Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trail-Running Joy: Sun to Water

Deuel Creek, Centerville Canyon, Utah from AllTrails
Last Saturday I had a great early morning run clinching for me that I might actually make my segments in the upcoming Wasatch Back Ragnar and not let down the family team. It also came to me in a flash of morning sun over the peaks and the rushing of springtime water that I can also overcome my loss of the Albuquerque trails. I just have to replace the joy of the sun with that of water.

After my initial success with the St. George Marathon (finishing, that is), I went back to Albuquerque and broke free from my training routines onto the dirt trails just east of our home. Over the next three years or so, I enjoyed wonderful runs through the protected open space and into the Sandia Wilderness once I crossed that boundary fence only a mile or so from my house. My most common access was the wilderness gate at Embudo Canyon above the LDS Chapel on  Indian School  where we had our wedding open house many years ago.

Embudo Canyon in the Sandia Wilderness (from The Desert Edge by David Cristiani, with his gracious permission) 
Not to brag too much, but on a couple of occasions, I ran (well, mostly ran) all the way up to South Sandia Peak, a climb of three thousand feet (and 14 miles round trip from my door). That was my mountain quest for inspiration purchased at significant effort. Once, at lower elevation but within the Wilderness of Embudo Canyon, I saw a rare morning rainbow in the West.

South Sandia Peak (on the right- not the rock) from Three Gun Trail
The view from South Sandia looking north up the Crest
When my work surprisingly transferred me and I ended up back in Utah, we found a house in close enough proximity to the Wasatch foothills that could access them by running a few blocks from my door. It was good, but there was no wilderness protection. There are annoying motorbikes and four-wheelers up there on the hillsides. I searched out the trails restricting motorized vehicles and even those too tough for mountain bikes.

A most beautiful and relatively unused trail is Deuel Creek in Centerville Canyon. I've even gone up there a few times on Scout backpacking trips. I haven't been up the canyon too far this season yet, but I have been out on the firebreak road otherwise known as the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (or Weber pipeline road).

My route is good training as I have to climb a bit to get up to the mountainside trails. Cheese Park in Bountiful is exactly one mile from my house to the southeast. On the northeast, the entrance to Centerville Canyon is about a mile. The mile stretch of the Bonneville Trail between them makes for a great 3-mile or 5-K circle. The beauty is that as long as you're willing to backtrack a bit, you can stretch it out either direction on Bonneville Shoreline. As you do, you cut or drop into occasional canyons where perennial streams flow out of the Wasatch to be gathered for local irrigation before the excess flows into the Great Salt Lake below.

Saturday, I enjoyed crossing the gurgle of Deuel Creek. Then further to the north, I came into Parrish Creek in its Canyon and on and beyond. Turning around at the water tower (reminding me of the storage tower in Embudo Canyon before the Wilderness boundary), I headed back south. It was there at Deuel Creek before dropping down to home that I met the rays of the sun shooting down the canyon above the rushing water.

Albuquerque trails don't have much water. There was one spring I remember after a very wet winter when water flowed out of Embudo Canyon for a few weeks before it disappeared into the sand just above the subdivisions. I even doused myself in the small waterfall at the funnel a couple of times. ("Embudo" is Spanish for "funnel".) Most of the time the canyon is dry perking up after thunderstorms, sometimes rather forcefully rolling boulders down to the cement arroyos and even streets of Albuquerque.

Embudo Canyon in the Sandia Wilderness
(by David Cristiani  from The Desert Edge, with his gracious permission)
There is probably more sun in the everlasting hills of the Wasatch than water in the Sandias, but the joy of trail-running in Albuquerque is that with milder winters at a more southern latitude, the trails, at least at the lower elevations, are accessible pretty much year round. This is not so with the snow-covered trails of the Wasatch winter. Even the new path along Legacy Highway down by the Salt Lake wetlands gets encrusted with snow and ice. I have resisted any conversion to cross-country skiing. I just can't fit in.

Still, at least three seasons of the year, I can get out running and content myself with the sound of Wasatch water. When I can arrange my noontime runs from work downtown, I go up City Creek - the real one, not the fake one running through the new mall. The running water adds music to the exercise endorphins.

I still miss the Sandia trails and desert landscape - but not the prickly pear with running-shoe-piercing spines that keep you from straying from the center. And you thought I wouldn't link this into politics . . . .


  1. That's a great comparison. My first years in Abq, having grown up in Denver, were that of "how there is no running water". San Diego's mountains were similar to here in that.

    I keep forgetting about the few springs or seasonal water areas here, and how short-term most are. I guess, one must take the good with the bad.

    Nice to see your post and blog! Enjoy your to ride before I head to El Paso, drier still.

    1. Thanks, David. And again for the pics. I found your blog very interesting. We need to do better in Utah with xeriscaping. Our perennial streams for irrigation and the not quite dead Great Salt Lake for dumping excess flows and wastes are too tempting not to exploit.


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