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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