Search This Blog

Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park.

A place I would like to revisit for some longer trail runs is Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.  When we camped there in January, 1986, in the middle of winter, we had the place to ourselves.  It was so cold, the National Parks Service wasn't even bothering to collect fees.  We were running the Las Vegas Marathon a few days later, so were in the taper phase and I limited myself to a 10.5 mile circuit from the deserted campground.  It was, however, a memorable run to this day.

The view from the Frying Pan Trail.

I set out soon after 8am on a clear morning in sub-freezing temperatures, but soon warmed up on the Cohab Canyon Trail which zig-zagged up 100m in the first 500m, and then continued climbing to the Frying Pan Trail and the rocky heights at nearly 2000m altitude.  The views across the rocky, canyon-laced, plateau in the clear cold air were fantastic.  In many places I was more or less running cross country on rock slabs, soaking up the vistas, and savouring that feeling of being the only person on earth in this superb country.

The Grand Wash Trail.

After about 7km I joined the sandy Grand Wash Trail which followed a dry creek bed at the bottom of a sometimes narrow canyon, dominated by towering rocky walls.  Around 10km, I joined a park road in the Fremont River valley and followed that back to near the campground before rejoining the Cohab Canyon Trail for a short sharp climb over a knoll and back down to the campground.  It was only 10.5 miles, but because I was in the taper phase, I was feeling fresh and strong and that may explain why the run lives in my memory as such an enjoyable experience.

Cohab Canyon.

There are longer trails in Capitol Reef National Park and I look forward to returning there one day to check them out.

For today, I ran 10km, and although I laboured early until my Achilles tendon warmed up, I felt stronger than expected two days after a long trail run.  My time was quickish for this regular garbage run, despite getting struggling a bit on the climb up Avoca steps near the end, so I was happy.

A long but good day

Setting out from Congewai.

Yesterday's Terrigal Trotters run along a section of The Great North Walk explains a lot about why I enjoy trail running.  It was a day that highlighted all of the positive aspects.

Firstly, there were the ominous weather forecasts for cold wet and windy conditions for the 33km run from Congewai to Cedar Brush.  None of the thirty-five booked runners cancelled because of the adverse forecast and there was keen anticipation of battling the elements on the bus as we drove the ninety minutes to the Congewai trackhead.  However, the bad weather was clearing by the time we started running and we ended up enjoyed the best running conditions imaginable - cool, breezy on the higher ridges, low humidity, and sun-dappled tranquil rainforest glens.  It was a pleasure to be alive as we made our way southwards.

Running the forest trails.

The runners each ran their own run, with some choosing to see how fast they could go, others just cruising along with friends, and some taking it easy and stopping for photographs and views.  Trail-running, better than most sports, offers the chance to do your own thing, sharing the joys with others, but not having to do it the same way.

Adventures are almost guaranteed, whether it's missing a turn, taking a tumble, or encountering a snake, and we had all of those yesterday, some more dramatic than others, but all when least expected.  The adventure was compounded by the remoteness, and the lack of mobile phone coverage at the Cedar Brush trackhead meant we were left guessing about the fate of runners who failed to arrive as expected.  Anxiety was replaced with relief and mirth when the runners were found and their misadventures recounted.  The range of emotions experienced during trail running explains much of its appeal.

Traversing Watagan Creek

Finally, we all enjoyed the post-run camaraderie, lounging in the sun in a beautiful little valley, eating and drinking, analysing and discussing our respective adventures, and cheering each runner as they finished.  It may have been a long day, but it was a good day.

Post-run relaxation.

My own run went fine, not that much slower than last year's time on the same course, and very comfortable. My only real problems were the chronic right knee and Achilles tendon injuries that were giving me quite a lot of pain by the end.  I think trail running exacerbates these injuries, but I'm more than willing to accept the trade-off.

For today, I walked an easy 5km around Copa, and didn't feel too tired or stiff, apart from the tendon still being a little painful.  I'm already looking forward to our next Club trail run in three weeks time.