Love Arizona

While everyone’s all #HappyValentinesDay, I’m over here like #HappyStatehoodDayAZ. Because I’ve got puppy snuggles and pony kisses, and I love my state.

One big photo spam of state love.

I don’t have a favorite part of this state. (Although I’m tired of suburbia. There’s a reason the photos all feature the great outdoors, and not my surrounding sea of tiles roofs.) I love that I can get everything from cactus to pines, sand to snow.

Sure, the desert bakes your brains out in the summer, but last weekend, I was riding in a tank top. And there’s no snow to shovel. There’s also plenty of location options for those who prefer four distinctive seasons. (What’s that?)

I’ve been to or through every corner of the state, and plenty of time in the middle of it. I’ve ridden, hiked, or run on trails all over; boated, floated or waded in lakes and rivers; summit’d peaks and descended into the depths of canyons. Sunrises and sunsets painted from a palette of imagination and sheer beauty. Cactus hugs. Quaking aspens.

We’re the youngest state in the continental US, and 48th out of the 50 states to be granted statehood, received in 1912. We have a population of approximately 7 million, making us the 14th largest state by population. And Phoenix is the most populated state capital. (Oh yay. Said with much sarcasm and an overabundance of congestion overwhelm, since I live in the Phoenix metro area…where 2/3 of the state’s population also lives.)

We’re the 6th largest state by landmass. And only 18% of it is privately held. State Trust holds just under 13%, while the Fed “manages” about 42% and the remaining 27% is tribal. We also have the largest number of national monuments of the states — 18. (This would be why so much of the population is all crammed into the greater Phx area and any amount of acreage for property is precious and at a premium. <long-suffering annoyed sigh and eyeroll>

State stuff
Flower: saguaro cactus blossom
Gemstone: turquoise
Tree: palo verde
Bird: cactus wren
Fossil: petrified wood
Mammal: ringtail

Happy 106th, Arizona!

 

 

 

May Day Musings

So, it’s been an interesting winter/spring. I don’t know if the fact I still keep attempting to lay out plans, both long and short-term, despite the “plans never survive first contact with reality” adage that is an all-too-frequent reality, is persistence and stubbornness, or bordering on futility.

Running events actually went pretty close to plan, albeit with some major “not according to plan” weather interruptions. You know you’re in Arizona when, in the space of two months, the weather goes from hypothermia to heat stroke.

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“but it hardly ever rains in the desert…”

I’m very pleased with how my running season went this time around. No major injuries, and conquering Crown King/getting that first 50k completion. My two major goals, and I managed both of them.

What I’m finding very interesting is the aftermath.

Trail running is definitely not my all-encompassing joy and passion the way riding is. I don’t actually like to train for running. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing a race, and I enjoy the social aspect, but I have a hard time mustering up a ton of enthusiasm for the idea of going out for a long training run by myself. For me, it tends to be more of a “put in the work or you’re not going to enjoy the outcome” type of mentality when it comes to training.

After giving it some thought, I don’t know if the idea of moving beyond the 50k distance really holds a ton of appeal. The idea of having to do way more training above and beyond what I did for CK has very little appeal. Maybe if I had easier access to trails, I would feel differently, but as it is now, it’s a lot of work for me to get to actual trails, and takes a lot of time. Because I do have to drive everywhere (to the barn, to trails), that alone eats into the time allotted for my “play time.” And there are other things in my life that mean more to me than running/moving up in ultra distances.

(However, as long as I have the dogs, I will always be doing some degree of running, because that’s the fastest way to happy terriers.)

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Comparing that to riding, there’s been very few times where I haven’t felt like riding. Especially if I’m on a good horse that I really like, the training and conditioning doesn’t feel like a chore or something that “has” to be done. It’s something I truly enjoy. (I always keep in mind Julie Suhr’s advice that “If you don’t enjoy the conditioning process, this is not the sport for you.”)

And it’s a good thing, too, since that tends to be the area in which all attempts at planning completely fall apart. If I didn’t love it so much, this would probably be an exercise in frustration/futility.

To whit: I was supposed to ride Liberty at the Bumble Bee ride two weekends ago. (Normally scheduled for January, but massive amounts of rain pushed it into April.) However, vehicle problems (NOT mine this time) prevented her from making it to the ride. I swear this ride is jinxed for me. Not once have I actually ridden it and finished.

Bumble Bee, A History:

  • Year One: Didn’t have a horse to ride, so volunteered.
  • Year Two: Liberty and I went overtime on the 25.
  • Year Three: My suburban engine blew up a week before the ride and I wasn’t going anywhere.
  • Year Four: Lameness pull after the first loop of the 25 on Liberty.
  • Year Five: Vehicle problems that prevented Liberty from being brought down for me to ride.

So, since I was already there, with all my stuff, I begged a bed off of friends for the night, and volunteered on ride day.

Not what I had planned, but I still had a good time, and felt right at home again with my endurance tribe. I once again landed my “master timer” job, which, aside from vet scribing, is one of the things I really like doing. I’m very organized, so the “keeping track of things” element of it is right up my alley, and apparently I can be quite bossy/direct when it comes to making sure the process runs smoothly.

Meanwhile, with the weather warming up, the pony is quite happy. Winter coat is shed out and she’s working on baldifying herself for the summer. Warm weather also = explosive hoof growth, so never mind that I trimmed her three weeks ago…by the time I got down to the barn this past weekend, it looked like eight weeks had gone by.

So that was a happy couple of hours spent meticulously working on her feet that had really gotten away from me this winter/early spring. Still not 100% where I like to see them, but since the goal is not “lame the pony from a crappy trim,” I’ll keep working at it over the next few weeks. She’s gone from “let me grow stupid-high upright feet and heel” to “let me show you how long my toes can get.” Pony feet = never boring.

And then we rode. God bless my sainted pony for putting up with me while I’m caught in this “ugh, I feel like a hot mess who doesn’t know how to ride” cycle. Apparently 24 years of riding, over 10 of which involved lessons, showing, and instruction, means nothing to my psyche right now, since I’m overthinking and just trying way too hard. However, I had a revelation on Saturday that somewhere along the way I completely forgot I had lower legs, and have been doing way too much upper leg and letting the lower leg just gleefully swing along for the ride.

And I wonder why I tip forward, or most of my ride photos have my lower leg trailing along somewhere back at my horse’s flank. Apparently the idea of the lower leg as your stable base of support isn’t just some radical suggestion.

Arena time = way too much think time. I need more trail time.

In unfortunate other news, fire season already started here with the Sawmill Fire burning approximately 47,000 acres north of Sonoita, including part of the Empire Ranch, base camp to the Old Pueblo ride, and part of the Arizona Trail on the west side of the highway (which is a major section of trail for one of the ride days, and my favorite trail for the ride).

It’s too soon to tell how it will impact the ride. The 2017 ride happened already (March), but I don’t know what will happen for 2018. The fire is at 94% containment right now.

Much closer to home is the Cactus Fire, right along the Salt River…one of my go-to trail locations. 800 acres and 85% containment, but only about 4 miles away from some large residential areas of northeast Mesa. It’s also one of the spots where the Salt River wild horses like to hang out; fortunately it appears that none of the wild horses have been hurt or killed and they are staying clear of the area.

The weather has been hot, dry, and windy for the past week, so decidedly not helpful in fire control. Southern AZ in particular gets very windy; enough so that they had to ground air support several times due to high winds.

Hoping and praying for some spring rain, or early monsoons…all of the lush greenery from the winter rains has turned dry, brown, and crunchy, and we’re currently sitting at “tinderbox” status right now. :/

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So, rather shockingly, I realized I have actually managed a at-least-one-post-per-month streak on this blog since August of 2011…and that a week out from the end of June, I was in danger of breaking that streak.

I just haven’t had much to blog about.

It’s been hot here…although that’s not really a newsflash, this is summer in Arizona after all. Rather amusingly, the weather “forecasters” have been doing all kinds of hand-wringing predictions of “unusually high heat waves” (no, actually, we regularly hit 115° here in June, thanks), practically salivating over the idea of us “hitting new record temps”…and then it’ll fall two to three degrees short of what they’re predicting.

(Yes, mentally, there’s a big difference between 115° and 111°.)

So when it’s this hot, I really don’t ride. Even the Go Pony prefers to hang out in her shaded stall with her fan, and the barn owner who goes through a couple times a day and sprays them with the hose, and turnout at night when the sun doesn’t bake them.

Also not too inclined to get the running miles in. I try to be up between 4:30 and 5 in the morning to get out the door with the dogs while the weather is quasi-passable (85° and the sun isn’t up high enough to start cooking us yet) but even then, it’s hard to get more than a couple of miles in.

This is called summer hibernation, and it happens pretty much every year. It makes for good endurance heat conditioning, if you have certain plans on the ride calendar that call for heat conditioning…but if not, it’s a really good excuse to stay inside, hug the air conditioning, and dream of when it was cold enough to justify wearing more clothing than just running shorts and a tank top.

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got to head up to Zion, and slightly cooler temperatures, earlier in the month

Pronouncing Arizona: A How-To Guide

This is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek post stemming from good-natured humor and the observations of a native Arizonan. I promise not to name names or point fingers…this is all in good fun. ;) 

A Public Service Announcement: “You’re saying it wrong.”

A source of almost-constant amusement for me is the pronunciations and inevitable mispronunciations of the names of places and things around the state of Arizona. You can almost always tell if someone is from out of state by how they pronounce certain names. Many names around the state can be attributed to either the Spanish language influence (‘double-l’ makes a ‘y’/’ee’ sound, for example) or Native American names and language.

Here’s just a few of my favorites…

Spelled “Prescott,” it’s actually pronounced “Pres-kit.” It was Arizona’s original territorial capital, and is still a very fun city that has retained a ton of its Old West charm and character. Off the top of my head, this is probably one of the most mis-pronounced cities in AZ. (Although Tempe, just two cities over from me, is a close second. It’s “Tem-pee” with a long ‘e’, not “Tempeh” or “Temp-ay”.

Behind the pony is just one part of the Sierra Estrella range. That’s “Es-tray-yuh.” Not “Es-trail-la” or “Aus-trail-a.” I have also heard “Es-tray-lee-ya”. (They’re a truly rugged, magnificent range and I cant seem to find a good overview shot of them within easy access in my photos. I’ve done a number of rides out here — phenomenal trails.)

This is just one of many varieties of cholla cactus. “Choy-yuh.” Have most commonly heard “chawl-la” but also it is also frequently associated with the phrase “Ouch, dammit, get it off, it’s stuck to me!”

And this is an ocotillo, often crowned with bright red blossoms on the ends. When it’s green, it looks sort of soft and fluffy from a distance, but like all things in the desert…it is sharp and pointy. “Ock-oh-tee-yo”…I think the worst I’ve heard on this one is “ock-oh-till-oh.”

The big, tall cactus with the arms is a saguaro, unique to the Sonoran desert. “Saw-whar-ro”, not “sag-you-are-ro” or “sa-garrow.” That’s ‘The Bulldogs’ behind it, part of the Goldfield Mtns…stare at it long enough and it’s supposed to look like a bulldog’s head. I’m bad at seeing-eye type of things, so I’ve yet to really see it.

The Mogollon Rim is one I’ll give to people, because it’s not pronounced anywhere near how it’s spelled; at least, not really. It’s “Mug-ee-on.” This is a doozy: I’ve gotten “Mug-a-lon”, “Mongolian”, and many “not even gonna try it” attempts. Insider tip: Most of us just call it “The Rim.” There’s only one place like it, so if you refer to “the Rim” we will know you’re talking about the large plateau above Payson. Also considered the “gateway to saner temperatures in the summer.”

riding below The Rim, which is the flat mountain plateau above;
there are trails that you can ride/hike that take you up to the top

western edge of The Rim

Some other things I can think of off the top of my head are the bougainvillea plant (“bow-gan-vee-ya”), Aravaipa (wilderness canyon located southwest of the Valley whose name inspired the name of the group I run with: “air-uh-vie-pa”), Mazatzal Mountains (which is a funny one: technically, it’s “mah-zat-zal” but locally, in ends up being shortened to “mat-a-zal”), and Galiuro (which should be “gal-oor-o” and I jsut learned I’ve been saying it wrong, as I’ve always refered to is as “gal-uh-roo-uh”).

I’m sure there’s a ton more I’m missing…we are a state of interesting names…but this concludes Lesson One in our primer of “How To Talk Arizona”. ;)

a week in pictures

It’s been one of those weeks where nothing has happened that warrants its own full blog post…just a lot of random little stuff here and there.

The Man Against Horse ride is next weekend and I can’t wait! Liberty and I are going to be doing the 25. It’s been four years since I’ve done this ride and I’ve been on pins and needles for the past month, just wanting the ride weekend to Be Here already.

Gina sent this to me. Liberty went out all by
herself like a big girl and was very good. :)

This amusing face got worked last weekend, her first time since her massage. I could tell a big difference under saddle. She was moving well, and it wasn’t like trying to steer a 2×4.

“Behold me, in my innocence.”

Innocent-face got a sloppy mash…

…which she proceeded to drool all over my
suburban. Which had just gone through the
car wash the day before.

I’ve been doing ride prep for Man Against Horse here and there in the evenings as I think about stuff that needs done. The other night, I made a new fancy red tail ribbon for Liberty to wear, since the first one I made got sacrificed to the manzanita at the Prescott Chaparral ride. Trying not to get too attached to this one, since there is also more manzanita along this trail. Lots of manzanita.

She didn’t end up needing it at the last ride,
but I’m still using it as a precaution. Young
horses are unpredictable.

And somewhere along the way, fall happened:

Running errands mid-morning. Nice.

Display of multi-functionality:

Hoof boot. Water bottle holder.

And finally, it’s the weekend. Let’s make some trail dust.

good life philosophy