A Band of Brothers

HoH 2017 Beer

A Band of Mischief Brothers.

They seldom see one another.  And when do they do, they tend to become loud. They are full of BS talks.  They talk in a language none of those around them understand.  Others would not approve of some of the actions they do.  They couldn’t care less.

They do events together.  And before the event, trash talks build up – either to stir some friendly conversation, or to intimidate and instill fear.  Those who know, know this is plain BS.  Those who get fooled, well…

Today, they rode HoH – Hell of Hunterdon – a bike ride in the central Jersey.   Some of them had to travel far to do this ride.  They rode not because the course was hilly – or flat.  They rode not because they knew they can do it, cruising – or crawling.  They rode because they wanted to spend time with friends they have not seen for a while.  This seldom happens, having their own busy personal lives.  Today, they became one.

They rode together. And once again, they were loud.  They had fun from start to finish.  They spent the whole ride exchanging stories, mostly of course BS talks.  Not even a mechanical problem could dampen the fun they had.

At the end of the ride, they spent more time in the parking lot, drinking beer and more BS talks.  No one talked how fast he was, how strong he was compared to the others.  None mentioned how long it took them to finish the ride.  It was just plain camaraderie time with friends.

This is one group you’d be proud to be part of.  And this is no BS talk.  I dare you to join them – I guarantee you’d have one of the best times in your life.

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Late Post. Grand Canyon SK-PR-BA Hike

Dec 10, 2016. Grand Canyon. South Kaibab-Phantom Ranch-Bright Angel.

The Adventure – Goal. Hike from South Kaibab trail down to Phantom Ranch and up to Bright Angel trail. This is my first hike down the canyon, with information and knowledge gathered from the web.  This is a good source of information for GC backcountry hiking – Backcountry Hiking Brochure (PDF).

The Gear.

  • Mizuno Merino Wool + Midlayer Jacket
  • Baselayer Pants + Mizuno Pants
  • Beanie + Neck Gaiter + Gloves + Hand Warmers
  • Hoka trail shoes + Drymax socks
  • UD vest with 50 oz bladder (H2O) + 2 bottles (Tailwind)
  • 3 servings of Tailwind in ziplock bags
  • 2 Nut bars, 1 bag of trailmix
  • Trekking Poles
  • Trail crampons (not used)
  • Headlamps (not used)
  • First Aid Kit (not used)
  • Extra shirt, light rain jacket, extra hand warmers (not used)

The Adventure – Details.
After an egg white omelette breakfast at Maswik Lodge cafeteria, I walked to the Bright Angel bus stop for the the 8:00AM Hikers’ Express bus to South Kaibab Trailhead. Weather forecast was sunny, with temps in the village area at about 30s in the morning. It was just me and 4 guys (doing an overnight hike) on the bus that day. We arrived at the trailhead before 8:30AM.

I started at 8:30AM from the South Kaibab Trailhead. The distance from the SK Trailhead to Phantom Ranch is ~7.4 miles, with an elevation drop of ~4780 ft. It is a well maintained but steep trail, without any water source this time of year. I jogged/speed-hiked the trail down skipping the urge to take pictures because I wanted to make sure I’d reach the bottom with enough time for the hike back up. There’s a popular phrase in Grand Canyon for those hiking the corridor trails – Going Down Is Optional, Coming Up Is Mandatory. Only when I saw the Colorado river and the black suspension bridge connecting the South Kaibab and North Kaibab trails that I took some pictures. I crossed the suspension bridge at 10:30AM, with ample time to reach Phantom Ranch.

Can you see the suspension bridge?

View of the Colorado river (left) and the suspension bridge (right) from the SK trail

Can you see the mule train?

Looking back after crossing the suspension bridge. Can you spot the mule train? (upper left)

I reached Phantom Ranch 10 minutes later. The temp at the canyon was about 60F. I removed my jacket and the baselayer pants and refilled my 2 bottles with my pre-packed Tailwind. Water is available in Phantom Ranch. Bright Angel Campground is ~0.4 mile across Phantom Ranch, separated by the Bright Angel creek. At 11AM, I left Phantom Ranch, crossed the Bright Angel campground, and headed towards the Bright Angel trail.

Phantom Ranch to the start of BA Trailhead is ~9.9 miles – longer than SK-PR, but not as steep, with a water source in the Indian Garden campground.  This information from the NPS website provides detailed information about the trail distances – Backcountry Trail Distances

There is another bridge crossing the Colorado river on the Bright Angel trail, sometimes referred to to as the white bridge (as opposed to the black bridge connecting SK and NK trails). The first 2 miles in the Bright Angel trail is nearly flat following the Colorado river. It then goes back to the trail on the mountain side. While the SK trail provided open views of the ridges and the canyon, this part of the BA trail provided close up views of the mountain walls. It feels like you are traversing the ‘carved’ section of the mountain.

I reached the Indian Ground campground past noon, and with lots of time to spare, I did an extra trip to Plateau Point, a 1.5 mile flat trail from Indian Ground campground. This trail is visible from some viewing points in the South Rim. It’s different at Plateau Point – you get a 360 view, both horizontal and vertical, from the ‘middle’ point of the Grand Canyon.

Panoramic view from Plateau Point

Panoramic view from Plateau Point

A view of Indian Garden Campgound / Bright Angel Trail from Plateau Point

View from Plateau Point trail – Indian Ground Campground and South Rim.

Purple cactus! Only in Plateau Point!

Added bonus. Purple cactus at Plateau Point trail.

Water is available in IGC. Refilled my water bottle and continued on with the hike. A group of hikers was resting and enjoying lunch at IGC. The trail becomes steeper and steeper as it gets closer to the South Rim. I started to see more hikers on this part of the trail, most of them probably doing an out-and-back hike from BA Trailhead to IGC. The last mile+ leading up to the BA trailhead was icy. From the website information, this is the part of the trail that’s almost always covered with snow and ice come winter time. Saw some hikers having difficulty going down because they had no traction. I advised one hiker who was sliding that it was not worth the risk to go down with those shoes – one false slide and you’d be part of statistics.

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Bright Angel – Snow-turned-Ice

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Bright Angel – Icy trail

I reached the Bright Angel trailhead at 3:40PM. Covered 21.56miles, including the trip to Plateau Point, in 6:40 hours.

Epilogue. Grand Canyon at the South Rim is already magnificent. It’s enough to give you chills. Hiking down the corridor trail is an added bonus to those who decide to do it. Seeing the different rock layers up close and being able to touch the mountain walls give a different perspective of this natural wonder. And once again, Thank You for letting me experience this.

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View from the South Rim – Sunrise Dec 12, 2016.

Coastal Run New Year’s Eve One Day

coastal-run-one-day-medal

Dec 31, 2016.

Mike picked me up from my hotel in the morning and we drove to Crissy Field. We picked up our bibs and souvenir fleece shirt, pitched the tent, and waited for the 9AM start. The weather was sunny with some cloud and wind (oh wait… this is the San Francisco Bay Area – being windy is the norm). I had my Mizuno merino wool shirt + a light running tights. 10 minutes before 9AM, we all lined up at the start, the 24hr runners and a mix of 6/12hr runners. More 6/12hr runners would start later. I’d be doing the 12 hrs and Mike the 6 hrs.

Mike and I jogged at a leisure pace around the course, a 1.065mi lap around the lagoon at Crissy Field. What’s new this year is that runners can go in either direction, clockwise or counter-clockwise as they please, as long as they pass the timing mat each time they finish a lap. A good change to combat the monotony of a uni-directional lap. Runners also get the chance to greet the other runners going the opposite way.

Tailwind was my main source of nutrition, which I took sip every lap. Mike and I would also take a bite of whatever’s available at the pit area. And every hour, I would take a salt pill to prevent cramping later. This would be the routine for the next 12 hours.

I’m thankful to have Mike on the 1st 6 hours of the event. Having some company to chat with made the lap quick and easy. Mike’s family came before his run ended at 3PM. Quick hi and hello, and I proceeded on with my 12hr monotonous adventure.

It started to get dark before 5PM. With the sun gone, it felt colder too. I changed clothes – a polar fleece shirt, a windbreaker, and a heavier and warmer tights. I felt fine the whole time, enjoying the experience, doing more jogs and walk breaks on the last 3 hours. I finished my last lap 5 minutes before 9PM. I’ve covered 55 laps for a total of 58.6 miles. My target was to at least cover 50 laps.

I suddenly felt the cold breeze the moment I stopped. I went to my tent and changed to warm and dry clothes. I was shivering even with layers of warm clothes. 9PM in SFO = 12MN in NJ. I called home and spoke with my daughter – greeted them a Happy New Year. I decided to stay inside the tent until my body has gained some warmth. I tried to get some nap but my legs were twitching. I came out before 12 midnight to join the mini-festivity to welcome the new year. We just had a glimpse of the fireworks, which was most visible from the other side of the town. After the toast and cheer, I headed back to the tent for warmth.

I managed to get some short but very much needed sleep. When I woke up, the 24hr runners were still on the course. 9AM would be the official finish time for them. The overall winner for the 24hr event covered 100 laps for a total of 106.5 miles. A question I asked then, and I still ask now… How the heck do you run for 24 hrs???

This is another experience I’d remember. My 1st 50+ miles. A good way to end the year and welcome the new one.  Happy New Year!