Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hiking Kraft Mountain & Calico Basin

I hope everyone reading this had a fantastic holiday!!  We're currently visiting Adam's family up in Seattle.  Today, we're exploring a fantastic outlet mall and taking a peak at downtown Seattle.

While we're doing that, I wanted to recap our most recent hiking experience back in Vegas.  Recently, I vented my frustration with certain elements of the hiking group with which I normally hike here in Las Vegas.  Nevertheless, on Sunday, I decided to put on a smile, set my concerns aside, and head out for an afternoon hike to Kraft Mountain.

image via
I previously did this hike back in April to earn the 2 of Hearts with Hiking Las Vegas, but Adam didn’t have this card and I just wanted to get out there to work on getting in better hiking shape.

The hike starts out in the Calico Basin area, which is NOT inside the Red Rock Canyon NCA Scenic Loop.  That means this is a GREAT place from which to hike if you don’t have a National Parks pass because you don’t have to pay an entrance fee to get here.
via Google Maps
There are several routes up to and down from the peak.  Our fearless leader Kelly took us up the West route.  This route involved a somewhat short approach hike to the western base of the mountain and then we just followed the cairns up, up, up until we reached the top.  The route up was reasonably steep in places and required a good bit of scrambling.  
Not only was it a really fun route, but it was also a really fantastic workout!! (I definitely had a nice sweat going on)
After a quick snack break at the top, we headed down the back side of the mountain, which was also very well cairned.  Eventually, we came around the east side of the mountain through a wash/dry creek bed and onto an obvious trail that led us back to the parking lot.  I hadn’t been down this way and I LOVED it!! (and not just because the rocks looked like bacon)
My favorite part was probably shimmying down this little slot.  I always get SUPER nervous (and correspondingly annoying, I’m sure) when in the midst of something like this.  But once my feet are both solidly on the ground, I am all smiles.
Yes, that's me still at the top looking at what I was about to shimmy down.
By way of warning, as I’m sure you can tell from the pictures, the route down was mostly in the shade, so if you head out to explore, be aware that this time of year, you could encounter ice and/or snow.
Although the route to the peak is fairly well cairned, I wouldn’t recommend doing this one without someone who has been there before because there are a few tricky spots, especially if you aren’t familiar/comfortable with class 3-4 scrambling.  However, don’t let that discourage you from checking out this area.  There are lots of obvious trails (that don’t require scrambling) that are just desperately asking you to explore them. 

You could take the dirt trail out of the parking lot and head to the west.  This trail is a nice workout because it takes you up a decent hill to a saddle.  From this saddle there is an excellent view of Gray Cap Peak.  It’s a pretty obvious peak because it has a gray limestone cap sticking out of the cream and red sandstone.  Once you reach that saddle, you could turn around and go back, or, if you haven’t burnt enough calories, you could continue descend the trail for a bit, which would give you the opportunity to boogie up the hill on your way back for maximum calorie burnage! 

Alternatively, you could take the dirt trail out of the parking lot and head to the east around the base of Kraft Mountain.  This route will take you by some spectacularly large boulders.  They really are a sight to see!  Every time I’ve been out to Calico Basin, I’ve seen people out there with crash pads doing some free climbing on the boulders.  I don’t think you’ll ever find me doing that, but it is interesting to watch.  I’m looking forward to taking Maggie the Mountain Dog out to Calico Basin sometime soon for a little hike around the eastern side of Kraft Mountain.
Our afternoon at Kraft Mountain was really fantastic.  But, it did make me appreciate how important specificity is in training.  I may have the running endurance to run a half marathon, but that doesn’t 100% correspond to hiking endurance.  I’m looking forward to really focusing on my hiking endurance during the coming weekends and, especially, into the new year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Finding Time to Workout During Holiday Travel

This time of year is wonderful for so many reasons.  I love shopping for gifts for my friends and family; baking (and eating) all the yummy cookies and treats; and decorating our Christmas Tree.
"stockings hung by the kitchen with care" and all that
Another thing that comes with this time of year are the glorious days off from work and the corresponding holiday travel.  I've always had a difficult time maintaining any semblance of my workout regimen during any sort of travel.  I don't think I'm alone in this.  However, if there is any time that fitting in some sweat sessions is most important, it is during this season of cookies, pies, and candy canes.

I'm in double trouble this holiday season when it comes to working out, because I currently have ZERO races on my schedule!!  (I must be ill or something)  So, without that extra reason to get out on the roads or get myself to the gym, until recently, I had been struggling with working out consistently.  Now that I'm finally in a groove, I don't want my holiday traveling to terribly derail my current momentum.

Check out these strategies that I'm going to attempt to employ as we travel to visit Adam's family in Washington:

1. Holiday Treadmill Workout
I did this workout earlier this week when I only had 30 minutes to get in and get out before I had to rush to meet up with some friends.  Ideally, I would always like to spend at least 30 minutes running, not including cool down.  But, during this time of year, more than ever, there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day.  So, because I didn't have very much time, I decided to ramp up the intensity by doing a few higher speed bursts (8 mph) in the middle of the workout.  I definitely felt like I had done some quality sweating in the 20 minutes.  

I'm planning on fitting this workout in a couple of mornings at our hotel treadmill.

2. Check Out the Local Sweating Options
We're going to be about 2 hours from Mt. Ranier National Park.  I've never been, but I'm excited to check it out.  I'm especially excited to do some snow hiking or maybe even some snowshoeing if we can find a place to rent them.

3.  YouTube, etc.
Fortunately, our hotel has free wi-fi.  In addition to the quick treadmill workouts, I'm going to check out some of my favorite yoga workouts on youtube and this Iron Yoga thing that I read about in this month's Runner's World.

Maybe I'll even see if my awesome niece wants to give some vinyasa a whirl. =)

4. Take the dog for a walk
My sister-in-law has the cutest little shih tzu, Winston.  If all else fails, I will spend some quality time with Winston and any family members that would like to join us.

I hope y'all have a wonderful holiday however you choose to enjoy this time of year!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blue Skies, White Rocks - White Rock Springs Peak

**Please jump over to Kim's blog at and check out my Guest Post for some yummy treats to serve to your friends in family during your favorite college bowl game (Go Hawkeyes!!).  Kim is a busy, yet healthy and active, third-year law students.  She gave me the opportunity to guest post on her site while she is enduring the maddening ordeal known as law school finals**

This Saturday I spent a lovely afternoon hiking in Red Rock with some of my very favorite people in the entire world.  I seriously love the Slow Poke Hikes that this awesome lady leads with the Hiking Las Vegas Group.

It was another beautifully clear day in Las Vegas; a perfect day to spend out doors burning some calories in nature
It was another beautifully clear day in Las Vegas.  The sky was seriously that blue.  I don't use filters.  I don't have a fancy cameras.  98% of the photos you see on this blog are taken with my (or Adam's) iPhone.  Occasionally, I use my Fujifilm XP (we purchased it to have a waterproof / shock proof option).

We started out at the White Rock trailhead and pretty much headed straight up the mountain.  Our goal was one of the peaks in the center of the White Rock loop.  The trail isn't necessarily obvious, but it is well cairned.
Cairns are man-made stacks of rocks that often mark the path.
In addition to a beautiful day doing one of my favorite activities, the day was also perfect because I was out there with my wonderful husband!! (who else would indulge my constant requests for pictures?)
I couldn't get enough of the views of Calico Hills in the background!
We were purposely bringing up the rear to make sure everyone was together and feeling good.  This also provided us with lots of opportunities for goofy photo shoots.  For example, doesn't it look like I"m living dangerously in the below picture? Well....the drop-off was really only about 3 feet (at most).  I'm kind of a big wimp when it comes to exposure.  I'm working on it, but I'm kind of attached to breathing and my bones not being broken.
We also saw snow!!  As far as images of snow go, this one is pretty underwhelming.  However, given the rarity with which I get to enjoy snow, it was really fun to see even this much snow with Christmas right around the corner.
As far as hikes with Hiking Las Vegas go, this one was pretty short - probably a little under 3 miles round trip.  For reaching the peak, we were eligible to get the 3 of Hearts.
my 18th card!!
After a little snack break (and more photo shoots), it was time to head back to the cars.  I don't really have any idea how long it took us to get to the top.  I was having so much fun that I didn't really pay attention to my watch.
on the peak
As a final note, I just want to say that there are certain people in this group that make a day like this so enjoyable (I'm pretty sure they know who they are).  They're not in a hurry; they take time to enjoy the surroundings; they cultivate an environment where you support and encourage those around you.  I've certainly been fortunate enough to be one of the people giving encouragement, but I've also been the person in the group that needed the encouragement.   We all have our good days, our bad days; our days when we need support and encouragement in our fitness journeys and our days when we need to serve as inspiration and help others grow in their fitness journeys.  I sometimes get a bit frustrated with the non-inclusive and non-supportive rhetoric that pervades certain cliques within this hiking group.  As I mentioned before, I just received my 18th card, but I'm really conflicted when it comes to whether I want to attempt to complete the remaining peaks.  For now, I'm choosing to focus on the enjoyment I receive from the fellowship of the members with whom I hike.  Thank you to all of you with whom I've hiked in the past that have made my journey thus far so enjoyable.

(sorry for the rant, but can any of you relate? advice?)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Chilly Weekend in Memphis

I arrived in Memphis late Thursday night, but the inclement weather arrived before I did.  It was a bumpy flight once we got close to Memphis and I was glad to get on the ground.

I telecommuted on Friday while the freezing rain was coming down all around.  Freezing rain is really scary on the roads, but it can make for really beautiful pictures.
The ice ruined my plans of working from my favorite little Memphis coffee shop.  However, the ice covered trees, bushes, etc. kind of put me a little more in the holiday spirit, especially this one with the red berries.
After I finished up my work for the day, we headed down to the Race Expo for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon.
Adam had definitely decided he wasn't going to run.  I had decided weeks ago that running a full marathon was not going to happen, but I thought they might let me switch to the half marathon.  The area was really empty and the vendors were even starting to pack up and the expo wasn't supposed to be over for 2 more hours....I soon figured out why:
It was definitely the right call, there was ice all over the sidewalks.  Memphis, as a southern city, just gets crippled by these types of winter weather incidents.  I was still a little bummed because I had high hopes of running something, even if I knew I wasn't going to follow through with running the full marathon.  
I guess this means, "good luck not cracking your ass on some ice outside"
The race coordinators did an awesome job with communicating the info and softening the blow by offering to transfer the race entry fee to other races, including the January 19th Rock n Roll Arizona....possibilities.

Because we didn't need to worry about what we were eating the night before a race, we decided to indulge at one of my all time favorite Memphis restaurants.
Oh, Houston's, how I miss you!  This spinach artichoke dip changes my life each time I taste it.
And when I say "indulge," I'm not joking.  I could not believe how big this prime rib was!!  and the mashed potatoes....oh, the mashed potatoes.....
(don't judge my medium-rare prime rib, there are no words for how delicious it was)
In an effort to check off all of the items on my mental "Memphis Favorites"checklist, we stopped by Gibson's Donuts on Saturday morning.  
I know I was singing the praises of Pinkbox the other week, but those are just my favorite donuts in Las Vegas.  Gibson's are my favorite donuts in the world.  

We went this morning before Adam went to his National Guard drill weekend.  He was in uniform and they refused to let us pay for our donuts.  It was so thoughtful that I almost cried.  It is something about that kindness that made us want to pay even more badly.  If either of us had cash, we would have just left it on the counter and walked out.  But, their thoughtfulness definitely touched us.

And, above being a donut shop full of the kindest people, the donuts are OMGDelicious.  I decided to try out the red velvet donut and the maple bacon donut.  They did not disappoint...but Gibson's never does.  I think I'm going to have to go back again before I fly back to Vegas.
why, yes! yes, I do deserve a donut (or two) =)
I swear I'm going to workout again someday.  I was going to work out here, but the Memphis location of my gym is closed =( and running outside wasn't going to happen.  I'm already pretty uncoordinated and the ice certainly doesn't help.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Adventures in Vegas: Downtown Container Park

Yes, yes, I know…I started this blog to talk about running and other related adventures in fitness.  Well, I just haven’t done much of that this week.  So, the end result is another post that has approximately zero to do with sweating (because I've been freezing my toes off in Vegas) and everything to do with an exciting spot in downtown Las Vegas that everyone should try to visit:  The Downtown Container Park.
When I first read that the Downtown Project was developing a little district made completely out of shipping containers, I was skeptical.  I worked around shipping containers when I worked as a chemist for a food ingredients company and I was quite perplexed on how you could make this:
via wikicommons
look like something in which a person would want to shop, let alone eat.  Well, my skepticism has been completely allayed after visiting the container park a couple of times last week. swanky!
The grand opening was on Thursday, but I was headed to Memphis so wasn't able to attend.  Fortunately, they had a soft opening earlier and I was able to stop by on Wednesday.  I actually went twice on Wednesday.  Once for lunch at Big Ern's BBQ and then again to browse a couple of the adorable boutiques.  The food was awesome.  The boutiques were even better.

The first place I stopped was this adorable accessories boutique called GabyOlivia.  I am in love with everything in this shop.  I ended up with this amazing scarf (made by a local Vegas artist) and this adorable Nevada necklace.  I feel like I can never have too many scarves and I needed the necklace because I got weirdly sentimental about how my time in Las Vegas will come to a close in about 8 months.  
I'm definitely going back soon, especially for this amazing handcuffs necklace (which I should have taken a picture of, but didn't).  I highly recommend this boutique - the accessories were cute and affordable and the staff was fantastic!
There were lots of other shops and restaurants that I either didn't have time to visit or that weren't quite open yet, so rest assured, I'll be stopping by again in the near future and, of course, telling you every detail (whether you want me to or not).
Yes, that is a giant praying mantis that sits at the front of the downtown container park.  It is a lovely parting pic, no?
If you live in Vegas or plan on visiting, I highly recommend spending a bit of time in this adorable new spot.  There is even a Swiss Family Robinson style treehouse in the middle in case you have kiddos that want to play out some energy.  I kind of wanted to play in the tree house myself, but thought I needed to act like a grown-up, especially because I was still in my work clothes. =)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The rest of my family weekend

When my parents are in town, we like to spend as much time in the mountains as possible.  Actually, I just like to spend as much time in the mountains period and I sort of force those around me to also spend time in the mountains with me if they want to hang out with me.  I don't think my parents minded too much.

On Saturday, after eating an awesome $6.99 buffet breakfast at Red Rock Casino, we headed back out to Red Rock National Conservation Area for a lovely 3.5 mile round trip hike through Ice Box Canyon.
I kinda like hanging out on rocks with this guy
When my parents were out here last year for Thanksgiving, we attempted Ice Box, but it was my first time and my mom was only about 6 weeks removed from rotator cuff surgery, so we didn't get it all the way done.  I've since done this hike countless times (I'm sure you're sick of hearing about it), but my parents had still not done the entire thing, so we decided to give it another go this year....and I am *so* glad we did!!  Because of the recent snowfall that the higher altitudes received, there was a lot of water running and several small waterfalls/flowing streams along the way with the waterfall at the end about as heavy flowing as I've seen it.  In fact, we saw more water this year than we saw last spring when the snow melt should have been about at its peak!  Last year at this time we hadn't received any snow yet, so the whole place was bone dry.
I would have jumped in, but the water was a little did come from melting snow after all...
The Ice Box Canyon hike kind of has it all.  First, there is about a mile approach hike that is just along a rocky path and it is slightly uphill so it gets your heart rate a little elevated.  After that, you do a little over .5 miles scrambling up rocks and over/around boulders.  There is even a giant log that you can walk across or poorly attempt yoga poses on.
My parents even crossed the log.  They totally didn't have to; there are perfectly easy ways to do this trail without crossing the log.  You can basically walk on the ground right next to the log, the log itself is only 3 feet off the ground.
My dad crossed at least three times and got a little bolder each time.  Unfortunately, I started goofing off and he started goofing off and he kind of slipped off the log and scraped his side.  I feel pretty terrible about it, but luckily there wasn't even any blood.
The turn around point of the hike is pretty obvious because the canyon basically closes up.  When the snow is melting, there is a lovely little waterfall.  By waterfall standards it is a bit underwhelming, but when you remember that you're hiking in the middle of a desert, the waterfall is a bit more impressive.
full disclosure, my husband should be credited with this vertical panorama pic
After climbing and playing around the waterfall a bit, we started the trek back to the car.  As we were hiking out, we noticed a helicopter flying towards us into the canyon and were told by some nearby hikers that a woman ahead either sprained or broke her ankle and was unable to walk.  Getting injured on a hike is something about which I'm pretty much constantly afraid.  Fortunately, Red Rock Search & Rescue arrived in the helicopter to come to the injured hiker's aid.
I love the sound of waterfalls and I also got a couple of clips of the helicopter before I started feeling terrible about sort of taking advantage of the poor woman's misfortune.  My lack of scruples is your gain: take a look at my poorly crafted iMove creation!
After we got home, we cleaned up and headed out to the UNLV basketball game.  My dad scored us tickets because one of the current UNLV basketball players played last year at the junior college where my dad works.  It was more fun than I expected considering I didn't really have any skin in the game.  UNLV won....and I guess when it comes to deciding between UNLV and University of Tennessee at Martin, I guess UNLV can be my, because UNLV scored more than 70 points, everyone got a coupon for TWO FREE TACOS at Jack in the Box!!  I haven't eaten my free food yet, but, rest assured, I will enjoy them in the near future.  I never claimed to be a role model for healthy eating. 
Sunday was largely a blur with not much to report.  I did get in a 10 mile bike ride, which isn't much, but its the most I've been on my bike since the end of October and it felt great!!