Thursday, May 29, 2014

Our 10 year Anniversary Ultra

I will pick up our anniversary trip after we left the Born To Run 100K.  We were on runners' highs from just completing our first 100k and very excited that we had the whole rest of our trip ahead of us.  It didn't matter that we were tired from the "after ultra, very restless" sleep we had or that our legs were sore, this is what we crave as ultra runners, bring on the road trip!
So far we were really enjoying all the amenities that "wiser" (our amazing escape campervan) had to offer.  He was extremely spacious and the seat and cushions that pulled out to make the bed were very comfortable.  In the back was a sink, stove and shelves for storage with a nice flourescent overhead light for night time.  There were also several other large cubbies for storage, way more than we even needed.  We only ever had one issue that the battery died while we were at born to run.  However, I do believe this was user error as we used the lights a lot, had the fridge on high, had our phones plugged in the chargers and it was hot so the fridge ran extra, did I mention the van was parked at Born To Run for 2 days without it running?!?! oops  Anyway of course our amazing next door neighbors that had been helping us all throughout our race came through again and gave us a jump, and off we went! 

We had made plans with Emir's host brother Nat and his wife Eloise to stay Sunday night with them in Redwood City which is just south of San Francisco.  In case you are wondering, Emir came to the US in high school and stayed with a family here while going to school.  He lived with the same family for several years and we are still close with them.  Despite it taking longer we of course decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway from the ranch in Los Olivos up to Redwood City.  It was so worth the extra time.  I'm fairly certain it is the most beautiful highway I've ever been on.  I could have stared at the gorgeous cliffs and ocean views forever.  
We made it to Redwood City around 5.  I'm not going to lie, we were disgusting but Nat and Eloise didn't care.  We spent hours talking and catching up, eventually took showers, went out for drinks and dinner and had a nice sleep indoors.  

Monday morning we spent a bit more time with Nat and then headed to San Fran.  We had looked up some tours and decided on the Duck Tour so we could get out on the bay.  It was at 11 so we thought it would be great to get coffee at one of San Fran's awesome coffee shops.  It was DELICIOUS!  
Then we made our way to Fisherman's Wharf.  We were cutting it a bit close by the time we parked so we ended up "running" as best we could to make the Duck on time.  The tour was an hour and a half.  We loved it.  We got to see all the major sights and I even got a chance to drive the boat out in the Bay.  
After that a delicious seafood lunch on Fisherman's Wharf and a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Then we were back on the road to Yosemite by about 3:30.
We were unable to secure a camping spot inside Yosemite despite Emir going online only an hour after the sites opened for booking.  We were hoping to get up there with a little daylight to find a campsite and get situated.  The drive went fast and the last hour was beautiful driving up through mountains with views of lakes all with the sun setting in the background.  
About 30-45 minutes from Yosemite we saw a sign for a ranger's office so we pulled in to see if we could find any info about possible open camp sites.  The office was closed however as we were driving out the other side, it turns out there was a camp site right there with openings.  We picked our spot and went for a walk before it got completely dark.  
We had stocked up at the REI in Santa Barbara with camping meals.  All you do is pour boiling water into the bag and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  This was my first time camping ever so my first camp food experience too.  I'm not a picky eater and add that to constant "runger" from two ultras in the last 3-4 weeks and I horsed down everything that was put in front of me the entire trip.  I didn't think they were bad at all and a few I would say were good. 

The next morning after coffee and breakfast we drove into Yosemite.  The beauty was so striking as we drove in.  We had no set plans for what to do for the day.  During the planning stages we just made general plans to be at certain locations on certain days but didn't plan any specifics as we didn't know how we would feel after the 100K.  Surprisingly our legs weren't feeling too bad and as we looked over the descriptions of the day hikes, the one that was to the top of the big falls really peaked my interest.  It was described as very strenuous and about 6-8 hours, whatever!  So we set off  for our hike.
The scenery and views were unbelievable which was good because the climbing was HARD.   We also encountered very interesting weather along our hike.  At first it was sunny, getting hot and we were sweating.  As we climbed it became overcast and started raining a bit.  Next thing we knew we started to feel rally cold and it started sleeting.  Luckily we had warm clothes and jackets with us.  By the time we reached the top of the falls it was snowing and very windy combined with the freezing mist from the falls, it was hard to take.  We quickly got our pictures and started back down.  The hike overall took us about 5 and a half hours.  
We were pretty tired after which was fine since the plan was to camp in the Yosemite vicinity.  Unfortunately our plan was to travel over the Tioga Pass which had opened about two weeks before our trip.  Of course it had snowed there our first night and they closed it.  With more snow forecasted over night, the rangers told us to forget about it possibly opening by morning for us to go over it.  We were able to figure out an alternate route.  It wouldn't be as scenic but it would get us to the Grand Canyon.
The next morning we set off immediately on the road to the Grand Canyon.  According to GPS it would be over 10 hours which meant more than that with stops.  We spent close to 12 hours on the road but it didn't feel like it.  It's very interesting driving through a part of the country that you have never been and is completely different than where we live.  Traveling in "wiser" was also very comfortable.  I took several excellent naps sprawled out in the back while we were on the road.  We ate at an interesting diner on the historic Route 66 and Emir even let me drive for about 100 miles.
It's not that I didn't want to drive but Emir likes to drive on long drives since he gets bored and isn't fond of naps like me so it works well ;-)

We didn't make it to the Grand Canyon until after dark.  We drove in and checked the signs however all the camp sites were full.  Fortunately, there was a camp site about 10 minutes from the Canyon that we were able to find a spot. When we got to the Canyon in the morning, I was literally speechless.  Of course I've seen pictures but in person it's just unbelievable.  We decided on a hike on the Kaibab Trail which of course is considered more strenuous than most of the others.  Emir really would have loved to hike all the way down to the river and back but as we went it was getting hotter and hotter not to mention we didn't start until almost 10.  
The footing was much easier than the hike at Yosemite however the elevations were just as challenging.  It was an interesting reversal as in the Canyon you hike down first then up.  By the time we reached Skeleton Point, we were feeling tired and hot.  We didn't really want to go any further as the first half was the easier part.
In the end we still hiked for over 4 hours and then we had time to eat and rest before coming back for sunset.  It was a bit cloudy but sunset was still beautiful.  

We camped one last night in "wiser" at the same camp site just outside the canyon.  In the morning, we had one more road trip to reach our final destination, Vegas.  It was only about 4 hours from the Canyon and we drove through the Hoover Dam on the way.

It was kind of strange seeing Vegas after all the natural beauty in the rest of our trip but I had always wanted to see it and it made sense to fly home from there.  We had to return "wiser" when we got there. I felt a bit sad to see him go.  There were a few very chilly nights and two nights it rained so it was so great to have more than a tent to sleep in.  It was just pretty cool and convenient to have everything "all in one" but yet not have to deal with a huge, expensive RV.  I would not even think twice about renting another Escape Campervan for future trips.
So back to Vegas.  We checked into the hotel and I decided to go on a short run. It was supposed to be Saturday but with traveling home I knew I wouldn't have time or feel like it.  Our hotel was a little over a mile from the strip so I ran to the strip a little down it and then back.  With all the crazy sights (people and other things), you wouldn't think I would get a lot of weird looks but I guess it's not often people go for a run on the strip, oh well ;-). 
After that we went to the pool and then finally for the first time in 5 days we took showers!  Honestly I didn't even mind or care at all about our lack of showering, I didn't even give it a second thought actually.  

We went to a nice dinner then decided to explore the strip.  As Emir said a couple times on the trip "we are not normal."  Therefore, our walk ended up being well over three hours.  At least Vegas is flat and you can drink while walking, hehe.  By 10:30 we were spent (party animals!) and we had a 6:45am flight so we just called it a night.  
So yes it was a busy, action packed vacation.  We ended up running a 100k, hiking 20 miles or so and driving 1700 miles.   I'm sure that doesn't sound appealing to some people but for us it was perfect.  We never felt too rushed or that it wasn't fun.  We got to spend 9 days together, run an ultra and see so many beautiful places.  I can't imagine anything else would have been better.

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