Coast that I wasn't even sure I wanted to do another one. And yet, then as the idea of a Barefoot Running Society team grew, I grew more excited. Et voilà, here we are, thanks for some awesome organizers to get us signed up, and lined up: Jen for doing all the paperwork, and Christy for advice and logistics and generally knowing what she's doing (because the rest of us certainly don't).

Turns out Christy and I are the only ones who have run H2C before, and I'm just a 'snookie', a second year rookie. Christy has done it like, five times already, and is in Van 2, where she will finally get to be runner 12, and finish the whole thing for us over in Seaside tomorrow. So, that means I'm the only one in Van 1 who's run this thing, and knows anything, and, god help us all, people might be looking to me for guidance.

The race starts up on Mt. Hood, at the famous Timberline Lodge, with Mt. Hood looming above us, and views out into the valleys around us. Wierd to think that tomorrow we'll be at the Coast, at the ocean. But, anyways, the chaos is already in full swing by the time us Van 1 folks arrive. We're scheduled to start at 11:15, but teams have been starting since 6:30 I believe. None of us are sure if the slowest teams start earlier, so as to have everyone arrive at Seaside at the same time (ish) or if some of the mondo in-shape teams (like Nike and Adidas) start early so as to avoid having to deal with us amateur peons. Anyways, it's a lot of people. Some teams have even had both vans come up to the start, though that's kind of discouraged by the organizers because of space concerns. But, I have to say that there's kind of a psychological difference actually being here on Mt. Hood, rather than how my team did it last year, with Van 2 just arriving in Sandy at the Safeway. This feels more begin-y-y.

I sign the team in, barely, having no idea what I'm doing. Note: one must show up to the sign in desk with at least one safety vest, two flashing lights, and two main light sources (headlamps or flashlights) and they make you turn on all the lights to make sure they work. After that, a state trooper makes me sign a safety waiver (which I didn't bring, but he has extras) saying that everyone on the team has read it. Which I say is true (and it is, I think). The third desk gives me our little wristband thingy that runners pass off to each other, and a timing chip, which only needs to be worn by runner 12 on the third leg at the end.

A big change, which I support, this year is that teams/vans do not have to keep track of individual times. Nor do we have to keep a running stopwatch time. None of that. Instead, each time already has a designated start time, and the timing chip is apparently already running, so we just register the end time. I think this will make things much easier, though I can see some teams still have all their clipboards with charts and whatever. I think that aspect appeals to certain personality types, but thank goodness we don't have to do that because nobody in this van seems like that type.

The weather is great! Sunny up here, and cool. We've heard rumors of rain on the coast tomorrow morning, but we'll see.

Our runner 1 is Erica, the only female in our van of dudes (poor girl). And (oh the shame) she's wearing regular shoes, whereas the rest of the van is either walking around barefoot or in huaraches. Teams leave/start at fifteen minute intervals, and there's an announcer announcing the team names as they line up. My favorite name: We Eat Between The Legs. And though each team usually gets a cheer, when he yells out, “The Barefoot Running Society!”: crickets chirping almost. Just us five guys yelling, everyone else looking at us like, 'What the hell are these weirdos doing here?' It's like the announcer just said something in Japanese or something.

Anyway, at 11:15 exactly, Erica's wave is released. Run Erica run! Her leg is all downhill, and some people are just out of the gate at a sprint, which makes my knees hurt just thinking about it. But yes! We have begun! Now it's time to get in the van!

Actually, our van is a big ole black SUV. Looks like something a Mexican drug cartel would drive around in, but it's roomy, with room in the way back for bags. And this year I'm one of the designated drivers, which I'm loving, if only because I tend to get carsick. But I also just like to be busy/engaged and useful. I'm hoping this year the exchanges will go smoother. Last year they were all backed up, so that we basically spent the whole time sitting in the van, and even had to have runners get out of the van and run up to the exchange points because we just couldn't get there in time.

But so far so good. We zoom down the hill to the first exchange, right on the edge of 26. Easy park, with time to get out and walk around and people watch and watch the runners go by. Daniel is runner 2, and though he's not dressed as a Hawaiian hula girl this time, he is going barefoot. Weird weather here: there's an inversion layer, or else just a regular cloud here, so that it's overcast and grey and slightly misty. But again, good running weather.

And here comes Erica! The hand off goes smoothly. She's faster than her predicted time, which will be the case for all of us on this first legs, but I'm sure it will even out in the next two legs, as darkness and exhaustion set in. Technically, H2C isn't a speed race. The goal is to arrive at the Finish at the predicted time, based on each runners race speed that they entered online earlier, though that may not be accurate, since, for example, I entered my time for a trail marathon, versus a 10K speed. Supposedly, if a team finishes within a half hour on either side of their predicted time, they 'win' an automatic slot in next year's H2C. It's really an exercise in teamwork, I think.

Anyways, we jump in the SUV and head down 26 to the next station. Again, easy park, plenty of time to get ready. I hope things continue this way the whole way! Daniel passes off to Pat, a new person, to me, who isn't a member of the BRS site, nor the local Portland BRS FB group, yet. He's in VFFs, and seems a cool dude to have along: quiet and easy going and up for anything. That's the thing about H2C, six people just get thrown in a van for two days, some without knowing each other. Last year I just joined at random team two days before the start, but this year I do know at least half the team, if only through the Portland BRS FB page. But some I've run races with already.

At the next station the cloud/inversion is breaking up, for some sun. Rick is up. He's driven over from Utah to do this, part of a longer road trip he and his wife are taking. But he's a cool guy. Super mellow, and an ultra runner. In fact, he says I inspired him with some of my write ups of ultra races, and he wants me to come run a Hundo in Utah. We'll see, but anyways, a pleasure to have him along. And he too is going pure barefoot. Yes! Nice to be a in a group of like-minded folks, even if everyone else is looking at us weird. We've seen a couple other VFFs runners, and one barefoot woman, though she was holding her VFFs and limping, so who knows.

Stations switches are just going way smooth, thank goodness. And, I'm up! My first leg length is five miles, plus come change. And Rick comes in at a good clip, slapping the wrist band onto me. I'm off! Still on Highway 26, running on the right side of the road, with four lanes of traffic and no cones or barriers or anything, though usually the nearest lane is taken up by slow moving chase vans. Usually. Still kinda....loud, with weekend traffic going in and out of Portland. No other time would I be running down a highway like this. The pavement is fairly smooth here, for the first few miles, then turns off on a side road, and gets kind o' rough and gritty. But, grr, grin and bear it. Btw, I'm getting passed, becoming 'roadkill', by a lot of runners. In fact, I don't pass anyone, making me feel very very slooow. I think I would be running a little faster over this rough section is I had some huaraches, but again, this isn't supposed to be a speed race.

But, nice to have encouragement from other vans—the barefootedness getting some comments. One van full of nice folks, while they're waiting for their runner, turn up the music and form a 'power tunnel' for other runners, making two rows and joining their hands to run under while they yell. Extroverted people can be good to have around in times like these.

I'm not wearing a watch or GPS or anything, just trying to enjoy the run, but can't help wondering after a while, like, how far am I? How much further? But there are race volunteers stationed along the road at intervals, who let us runners know. And soon, there's the next station, with Janson waiting to go in VFFs and a kilt. I slap the wristband on him and he's off. Whew! Alright, one leg down! Time to head to the exchange, where Van 2 will take over for a while.

In the meantime, with time to kill, we head to Erica's house in Sellwood, near-ish to the exchange at Oaks Park. This is the advantage of Van 1: a few hours off right around dinner time. So, why not treat ourselves to a good dinner? Nice to be with a group of folks that's up for that. We go to a Thai place, and I can't help but kind of laugh at our sheer indulgence whilst Van 2 is running in the hot sun.

An email update was sent out to race participants saying that the Oaks Park parking lot is/was full, but when we get there, it's fine. Traffic seems a little backed up getting out, which worries me (because I'm a worrier) but it's not all H2C traffic. The Park is in full swing and I think the roller derby women are playing tonight too, and anyways, after waiting around some more, traffic clears right up. And as darkness descends, we greet Christy coming in and send off Erica for her second leg. Erica btw seems to be getting the best legs with views, since she'll get to run along the river and see Portland lit up, though first she has to run through the now dark Springwater Corridor, where many homeless people camp out. Hopefully they'll be a lot of runners on the trail, and homeless people are mostly harmless. Cue Newt from Aliens: Mostly....

Anyways, onward! We're up again, and I surprise myself by actually coming up with an alternate route to the next station. Yes, I've lived here a year now, so know that rather than driving up the east side of the river, we can scoot across the Sellwood Bridge and head north with almost no traffic at all. And, driving up Naito Parkway, we have a view of the riverfront, but for a while there seems to be no runners and I wonder if we read the directions wrong. I guess it's that there's no people at all out here by dark, but there's a blinking light or two, so there are runners, they're just all spread out. Aaaannnnd, we're just in time to get caught at the train tracks by a train, where even the runners have to wait, amassing a group of twenty or so before the train passes.

Up into the industrial NW section of Portland. Train cars and warehouses, but again the station is an easy in/easy out. Amazingly different than last year. Erica comes in from her 7 mile-ish leg and hands off to Daniel, who impresses the hell out of me by still running barefoot, in the dark, in the industrial area, on the four lane Highway 30. True, the road is lit up, but still seems hard to see grit and stuff.

Again, we're back to four lanes of traffic, but mostly the H2C vans hug the inside lane and go slower, so not as potentially scary for runners. Just a weird sight though, seeing the string of runners with blinking lights on running next to all this traffic and through some kind of post-apocalyptic setting. Death Race 2000!

Farther up 30, Daniel hands off to Pat, who then hands off to Rick as we get into what I think is the town of St. Helens. Rick also is going barefoot for this leg. Dammit. That means, as a real man, I'm obligated to be as badass as them. Well, the streets are lit up here, and there's even a sidewalk, so might actually be doable. But, after Rick hands off to me, I'm immediately shunted over to the other side of the highway, facing traffic, so if a car hits me I can actually see it first, aaannnnd, I'm out of town, meaning no more lights. And no sidewalk. Just me and my headlamp. But, so, ok, I can do this. Yes, the shoulder of the highway is gritty. Less so right by the first lane, and in fact I take to running in the first lane, Which by this point in the night is doable, since traffic is lighter, and the cars that are out are staying in the middle lane, well aware by now of the crazies out on the road. Probably annoyed with us for shining our headlamps right at them.

And yeah, once again getting passed. Can't blame the grit too much, I feel like I'm running faster than I would on my own, though certainly sitting in the SUV all day after running hasn't helped. Glad we had Thai and not pizza though, otherwise I'd probably be puking. But, man, just a weird unique experience, running along a highway at night. I do get into another little town, not sure of the name, but big enough to have some sidewalks, which are smoother, but perhaps just as gritty, since I doubt anyone actually walks on them here. And, this might have happened even the daylight, but every once in a while I just just come down hard, on one of my sensitive parts (because I'm a sensitive guy) like the heel or ball of foot, on a big ole grit-pebble-thingy. So yeah, ouch.

Aaaannnd, a little rain. A light misting, not unpleasant, though enough to get my BRS shirt damp, which I'll need to wear tomorrow at the finish, for the group photo.

Interesting dynamics. In a marathon, you'll see people kinda pair up, or bunch up, and chat as they run. Not here. I guess because the pace is faster, in the same way people don't really talk to each other in a 10K. So, kinda on my lonesome, even if this is a seven mile leg, seeing the blinking red lights in the distance, until overtaken by pounding shod person, most of whom give a friendly 'good job' as they pass me. And the route takes a left, into the sleepy town, and then zags around into a high school parking lot for the next station. No strong finish: the parking lot is all cracked and gravelly. But hey! I didn't step on any hidden glass!

Onward onward onward! The route now off of Highway 30 and into the backwoods of Portland. Janson will still be on pavement, but starting to hit the hills, and Van 2 will get the gravel road legs later. In the meantime, we head to the fairgrounds for the van exchange. And for sleep. And, thanks to my experience last year, I know exactly where the best sleeping area is: along the side of the parking lot, between it and the actually fairgrounds, there's a row of ponderosa pines, which offer a nice soft needle-y area, and some protection from car lights. So, again the advantage of Van 1. We get to sleep at 2, and sleep until 6, a comparatively 'regular' sleep time, whereas Van 2 maybe got a couple hours before we got there, and won't get a chance for a longer sleep until into the morning. And btw, kudos to Rick, who's thinking ahead, and just being a generally nice guy, for offering to stay up later to great Janson in and make sure the handoff goes ok, while the rest of us crash. He and Janson don't get to sleep until 3.

And, I actually do sleep, despite the car alarms going off, and the car doors slamming, and the loud (exclusively male) voices talking and talking sometimes only twenty feet away. You'd think that people would be more mindful of noise, but who knows, they may not even know about us sleepers over here.

And in the morning, when my alarm goes off, I actually feel like I got some sleep. Feels like my old firefighting days, waking up in fire camp in the woods. But man, what a difference: What had been a packed parking lot last night is now almost empty, just about twenty vans still here. Where is everybody? Surely we're not one of the later groups? But as we wake up and get on the road, arriving at the next van exchange, I see that some groups just skipped the fairgrounds and drove out here before going to sleep. Something to consider next year, though, I'm not sure there's that much of an advantage, since the designated sleeping areas are still right next to the parking lots. The ideal would be to find a state or county park and sleep on the grass or in the woods. Surely those places must exist around here. But anyways, we're ready to go. We meet up with Van 2 and Erica is off on her third leg. Btw, if one is looking for the best legs to get during a race, runner 1 and runner 6 (and/or runner 7 and 12), but especially runner 1, seem to have the advantage of going first, getting their leg out of the way, and then being able to to just crash out in the back of the van for hours, knowing they won't have to do anything.

This exchange has been the only place where the vans have been backed up on the road to get in, and even then it's not that bad. The Honey Bucket lines are now long though, so a few times our runners have jumped out early to be able to get in line, though Erica points out that one has only to say to people that you're about to run and they'll let you cut in early, but it seems to only be women who do this.

Daniel and Rick both go barefoot again, lucking out with some relatively smooth pavement. My feet are already feeling raw from the previous runs, no lie, but no way am I going to get out barefooted on this thing. My last leg is 'only' five miles, but it's a lot of uphill. Fortunately shady, so not going to be too hot. If I weren't competing to be most macho, I might have carried my huaraches just in case, but no, I'm all in, should be ok, like running the last five miles of a marathon, right? But, so, as soon as I start, the road gets a little rough. Then smooth. Then rough. Then kinda just stays rough. Not gritty, but old and cracked and having that unique Oregon pavement that is just rough, so that even running on the white line in the middle doesn't really help. Fortunately not too much oncoming traffic, except for a couple of cars who seem to really not appreciate our presence out here, because, with both lanes clear, they stay in their lane and go right by me. One guy in a pickup even blatantly points his truck at me, wanting to make me get off the road and onto the shoulder I guess, but when I don't (I'm not jumping into that gravel, dude) he only veers off at the last second. So: asshole!

But on the other hand, other vans are cheering and honking us runners as the pass, and some especially are cheering me on as a barefooter. Our van doesn't do this, worried about time really, but some vans will stop halfway through the leg to cheer on their runners, and while waiting cheer on other runners, which is nice, especially this one van that we've been paralleling the whole race, which is an all women, really all amazon, ultra crew—doing the whole distance with only 8 runners. I'm not sure how it works exactly, how the legs are divided up, but they're certainly easy on the eyes, if a little scarily enthusiastic and energetic for this late in the race. But, maybe the secret of being energetic is acting energetic first, then your body will catch up?

And two people even hold a scarf between them at the top of the hill, as a 'ribbon' to run through, for any runner that wants to partake. So, that's a nice friendly funny gesture.

Speaking of women, as I peak up over the hill and begin my descent, a van of women slows down and cheers, whooping and holding out cameras, and I'm like, yes! Finally I'm attractive to women, because they think barefoot running is hardcore or something. But no, a guy passes me and they call out his name. I laugh and yell after him, “Aw, I thought they were cheering me!”

He laughs and says, “They're cheering everybody!” Which, you know, is nice and true, but not as cool as a van full of women hooting for you. Sigh....

I did finally pass two people on the uphill, but continue to get passed by others. Nice to be out in the woods and off the highway. One of the people I pass, a woman, is actually stopping at lot and taking pictures. She tells me, “I might as well have fun out here. My IT band is killing me.”
But there's Janson! I pass off the wristband et voilà, fini! I've done my part! We head to the last exchange and miraculously part right in front of Van 2. I get out to let them know we're here (no phone service out here) and Christy is sitting in the front seat. I tell her when Janson's due in and she says, “You better tell the others, I can't walk.”

“What? What's wrong?”

“I hurt my foot. And it's your fault.”

The thing with Christy is I can never tell if she's entirely joking. I think what she's referencing is the fact that we were both on the same H2C team last year, by complete coincidence, and she had been wanting to try barefoot running, and had been 'inspired' by me, so has been trying to run barefoot for the past year, though plagued by injuries. Thus, my fault.

Anyways, Janson passes off to Seret, and bam, Van 1 is done! Nothing to do be head to Seaside and wait. With hours to go, we indulge in yet another wonderful meal, and disperse for a while. I join up with my sister and her family up the beach. And the weather is amazing. No rain. In fact, sunny, and the water is actually bearable, so I go out and splash in the waves. Refreshing, and a good way to wake up and get rid of the lack-of-sleep grogginess, since I'll be driving the SUV back to Portland tonight.

We meet back up at the festivity site, where runners have been coming in since early morning, which is kinda amazing to think about. Hundreds of teams hanging out, some already done, some, like use, waiting for their last runner to come in.

Van 2 gets here, none of them wearing their BRS shirts, when it was Christy who emphatically told everyone to wear them. But, speaking of Christy, they inform us that Christy is in bad shape, her foot really bothering her, and that she'll be coming in a half hour later than expected. In fact, she actually texts Chris (who has been volunteering here but has joined us) and requests some help, so he runs off to help her in. I mean, this is bad: she's in danger of not finishing, and probably should have not kept running, which makes me a little annoyed. Not that I care about our time or anything, just that I get annoyed/mad when people don't take care of themselves. Except that, knowing that this is Christy's sixth H2C, and she finally has the chance to be the final runner—I would probably do the same thing.

And so, she basically leans on Chris' should all the way down the boardwalk and almost just hops on one leg over the finish, almost crying. And collapses in the sand. We're all in the chute now: The runner goes over the first, real, Finish, where the team joins her, and then there's supposed to be a 'group run' of a hundred feet or so over the sand, to another Finish, so that our picture can be taken running as a group. Then into a corral to get into one of the group picture taking areas. So, everyone in our group is standing around going, shit, how do we get her to the First Aid station?! Not helped by the guy in charge of getting groups through the chute, who has to butt in and offer his two-bit advice. But another worker goes to get a paramedic to come to us, so we all cluster off to the side. Interestingly, the group right behind us also stops, their final runner collapsing too, though seems to be from exhaustion/dehydration/heatstroke. Other groups go by us, all smiling and happy to be done, until they see Christy, then their eyes go wide.

An EMT finally comes, but all he can really do it tape up her foot and ankle. So Thomas, from Van 2 carries her to the photo op stage. We get a quick photo taken, which I'm not sure anyone is going to buy a copy of, all of us not looking too happy, worried about Christy (which she probably hates). Fortunately her parents are here volunteering, waiting for us, so we can pass her off to them and they can take her to the hospital for x-rays.

So, a kind of bummer at the end. But, we did it! The first barefoot H2C team ever! With three of us going completely barefoot for all three legs, and most every one at least going minimalist, except a certain someone (Erica, cough cough). Amazing that we pulled it off! And yet, it was mostly fine. Thanks again to Jen for signing us up and organizing all the behind the scenes stuff. And for Christy offering her years of experience and logical organizational skills. Also, our sponsor: Soft Star Shoes! They kicked in $500.

My dream now? Two Barefoot Running Society teams! BRS A and BRS B! Maybe one of them an ultra team??

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wildwood Marathon

This is going to be an interesting test. Since stopping my ultra training about three months ago, I haven’t really run any ‘long’ runs. My training for this marathon consisted of, “Oh s**t, I’m running a marathon in three weeks, I guess I better up my mileage, at least.’ And so I did: doing a wee bit more of my ten mile loop, plus adding some ‘doubles’ (running twice in one day). Plus, though I ‘tapered’ this week, I went up to Seattle to visit a friend and of course walked all over the place talking and trying to solve the world’s problems. In fact, I just got in yesterday evening. Good thing this race is so low-key that the packet pickup/registration is just before the race.

I do have some advantages, maybe. One being that I’ve run a bunch o’ marathons now, so have the ‘mental’ edge. As in, I know I can run them, with various degrees of hurt after. Also, I have the home court advantage: this is in Forest Park, my stomping grounds here in Portland, where I do the majority of my runs. I love being able to walk out my door to the start.

There has been a last minute change though: We were supposed to start down in Lower Macleay Park, a nice big open grassy area, but apparently the Forest Park trail crew is doing trail work up in there, and no one bothered to tell anyone else. So, we’re nearby, but at this small little trailhead up in the residential area, with no parking, so they had to hire some shuttle busses to get folks up, and it’s kind of a cluster, with people registering for the half-marathon and 10K, while us ‘real men’ (and women) doing the full wait around.

Not sure how many are doing the full. I seem to remember 150 was the cap, but doesn’t seem like that much here, now. But anyways, the weather here is nice. Perfect almost: Cool enough to be a little cold with just a t-shirt and shorts. Will heat up later, but in Forest Park, one is basically in the shade all the time. I don’t really know the route, but when a woman (one of those Marathon Maniacs) explains it, it confirms that the route I was running out here for the ultra training was WAY more than 26 miles.

We line up, and this is kinda crazy: We are starting out going uphill. Like, a pretty good incline. Macleay Park would have given us a little warm up before a hill. Here, when the organizer dude says go, it’s just up a gravelly trail, which I (and I suspect everyone else if they were alone) would walk up, but since we’re all gung-ho to run a marathon, we all start out at a trot. Ugh. This first bit is and ‘out and back’, more like an ‘up and down’ that gets us the ‘.2’ of the marathon (and maybe a little more) out of the way. But, the hill definitely separates the men from the boys, or the adults from the children. I take my time, staying in back, trying to hold on to some kind of sanity, walking even. The race leaders come barreling down, all young and no body fat, and on my way down, I do the same, using one of the few advantages I have as a barefoot/minimalist runner: the ability to use gravity and maintain a (relatively) light touch, though with these Luna Leadvilles I fear I’m slamming the joints just like a shod person. I may regret this later on, but for now, it catapults me past many of the gung-ho hillrunners. And gets me going at a pretty fast pace even on the flat areas, which, again, I may regret, but that’s why I do these races: to get me to run faster than I would alone. By myself, I trot. I don’t get into the fancy watches and paces, just kinda meditating and enjoying the scenery. Which is why I never get down below four hours on a paved marathon, when I probably could.

No, if I could, if I could afford it, I’d run more races, even short ones, to keep myself honest. But at this point, I can’t. Though I’m already thinking I enjoy this stuff too much and money be damned, I’ll splurge for the a couple marathons this Fall. Plus Hood2Coast is coming up!

The majority of the race is on the Wildwood Trail, which runs the length of Forest Park. It’ll be an ‘out and back’ here too, meaning there will be cross traffic as the faster runners come back. I’m already starting to settle in to the group of people who are running at about the same pace. Or not, since I tend to come on strong in the beginning and then bog down in the second half. We’ll see. I’m kinda surprising myself at my pace. Surely this can’t last!

The route takes us uphill, on a sidetrail, Fire Lane 1 to be exact, for a short out and back/up and down, at the top of which is the first Aid Station. But man, I’m glad I’m not doing this barefoot, these fire lanes are just straight up gravel roads. And yeah, I walk it. But there are some lovely goodies, which I unfortunately just don’t feel up for eating, but I nibble on some PB&J chunks, orange slices, and one potato chip for some salt.

Down the hill! Still able to use gravity to my advantage, and pass some more folks, though also getting passed. Seems to be the key to fast versus slow runners: the fast ones are able to run fast downhill. And back on Wildwood, which, here, is actually a pretty barefootable trail, and I’ve enjoyed it that way. It’s just that there are patches of gravel, for when the this place gets soaked in the Winter and becomes a mud line. Could I do this race barefoot? Probably, but doing so would add at least another hour to my time, and I’ve been there before: coming in when the organizers are already taking down the tents. That sucks.

Oh, interestingly: Coming uphill on Fireline 1 were already the halflings: the lead runners in the half marathon. Nothing like getting ‘lapped’ by the halflings, but they will turn around at this point, while we marathoners continue north(westish) on the Wildwood. Runners are now fairly spaced out, though so far I’m not finding myself by myself, like happens with some trail marathons, where I sometimes wonder if everyone has just gone home. I’m passing some folks on the downhill, but they’re just as much catching me on the uphills. I’m alternating between walking hills, and going into ‘granny gear,’ as I learned from Scott Jurek (in his recent book). But, that can get ridiculous sometimes, when someone is walking just as fast behind me as I am running. Good verification that yeah, walking the hills doesn’t really lose you much time.


Holy crap that was my right foot! I just smacked right into something, not sure what, maybe a root. Like, hard. Like, there should be some pain. But there’s not. That’s gotta be a bad thing. I’m still running, but there’s like a numb feeling coming from my little toe. Damn, I do not want to look. But no, I have to: Oh crap. My little toe is out almost at ninety degrees. That’s not good. That’s like, broken. I’m going to have to go to the hospital. With no insurance. ‘Well Mr. Yohe, how did this happen?’


‘With your shoes on?’

‘No, um, in these sandals.’

‘What kind of dumbass runs in sandals?’

Or something like that. Anyways, can I get through the rest of the race this way? With my little toe flopped off to the side? Am I about to feel a lot of pain soon?

But, I keep running, and experiment with trying to move all the toes. I can’t seem to move the toe sideways, like to pull it in, but curling all the toes seems to work, and in doing so, kind of draws it in, so that it starts to look somewhat normal. Somewhat.... I guess I’ll go on. Maybe it’s just dislocated? Maybe I won’t need a hospital visit?

Still fairly strong pace, up until I get to the second Aid Station, which is again at the top of a side trail. I’m gulping more water—probably should have been gulping more already—and the downhill isn’t so barrely—the quads are starting to scream. And the bottoms of the feet.

But yes, that was the halfway point. Actually a little beyond because of the original out and back. Check my watch: 2:30. Ok, that’s good. I’ll take that. So, looking at over five hours. Would be nice to slip in under 5:30, way more than I expected even, but yeah, I’m a little tired now. A little weary. But, home court advantage, I know that from here, it’s all (mostly) downhill! Which helps. Helps me keep up the pace just by gravity. If this were just a flat straightaway, I’d be trudging, but here, now, I’m still running fast. Or, faster than normal, faster than I would be by myself. Can this last? Or is my no training going to lead to a total bog down?

The people I was running with (or nearby) have all pulled away. I’m seeing others coming up the trail on their way to the aid station, everyone being very encouraging, though I get a little worried when I see an older woman with a half-marathon bib. Uh oh. Did she take a wrong turn at Albuquerque? Imagine her surprise when she learns she’s about to run a full marathon. Eep.

I settle into a back and forth with some new folks, including a couple, the woman seemingly stronger at this point than her boyfriend, though, after we each pass each other a couple of times, and get up to the fourth (which was also the second) Aid Station, and back down, the guy asks me, ‘How you doing?’

‘I’m ok.’

‘My legs are screaming.’

‘Yeah. We’re a three quarters of the way there!’

But then even the girlfriend seems to bog down, and I lose them. And others are also doing some walking at this point: I catch up to some guys that had passed me a while back. Me, I’m amazingly still going steady. Legs aching on the downhills, no barreling anymore, but keeping steady, now into very familiar territory, I can visualize exactly how much longer we have to go. I wonder if that’s really an advantage? Must be. Another Marathon Maniac woman runs with me for a while, then finally makes her move. ‘We have to be getting close, aren’t we?’

‘Yes. We’re real close.’

That’s all she needs to hear, and she speeds up. I do too. A little. We pass another guy who’d been with us for a while, he seems to be cramping, but then falls in behind a little bit. Hm, I wonder how old he is? In my age category? Can’t let him beat me then! That’s my hope, that this race is small enough that I might actually get in the top three in my age category, and therefore a second medal (all the marathoners get a finish medal). Probably not though, since seems like every man in his early forties is now running marathons, but maybe. It’s enough to give me a little motivation, a little burst of speed. Plus that trailhead is coming up.

I hear it first: clapping. Yep, almost there. Just down this last little section, then, a sharp left and the Finish is downhill a hundred yards. I want so much to give my customary final burst of speed, but it’s too downhill-y, and gravelly as f**k. I can just picture myself biting it at the last minute, so actually have to put on some brakes. But yeah, the folks at the finish see me and clap and cheer. Small crowd, but still nice.

I cross. Check time: Holy crap. 5:08! I’ll take that! That’s actually a really good time for me, considering. 44th overall, 12th in my age group (sigh).

My toe seems....ok. Swollen and red, but I can move it a bit. I think I’ll tough it out with no hospital visit.

And more food and drink. Wish I was hungrier, but I think the heat combined with the exertion (and the toe?) are combining to make me a little queasy. Still, a cup o’ lentil soup and a cold root beer makes John happy. I stay to cheer in some of the folks I ran with, but now it is time for me to limp home and collapse.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tabor 2 Crest 2013

I need this. While it's not an official race, and more of a meet-up, I need a little inspiration from other runners. The official idea of Tabor 2 Crest, thought up by barefoot runner and physical therapist Sanatan here in Portland, is to do a mini-Hood 2 Coast, starting at the highest point on the east side of Portland, Mt. Tabor, and running to the (I think) highest point on the west side, Council Crest, a total of 9.5 miles. Sanatan (emphasis on second a: San-A-tan) conceived of it as a relay for some of his clients who are transitioning into barefoot running due to various injuries, but as we gather here this morning on the top of Mt. Tabor, it's looking like most of us will be running the whole thing, with only one 'team' doing any kind of trade off. Plus about three folks who are just going to walk the whole thing, barefoot!

Some of the usual Portland suspects are here: Mike, half-naked and surprisingly on time. Daniel, in his obligatory Hawaiian hula girl outfit, as well as Christy and Chris, though both of them (giving barefoot running a bad name) are still injured and will be merely escorting us via bicycle. Jen, of course, has bogued out on us again. But there are some new folks, or new to me, like Todd, the OR BRS comedian, representing the People's Front of Judea (whereas I'm representing the Judean People's Front), Sanatan, and some folks from Sanatan's office, including the famous Dr. Ray, one of the first podiatrists to espouse the virtues of barefooting.

The reason I need this is because I've been in a relative slump since my aborted Hundo. Not that I regret not running it, but I really did need to recover, both physically, and maybe mentally from all the running. It had become un-fun, so I cut back, still doing a long run a week for a while, but even that dropped off around the time of my Grand Canyon trip. I have, with the nice weather, been out running, mostly, thankfully, barefoot again, but I think what has been missing is a race or two to look forward to, and to motivate me. I know I know, one shouldn't need races to motivate one, I suppose, and yet, they are fun, and a healthy reminder that I'm part of a tribe that values that sort of thing. The problem with races is that they cost money, and due to my current financial situation, I haven't quite been able to justify the cost of any, especially those outside the city. But, so, this is free! And race-ish! And it's good to be in a group of barefooters again! There's about a dozen of us.

We all touch the metal elevation marker at the top of the grassy knoll, and begin! Down over some grass, then onto the main road down the park, past the reservoirs, and out onto 60th Ave. And yes, a lot of these guys I don't know are fast! Not sure if I'll catch them in the long run or not. Probably not. And after briefly chatting with Sanatan, I'm soon on my own, as with head west on Lincoln, through a quiet residential neighborhood, though, weirdly, I pass an older gentleman in a florescent green jacket who is running barefoot! But I don't think he's part of our group! What must he think of all of us running by him?

And in fact, when I cut through the park at 31st, two guys who are working at a community garden yell out to me, asking me what race this is. Yelling back 'Tabor to Crest' seems weird, wouldn't make sense, so I say, 'Um, it's kind of more of a get together!' Which probably isn't any clearer.

I'm out on the south side of Hawthorne, running along the sidewalk, which is possible since it's still early, and again, another guy asks me what race this is and I mumble a similar answer. I suppose I should just say 'Tabor to Crest!' and let him figure it out, but who knows.

We were instructed to wear green so as to help identify each other to each other, though most folks didn't, which is fine, since I didn't look at the race route, but I'm coming up on a woman in a conspicuously green shirt, running, except she's in shoes, but she keeps looking behind at me, so when I catch up I ask if she is indeed in Tabor2Crest. And she is indeed. I think her name is Karen, though I could be wrong, but she's a rolfer, a therapist who works in Dr. Ray's office. She's by self-admission a 'lazy runner' so is running the middle leg of the one relay team, and claims to not be able to run barefoot for more than a few blocks, so has already deployed her shoes. We chat awhile, since rolfing involves working with fascia, and I had plantar fasciitis. What is interesting is that she, and Sanatan, and I guess Dr. Ray, all feel that barefooting, and barefoot running requires a transition period, and even some instruction, whereas I always though, and still think, that BFing is awesome because one can just do it, without having to spend money or anything, and I can't help pondering that there is a financial interest in people 'helping' others go barefoot, but I just don't know—maybe people realy do need some transition? I'm not sure.

Anyway, my pace is a little too much for her, though I fear I'm at the back of the pack, except for the walkers, but we say goodbye. I think she's handing off to someone after the bridge and will meet up with all of us at the top. But yes, the bridge, Hawthorne Bridge—I love running across this bridge, getting to see the city and the river. Still overcast grey sky, but that's ok, keeping the heat down. The Portland Blues Festival is actually going on right now, today is the last day, so people are already walking to the west side riverfront, with lawn chairs and drinks in tow. The Festival is actually disrupting this very important race a bit, Sanatan had to re-route us a little, though with all the people on the streets, I lose his chalk directional arrows. Ok, I admit: I actually was looking at a woman runner ahead of me in nice tight black running shorts, and suddenly I'm a block past the bridge.

Well, thanks to Sanatan going over the route beforehand, I know I'm supposed to head towards the tram, south, basically on one of my longer regular routes, so I kind of have to improvise, or rather, follow my route, without seeing any arrows, though I do catch a glimpse of one of my fellow runners, a friend of Daniels I think (though shod). At the tram (which actually goes up to where I'm heading) I take the walkway up over I-5, and here I catch back up with the chalk arrows, which is good because they lead me through a series of super-secret walkway stairs through this neighborhood and under I-405. I would almost think these stairs were private property, since I'm going right by people's houses. I haven't seen anything like this in the US before, feels more European, but I guess they're common walkways, maybe to get people up to OHSU, the medical university up on the hill. Anyways, cool to learn about these. And yes, the uphill has begun. But so far the feets are fine. I had been a bit worried, since I've been running BF all week, and did an hour run yesterday, so starting out a little raw, but this isn't even the length of a half-marathon. And even on the stairs, I'm so far still running, not hiking. Or, well, mostly not.

And I pop out on Terwilliger, the site of a few races here in Portland, since it's up in the forested park below OHSU and the Veterans Hospital, and also a bike path to the south, like to Lake Oswego eventually. Nice and quiet up here, not a lot of traffic, with a wide paved path off to the side. Trees and birds chirping. Nice to be running in an un-usual area, and also to know Portland enough that I know where I'm at. I may actually start feeling like I fit in here.

But yeah, on my own, no sign of anybody. But I still have the chalk arrows! Though after turning left off of Terwilliger, and back uphill, I begin to have doubts, since I'm now on a big road with no shoulders, the main route to OHSU, with cars, and I just barely catch the turn off to a trail. Ok, this is the gravely trail I was warned about. Supposedly it's only gravelly at the beginning, and with the steepness, I'm just hiking at this point, but I just don't feel the gravel is getting any better. I am passed at this point by one of our group, part of the relay team, who I will soon learn woks for Soft Star Shoes, and is wearing a pair of their running brand, I forget the name. He's tall and lanky and passes be quickly.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Mike catches up to me. He's going barefoot all the way. I though have brought my Xero huaraches along just in case, and this gravel is bugging me. With non-raw feets I could handle it, but not after nine miles of pavement running. So I deploy, and immediately can run again, or mostly, depending on the hill, but mostly, and leave Mike behind. I even almost catch up to Soft Stars dude at a trail crossroads, but he sprints on.

Following the Council Crest signs, the trail soon gets just too steep to run, so I walk/hike, crossing over some paved roads at two points, but I feel I'm getting close, et voilà, I pop out of some trees and there's the top! With the whole gang gathered! They see me and begin clapping and cheering, so of course I have to finish strong, running up the grassy hill and into the round rocky clearing circle thingy, to more clapping and cheering, though I am chastened to learn I'm almost last. Mike is the last runner. Except, then someone remembers the Soft Star Shoe guy. I'd thought he was here already, but he's not. He must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Mike pops out and props to him that he did the whole thing barefoot. Actually everybody else did. Or, that is, those others who started out BF, finished BF. So, I guess I've become a wimp. But anyways, there's potato chips, and organic lemonade, and bananas, and grapes. John is content.

Soft Star dude finally arrives, via the main paved road, and did indeed get lost, adding a couple miles onto his route. The big surprise is that a tv newsperson shows up with her camera. Sanatan had sent out a 'press release' but he seems surprised that anyone actually read it, but she claims we'll be on the news tonight, and films us, and him giving his 'benefits of bare feet' spiel. So, some good PR.

So overall, a success, and fun. Perhaps a little too short a distance to really make it a relay. But any time a bunch of barefoot runners gets together is a good time. People noticed us for sure. People begin to drift off, some getting rides back to Mt. Tabor. With help from Chris and his phone, I get my route back home. A few more miles, just for fun. Barefoot of course!

(Next up: The Wildwood Marathon! July 27th!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Plantar Fasciitis gone!

Excerpt from a recent letter from a friend:

"That plantar fasciitis that was plaguing me is about 99% gone! There were two things that finally made it go away: the exercises to strengthen my arch definitely helped, but the biggest thing was getting minimalist/no rise – or whatever they are called- shoes. I did this on your recommendation. You can add my story to reasons why people should try them. I planned a very short first run, just a few blocks to see what I thought. I heard about needing to get used to them. I loved them so much that I kept running my full run and then wore them to work that day. I ended up with two pairs. One is totally flat with no cushion; the other pair has a little bit of cushion. What a relief to be free of that pain that kept me from walking!"

I have 50 followers, surely there must be some other positive experiences? Please feel free to share with others down in the comments page!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Huaraches in the Grand Canyon!

We can't even see the whole thing. This is just a side canyon, and it's BIG. Supposedly, from Swamp Point here on the North Rim, down to the Colorado River is only 14 miles, but it looks way longer than that from up here. Like, A. Long. Way.

I realize now—I mean, I knew it, but now I feel it—that one little hike is a mere poke, a mere tickle, in the experience of the whole Canyon, and so I understand a bit better why/how someone like Rick can devote a good chunk of his life to exploring this one place. And he's still never 'experienced' the whole thing. Feels like I'm talking about the Universe, or Reality, or God, huge concepts that the human brain/heart/spirit can never really understand/experience/grok.

North Bass Trail up here is some loose rock/stones with soft dirt underneath, so not too bad, and not too steep. We head down with loaded pack (including six quarts of water apiece) to Mauve Saddle. By accident, I stumble upon the old historic ranger 'station' which was originally built at the beginning of the last century. It's since been rebuilt, and we can actually go inside. The different books on the Canyons vary on whether this was an actually 'station' or just some kind of housing for a trail crew, or maybe a combo of the two, but either way, its presence implies that there was a lot more traffic down here in the 30s and 40s. Maybe. I mean, why have this building out here at all?

After Rick takes some pics of the cabin and old old food tins still kept there, we double back a little to the main trail and soon there is the famed perpetual spring, a little stream seeping out of the rock. We're hoping, but not counting on more water down in White Canyon later.

My companion/guide is the poet and essayist Rick Kempa, who's made the Grand Canyon a pilgrimage, having fallen in love with the place when younger and made many many trips back. He's a former flatlander Midwesterner like me, from Chicago, but basically moved to the southwest for college, and has never left the region. He now teaches at Western Wyoming Community College, in Rock Springs, right at the top of what's considered the Colorado Plateau, and I kind of consider him the Poet Laureate of this region. He has even been the Artist in Residence at the Grand Canyon, and will return again later this summer for stints on both the South and North Rims. His writing has always included poems and essays about the Southwest, and the Canyon, including his latest book of poetry. On top of that, he has both an essay collection about his travels in the Canyon in the works, as well as an anthology of other writers' essays about the Canyon which he is co-editing.

By chance, just admiring the rock cliffs above us, I spot some kind of small tower made of sandstone slab. I only half-jokingly yell back to Rick, 'Hey, I think I found some modern art!' because it seems more like something Andy Galsworthy (of Rivers and Tides fame) would make, but we climb up and have a look. And it seems to be an old native construction. Rick points out where other parts of the wall still remain, outlines a small 'room' or space under a small overhang. Hardly room for a family it seems, though similar to ruins I've seen, but this particular thing is a big square column, way thicker than a wall. Just seems a little weird. Rick speculates that maybe early white explorers built it in some kind of imitation/homage to native ruins in the area.

Speaking of weird objects, moving on, switchbacking down, a huge yellow rock column rises out of the scrub oak and manzanita, looking very much like a penis, with a bulbous head. Just different in color and shape from another other rock formations in the area. Or anywhere I've ever seen in Arizona, really. I turn to the expert. “Rick. What's that yellow penis rock called?”

He smiles. “Well, I think you've just given it its true name.” But he's puzzled too. He hasn't seen anything like it in any other explorations of the Grand Canyon. Neither of us is a geologist, though, and there's no time. We leave Yellow Penis Rock behind and plunge onward.

That said, we don't know each other real well, and I can tell he's been feeling me out on whether I'm up for a trip like this. He's had some previous backpacking partners that just weren't up to the physical and mental (and spiritual?) exertion requires to hike down 9,000 feet and back up. But this actually isn't my first visit to the Grand Canyon. As a wildland firefighter, for about eight summers I spent some amount of time on either the North or South Rims, mostly the North, either fighting fires, or helping out with prescribed or fire-use fires, and I've gazed into its depths, wondering if and when I'd ever actually go down inside. And I've done plenty of backpacking throughout my life, as well just training for an ultramarathon this past Winter. Perhaps impressing even more is my love of sleeping out in the open air, at least down here in the Southwest.

What has him most worried in my choice of footwear. I'm wearing huaraches, a type of sandal worn by natives down in Mexico, though this pair is made by the Luna Sandals company in Seattle. These are the “Leadville” models, with a thick rubber sole and their special ATS laces, with some elasticity for easy take on and off. This pair has done me well with some trail marathons, and I figure footwear aorn down in Copper Canyon has got to be good up here in the GC too. But Rick is old school hiker (though really, huaraches are really really old school), and feels a hiker needs boots, especially in the Canyon. But I just can't bring myself to wear boots ever again, nor shoes hardly, after a bout of plantar faschiitis a few years ago.

Still, so far so good. We hit another small stream farther down dribbling across the trail, leaving a big mud hole. Rick says, 'This is where we'll be racing to when we're coming back in the heat and out of water.

'Yeah, I'll just walk up and stick my face the mud.'

It's another good sign that there's probably water below, but when I walk through the mud, my huaraches get wet and they're basically horrible when wet—my feet just sliding all over the rubber. Well, we're down into some red sandstone, and the trail at this point is mostly sand, so why not? Off come the huaraches and I'm backpacking barefoot! Feels great!

Rick is amazed. “I've got to get a picture of this for my next presentation!”

“Careful, the parkies might get mad at you promoting barefootedness in the Canyon!”

“I'll have to have a disclaimer.”

“Warning: Don't try this at home!”

I go for maybe a half mile, then we get into a different strata, or rock type, and the trail get rockier. To dry out the huaraches, I throw sand on them, which absorbs the moisture, in the process coats my feet in red dust. Cool. Already the Canyon has left its mark.

Down here under the Rim, away from the Ponderosa forest that love so much, out in the sun, the terrain is thick with manzanita, gamble oak, scrub oak, locust (my old enemy!) and the start of the pinyon/juniper tree mix found in the high desert areas of the southwest.

After a while, Rick motions me to stop. 'Listen.'

I do. Running water! Off to our left. Walking a bit more, there's a stream! So, we'll have water at the end here on the way out, which means we won't have to hump six quarts out. Hell, if we'd known, we could've started off empty, but we may yet end up camping at a dry spot, so good to have what water we have, and honestly, I'm feeling fine, the pack is heavy, but I'm not dying either. Don't need at tent down here, no bugs, and gonna be hot. Plus, with and actual traveling companion, I've opted not to bring any books. Rick has both a tent and some books, plus a stove, but I seem to have brought more food, so at this point I think our packs weight about even. On the way back I'll have eaten all m food though!

We parallel the stream down until actually in the drainage bottom, where there are some small shady cottonwoods, and a few brave ponderosas, though now there are more exposed boulders and rocks, and the trail itself mostly just follows the creek bed. I'm still in front, Rick having the advantage of just being able to splash through the water if that's easier than boulder hopping. But I think I've won him over on both my huaraches and my hiking ability.

Of course, then I realize my first stupid mistake of the trip: the four Arrowhead spring water bottles I bought back in Kanab are not just spring water. I open one and water bubbles and fizzles out. Aghast, I check the label. Oh. Oops. 'Sparkling' spring water. Not a fan of tonic water unless it's in a gin & tonic. I could still drink it but, well shit, here I am at real spring water right off the mountain, so.... Which means I have to dump four liters of sugar water, which Rick ribs me for: “Who knows what kind of mutation you're creating here.”

“I know, right? Like some two headed lizard or something.”

“It could be waiting for you five days from now when we return.”

But, I do it. And I hope this is my one and only big mistake of the trip. I usually have one on any trip, usually involving forgetting something, because I'm usually just a get-up-and-go guy, so there's value in being methodical like Rick.

Even from the Rim, especially from the Rim maybe, we can see the major rock 'strata', or layers, or levels of the Canyon stacked on top of each other, in different colors, from both the rocks and the vegetation. Their names, and appearance are almost a breakdown of Arizona, and some of its major National Forests, north to south, starting with the Kaibab, the 'top' of the bunch, where the North Rim forest is.
The next four levels, the Coconino, is sandstone, but mostly covered with green brush, with a little red from the manzanita. The next three kind of look like one layer, and make up the most distinctive visual aspect of the Canyon because of the red rock from the Hermit Shale and Supai, which, I learn from Rick, actually wash off onto the 'Red Wall' section, which is actually grey limestone underneath (and visible if you really look). Then the main Canyon and side canyons all open our into the Tonto Platform, which is a shale base, but basically the desert, where the cactii start appearing. The last, least visible area, is the Inner Gorge, a little mini-canyon the Colorado River flows through. So to look at the walls of the Grand Canyon is to look at millions and millions of years of geology, each layer slowly compressed under the next, with all that water flowing through, gouging out this big ditch.

That's the big picture. On a more personal level, the different levels are a visual breakdown of my own history in Arizona, living and working at as a wildland firefighter in my 20s and 30s. Not exactly in the same order as these levels, but they're all there, the Hermit shale/Supai/Red Wall formations look a lot like Sedona, where I started, and also later southern Utah, where I worked helitack for Zion National Park. And the Coconino layer is like Payson, where I worked for four years as a hotshot and heli-rappeller, which took us down to the Tonto Basin a lot, which looks exactly like the Tonto Plateau, except without the saguaro cactii. And almost every summer I ever fought fires I ended up in the high elevation forests, like on the Coconino and Kaibab Forests, not to mention the Grand Canyon Rim itself. Even the back country office where we got our permits is in the employee residential area where I camped out so much in 2001. I even recognized old burns on the drive out. I spent a lot of time here!

The trail comes out of the drainage and up onto a red dirt and pinon/juniper flats area, because the drainage was getting too narrow and/or overgrown with brush. And though some uphill is required to do this, walking out on the trail is actually faster than jumping boulder to boulder down by the creek.
Weather today: mostly clear blue sky, but some high Simpson's clouds show up in the afternoon, which are welcome. Birds: goldfinch, chickadee (I think), and a big raptor, pretty sure it's a hawk, circling above, not even flapping, just riding the hot air up and up. Flowers are out, Rick wasn't sure we'd still catch them: reds, yellows, whites. We take a lunch break. Rick checks the map, trying to figure out where we are. “I don't know, you want to try, John?”

Sure. I orient it, check landmarks, and figure we're down about eight miles. “We should be able to hit Shinumo Creek tonight!” Which seems right, since w've been going for about four hours. Surely we're going two miles an hour downhill.

But, I'm completely wrong. We keep on, and find some good potential sleeping spots, still near water, but when we take another break, this time with a siesta, Rick takes another look at the Park trail description, and based on the fact that we are now at the Red Wall descent are (unmistakeable because of the straight up and down red walls) he laughs. “This says, from the saddle to here, the trail is only 3.5 miles!”

“No way!”

We re-check the map, this time using a big landmark that recognizes: Emerald Point, up on the Rim, directly across from us. Lining up the map, we see that, yoikes, we appear to be half the distance from where I'd speculated! But, 3.5 miles? That can't be right. Hike all day, downhill, to only go 3.5 miles??
Rick shrugs. “Out here, miles mean nothing. They're a human construct. The Canyon doesn't recognize human constructs.”

Anyways, that means no Shinumo Creek tonight. And this is where it's good to have Rick here, because solo, I might've gone into robot mode and made myself try to hike all the way there. The good news is we're at the Red Wall Descent, which is a Big Thing to Rick—every trip down involves this steep switchbacking down past the steep grey-red wall, always the narrowest section of all the side canyons. The trail itself is narrow and loose-rocked. One misstep and one could conceivably fall over the side! But that's not the good news. The good news is we're coming back down into the drainage proper, and back to water. We decide we'll probably camp out down there, with plenty of daylight left to maybe explore some cool-looking side canyons upstream.

After some almost major slips on both our parts, we are down in the creek bed again. Rick is beaming. 'We descended the Red Wall!' And in fact caught glimpses of the Canyon proper, and yeah, it's still a long way out to the Colorado. But at least flatter from here on.

Right here at the creek bed, the water seems to have vanished, drizzled down underground. But there are a few nice flat sandy open areas to camp, so hell yeah, we take off our packs. Rick shakes my hand, super happy, I think in part with me, that I've come this far with no problem. Which makes me happy, though I'd be happy anyway because we're sanding in a dry creek bed with huge red rock walls rising up on either side. A huge natural sandstone shell echoes us, even just normal voice level reaches it 200 yards away and 500 feet up and reflects back to us. In shade too, a relief from the hike over the hot flats, yet we have lots of sunlight still left. Warm, I'm comfortable in shorts and t-shirt. Huge contrast to last night up at Swamp Point!

While Rick sets up his tent, I head upstream to explore, bringing my notebook to write up the events of the day, and I soon find running water, with some small pools, big enough to strip down and throw some water on the ole corpse, which feels lovely. Cupping my hands, drinking water straight from the stream. Drinking water as a spiritual practice.

I sit in a last remaining sunny spot, naked, and scribble, communing with the insects: dragonflies, flies (though not a lot to be unpleasant), and butterflies. Plus some fat black bumblebees.

Rick has gone exploring too. Good to be with another person that likes to go off by himself. I don't feel obligated to stay and talk, though that is of course welcome. But I sit down to a feast of Triscuits and Tillamook Monterey jack cheese, working away at a huge chunk I've brought. Even cheese and crackers becomes a spiritual practice. In fact, every action out here becomes a spiritual practice. And for dessert, Fig Newtons! I eat until stuffed, but that's not really that much food. Rick feels this too. “Isn't it weird how while backpacking I exert way more energy than at home, but eat less and feel better.”
Still thirsty though. Drinking water all day and still this thirst. Gulping it down. My urine was clear last time I checked, so not dehydrated. Yet. Even just laying here in my sleeping bag is dehydrating. Cooling down but not too much. Perfect night to sleep out!

Still light out, but I'm beat. Sunlight reflecting on the clouds. A bumblebee buzzes by. Birds chirping. Not sure which kind. Three different kinds at least. Crickets, spring peeper frogs, and maybe goats? I swear I hear goats! But maybe they're frogs? Bigger frogs? Hard to tell, they're farther upstream and uphill, echoing off the sandstone amphitheater. A frog chorus. Going to be a wonderful star night, if I can stay awake, because now I'm laying back, hands on stomach, staring up at the canyon wall. Content. I wish someone would pay me to do this, just travel and backpack and write about it.
And my friends the bats come out, flipping around.

I doze off for a little bit but wake up somehow, with darker sky and bright half-moon. Cold. I put on my long underwear and zip up my bag. Perfect—warm, but with cool night air on my face.

Waking to bird song, sun already up, though not yet over the canyon walls. Sky already blue. Rick already taking down his tent, but now with a couple nights of experience I know that can mean maybe another hour to go, so no hurry. With another person, and actually even by myself, I go into 'hotshot mode' from my firefighting days, when the last guy to be ready in the mornings had to do pushups, so I can get all my shit together in about five minutes if necessary. Ten, with my tent.

We bid adieu to our wonderful site, with the idea we might hang out here on Friday afternoon until the north wall is in the shade, in order to hike back up in the shade. Good to have Rick here to plan these things out. I'd probably end up suffering in the sun more.

I'd thought that there would be no more water until Shinumo Creek, but the creek starts back up, so we'll have plenty on the way out. Yes, and we come across a wonderful flat rock area with a dripping waterfall and break, dunking our heads and washing our upper bodies, gulping as much water as I can. This turns out to be the last of the water as we come out of that Red Wall narrows section, and the canyon opens out into the Tonto Platform, and yep, it looks a lot like the Tonto National Forest, the Tonto Basin area. Still impressive red rock formations off to the left, but we're on the flatter ground, sidehilling over the dry creek bed, which is actually a cool narrows section, but unpassable. Or not easily passable. I suppose one could hang out an extra day here and do some exploring down in there, without a big pack. But it's hot. Ugh.

Now we have cactus, mostly prickly-pear, some with blooming flowers right now, but also some hedgehog cactii, which actually looks like spiny green penises. I swear I don't have a penis obsession. And, my old enemy catclaw! Arizona: where everything wants to bite, poke or scratch you.
And out in the hot sun. No shade. But making good time now that the trail is an actual trail and not scrambling over river rocks.

For lunch, a miracle: a small rock ledge with enough shade for two bodies. I swear there's a 30 degree difference in temperature under here. Feeling very lizard-like. I work away at the cheese chunk, getting through the first of three bags of Triscuits.

Then more desert. My mind set on Shinumo Creek. The faster we hike, the sooner we'll be to cool water, though a small miracle: a thin layer of clouds cutting off some of the sun. I still cast a shadow, but anything out here helps. But I'm a little surprised that Rick, in full Grand Canyon nerd mode, decides to take a break right at the top of a hill, right in the desert, so he can look at his map and check the names of the huge formations all around us. Normally this might be interesting, but part of me is going, 'Rick, come on, we're in the middle of a desert!' I just don't trust myself out in this heat. I feel fine, but I've had heat stress before, and it seemed to manifest suddenly, so I don't want to take my well-feeling for granted.

But, good news: We're heading downhill again, another steep descent, switchbacking over dark brown shale rock, we finally glimpse Shinumo Creek. And yes, it's a full-on creek! I am so going to dunk my head in that!

We come out into the main campground, drop our packs and get in the water. I do indeed dunk my head, gulping cool clear water and splashing it in my face standing calf-high, cooling the feet down.
I take my notebook and head upstream, feeling like a nap more than anything, that sun making me groggy, but once I'm on the trail, curiosity takes over in this side canyon, which narrows almost immediately, the trail becoming more like a game trail, and actually stopping after maybe a mile. A determined person could maybe bushwack farther, but this section of creek is deep enough to be considered a swim hole, so I'm determined to get naked and swim. In the desert, if there is a swim hole, one has almost a moral obligation to swim.

And lo, it is refreshing and lovely! Wow, that wakes me up, though I find a nice rock ledge to sit on, keeping me feet in the water, my lower pale body in the sun, getting some air and sun on the man parts. And immediately start to dose. So nice to just sit and listen to the water and relax from the day.
When I get back to the main camp, it's in shade and Rick already has his tent set up. There's a central spot with some primitive chairs and benches in a circle. I like Wilderness, but don't mind sitting on a strategically placed log to eat now and then.

Downhill breezes starting. Still plenty warm down here though. I'm sitting in the shade with my shirt off and still hot. And dry, so dry down here, which I normally love, but after being in Michigan for some years, and now Oregon, I'm not as used to it as I'd like. Can't believe I fought fires (which are like, even more hot) in this stuff.

Shadows forming on the east canyon wall. Someone named a bunch of landmarks in the area after the Arthur Legend. Guinevere and Mordred (or Modred is how it's spelled on the map) both get their own formations, as do Lancelot and Arthur. I can still look north and see huge Red Wall formations, though we're tucked in between some Tonto Platform desert hills, one of which is blocking the view south.
The sound of running water in the desert. Kind of a miracle to have all this water pouring out of the side canyon, perennially, making even a summer decent downhill thinkable.

After that hike and swim, I'm recharged. I just always need some alone time. This was sometimes difficult during fire season, and my wanting to go off by myself was seen (seemingly mostly) as me not liking whoever I was working with at the time. I just never understood how my fellow crew members could work together, sometimes 24/7 for weeks, and then spend even our R&R weekends out getting drunk together.
Anyways, now, I'm more than happy to have dinner with Rick, both of us sitting on rock and log respectively, and talking, and it's weird to have someone who actually interested in hearing what I have to say. He asks me to fill in the chapters of my life a little, since he's only gotten random glimpses. So yeah, having someone to talk to in the evening, and kind of relish the day. Someone who's been through the same adventure. Much different than my solo trips. Neither better nor worse, just different.
After dinner, with plenty o' sunlight still available, Rick takes a stroll upstream. I stay put, just tired. Want to go to sleep really, but it's too light out. I could've brought a book to read I guess, but with nothing to read, I can allow myself to just go down to the creek and do my best imitation of a crane and just stand in the water, cooling off and observing, noticing small fish jumping out of the water every once in a while, catching insects. And some mosquito-looking bugs hovering over the water, occasionally dipping down to the surface. For what? My guess is they're feeding on something, either plant matter floating down, or maybe even smaller critters I can't see. Plus a stillwater pool of tadpoles, not moving much, just floating, maybe feeling the changes coming on, the appendages starting to grow. One big one hangs out at he edge of the water, facing the dirt, as if feeling the call to crawl out of the slime.

Back in camp, the air is mercifully cooling down—no long underwear tonight! Sky dark blue, then dark. The few wispy lines of clouds now pink from the last of the sun. Moon already glowing and slightly bigger than half. Gonna be perfect for our early morning hikes. Sound of rapids from both up and downstream. And here come the bats! Git them bugs!

I lay back naked on my sleeping bag and stare up at the sky, watching for the planets, then stars.Sky clear, no clouds. A light down-canyon breeze has started up, almost warm, and in fact warmer than the cool air the was settling in here at the bottom of the creek bed. And frogs! Spring peepers to sing along with the crickets. What's missing is coyotes. I asked Rick, but he wasn't sure if there were any down here. Would be nice to hear them singing. Would be excellent if wolves could be reintroduced here!

I fall asleep easy enough, with my sleeping bag open to the waist and my arms flat out, but later wake to find myself actually chilly. Strangely though, when I stand up to urinate, the air is warm. There's just a cool bowl of air gather at the creek and up into the campsite, just close enough to be engulfed in it. I zip up the sleeping bag, thinking that will be about perfect, but no, I'm actually still chilly. Or, that is, the top of me is cold, but the bottom too warm, getting the heat from my space blanket and sleeping pad. So weirdly, in Summer in the desert, I have to put on my long underwear again, and this time unzip the sleeping bag all the way, using it as a blanket. Perfect.

Waking to bright sky and sun almost coming over the eastern mountains, which makes me think I must have slept in a long time, but no, it's only like six or six-thirty. Sad to leave Shinumo Creek and its good water. We're not sure if we'll have creek water down at the Colorado or not. That is, we can always filter, but I'd prefer creek water to River water.

We have to get up over a 700' saddle, but first, even though we were expecting it, we're surprised to come on Bass Camp, maybe because we were both expecting some kind of structure, a shack or something, but it's in fact an area under a big north-facing overhang, so perpetually in the shade. This Bass guy was one of the big explorers back in the day, and owned a ranch over on the South Rim, and had guests and customers over to this side, for hunting, and maybe just as the first tourists, but once again this shows that there was lot more traffic around here back in the day, before it it became a National Park. Ricks says that in fact the Bass family still owns a working ranch up on the South Rim. Anyways, the 'camp' still includes a collection of old tools and pieces of glass and tins, all laid out on some old benches. Like, an axe head, three different pick heads, an old stove, some pry bars, plus a bunch of old glass fragments from really old bottles. The hard thing to believe, but all the books say so, is that Bass had an orchard here, with apple, peach and fig trees, whereas all that's here now is some mesquite and cat claw, the ground just sand. Can peach trees grow in hot desert sand? But how amazing would sinking my teeth into a nice juicy peach be right now? Don't think about it, John. It's almost torture at this point.
This is the last place to fill up bottle and dunk one's head before the long hike up and over. I'm sore tempted to just stay on the trail along the Shinumo and my beloved water but Rick has promised me women in bikinis down at actual beaches. That is, he mentioned the possibility anyways. But it has become a Great Promise. He jokes that maybe we'll even encounter one of those all-women groups. Good odds! Surely one would want to rebel against all that women's empowerment energy and invite a scruffy backpacker dude into her tent. And anyways, why couldn't that be empowering?

This is a good dry run for Friday anyways, and yeah, it's hot, and yeah, it's uphill, but we're both in shape and in fact we get to the saddle in about a half hour, and lo! Thar be the mighty Colorado down below! Yes! A deep green shiny strip curling through all the red-brown and black rock on each side, with two sets of mild rapids visible, and glimpses of the beaches. So it's true.

From the saddle we think we also see where Shinumo Creek comes out, and cluster of cottonwoods anyways, and it's a ways away, more than a mile downstream, with no visible beach, so maybe that's why we've be resource managed over this way.

And a flotilla of rafts is even gathering above the top rapids! Rick and I descend, switchbacking through shale, watching the rafts take the rapids one by one.

At a fork we have to decide: One way takes us down to the main, bigger, beach right below us, where the rafters usually camp, but Rick has his eye on this other beach just below the top rapids. So, not a decision really. I sore want to just head down to the beach right below—that sand looking good, but Rick's thinking ahead, and this way we'll probably have the beach to ourselves. Though that means we won't be invited for dinner and beers by bikinied vixens, helàs.

So we hike the extra mile upstream, on a shelf about 200' up from the River, and we find a little weaving trail that weaves us down onto a beach, with bonus little overhangs for shade! I drop my pack and shed my clothes asap and head to the water. By the way, that sand is blazing hot! And by the way, the water is freezing! Like, Lake Superior freezing! No stopping now though. I get on a rock bluff, the water clear and deep, and dive.

Holyjesusfuckingshit it's COLD! Fuck! I thrash in the water (can't really call it swimming) around to the sand and crawl out. Wow, my feet and the tip of my penis are throbbing, and that last not in a good way. But, I want to actually swim a little, so I scramble upstream over some rocks and boulders and dive in again. Motheroffuckinggod!!!!. But kinda cool, though a wee bit scary, to be in the strong fast current. Would be really cool to swim all the way to the other shore, but that's just not possible here. Beside these little beach areas, the rest of the river is hemmed in by these tall rock ledges, especially on the south side.

Rick enjoys a swim. Or, a dunk. His eyes are lit up. This is it, his holy place, where all our hard work comes to fruition. Cliff walls and mountains rising up all around us, the wide green Colorado, rapids and the clear sky. I'm happy to have tagged along on this spiritual pilgrimage.

And really, we haven't actually hiked that long today, only a couple hours, so have all day here. After lunch (almost through the cheese chunk! Still good!) I immediately go into nap mode, while Rick explores upstream.This is the first real, deep, nap I've had, not sure why, but surely being on a beach on the Colorado River helps. I lay out in our shady overhang, though when I wake refreshed later my feet are in the sun. Since the river runs north at this point, the sun is gradually eating up all the shade on this side of the river, so I rearrange our stuff under a tamarisk clump. Damn that sand is hot! I head back to the water for a dip, then explore downstream, naked, keeping the feet in the water until the sand ends.
When I get back to 'our' beach, Rick is just returning from find another beach farther up, above the rapids, so I decide to head up and give him time to nap or whatever. This time I put on some clothes, just my boxer briefs and a t-shirt, plus my huaraches for the hot sand and rock, and work my way slowly upstream.

Two other guys are on a beach across the water, above the rapids, hanging out standing in the water, because I assume their sand is just as scorching. And here comes another flotilla of rafts! Multiple groups seemingly, the first all stopping off to talk with the two guys, so I assume they know each other. Then these HUGE rafts from another company come through. They're long already, like long as a bus, but with long white inflatable tubes tied to the sides, raising the people straddled on them up above the water so they're feet don't even get wet. I guess this is considered a good thing? The raft is steered by an company guide in back, using an outboard motor! The passengers aren't even paddling! That seems like cheating! But the next company's rafts, though without the huge side tubes, are the same, the passengers/customers just sitting there while the guide steers. And, worst of all, dammit, the women are all wearing wetsuits! WTF?! What kind of rafting experience is this?

Anyways, I wave, and they wave back. What must they think seeing us backpackers?

A third groups comes by, in way smaller rats—not outfitter guides but a private group. Two people to a raft, the men paddling from a high seat in the middle, each with a young woman sitting on the bow like a hood ornament. The last two rafts actually bump into each other and one guy, instead of steering, lets go of one paddle and reaches frantically for a beer that has apparently tipped over. Priorities man, priorities.

None of the groups stops at the beach below us though, so besides the two guys upstream, we're still alone, and damn is that sun blazing. The sand painful. No shade. Rick tries to hide in the tamarisk, “like a ringtail cat”, but I take my chances in the water, sitting naked with legs and butt in an almost tidepool area where the water isn't so freezing, though I watch my sun intake. Don't want to get sunburned shoulders and have to carry a backpack!

So, too hot to go wandering around. I just sit and think, and sing some Dylan tunes, and eventually scribble in my notebook. Rick reads. Huge gusts of wind come through, blowing sand in our faces. I decide to clothe up, except, no! The Colorado has taken a sacrifice! My boxer briefs have vanished! Blown off a rock with one of those sandy gusts, apparently. Aw. I was fond of that pair. Fortunately I have one extra, though any more and I'll be freeballing. I'm not even sure my cargo shorts are going to survive the trip, all torn up, pockets falling off and the crotch torn wide open. I mean, they may make it, but just end up in the garbage of my hotel room in Kanab.

The shade from the mountain tip across the river gradually inches across, and when it finally covers us, there's an immediate difference. The wind even gets cooler. Surprisingly, the sand instantly cools. Still warm, but walkable.

Rick filters some water, and it's.....not quite nasty, but with some fuel-like aftertaste. Drinkable, but I'm looking forward to getting back to Shinumo tomorrow. I should've brought more with me. Ah well.
After dinner, Rick suggests we take a walk down to the lower main beach. He has a river guide friend who may (probably) be stopping with a group there tomorrow or the day after (a fact we only learned about after I'd bought my non-refundable plane ticket to Salt Lake City) and wants to at least leave him a note.
Still plenty of sunshine though the whole Canyon is now in shade. We hike up and over, but realize there actually is a group—there are two lower beaches, the main one actually around the river bend from us. So we decide to not go down. If it were earlier in the day maybe, but I know I'd feel weird if someone suddenly showed up at my campsite in the evening. But we do spy on them a little with Rick's binos. Mellow crowd, no drum circles or guitars. The customers setting up their tents and the guides drinking beer. But as we turn around, they start blaring Jimi Hendrix. So, some decadence.

For my sleeping spot I find a flat sandy spot out on a rock outcropping close to the water, with a view of the rapids, and the sound of them. No sleeping pad necessary, just soft sand. Same set up: long underwear with the sleeping bag more as a blanket. The air is cooling fast, with a mere light breeze—no sand in face, but keeps bugs off (if any). Most comfortable I've been all trip. Just lay back and look at the stars and bats flying around all night.

In the morning, the river level is down almost two feet! The engineers up at Glen Canyon Dam must have been letting water out of all day yesterday, because no matter how mighty the Colorado appears here, its flow is actually regulated, and cold because it comes out the bottom of the dam, from the bottom of “Lake” Powell.

To start the day I naked cannonball into the water! Woo! Still COLD!

At one point early in the morning I saw the lights of the guys across the water, packing up for an early start. Gone now, just me and Rick scribbling in our notebooks. The rafters downstream probably having pancakes with real maple syrup. Bastards.

Rick is in no hurry to leave, enjoying the shade here while it lasts, just leaning against the rock wall and scribbling away all morning. I scribble some, but also poke around the rocks and take a wonderful morning nap next to the rapids. Also, and this might horrify Rick (and others) if he knew, I divest myself of some food, making offerings to the river. A half bag of Raisin Bran, all the rest of my Triscuits and some of my peanuts, stuff I know I'm not going to want to eat, just taking up room and weight in my pack, all into the river for the fishes. Now that Thursday is here (already!) and I can envision the trip out, and continuing with the idea that the more time I spend out in the wild, the less I really need to eat, I can pretty much envision what I'll need for tonight and tomorrow. Saturday I can do without since we'll be getting to the truck in the morning. Perhaps I'm being hasty, but feels good to get rid of some pounds. Later Rick will sheepishly confess to doing the same thing!

Before leaving Lost underwear Beach, Rick suggests we go up to watch the rapids and any rafters coming down. I agree. Even though we'll be in the sun, as least we'll be active, and I'm feeling a bit sluggish just sitting around (no book!). We scramble over the rock outcroppings and I have to say, Rick is a nimble guy of 56, almost running over them. He's just really energized down here.

No rafters show, but we chat a bit, sitting on a rock shelf, until the sun just gets hot. Rick didn't bring a hat, and I point out to him that his face is getting lobster-like. He again almost runs back across the rocks. I try to keep up, but that, my sluggishness, and I think the soles of huaraches getting worn down to flat rubber, all combine to cause me to slip and fall backwards.

I of course instinctively shoot my right hand back to catch my fall (why that instinct? It's almost always a bad idea) and come down hard, thinking, 'Oh shit, I've just sprained my wrist.'

I stand and hold it out: Yep, already some swelling, and a couple small nasty scratches, but I can move all the fingers and rotate the hand, so ok, whew, that was close. Hiking out with a sprained wrist would really suck. Mentally I guess I've already kind of been thinking of this trip as done, since we're 'just' retracing our steps, but this is my reminder to stay mindful for the next two days.

As a precaution, I stick my arm in the river when I get back to the beach, and that seems to calm the throbbing. The sun heats up the canyon, the winds pick up, blowing sand. Rick takes a last dip. I'm content to just dunk my head and soak my floppy hat and t-shirt for the hike out. The air is so dry though that by the time we get to the lower beach, a mile maybe, my t-shirt is completely dry, and I soak it all over again. The rafters are long gone. Rick leaves his note tied to a low-hanging tree brach, including a request to look for my underwear, which I'm sure will be honored. Or mocked.

And now the return trip begins. We head up to the saddle. Hot, but doable. Rick close behind me. Helps knowing we're not going that far today, just back to our site at Shinumo Creek. At the saddle, I take off my pack for a break, the hike all the way out of here becoming a little more feasible in my mind.
Rick drops pack and grabs his binos and map. “Let's see what's downriver!” With a smile, he heads up the south rise of the saddle. Ugh. Canyon nerd. I'm just not interested in any extra exploring in this sun. I just hear Shinumo Creek calling. So I pass, which is dumb since the just means I'm sitting here in the sun and wind while I wait. I should just say I'll meet him down at Bass Camp, but I'd feel weird leaving him out here by himself, even though I know he'd be fine. So I do the best I can, wildland firefighter mode, turning my back to the sun and slouching against my pack, trying to take a catnap.

He comes back and I'm kind of grumpy and just throw on my pack and go, but I'm actually ok, not feeling any heat stress or anything, and it's downhill to water now! The Shinumo a lovely site to see down on the left. Back at Bass Camp, Rick apologizes for leaving me in the hot windy saddle and I apologize and say it's all good, and it is. I go down to the creek and plunge my whole head in. Woo! Not freezing ass cold like the Colorado, just pleasantly cool.

We hang out at Bass Camp a bit, and have 'lunch' though with the heat, neither of us is that hungry. We nap, then decide to get on to our destination.

The way back is different from the way down. There's basically a trail on either side of the creek the whole way, and come to a large overhang facing north, so is in perpetual shade. Rick decides to stay and hang out here. I press on, both knowing the other will be fine, but to my surprise, soon after I come upon two humans sitting on a shady boulder ! I remember humans! I used to resemble them somehow.

I let Rick know, just in case he was about to get naked or something, and head up to say hello. Bruce and Paula, a couple from Yuma, AZ (speaking of hot!). Bruce is a little older than Rick. Paula might be my age or a little older, and in great shape. Rick comes up and is more inclined to talk, since these they're Canyon pilgrims like him, Paula maybe more than Rick even (didn't think that was possible!). I'm not sure if they want to chat or be left alone, but we surreptitiously inform each other where we'll be camped, so as not to seem like dicks if the other group had planned on that spot. Turns out they came down the day after us, and made it to Bass Camp today, but after a little bit of that 700' uphill, decided to just hang out here. Neither one seems to like the Colorado and its blowing wind as much as Rick. Bruce and Paula are heading out tomorrow too, with the same plan of starting early, though they're going to spend the night at that Red Wall area, and then do a long hike out on Saturday. So, we may or may not run into them, maybe in the Red Wall area in the afternoon as we wait for the shade.

I take my leave, but Rick stays on, picking their brains about other trails, and in general enjoying having someone new to talk to, maybe after my minimalist conversation, but when I arrive at our previous spot on Shinumo, he's right behind me. We hang out at Shinumo, waiting for the shade to hit the camp sites. Again, I wish I'd brought a book.
I nibble on some peanuts and raisins, still not really hungry. But still trying to drink a lot of water. Really we only hiked about an hour and a half, total.
I retire early and set up my sleeping stuff, and just scribble away. Tonight feels cooler than two nights ago, cool light breeze, but I lay out naked and am comfortable.

Sound of water, wind through cottonwood leaves, crickets, peeping birds and frogs. And bats!

Deep sleep, waking up with the full moon, dozing, waiting for Rick to get up, though later Rick says it set at about one o'clock, so I must have slept more than I thought. Anyways, I finally see Rick's headlamp. It's early, I'm trying not to think about how early, but I'm fairly awake. Just like my firefighting days! Knowing I'll have a full day of physical exertion ahead of me.

Rick breaks camp pretty quickly, still fitting in his morning coffee. Moonlight behind the west hills, first twinges of sun to the east, and the stars so bright we hardly use our lights at all. And yes, so much better hiking up these steep switchbacks in the cool air! Full sun it would be brutal. Paula And Bruce's lights way below us, still breaking camp, meaning they'll be doing this in the sun! Yipes! But they're not going as far today.

Feels like we hike only a couple hours until we're almost to the Red Wall section, but Rick checks his watch and it's 8:30! We've been hiking four hours!

The trail seems, is, new: Sometimes we see our prints, but other times I feel like we've come a completely different route. And in the shade the whole time. Amazing actually, and I'm so glad Rick had us do it this way. I don't even break a real sweat the whole way, just my back against the pack. In the sun this would've taken us way longer, and I would have drank twice as much water.

Speaking of water, I am so looking forward to our Shower Grotto when we get into the Red Wall section, but the creek has definitely dried up a bit, and though I'm looking, we just somehow miss it. By the time we realize, we're almost back to our previous campsite. Too far to turn back. Alas.

That said, good to be back in the Red Wall section. We stumble upon a north-facing rock cliff area that's therefore in perpetual shade, and with the sun now up high and blazing down, and both almost automatically agree that we'll hole up here for the duration. Not the most comfortable ground, basically all river rocks, but I sit my sleeping pad, lean over on my pack, and promptly fall asleep.

Unfortunately, flies discover, and bother, me. Rick stays up and scribbles a bit, we have 'lunch' and I make a dent in my last bag of Raisin Bran. That, plus some peanuts and Fig Newtons are all I have left. And all I need. This time tomorrow we'll be drinking a milkshake at Jacob's Lake store!

But yes, Wednesday at the Colorado was not the end of the trip—this is proving to be just as much of an adventure. Rick took a spill on the hike this morning and scratched up his right hand and knee, so I think we both gotta be mindful of where we're at now, rather than looking ahead. I do get restless just sitting here, but when I take a walk up-canyon to take care of business, the air is HOT. Better to stay in the shade and scribble, though Rick goes up to filter some water from up above the Red Wall campsite. Probably a good idea, so as not to bug Paula and Bruce when/if they get up here later. All we can do is wait for the shade to hit the west wall, then scoot up and try and make it to the next water.

Finally around three o'clock we attempt the Red Wall Ascent. It's steep. Like, I'm kinda amazed I got down without falling. I'm using both ands for grabbing brush and rocks. I can't even figure out where the hell we came down. We're heading right for the base of a straight-up-and-down red wall which, from here, appears to have no space underneath. Crazy. But when we get there the trail is wide enough to not feel super scared.

But yes, ascent completed! And all basically in the shade. Now onto a section of more level trail over the Supai section, red sandstone and sandy trail, up and down hills in the piñon/juniper, which takes longer than I remember. Memory is about useless here, which makes me wonder how accurate it is in Real Life, but we press on, wanting to meet back up with the water of White Creek. I catch glimpses of it down off to the right, and hear frogs burping. We're both ragged—this was longer than we counted on. Still, we can see Mauve Saddle! The end is neigh! And looking back at all we've covered just today, tomorrow will be nothing.

Finally, the trail joins back up with the creek. More overgrown than I remember, but again, memory: useless. Still, I thought I remembered a small side ravine near this spot, with some good flat slickrock to camp on, but no. Instead, we come to Rick's beloved pondo rising up out of the (now dry) creek bed, and with some exploring, we find two different spots each of us can squeeze in on. I break out the last of my food: Fig Newtons done and peanuts. Again, maybe our most strenuous day, and I've consumed the least amount of food.

The air cooling off real quick up here. A light downslope breeze. Gonna have to bundle up again. Man, I'm beat. Not going to stay up very long. We have another fairly early wake-up tomorrow.
Buzzed by a hummingbird. Crickets chirping. A few birds also chirping. Wind way up on Powell and Swamp Points. A few flies. And a bee. Almost bat time. Rick's whipping up something wonderful smelling for dinner, probably only Raman noodles but damn a hot meal doesn't sound nice. Soon, John, soon. First, sleep....

Right under the pondo, with two boulders to my back and manzanita and some scrub oak surrounding me on this little island. Laying on my back, looking up, with the stars beyond, almost exactly like Georgia O'Keefe's The Lawrence Tree.

And I sleep hard, barely registering the now full moon, and waken only briefly from the now chillier air, but we get up and going only a little later than yesterday morning. Rick says goodbye to his beloved pondo. We eventually hit water again, noticeably lower. Mauve Saddle, compared to what we hiked yesterday, looks like nothing. And we again have the whole valley in shade as we separate from the creek and start the steeper part of the climb, the zigzagging up through the manzanita and scrub oak. Soon, quite soon, we're back up at Mauve Canyon! Taking another break, the sun just finds us at the old cabin. I just want to get up and git'er over with, but I can tell Rick is savoring his last views of the canyon, and in fact seems a little melancholy to be leaving. This last leg is maybe the steepest of the morning really, but though we're both weary, we're both also thinking about being done, and in fact maybe mentally done, the last goodbye seemed really back at the cabin for Rick.

And there it is! The trailhead! I get up onto Swamp Point and almost want to cry. Challenging physical exertions seem to do that to me lately, but also just a little wistful at how beautiful the Canyon is, and especially this side canyon. At last, finally, I've gone down inside the Grand Canyon! And lived to tell the tale!

huarache report
My Luna Leadvilles, and feet survived. The soles have been worn smooth at points. Although I liked the versatility of the ATS laces, the ability to slip the huaraches off quickly, I found myself wanting a more sturdy lacing system, something that would have prevented my feet sliding all over when the rubber got wet. Perhaps with a strap over the toes and another over the top of the foot. Still, my big fear was that the rocks, and just all that hiking, would wear out the lace on the underside of the sole. There was some friction, some fraying, but only a little. A leather lace probably would have made them even more slippery when wet.

And even though the thickness of the rubber was fine, and in fact ideal for how rocky parts of the trail were, I'm glad that my feet were already used to them, and strong from years of barefoot running. I wouldn't recommend this trail with a beginner to huarache wearing. Anything thinner would have been at little too rough even on my feets, especially over the rocks in the dry creek beds. Even Rick was impressed, and I inspired him to use his Tevas for day-hiking, rather than just for around camp. So nice to have the feet open to air and sun, though another concern was sunburn, and I did lather sunscreen on them at the beginning each day.

[Note: more photos may be to come!]