Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Tucson Saguaro Cactus Desert Running Route

Click here for route map

Length 8.4 km (5.2 mi), terrain: gradual rise, gain 127 meters

NOTE: The Sonora is a real desert: avoid the summer heat, and try to run in the early mornings. Bring water and a hat! The loop drive is open daily from 7 a.m. till sunset. It's also perfect country for a mountain bike!

When in Tucson, make sure you experience some of the amazing Sonoran Desert awaiting you outside town (assuming you're not there in the summer months!). And one of the great places to do that is in one of America's youngest national parks: Saguaro National Park. The park protects some of the densest portions of the saguaro cactus forests surrounding Tucson.
An impressive saguaro cactus
Saguaro are giants of the cactus world, rising massively like silent titans out of the sand and rock. They are pretty special beings, and are worth getting closer to. The white Saguaro flowers are Arizona's state flower, and the red fruit is a traditional food of the local Native Americans.

The park's loop drive also takes you by lots of other desert plants, like red-flowering ocotillos, mesquite trees, and other cacti like barrel-cactus, prickly-pear and cholla. It's a whole different world out in those national park hills!

There are actually two separate sections of the park, one east of town, one to the west. And each unit has a low-traffic loop drive that makes a great running trail in this little-visited park. The eastern Rincon unit loop is called the Cactus Forest Drive, and is a paved 8-mile loop (That one has the advantage of being smooth, starts at the visitor center, has more people on foot and bicycles and passes an ecology trail and some scenic rocks).

This particular run follows the shorter, unpaved loop in the west unit, the Bahada Loop. It has the advantage of having less traffic, and it's more natural, with few man-made intrusions.
Bahada Loop along Hohokam Road
The Bahada Loop is a rather rough dirt road with lots of dips and rises, circling a few small hills. It's just off Sandario Road, south of the town of Picture Rocks. The loop combines Hohokam Road on the south half of the loop, and Golden Gate Road on the north half.

The loop follows dusty Hohokam Road eastwards, heading lightly uphill for the first three kilometers. When Hohokam joins Golden Gate Road, you turn westwards and follow it downhill all the way back.

How to get there: follow Sandario Road either northwards or southwards until you hit Kinney Road, with the sign pointing to the Red Hills Visitor Center. Just 200 meters southeast of the junction, Hohokam Road heads off to the east. There's a little parking spot right at the speed-limit sign. You can also park at the Sus picnic area just a few hundred meters ahead, on the left side.

OK, ready for a desert run to remember? Turn eastwards on Hohokam Road and start moving.

You'll quickly pass the Sus picnic area on the left side, with its trail head for the Bahada Wash Trail, which parallels the road to Valley View. At just over a mile along the loop road, you'll pass the Hugh Norris Trail heading off to the right, rising into the Tucson Mountains to the southeast.
The saguaro forest
And just past the 2-kilometer mark, you'll come to Valley View, with more trailheads. There are a series of small rises to the left (north) that we will keep circling for the whole run.

During the next kilometer, the loop drive is just one-way for cars.

Enjoy the scenery. Some of the saguaros have holes in them, where birds nest. Keep your eyes open for lizards of various sizes and shapes.

At about the 3.5-kilometer mark, Hohokam runs into Golden Gate Road, where you turn left to head back west along the north side of those hills we have been rounding the whole time. The road is two-way for the rest of the loop.

After five kilometers, you'll pass the side-road for the Signal Hill picnic area to the right.

At the 7.5-kilometer mark, Golden Gate Road runs into Sandario Road, where you turn left to run 200 meters to where Kinney Road turns to the left. Now follow Kinney for 200 meters more to the start of the run, where Hohokam Road begins on the left side.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Best Düsseldorf Running Routes

Visitors to Düsseldorf will quickly be impressed by its riverside parks, promenade and repurposed harbor. The old town is one of the liveliest in Germany, with streets full of outdoor restaurant- and bar seating, and visitors from around the world enjoying a night out with friends and colleagues. But there are also hidden corners, away from the Rhine River and the old town, where hilly woods and rural fields await for a total getaway from the urban pulse...
Runners along Düsseldorf's riverside
Top Düsseldorf Running Routes
Königsallee/Old Town/Rhine: this route takes you through the heart of town, with its elegant shopping district, the pedestrian lanes in the old town, the riverside promenade. The perfect way to see the most famous sights in town!

Both Sides of the Rhine: this route hugs the water along both sides of the Rhine River, giving you a maritime experience you won't forget.

Rhine Harbor: this great run takes you past the state parliament and TV tower and through the new Media Harbor and through traditional harbor neighborhoods at the south side of town.

Stadtwald: the town woods is green oasis of wooded hills on the east side of town. It's easy to reach with the tram, and takes you through beautiful rolling beech woods and fields.

Gerresheim: this is another great getaway on the east side: taking you out into more rural farmland and woods east of the city.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Moab Mill Creek Parkway Running Route

Click here for route map

Length 3.8 km (2.4 mi), terrain: flat, gain 27 meters

Just about any time you show up in Moab, Utah, it will be hot. That's why it's good to find a running trail with lots of shade. And that means the Mill Creek Parkway. It's meandering green oasis gracing the heart of town, with cottonwoods and other water-loving shade trees providing a canopy over much of the trail.
Mill Creek runners
Mill Creek flows from the La Sal Mountains to the east, crosses town, and then joins the Colorado River to the west. And the Parkway trail gets you away from all the Main Street loud tourist stuff.
Welcome to Moab: Main Street
This short run follows part of the creek valley: it heads 1.2 miles east from the town center to Rotary Park, and then follows the same way back. The few busy streets are easily crossed, as the trail goes under them via underpasses.

The trail is mainly paved with cement, with a variety of pedestrian bridges connecting the neighboring streets into the trail. You'll fall in love with this whole other side of Moab.
A Parkway bridge
There are also extra connectors at various spots that can take you to other trails, like the Pack Creek Parkway near the starting point.

The foot- and bike-trail has been around for 20 years now, linking the eastern residential neighborhoods with the town center. The local museum donated various bits of old farming- and mining-equipment on display along the parkway, adding points of interest. And neighbors have contributed fanciful carved seats at a few spots, too.
Mill Creek: I like it!
Let's start the trail in town at the western end, at the corner of S 100 W and W 100 S (the Utah street-numbering system can confuse about anybody!). To get there, turn west off US 191 on W 100 S at Zax Restaurant and head one block to the right-hand curve. You'll see the creek and the trail right there next to the street. 
Trail map near the start
NOTE: Heading west from our starting point, there is another section of the trail that goes another kilometer westwards along the creek to S 500 W, near the Moab Regional Hospital. Maybe try it out to add some extra distance!

Now just turn eastwards and follow the trail for the one block until it heads down through an underpass beneath Main Street (US 191).
Main Street underpass...
On the other side, the lower creek trail heads uphill, bounded by a brick retaining wall for the adjoining businesses.
...and back out again
A couple of connecting trails then join from both sides, but just stay on the main trail directly to the right side of the creek. The trail curves southwards and heads towards the next underpass, at E 300 S.

After the E 300 S underpass, you head by the "Bark Park" (a dog park) on the right side and then the middle school and high school. Then, just before going under Fourth Street, you run by the Youth Garden, kind of a cool project where the school kids raise vegetables.
Heading to the Bark Park, under E 300 S
On the last stretch of the upper creek, you'll run past a new subdivision before reaching Rotary Park.

Rotary Park is the turnaround spot. This typical small-town park offers lots of shade (I'm grateful for any respite from the desert heat!), with a playground, barbeque grills and restrooms. The best things about the park are the cool extras like the hummingbird garden and an area with fun xylophones and gongs to make your own music on. Make sure you stop to try the hand-made percussion instruments. You'll love it!
Time to compose your next symphony...
After your concert, just turn back and head home along the same trail.

ANOTHER NOTE: Farther west, you can head out Powerhouse Lane, which brings you to the Mill Creek North Fork Trailhead. The Mill Creek Trail starts at the beginning of a beautiful red-rock canyon, heading past a little dam, passing Mill Creek Falls, and ending 7.5 miles later. It's too rough to run, but a great hike!