Couch to 14K, Part 3: Selecting your first mountain to climb

Mount Evans.

Mount Evans.

OK, in Part 1 of Couch to 14K, we covered fitness, and in Part 2 we covered gear. Now we’re going to get into the thick of things in Part 3: selecting the mountain and the route you plan to take.

There are a ton of factors to consider here, and much of it depends on you. Do you want to try a mountain ascent close to a Front Range city, or do you mind driving a bit? What type of experience do you have on other mountains? Are you a rock climber? An East Coast peak bagger? Or a total newbie?

Whatever the case, there are some things you should know about the 14ers. None of them are “easy,” particularly for those coming from lower elevations. They’re all hard in their own way. It’s just some are easier than others. What makes them a challenge is the length of the routes (expect to hike several miles up steep terrain) and the altitude. So even if you’re pretty good at tagging those Appalachian summits, or if you have a lot of time on the rock, you might consider one of the “easier” 14ers for your first, just so you know what the altitude above treeline feels like.

A few preliminaries: Let’s talk about route classification. A route’s difficulty is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest and and 5 being the hardest. Here are some descriptions:

Class 1: Well-marked and maintained trail, moderate steepness.

Class 2: More difficult but still established trail; might include some “off-trail” obstacles and steeper, rockier hiking.

Class 3: Scrambling. Will require you to use your hands to ascend, some route-finding. Hiking gives way to climbing with readily available handholds and footholds. Generally unroped.

Class 4: Climbing. You’ll need your hands to ascend, and expect steeper terrain than Class 3, plus fewer obvious handholds and footholds. Generally unroped, but some people use ropes to help ascend and descend.

Class 5: Technical rock climbing. Near vertical, vertical, or overhanging. Use of ropes and climbing safety equipment is required.

OK, so we have that out of the way. If you’re looking for your first 14er ascent, I’d recommend looking at the standard routes on peaks rated Class 1 or Class 2. There are a whole lot of them, some close to Denver or Colorado Springs, some more remote.

CLOSE TO DENVER

The 14ers close to Denver are going to be more popular because of their proximity to the state’s largest city and relative ease of access. If you go on a weekend (or even a weekday in the summer), you can expect to see a lot of people on the trail. Some suggestions:

Mount Evans: Quick drive from Denver with easy access from I-70. The road to Summit Lake will take you to a couple of trailheads. I enjoyed the Spaulding to Evans traverse. Class 2, with some really great views of the Sawtooth Ridge and Mount Bierstadt. About 4 miles round trip.

Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge.

Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge.

Mount Bierstadt: Another peak that people often get their first 14er experience. Wide-open vistas with killer summit views, and a panorama of the Sawtooth Ridge that is one of Colorado’s signature alpine scenes. Expect crowds, but still a good time. Class 2, about 6.5 miles round trip.

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak: Also popular Front Range peaks, hikers often climb them in tandem. If you hit these peaks early enough in the summer, dramatic snow-filled gullies on Torreys make for an impressive scene. The standard route up Torreys is Class 2, and the connecting ridge and route on Grays is Class 1. Again, expect crowds on weekends. If you do just one of the peaks, your round trip is about 7 miles; add 2 more if you do both peaks in one day.

Quandary Peak: Near Breckenridge, Quandary Peak’s standard route is a scenic 7.5-mile round-trip Class 1 hike along the mountain’s signature east ridge. The summit views of the Tenmile Range, particularly with snow present, are incredible. The crowds? Well, see above. Make it a weekday ascent to maximize solitude, and be on the lookout for mountain goats.

CLOSE TO COLORADO SPRINGS

You’ll have similar issues in terms of crowds, though you’ll need to drive deeper into the mountains to get to most of these. That will help thin the crowds somewhat, but weekday ascents will allow for more solitude.

Pikes Peak: I hesitated putting this down as a first-time 14er, as the standard route up the Barr Trail is very long – 26 miles round trip. But its proximity to Colorado Springs, the quality of the trail and the fact that a lot of people do this as their first made it easier for me to put it on the list. Pikes Peak also has huge elevation gain – about 7,500 feet, which compared to the other peaks I’ve listed is significantly greater (other 14ers mentioned so far have elevation gain of between 2,000 and 3,000 feet). But sweeping summit views, donuts at the summit (there’s a shop up there) and tagging the state’s most famous summit has to count for something. The Barr Trail is Class 1.

Huron Peak.

Huron Peak.

Huron Peak: Our first entry from the Sawatch Range, Huron Peak (near Buena Vista) is a relatively short ascent (7 miles round trip), but packs a huge punch in scenery. Many peak baggers say it has the finest views in the Sawatch Range, and summit view of the nearby Three Apostles make that a strong argument. The route is Class 2 with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain; if you do not have 4-wheel drive, the route length is a couple of miles longer. Personally, this is my top recommendation for a first 14er ascent.

Mount Elbert: Why not make your first 14er also the state’s highest? Mount Elbert is Colorado’s high point and the second-highest peak in the lower 48 states. Easy access from Leadville, camping at the trailhead and awesome views of Twin Lakes and another Sawatch giant, Mount Massive. Class 1, with 4,700 feet of elevation gain and 9 miles round trip.

Mount Yale: Another one of those Sawatch monsters, Mount Yale has quick access from Buena Vista with camping close to the trailhead. Of the peaks I’ve listed here, Mount Yale is probably the steepest. It also has a fun boulder-hopping finish along the summit ridge and incredible views of nearby Mount Princeton, Mount Columbia, Mount Antero and Mount Harvard. As is typical of the Sawatch, Yale has a lot of elevation gain – 4,300 feet, with 9.5 miles round trip from the Denney Creek trailhead. It’s rated Class 2.

MORE REMOTE

The deeper in the mountains you go, the fewer people you’ll see. Do one of the more remote peaks on a weekday, and you’ll see even less. There are too many of these to list, but the one I picked is one of my favorites.

Uncompahgre Peak.

Uncompahgre Peak.

Uncompahgre Peak: Deeper in the San Juan Range near Lake City, this dramatic mountain has all the wildness you’d expect from this alpine wilderness. The standard route takes you up a mellow pitch that runs right up the edge of dramatic cliffs and amazing views of neighboring 14ers and 13ers too numerous to mention, but the skyline of Wetterhorn Peak stands out. It’s Class 1 until you get closer to the summit, where some steep Class 2 switchbacks take you to a series of rocky gullies that don’t quite hit Class 3 difficulty. Pass through those and it’s an easier hike to the peak’s expansive summit plateau. Though the route is not exposed, you can get up close and personal with cliffs that drop 700 feet or more.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

As I’ve mentioned before, some of these mountains get a lot of traffic. To minimize that, pick a weekday to do your ascent, and avoid popular holidays. Also, the more remote you go, the more solitude you get. There are a lot of other mountains that are perfect for beginners (all of the Mosquito Range 14ers come to mind, as do some of the more remote Class 1 and 2 San Juans peaks), but this list gives you a range of options depending on the time you have available, the type of vehicle you drive (4-wheel drive helps in many areas) and your fitness level.

Do your research, pick a time to go and immerse yourself in one of these amazing peaks.

In the fourth and last installment of Couch to 14K, we’ll go over the really important stuff – what to do and what to watch for while you’re on the mountain. See you then!

Bob Doucette

Couch to 14K: Getting geared up for a 14er ascent

The right type of gear can make the difference between a successful ascent or a pretty bad day.

The right type of gear can make the difference between a successful ascent or a pretty bad day.

In my last Couch to 14K post, I went over some things you could do to get properly conditioned for your first attempt at a 14,000-foot mountain ascent.

Today, the topic is gear. We’re talking about the equipment, clothing, and nutrition you should have with you when you begin your climb. If you’re an experienced hiker, there is a good chance you have a lot of this stuff. If not, you may end up doing a little shopping spree before it’s all over. The recommendations I’m giving you assume your attempt is going to be on a mountain that can be hiked or climbed in a single day, and we’re talking about early summer to early fall weather conditions. So here goes:

CLOTHING

Temperatures and weather conditions can vary on the mountain, and the way your body operates under physical strain all make a difference here. What you choose to wear is not just important to your comfort, but also your safety.

The things that go on your body – I don’t want to get too rigid on this, but steer clear of cotton clothing. Yes, plenty of people have hiked and climbed the 14ers in cotton T-shirts and jeans. But there are plenty of reasons not to.

Cotton retains moisture, so once it gets wet, it stays wet. A body in cold conditions with damp clothing all around is susceptible to hypothermia. Go instead for moisture wicking synthetic fabrics. Include an undershirt, then maybe something like a fleece top over that. You should always include a breathable rain jacket, as summer in the Rockies usually has a daily serving of afternoon thunderstorms that sometimes hit earlier than you expect. Cold and wet is no way to be when you’re up high.

For your pants, there are a number of good synthetic-fiber, moisture-resistant and breathable hiking pants on the market that suit your needs by keeping you dry. If the weather is going to be cooler than normal, moisture-wicking long underwear can be helpful.

Lastly, pack a wool knit cap (or an equivalent to that) and a pair of light gloves.

Keep in mind that as you’re headed up the mountain, your body heat will rise. So that’s why it’s wise to dress in light layers, adding or subtracting clothing as conditions warrant.

The things that go on your feet – This is important, and the “no cotton” thing is more critical here. Wear wool or synthetic wool socks. They will wick moisture away from your feet and help prevent blisters. Cotton socks are a recipe for blisters.

For your shoes, a decent, rugged (but not too heavy) pair of hiking shoes or boots is called for here. When you get fitted, be sure to buy a size that gives you a little extra room for your toes (try a half size bigger than you normally wear). This will help save your toes on the downhills. If possible, use boots that are water resistant or waterproof. (Many boots have Goretex fabrics to keep moisture out)

YOUR PACK

What’s in your pack – Rather than reinvent the wheel, here is what has been dubbed the new “10 essentials.”

Navigation (map and compass)

Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm)

Insulation (extra clothing; though you should be covered here)

Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)

First-aid supplies (lots of good first-aid kits out there)

Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)

Repair kit and tools (knife or multitool)

Nutrition (extra food; more than what you need for the day)

Hydration (extra water; water filter system; iodine pills; water bladder)

Emergency shelter (think “space blanket,” unless your trip is longer than a day; then we’re talking about a tent or a bivvy sack)

What type of pack you should use – The brand you pick is your choice. But my tips would include:

- Between 1500 and 2000 cubic inches capacity for a day trip

-  Make sure it has a hip belt

- A sleeve for a hydration bladder is a good bonus

You don’t have to spend a lot of money. I paid about $80 for a North Face day pack, and it has served me well.

WHAT’S NOT IN YOUR PACK

In this case, the list is simple. Bring a hat that gives you some sun protection and sunglasses. The sunglasses are also helpful if you end up hiking through snow fields; trust me on that one.

You might also consider getting a pair of trekking poles. How much you spend is up to you; the lighter, more durable ones will be pricier ($130+) while a cheap pair can be found at Walmart of a big box sporting goods store for around $25. Trekking poles can help you stay stable on tricky terrain and can also take pressure off your knees on the downhills.

FOOD AND WATER

Altitude does funny things to your body in terms of your appetite, energy burn and hydration. Simply put, if you rely on how you feel, you won’t want to eat and you won’t drink nearly enough. So with that in mind, you have to be sure you bring enough food to keep you fueled (it’s not unusual to burn 2,000 or more calories on a summit hike) and enough water to stay hydrated.

Your food should be a mix of fast- and slow-burning carbohydrates, as well as some proteins and fats. Trail mix is a good standby, but you might also consider nutrition bars (Clif Bar makes some good ones) or just plain ole candy. My favorite: Snickers Minis. They are 100-calorie sugar bombs, easily consumed and provide just enough protein and fat to give you some slow-burn energy to go along with the sugar. Some salty snacks are a good idea, too, as you’ll run through salts pretty quick. A PBJ and a banana makes a pretty good summit lunch, but I’ve seen people haul burritos in their packs as well. That said, you’ll want to limit canned foods or foods that have a lot of water in their packaging. It’s just extra weight.

In terms of water, I’d recommend having 3 liters of the stuff ready to roll, and if your trip is going to be longer, see if there are going to be water sources on your path and use that water filter.  Water is heavy, but you’re going to need it. For variety, bring a sleeve or two of powdered drink mixes. You can mix some of your water store in an empty bottle and get some flavor and extra calories as you hydrate, a real bonus. Eat periodically and drink often.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Depending on when you go, snow might be a factor. If there is going to be snow on your route, consider getting some traction gear for your feet, such as Kahtoola Microspikes.

So there’s my primer on what you’ll want to have with you on that first 14er ascent. In my next post: Picking the mountain and the route. Stay tuned!

Bob Doucette

Couch to 14K, Part 1: 14er fitness

Want to see views like this? The first step will be getting in proper shape.

Want to see views like this? The first step will be getting in proper shape.

Say you’re a flatlander. Or a person in a mountain state who has a strong desire, but no experience, in finding the summit of one of the great peaks of the Rockies. How do you get to the point of merely staring at a 14,000-foot peak to standing on top of one?

Well, you’re in luck. I’ve been where you’re at, and not that long ago. High country adventures can be a real blessing, and for a lot of us that first summit got us hooked, eventually leading us to the top of many more.

What I want to do is cover a lot of ground on what you can do to bag your first 14er summit. It’s not like your average day hike, and there are many considerations to keep in mind. So what you’re going to see here over the next several days is a multi-part series that we’ll call “Couch to 14K.” I’ll go over things like fitness, gear, selecting a mountain and, finally, how to tackle that first ascent.

My assumption is that for most people, they are planning to hit the high country during the prime hiking season between late June and mid-September. So everything I’m writing about in the days to come will be based on that sort of plan.

Let’s get to it by addressing one of the more important aspects of getting to that 14er summit: Fitness!

Whether you live in the flatlands like me (not too far above sea level) or you live in a place like Denver, you’re going to find that any time you go into higher altitudes, the air is far thinner, and even small tasks become more difficult and tiring. Acclimatizing – the act of going to and staying at a high altitude to get used to the higher elevation – is one way you can prepare yourself, but this is something we’ll cover later. Even an acclimated person is going to have difficulties if his or her body is not in the proper condition. A strong body, heart and lungs are the keys to having a greater chance of success in finding that summit. For me, 14er fitness is about three things: Cardiovascular capacity, physical strength and, quite simply, hiking.

Running is a great way to get in shape for the 14ers.

Running is a great way to get in shape for the 14ers.

CARDIOVASCULAR CAPACITY: This one is critical. You heart and lungs will be highly taxed once you get above 10,000 feet or so, even more so at 12,000 feet or more. The air up there has about half the oxygen as it does where most of us flatlanders live, and not much more than that for people who live in cities like Denver.

I like to run, so this one is not too tough for me plan. I usually run four to five times a week, with each run a little different in length, speed and difficulty. What I would do is work up to the point where you can run, at a steady pace, up to 8-10 miles in one workout. Have a short run to begin the week; a medium-length run in the middle of the week; a very hilly run soon after, and on the weekend, plan for that long run. If you can get to the point where you’re running 20-25 miles a week, you’ll be good to go. If you need a more structured plan, take a look at a Hal Higdon beginner’s half marathon training program. That will get you in shape.

Not everyone is a runner, so I get that. So here is where you find alternatives. Cycling is a great way to get in shape. Perhaps mix in some swimming. Anything you can do to get in shape can and will work. Just be sure that at least a couple of your cardio sessions each week are the measured-pace, longer variety that could simulate being hard at work for at least 90 minutes to two hours.

Last note – One thing that might help you if you don’t have hills to train on is a set of stadium steps. Running up and down stadiums is a fantastic way to get in shape. And for your core, take a hard look at yoga. Many hikers and runners I know swear by it.

Weighted bench step-ups are one of several solid exercises to get into 14er shape.

Weighted bench step-ups are one of several solid exercises to get into 14er shape.

PHYSICAL STRENGTH: I’m a big proponent of the weight room, but truly, any strength training will do. There are key areas where you will want to get your work done. The three main areas of focus I see are your back, your core and your legs.

The way you do this is up to you. You can gain physical strength by hitting the weights or doing a variety of bootcamp or “body pump” classes. Although I’m not a Crossfitter, some people get a lot out of it. Personally, I’m a lifelong gym rat who enjoys hitting the weights. But let me emphasize a few exercises that will help pound that body of yours into shape.

Squats – This is one of the best leg exercises there is, as it works the entire thigh and your glutes. Whether you’re doing body weight, working with dumbbells or putting a barbell on your back, this should be a part of what you do.

Lunges – A great hamstring and glute exercise. Again, you can do this with or without weights.

Bench step-ups – There are few exercises that simulate steep hiking than these. Just find yourself a bench and step up, focusing on squeezing your quads and glutes. You can do these with or without weights, depending on your ability.

Deadlifts – A simple yet effective exercise where you squat down to pick up a weight and pick it up. Not only does this exercise work your legs and glutes, but it’s also a powerful back exercise. If you haven’t done much of these, start with a light weight and work your way up.

Planks – It’s hard to find a better core exercise than planks, as they work your abs, your sides and your lower back. Start by holding yourself in a plank position for 15 seconds. Over time, work your way up to a minute or more.

Personally, I’d advise making sure your strength training hits your whole body every week. Balance is the key to a strong, healthy and rugged physique, so that means strengthening your upper body as well. Incorporate strength training into your plan three times a week, and pay close attention to hitting your legs and core.

If you are planning on a big adventure on the trail, make sure your body is up to snuff. Part of the solution: Hitting the trail often to get yourself in hiking shape.

If you are planning on a big adventure on the trail, make sure your body is up to snuff. Part of the solution: Hitting the trail often to get yourself in hiking shape.

HIKING: This seems like a no-brainer, but when it comes to becoming a strong hiker, you need to get out there and hike. Most 14ers routes are anywhere from 6 to 12 miles roundtrip, and their trails can be uneven, rugged and filled with elevation changes. Working on your cardiovascular and strength training will help, but nothing will get your body used to a long ascent quite like strapping on a day pack and logging some miles.

Start out by hitting some trails where you live. The more hills, the better. Your focus should be less on miles and more on time spent on your feet. So try getting out there for a couple of hours to start, then work your way up. As you get stronger, try to shoot for hiking days that last 8, 10 or even 12 hours. That may seem like a lot of time, but think of it this way – that’s a great way to spend time outside, and it will get you in shape.

Best yet, when you go on your hike, plan on wearing the gear you plan to use on your 14er trip. Load up that backpack, wear the boots and clothes you plan to bring, and get after it. That will break in your gear and get you accustomed to using and lugging all that stuff up and down the hills for several hours.

Speaking of gear, that’s where we’ll go for Part 2 of Couch to 14K. Look for my next installment where we’ll go over the kind of gear you’ll want to have with you as you tackle your first 14,000-foot ascent.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Sherpas killed on Everest, Ueli Steck’s ascent questioned, marathon tips and the country’s least outdoorsy cities

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

So sorry for missing last week, but sometimes life happens and you have to step away. But we’re back with the Weekly Stoke, and trust me, there’s plenty to talk about! So let’s get to it.

First off, the biggest news in the outdoors world, and it’s not good. An avalanche killed at least 12 Sherpas near Camp 1 on Mount Everest, and the search is on for more guides who are still missing. The tragedy makes it the deadliest single day in the history of climbing that mountain.

Staying in the Himalayas, there is some controversy concerning Ueli Steck’s solo ascent of Annapurna.

Thinking about relocating to a new city? If you are into outdoorsy activities in your city, there are some places that don’t cut it, according to this list.

Here is a list of tips for people running their first marathon.

And speaking of that, this blogger has some tips on how to properly carb load pre-race.

Do you have a list of excuses keeping you from getting out there, or how well you “perform?” This writer wants to have a word with you.

And finally, here’s a Q&A from a guy who is walking across the country.

The skull, the trash and the challenges of maintaining urban wild areas

A sunset view of Turkey Mountain. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

A sunset view of Turkey Mountain. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

It was a somewhat eventful weekend at my local trail running haunt. Much more than I let on with Sunday’s post about my long run.

The big news, which came down Friday, was that some hikers on the far north end of the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness found a human skull. Yep. That happened.

The reports I’ve seen have said that so far, the skull is all that has been found. They’re narrowing in on an identity, and they haven’t yet seen any signs of foul play. They also say that the remains have probably been there for a couple of years, which might explain why no other bones have been found yet. There are a lot of critters in those woods, so there’s a pretty good chance that the rest of the deceased is scattered all over the place.

A screen shot of human remains found at the north end of Turkey Mountain. (KJRH photo)

A screen shot of human remains found at the north end of Turkey Mountain. (KJRH photo)

I’ve written enough crime stories to know that what probably happened is that the person involved here was a homeless person who likely died from pre-existing health problems, maybe a drug overdose, or from exposure. There is a good possibility that it could be a combination of all three.

Last year, during a cleanup day at Turkey Mountain, a group of us cleared out a one-tent homeless camp. Folks aren’t allowed to camp there, but people do, and there is new evidence of more camps on the north end of the park. That north end is pretty close to Interstate 44 and is easily accessed on foot from a nearby Pepsi bottling plant parking lot.

So that’s one of the potential hazards of having an open wild space inside a city. Not everyone there is hanging out just to get a run, hike of bike ride in.

Needless to say, that was the biggest news out of Turkey Mountain in quite some time. But later that weekend, a more mundane subject came front-and-center: Litter.

A group of us got together to do a trash cleanup day. As the weather has warmed, the volume of garbage has increased, much to my dismay. Plenty of people walk in with water bottles, sports drinks, soft drinks and beer. And apparently, a good portion of them feel OK with leaving their empties in the woods, not far from the trails.

That's about a dozen trash bags full of garbage we hauled out on Sunday. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

That’s about a dozen trash bags full of garbage we hauled out on Sunday. (Tulsa River Parks Authority photo)

This bothers me, mostly because the bulk of us go to Turkey Mountain to be in a natural setting. Other people’s trash degrades that experience and pollutes the woods.

But there were a couple of finds that disturbed me even more.

First, a discarded Gu packet. Most of you know that Gu is a nutrition product used by endurance athletes to pop in some quick calories and energy while on a run or ride. It’s not something your average person eats as a snack.

I can somewhat understand a lapse of judgment from a newbie dayhiker who carelessly discards some trash. But a regular trail runner or mountain biker, who I assume would appreciate Turkey Mountain’s wild nature, leaving behind an empty Gu packet? Someone needs a good smack upside the head.

Then later on, we found a Whataburger cup thrown into the weeds within 100 yards of the trailhead parking lot, and in plain sight of a garbage can. As much as the Gu packet earned my ire, this particular find got to me.

How lazy is this? Whether this person was 100 yards into their walk, or 100 yards from finishing it, would it really have been such a bad thing to hang on to that empty 44-ouncer for just a few seconds longer and deposit its Styrofoam goodness in the trash? I’m not kidding when I say I’d like to punch that person. Hard.

Looking at the topics at hand – the human remains, the homeless camps, the litter – you’d be hard-pressed to link them all together. Urban homelessness and littering are not related.

But what these things point toward are the burdens that come with maintaining urban wild spaces.

The discovery of the skull sheds light on Tulsa’s homeless, which in turn would, I hope, gets people thinking about how to better help the displaced. Some people will want to stay outside, sleep under bridges or camp in the woods rather than seek help. But I’m sure the person who died at Turkey Mountain did not envision her life ending that way (investigators think this was a woman). Most homeless people would rather not be homeless.

An urban wilderness is no place for people to live. But I can see, given the lack of other decent options, where someone might just want to pitch a tent in a quiet part of the woods and be left alone. Perhaps this might get a few people thinking about who the homeless actually are (long-term jobless, mentally ill, recent war veterans, just to name a few) instead of treating them as out-of-sight, out-of-mind, or worse, as some weird, lazy 1930s-era hobo caricature.

As for the litter, it again goes back to what it means to keeping a slice of the wild within a city. It’s hard work. Just the sheer number of people living around Turkey Mountain, as well as the numbers of people who visit it, mean that there is going to be a few maladies that come when human beings interact with nature. In this respect, people need to be taught – and the earlier in life, the better – that trashing natural places is morally wrong.

In summary, the two lessons from the weekend’s events are 1) it looks like we need to find ways to treat people better, and 2) we need to find ways to treat the land better. Maybe then I won’t find empty Bud Light cans in the grass, and hopefully, no one’s bones in the weeds.

Bob Doucette

Seen on the run: Springtime weekend long run

So far this winter and spring, I’ve been less than faithful to my training goals. It’s amazing how those planned long run days can get cut short at 6 miles because, well, just because. I’ve run a couple of 25Ks the last two months, but aside from those I haven’t done much in terms of “long run” training days.

I was determined to change that this weekend. The plan: Run 13 miles to top off a bigger week of training, three weeks away from doing the Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon at the end of this month.

I could not have picked a better day, and I’ve got the pics to prove it.

The following are a couple of shots from the halfway point, looking across the Arkansas River to its west bank and the wooded ridge known locally as Turkey Mountain.

long1

long2

It was a cooler winter, but the signs of new life that come with spring are bursting through.

long3

long4

One thing about warming temperatures is that people get out more. It always warms my heart to see people outside, doing whatever it is they like to do — walking, running, cycling or whatnot. The parks were filled with people.

long5

Here’s another view I enjoy when I run alongside the Arkansas River: The pedestrian bridge at 29th Street. At this point, I’m almost 11 miles into the run.

long6

This was a big weekend for outdoor events. In south Tulsa and Jenks, there was the Aquarium Run (half marathon, 10K and 5K) as well as the Luchador Run 5K. I’ve run the Luchador Run twice, and it’s a blast. They create a whole series of obstacles, and you try to chase people dressed as Mexican wrestlers (the luchadores). Many runners dress up as luchadores as well.

At the finish line, runners can get into a ring with a pair of luchadores, and there is a block party where luchador fights are staged. I didn’t run it this year because I really needed a run a lot longer than a 5K. But that race was just getting underway as I finished up. So I caught this scene from the Luchador Run after I’d finished up.

long7

Those sights and sounds make the long runs worthwhile, even beyond the training benefit. Saturday was no different. Hopefully your weekend long run was as good as mine.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Trail runner gets very lost, the best running dogs, Boston Marathon tips, and the half marathon selfie gal tells her story

The Grand Canyon. (wikipedia commons photo)

The Grand Canyon. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

April means different things to different people: Late-season turns on the slopes, breaking out the backyard grill, ramping up for all those spring races. And so much more. So in honor of all those possibilities is this rather extensive collection of links. Time for the Weekly Stoke!

This trail runner took a wrong turn and spent a few days lost on the Sierras. The story has a happy ending.

Remember the gal who took a bunch of funny selfies during a half marathon in New York? She elaborates on her story here.

And for those of you getting ready to run the Boston Marathon, this blogger has some helpful race day tips.

If you’re a runner and you like dogs, here’s a list of the 10 best running dogs.

Another good top 10 list: Things you need to have on a river trip.

And finally, a list of some of the best negative Yelp reviews of America’s national parks.

Books: ‘The New American Road Trip Mixtape,’ by Brendan Leonard

roadtripcover

“What is a life?”

That’s the central question driving Brendan Leonard’s first book, “The New American Road Trip Mixtape,” an honest and sometimes raw look at the forces that propelled him out of what he thought would be a comfortable urban existence into something much more untraditional – that of full-time life on the road, working, travelling and bunking down in his car as he piled on the miles across the American West.

You may know Leonard from his semi-rad.com website, posts on the Adventure Journal or articles written for a number of outdoor magazines. In his book, he explains how the latest chapter of his life was born and where it’s taking him.

Like I said, Leonard is quite frank about his past: A failed marriage, followed by what he’d hoped was a better relationship with a woman whose interests matched his. But when that ended, he found a need to clear his head on the road.

Leonard works through the pain of the breakup as well as the observations and lessons he learns visiting friends scattered across the West while also taking us back to his younger years, the time when he became what he is now – a writer, traveler and climber.

The book is loaded with anecdotes of climbing adventures in the grand peaks of the Rockies, but is also takes us to lonelier moments where it’s just him, alone with his thoughts as he tries to get some sleep in the cramped back-end of a Subaru.

The highs and lows of his journeys are pretty well summed up when he writes, “But a true pilgrimage has to have some struggle, right? If there was no pain or suffering on the way there, was there meaning at the end?”

That resonates deeply with anyone connected to the outdoor community – the relishing of the sufferfest, working out your demons on hard treks, spicy routes or long journeys. Interestingly, Leonard surprises himself that the answer to his central question – “What is a life” – is simultaneously found in his observations of his closest friends as well as the realization that he doesn’t necessarily need to emulate them to find what he’s looking for.

Leonard’s storytelling is solid, and the indictments against many of the trappings of modern living are sharp and, honestly, very revealing.

The book is fast read, and with the weather warming up in time for all those dreamed-about road trips, it just might be the type of thing to get you going. You can get it in print for $9.62 on Amazon or on e-reader for $7.99 on Kindle and Nook.

Bob Doucette

A Sunday view: A few of the trails of Turkey Mountain

This will be more of a photographic post, just because sometimes visual elements say a lot more than words. Tulsa has the good fortune of having a nice-sized parcel set aside for wild land, with only trails and a few markers at hand to disrupt an otherwise natural setting typical to what you’d see in northeastern Oklahoma: hills and woods. I’m not sure Turkey Mountain can accurately be called a “mountain,” but the name has stuck and is permanently part of the Tulsa landscape: the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area.

There are loads of trails here, so the photographs here are just a sampling. Spring is here, and the forest is reawakening just now. Little splashes of green, budding flowers and, of course, the accompanying aroma of those blooms. So let’s take a tour…

trail1

This is looking north on the Powerline Trail, the most unnatural of the trails here. But the views are still cool, especially as the downtown skyline comes into view.

trail2

This is another look at the Powerline, this time peering south at the low spot between two pretty big hills. If you do an out-and-back on this trail, it’s equivalent to a 5K, but with somewhere between 500 and 600 feet of elevation gain. Stick that 3 miles in the middle of your run and you’ll be in for quite a workout.

trail3

This is from a mellower stretch overlooking the Arkansas River and Tulsa’s east bank. Part of the appeal of trail running and hiking is the potential for great views, and there are more than a few of those in this trail system.

trail4

Safety first! There aren’t a lot of signs of “civilization” in this place, but the city’s parks authority has placed this and other signs at specific spots to serve as reference points for people who get, hurt, sick or lost and need help. If you know where these markers are before you hit the trails, you can help lead authorities to where you are if you get into trouble. This isn’t a huge park, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get lost out there. Add something like a bad sprain or heat sickness, and any aids to help rescuers are pretty useful.

Anyway, that’s just a quick tour from the last few days I’ve been out there. I’ve enjoyed the winter — cold weather makes for great running, and the trails are pretty fun when there’s snow. But I’m looking forward to more sunny, windy spring days. Have a great Sunday!

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Marathon tips, Utah BASE jumping deaths, interviewing Chris Davenport and why a Grand Canyon theme park is a bad idea

Zion National Park, Utah. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Zion National Park, Utah. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Man, it hit 81 degree here yesterday. So I guess winter really is over. Time to get out there! But first, a collection of links for the Weekly Stoke!

Got a spring marathon or half coming up? Here is a good list of common mistakes to avoid, as well as solutions.

Speaking of things to be careful about, this post has links from bloggers who describe some of their more notable errors they made in the outdoors, and what they learned from it.

There has been a spate of BASE jumping deaths in the desert towers of Utah.

The Adventure Journal posted this op-ed about plans to build a theme park at the Grand Canyon, and I have to agree.

And finally, there is this piece about a conversation with big mountain skier Chris Davenport.