Home For The Holidays?

It’s only November but I want to talk about Christmas. Why?  Because Christmas is in full swing here in Phoenix.  Malls and shopping centers are decorated, decorations have been available for what seems like weeks, and we even have a 2 local radio stations that are playing non-stop Christmas music from now until Christmas day.  Crazy, I know.  I’ve always been adamant about waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to even consider getting into the hubbub of Christmas.  However, for some reason things seem a bit different this year. It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with Thanksgiving and especially Christmas the past few years. While last year started the same as the previous year, I started to come around once Christmas grew closer.

Christmas TreeLast Year’s Tree

This year it seems that the warmer weather has stuck around a bit longer than usual.  You would think that would work against the idea of getting into the Christmas spirit…but it’s not.  Instead of shaking my head at the decorations I see and the music I hear, I find myself smiling.  I’ve always preferred to give gifts than receive so this year I’ve tried to get a jump start on gift giving…or at least figuring out what I want to send to who.  I’ve fought the urge to purchase Christmas decorations for the past few years since we sold and/or dumped most everything we had before our big move to Arizona.  What’s the point of replacing them, right?  But I have a feeling this may be the year I give in and at least purchase an extra strand of lights or two to decorate our living room.  Nope, it won’t be classy, but it will be spirit-filled!

Maybe this is why I’m all into the holiday spirit….A couple months ago DH and I were discussing the upcoming holidays. Since we moved out to AZ 2 years ago we have yet to go home for the holidays. It’s not so much that we don’t want to but that time and money do not permit. As I posted recently, my parents recently retired, sold my childhood home, and relocated to Florida. Since their move I’ve really wanted to make it down to see their new digs so DH said, “Why don’t you head down to see them over Thanksgiving?”  I have Thanksgiving off and since I was laid off when we went to Jamaica I never had to use my vacation time.  Now that I’m back to work I now have an entire week to use before the end of the year. How perfect?! Sadly DH will be staying home due to his schedule and having to watch the buzzbomb creatures, but for the first time in a few years I’ll get to see my parents on Thanksgiving, and I’m stoked.

Which leads me to my question for you:  When I find myself sharing that I’ll be visiting my parents I catch myself saying, “I’m going home for Thanksgiving….” But then I correct myself and say, “Well, I’m technically not going home. My parents recently retired and relocated to Florida….” Yadah, yadah, yadah. What do you consider home? Where you currently live? Where you grew up? Where your parents live? All the above? Totally over analyzing but would love to know what you think.

Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)

Finding What Works

About 2 months ago I decided to be fit few new running shoes when I was also fitted for custom orthotics.  At that time I switched to a Brooks Ghost, which didn’t work so well, so I ended up in the Saucony Ride.  It took some getting used to but my feet adjusted to the orthotics and I was no longer having the cuboid pain I’ve suffered with for years.  Hooray!

Trail Running

At the same time I decided to get fit for trail shoes and went with a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS. One trail run in them and my arches were on fire due to rubbing.  The problem with the Brooks and my orthotics is I have to size up.  So if I remove the orthotics the shoes are huge. Overall the Brooks were okay on the trails but nothing like how much I loved my Pearl Izumi N2. Problem with my Pearl Izumi N2?  I was wearing them when I wrecked my feet last year on the trails.

Then I got an idea…what if I added my orthotics to my Pearl Izumi N2? I took a huge chance last week pairing my orthotics and Pearl Izumis when I set out to cover 13 miles.  Bingo. While the combo wasn’t 100% perfect and I still ended up with bruised and blistered arches, with some time I think they may work.

Pearl Izumi N2

Having high arches means they haven’t been toughened up or callused like the rest of my feet.  After doing some research it sounds as though this is pretty normal and while there are a few people that needed their orthotics adjusted, most people’s feet toughened over time. That’s my hope.

In the meantime I’m keeping on in my training.  When my arches are tender I use Rocktape for an additional layer of protection.  Also, unlike the Brooks my Pearl Izumis fit my feet with or without the orthotics, which means if my arches are overly tender I can remove my orthotics. Fingers crossed my feet continue to make progress.  So far, so good!

Trail Running

Another thing I knew I needed to address was my fueling….or lack thereof.  I do great at fueling myself, when I’m not running.  When I am?  Not so much. I’ve tried Clif Blox (too chew), Sport Beans (before I was vegan), dates (too messy), gels (ack…not a fan a unnatural products) with no luck.  I’ve also haven’t been able to find an electrolyte drink that works for me.

Trail Running

In addition to all of that I’ve had my share of GI mishaps and deal with nausea when running anything longer than 10 miles.  GI issues usually hit early but the nausea happens post run. As long as I avoid the GI issues I feel great.  However, about 20-30 minutes post-run it’s as though my body goes into shock.

After last year’s PF Changs half I made it to my car and thought I was in the clear.  Once I started to drive it hit. I ended up finding myself in a McDonald’s parking lot forcing down sugared ginger cubes.  All I wanted to do was vomit but I knew that I needed to get something into me.  Once I did it took 10 minutes and I was good to go.  A month later I tried to be proactive and started shoving bananas down immediately after I crossed the finish line.  While I wasn’t totally able to avoid the post run nausea it was better.  And that’s when I realized, I REALLY needed to figure out what I could use as fuel during my runs, and figure out the right timing and amounts to avoid causing problems.

With the ultra coming up I knew I needed to get my stuff together. So, not only did I risk trying my Pearl Izumi N2 with orthotics on last week’s long run but I also experimented with fueling.  Because, why not?!  Yes, not totally smart but I’ve put it off for far too long and I know it’s going to take time and some experimentation. I started off by choosing my fuel.  Trying to stay natural yet non-messy I decided to try Go-Go Squeez apple/strawberry pouches along with Simply Balanced Organic Fruit Strips.

Go Go Squeez Running Fuel

My game plan was to fuel every 60 minutes.  I started the morning with a tortilla with peanut butter, drove 15 minutes to the mountain, took off for my run, and once I hit 60 minutes on the trail I took my first Go Go Squeez pouch. The second hour I ate a fruit strip and finished my 13 miles with another pouch. The verdict?  While I’m still not a fan of the chewiness of the fruit strips I totally dug the pouches.  No problems whatsoever and I didn’t crash post-run.  Schwing!

I do have to test my method several times to see if it was a freak occurrence or if it really did work, but I’m totally stoked at the progress I’ve made not only in my mileage but figuring out my shoes/feet and fueling.  I’ve been trying to address my feet for a few years and have put off experimenting with fueling due to past less-than-stellar experiences so it’s a great to have the feeling that I’m finally on the right track.

Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)

Rockhounding: North of Cave Creek, Arizona – Red Jasper & Onyx

When I sat down to write my next post I realized that I’ve never really gotten around to sharing about many of our off-roading trips.  While these may not be all that exciting to my everyday readers this is something we really enjoy and it’s NOT my plan to inundate you with maps and directions.  However DH and I’ve  found it’s hard to find enough information all in one place so we oftentimes have to piece a variety of resources together to make these adventures happen.  You’ll notice a new badge in the right sidebar that will link to a new Off-Road and Rockhound Adventure Resources page. It’s my hope that anyone looking to adventure out may stumble upon my site in their search and use our experiences and insight to help guide them.

Sometime in late September/early October DH and I ventured north of Phoenix in search of red jasper.  Ever since we began off-roading and rockhounding a few months ago it’s been challenging trying to figure out if what we’re collecting really is what we’ve set out to find. We’ve found that the best way to confirm is to find an area that is known for an element so there’s no doubt when you find it.  The area north of Cave Creek provided the perfect opportunity for explore and find real red jasper and banded onyx.

While N Cave Creek Rd quickly turns from pavement to packed dirt/gravel it’s very well maintained and almost any car could probably make the trip.  In fact, we saw a Prius making its way up the road while we were out exploring. The only problems I could see would be if you wanted to venture off onto the side trails mentioned below.  Although the trails aren’t super sketchy they are a bit technical for a 2WD vehicle.  However, I don’t see why you couldn’t make your up N Cave Creek Rd to the trail of your choice, park on the side of the road, and hike to the location of your choice.  If you’re rockhounding, there would be no need for you to hike more than a quarter to half mile from N Cave Creek Rd to find your bounty.

North Of Cave Creek

How To Get There:

  • Take I-17 north to Carefree Highway (AZ 74)
  • Upon exiting I-17 turn right (east) on Carefree Highway
  • 9.8 miles to N Cave Creek Rd
  • Turn left (north) onto N Cave Creek Rd
  • Continue through the town of Cave Creek
  • 19 miles Barlett Dam Rd will be to your right
  • Continue straight on N Cave Creek Rd - Zero Odometer
  • 1.9 miles you will pass Cave Creek Tonto National Forest Sign
  • 2.8 miles Sears Kay Ruins and trailhead to your right
  • 4.4 miles pavement ends
  • 7.7 miles Bronco trailhead to your left
  • 9.5 miles pass through Seven Springs Wash (road winds through wash several times along route)
  • 10.4 miles Trail 254 on right

North Of Cave Creek - Jasper

  • Turnright onto Trail 254 - Zero odometer
  • Small amounts of Jasper along side of trail
  • Continue straight on Trail 254
  • 0.3 miles cross over cattle guard and trail forks – Humboldt Lookout towering to the right – Zero odometer

North Of Cave Creek - Jasper

  • Veer left at fork
  • Red jasper becomes more prominent alongside trail
  • 0.4 miles large pieces of red jasper will be found (we did not continue further along trail – I’m sure even more exists up there)

North Of Cave Creek - Jasper

North Of Cave Creek - Jasper

North Of Cave Creek - Jasper

North Of Cave Creek - Jasper

  • Back track to N Cave Creek Rd – Zero odometer
  • Turn right (north) onto N Cave Creek Rd
  • 1.3 miles you enter Seven Springs Recreation Area and Camping

North Of Cave Creek - Tonto National Forest

  • 2.0 miles Cave Creek Camping area
  • Continue along trail entering what looks to be a mesa
  • 5.4 miles take a sharp left turn onto Trail 41 (Just past mile marker 15 – Note sign on your right) – Zero odometer

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

  • 0.1 miles New River Canyon sign and big onyx boulder to the right

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

  • Veer right and go around boulder – Zero odometer
  • Note Trail 1090 marker on right
  • Follow the trail to the right

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

  • Pass through 2 tiny washes
  • 0.1 miles trail begins to climb and get sketchy

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

  • Tall grass to right
  • Walk through grass where you will find a large wash loaded with pieces of onyx

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

  • Back track to Trail 41, then back to N Cave Creek Rd
  • N Cave Creek Rd continues on but we made the choice to return and head back from where we started at this point based on the time of day

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

North Of Cave Creek - Onyx

 Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)

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Looking for more off-road rockhound adventures?
Check out my Off-Road and Rockhound Adventure Resources Page

Rockhounding: Aguila, Arizona – Bullard Mine

Ever since I started back to work it seems like our lives have been non-stop.  While some of the craziness has come from being in a new position most of it isn’t coming from work.  It’s as though I blinked and November is now upon us.  Wasn’t it just July?!  I have a feeling the whirlwind of the next few months is just beginning. DH and I are teaming up and working on a project together that seems to change daily, in just a few weeks I’m heading to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, and I’m also getting deep into my training for my upcoming 50K.  After all of that I’ll be off to Utah in March for the Zion Half Marathon and then a quick trip to Colorado.   Geesh!

Jeep - Bullard Mine

Although DH and I thoroughly enjoyed off-roading this past summer the one thing we were looking forward to was heading out in the cool winter months to do even more exploring.  With the current craziness it’s not looking too promising.  Because of this we made sure to take advantage of the downtime we had this past Saturday and made a day of off-roading. This time we headed west to Aguila to check out Bullard Mine located at Bullard Peak, just southeast of  the Harcuver Mountains, where Smith Peak is located.

Smith Peak

This was probably our easiest terrain to navigate to date as it was not challenging and turns were pretty straight forward.  We made the 6 mile loop around Bullard Peak stopping at a variety locations to check out the mine openings on each side of the peak and to do a little rock hounding.  Other than the Black Rock Mine this is the first mine we’ve encountered that has full access to the mine openings. We passed on heading into the mines this time but I’m interested to return to explore.

Bullard Mine ChrysocollaChrysocolla

How To Get There:

  • Take 60 west through Wickenburg toward Aguila
  • Once to Aguila turn right (North) on Eagle Eye Road
  • Eagle Eye Road transitions to a packed dirt road
  • Drive 4 miles until you intersect Aguila Valley Road (no street sign)
  • Turn left onto Aguila Valley Road  - Zero odometer
  • At 3 miles veer right on gravel trail leading off of Aguila Valley Road (once on from Aguila Valley Road this is the 3rd turn off – no sign – marked with ribbons on bushes) - Zero odometer

Bullard Mine

  • Trail narrows and crosses over cattle guard
  • At 2.9 miles you come upon a sign with Smith Peak Road Information located in the middle of a fork in the road

Bullard Mine

  • Veer left at fork – Zero odometer
  • At 1.5 miles turn right onto new trail – Zero odometer
  • Continue straight (north) approximately 0.1 mile until first option to turn right
  • Turn right and continue straight for approximately 0.2 miles (Look up to your left – you should see Bullard Mine dumpings – climb up hill to find mine opening)

Bullard Mine

  • Back track to main trail – Turn right (northwest) onto main trail to continue onward – Zero odometer
  • At 0.25 miles veer right
  • At 0.25 miles the remains of a building foundation will be on your left
  • At 0.9 miles veer right (after a 0.2 mile you enter what feels to be a wash with high sides – continue on)
  • At 1.87 miles continue on – trail begins to head left toward the north
  • At 2.0 miles trail begins to lead right toward the east/southeast
  • At 2.6 miles turn right onto new trail
  • Continue west/southwest on trail – trail begins to rise and become more technical – Depending on vehicle you may want to park and hike remaining 0.2 miles to 2 Bullard Mine openings

Bullard Mine

  • Once finished return to vehicle and back track toward main trail
  • Once back to main trail turn right (south) and continue on
  • At 4.7 miles you will find yourself back at the fork with the Smith Peak Information sign

Bullard Mine Map

Bullard Mine Map2

Bullard Mine Map3

Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)
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Looking for more off-road rockhound adventures?
Check out my Off-Road and Rockhound Adventure Resources Page