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Friday, June 13, 2014

South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon



I have been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for a long time, but when we took a family sight-seeing trip there this spring break it became less "I want to" and more "I'm going to". Well, last weekend I did it - my brother and I hiked down, and then back up, the South Kaibab Trail, in the same day. It was an awesome experience. Some thoughts below, in no particular order:
  • The vastness and the beauty of the Grand Canyon is un-explainable. Pictures don't do it justice - it's one of those things that you need to see with your own eyes.
  • It was 38 degrees at the south rim at 4:45 am, and over 100 degrees at the bottom (the high at Phantom Ranch was 106 that afternoon). That's a huge temperature swing - if I do this hike again next year it'll be in May or even April.
  • The hike has 4 different sections - Rim to Cedar Ridge; Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point; Skeleton Point to Junction / Tip-Off; and Tip-Off to Bridge​ / Canyon Floor​. Each section is similar to hiking Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak in Phoenix.
  • The trail is well-maintained, so the hike isn't technically difficult, but it is a long, long, steep, staircase-type of climb. Did I mention it was long? Going down, on the other hand, was surprisingly easy; we got to the bottom without exerting too much energy.
  • The approach to the canyon is unlike any other climb you'll do. There isn't any anticipation factor from seeing the mountain in the distance, which keeps getting bigger as you get closer. With the Grand Canyon, you're driving across a desert plateau, and then suddenly the earth simply ends - and you're there.
  • The sense of accomplishment is more pronounced then most other hikes as well, because you can see the trail below you (and where you just were not too long ago) very clearly. It's amazing how fast you ascend, yet also how long it takes.
  • As for training, I did a lot of trail running, for 60-90 minutes at a time, on and around the local mountains and preserves. Next year I will incorporate the revolving staircase in the gym into my training as well.

Photos

South Kaibab Trailhead, 5:10am



South Rim at dawn. (the smoke in the canyon is from a wildfire burning on the North Rim.)



An eagle soars over the canyon at sunrise



Early in the hike. (I can tell because we still look fresh and clean!)



After crossing the black suspension bridge



Cooling off in the Colorado River. (the water was very cold!)



Finished! The ice-cold Coke and turkey sandwich waiting for me at the car never tasted so good.



If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, go. It's a must see. And even if you're not up for hiking down to the bottom (and back up), it's worth the effort to hike down 30 minutes or so - the views are spectacular.

-Chris Butterworth

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

youth soccer tryouts and placements

It's that time of year again...

For the families of kids who play competitive soccer, this is one of the most stressful weeks of the year (at least here in AZ). Our little Peles or Mia Hamms have gone through tryouts, and now we're waiting the results, with far more questions than answers:
  • What team will my son play on? Did he make the "A" team, or will he get relegated to the "B" team?
  • How about his friends from last year's team - where will they end up?
  • Who will be coaching this year?

Then, as word starts getting out and parents start talking to each other, the gossip really flies:
  • Did you hear about that family we all really like - they won't be on our team next year.
  • I heard that family nobody likes might be on our team this year.
  • ​So and so told me about what's his name who is moving to a different club this year - good for them. I hope they find a better situation.
  • Gabby Gossip told me we're getting a player from that other club, and he was asked to leave that club because his parents yelled at the coach.
  • There's another family moving clubs - bunch of idiots think the grass is going to be greener over there?!

On one hand, this is completely ridiculous. The kids care about who's on their team and who their coach is, sure. But really they just want to go out and play soccer. The parents, on the other hand, sometimes care a little (or a lot) too much. We can get so over the top about the whole thing that the season becomes un-fun.

I do understand it to a certain extent - you're spending a lot of money for your child to play competitive sports, so it makes sense that you want your child to be on the most competitive team possible. Your family also has at least a little competitive streak, or you wouldn't be here in the first place. So year, I get it - you're competitive and you want what's best for your child. But even so, let's try to keep things in perspective, shall we?

Overall I'm happy with Jason's club and team, and I love watching him play. We're looking forward to a great season come fall...


photo credit: 4DsCreativeSolutions



-Chris Butterworth

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

facing monsters on the trail

This post could alternatively be titled, "more reasons exercising outside is better."

So this weekend, Easter Sunday morning, I'm running along, minding my own business, when this "little" guy scampered over a couple rocks before eyeing me suspiciously.

chuckwalla lizard in thunderbird conservation park - glendale az

Wow! A Gila Monster?! (The only poisonous reptile in the United States!) Seeing him move that fast was enough to make me jump to the side of the trail (and out of my skin a little bit!) But I've never heard of a gila monster with solid markings, so I had to look him up later..

Turns out he's a Chuckwalla - a big lizard none-the-less, but completely harmless to humans.

Oh well, that was still pretty cool. Here's a picture zoomed out, so you can see the scale/size more clearly:

chuckwalla lizard in thunderbird conservation park - glendale az


Then it was back to the trail.

I ran Thunderbird Conservation Park, in what turned out to be my longest mountain-trail run ever. (not long by most runners' standards, but it was my PR.) I parked by the amphitheater and started east along the Coach Whip trail (which runs along 59th Ave), then I crossed the bridge and jogged up H2 (Arrowhead Point). After descending H2, I crossed back over the bridge and ran the H3 Summit (Cholla Loop), which took me around the mountain and brought me back to my car.

The views from both peaks are outstanding - panoramic views of the Valley. Either trail makes for a worthwhile hike (or run), but doing them on the same trek felt great.

Thunderbird Park - H2 Peak taken from H3 Peak
a view of Arrowhead Point and the H2 trail, taken from the top of the H3 Summit.

Arrowhead, Glendale, and Phoenix, all the way to the Estrella Mountains, from the top of H3 Summit.

When it was all said and done, I spent an hour and change enjoying the blue skies and warm sun. I saw a chuckwalla up close, soaked in some terrific views, met a few other hikers and runners (and a mountain biker), and felt good about what I had done.

My RunKeeper app says I climbed 1,159 vertical feet over the course of 4.79 miles, at an average pace of 13:55 per mile. (that includes stopping to take pictures and chat a little bit.) Overall, that was a great trail run - one I expect I'll come back to many more times.

What's the coolest &/or scariest thing you've ever encountered while out in nature?

-Chris Butterworth

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Friday, April 18, 2014

how to be a friend to somebody with autism

April is Autism Awareness Month, so let's talk a little autism.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now estimates that as many as 1 in 50 children being born in the United States today will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. 1 out of every 50. That means you probably know somebody with autism. It means your kids most likely have a classmate with autism. It means autism is becoming more routine.

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean those with autism are being treated well. Or even that it's easy to make friends with them. But we, as a whole, need to do better; we need to try harder. And part of that comes from knowledge, understanding, and awareness.

Angela Haupt wrote an article for US News & World Report titled "How to be a Friend to Someone with Autism". It's a good article - definitely worth reading. Her take-aways are highlighted below (with my comments after each bulletpoint):

  • Don't assume he or she doesn't value friendship. He probably does, but making new friends can be a daunting task for someone with autism.
  • Be patient. It might take awhile to develop a relationship - that's ok.
  • Communicate clearly. Slang, nuances, and body language can be hard to understand.
  • Make plans (together). Everybody likes being included and feeling part of a group, autistic or not.
  • Respect sensory differences. Bright lights, loud noises, itchy long sleeve shirts - if they bother them, they bother them. Don't try to downplay it or figure out why - it won't make sense to you, but it's real to them.
  • Don't treat people with autism like a project. Don't pity them, and don't try to change them; just get to know them.
  • Stand up for your autistic friend. Bullying is common for those with autism; having a friend can make a huge difference.

That's a pretty good list. Maybe not all-encompassing, but it's a good place to start.

On a Personal Note

My oldest son has autism, and while he doesn't have a lot of friends, he very much enjoys the friends he has. Here are some pictures from this spring:

Ran into a long-time friend (also with autism) at a play presented for children with special needs.


At the Renaissance Fair with cousins


Sometimes it's just a boy and his dog.


This series is one of my favorites - doing a workout routine with his brother at the park over spring break. "Anything you can do I can do, too."




 




Thanks for reading.

- Chris Butterworth

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

finding the right path

There are so many different types of exercise available, how do you know which is the right one?

Weight lifting? Aerobic exercise? Cross training?

Long workouts, where you have to pace yourself? Or shorter, more intense workouts? And what about frequency - is everyday too much? Is once a week enough?

I've always been a jack of all workouts, master of none. I played every sport growing up, and I've cycled through various workouts as an adult. I never found the one that I loved, and I always felt like I was missing out on something when I focused on something else. I was a good short-distance runner when I was younger (I once ran a 5:04 mile when I was 14), but I always hated running.

Earlier this spring I ran a charity 5k race, where I bumped into an old friend. We ended up running together, at a fairly slow pace, and had a great time. I don't remember ever having enjoyed a run quite that much. The whole experience left me wanting more - I wanted to run more, and to enjoy running more - and I think a slower pace was the key.

Once I decided running was a path I wanted to follow, I began building up my mileage. At first I could only run a couple miles at a time, but over the course of the spring I increased it, a little bit each week, until I was able to run 6 miles without too much difficulty. (still at a slow pace, but also still enjoyable.)

The next question was, "Where?" Literally, what path should I run? And then I found it. Imagine waking up to this desert scenery:

Running through the desert preserve north of Loop 101 and east of Cave Creek Rd in Phoenix, at dawn.



The desert ends at a large soccer complex (Reach 11), with beautiful green fields.



My lone footprints across fresh dew on the fields.



Running back through the desert I'm treated to an awesome sunrise.



Yeah, choosing the right path of fitness can be the difference between success and failure. And choosing the right path for your fitness can lead to even more enjoyment.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

new blog old blog

This blog has been named FitnessGazette.net for a couple years, dedicated entirely to health and fitness. Now I'm expanding its focus; I'll still talk about health and fitness, but I'll also talk about other interests, and I'm moving the site back home to ChrisButterworth.blogspot.com.

This post is a label-holder.