Monday, 8 July 2019

Tucson Sabino Canyon Running Route

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Length 9.7 km (6 miles), terrain: lots of little hills, gain 200 meters

NOTE: There are a few interesting variations to lengthen or shorten this route. You could lengthen it another 2 kilometers by continuing up the canyon to tram stop 9 before turning around. And you could remove the least scenic section at the beginning by starting at tram-stop 1, shortening the route by 3.9 kilometers. You can even cut the whole thing in half by taking the tram up the canyon and just running back down again.

HEALTH NOTE: This is the desert. The time to run is early mornings, or make sure you run it in the season from autumn through spring.

The steep, forbidding Santa Catalina Mountains loom above Tuscon's Catalina Foothills. The range is a huge wilderness area, with lots of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors as well. The highest peak in the range, Mt. Lemmon, rises over 9,000 feet, making it the most southern ski resort in the country.
A runner heading up the canyon over one of the bridges
For a good run, one of the best spots to head is much lower, and easy to reach: Sabino Canyon, on the range's southern slopes. This recreation area has been popular with the locals for generations, with its string of pools along Sabino Creek. A paved single-lane road winds its way up the canyon, free of cars. Only the park's shuttle buses (and of course bicycles, hikers and runners) are allowed on the road.
A Sabino Creek pool
The creek forms a thin, green oasis, with its cool, shady pools, waterfalls and beaches nestled under the cottonwood trees, threading through the boulders that have rolled down from the mountains above. Just a bit higher up, on the dry slopes, saguaro- and cholla-cactus populate a very different desert landscape in the blazing Sonora sun.
Cactus along the canyon walls
The road crosses nine stone bridges built by the WPA during the Great Depression, rising 500 feet (150 meters) from the visitor center to the end at tram-stop 9. The road gains much of its elevation towards the end, between stops 7 and 9, so this route will turn around at stop 7.

The park is open from dawn till dusk, and there is an entry charge. If you want to take the tram, you have to pay extra for that, but you can jump on and off as you please. There are a variety of toilet houses and a couple of water fountains along the way, as well as the various swimming holes you might want to jump into when the going gets hot. You can park at the visitor center and you can also take the tram from there, or head directly up the walkway next to the road into the canyon.
Despite the warning, you probably won't see any mountain lions. But keep a lookout for other wildlife!
The visitor center is located at the corner of East Sunrise Drive and North Sabino Canyon Road. For entry fees ($5 in 2019), exact address and other details, visit

So, assuming you're going to run from the visitor center up to tram-stop 7 and back, get yourself to the west side of the center, where the trams load up, and start running northeastwards, up the walkway along the right-side of Upper Sabino Canyon Road.

This is the least scenic part of the run, flat and there are a few side-roads and other trails branching off.
Anderson Dam is a favorite swimming hole up-canyon
After you cross the side road to the right towards Sabino Dam, the walkway ends and you run along the asphalt road for the rest of the route up-canyon.

After a mile, you enter the canyon itself. The road approaches the creek, curves to the left and goes by a nice little waterside picnic area and a water fountain.

You'll then cross the first stone bridge (very clever how they built them low so that flood waters can just flow over the tops instead of sweeping them away!) The first tram stop waits around the next corner.
Another pool along Sabino Creek
This is the fun part: heading up and down little rises, over bridges, skirting pools and beaches. What an escape from the sprawl and heat of Tucson.

You'll pass one tram-stop after another. Most are near a bridge, with a pool and maybe a beach.

When you get to tram-stop 7, the Sabino Historic Trail heads off to the right, leading uphill. This is our turnaround point, unless you want to extend it to the final tram-stop, number 9, along the steeper stretch of road.

Even at stop 9, it's possible to keep going up-canyon, but the road ends and you need to follow a rough trail switchbacking steeply up the mountainside, through the cactus.

On the way back, find a good swimming hole to kick off your shoes and have a good cooling off!
The author taking his own advice

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Dinkelsbühl Old-Town Running Route

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Length 5 km (3.1 miles), terrain: easy, flat, gain 41 meters

Dinkelsbühl is one of those fairytale towns along Germany's Romantic Road: church towers rise above city walls lined by stone watchtowers. Heading through the city gates, the old-town lanes lead you from one little market square to the next, passing thousand-year-old monasteries and fountains surrounded by of half-timbered houses. If you visit south Germany, there's a good chance you'll end up in Dinkelsbühl.
Old-town street in Dinkelsbühl
Dinkelsbühl blends a mixture of South German culture, with good food and beer, perched on the border between Swabia, Bavaria and Franken. The Romantic Road (a section of route 25) links a string of scenic towns from Würzburg to Augsburg like pearls on a chain.

And there is no better way to discover a beautiful town like this than to put on your running shoes and start following the alleys past the gate-towers and little shops.
House entrance in the old-town
In Dinkelsbühl, you can run a loop around the old town, outside the walls, and also run a few zig-zags within the walls.

NOTE: There are also runs taking you outside town in each direction, see,%20Deutschland%20(undefined)&zc=14,10.3199,49.07836 
This run will just cover the essentials, circling the walled city once, then heading inside to wind through the narrow streets past the main sights in the old town.

Dinkelsbühl is shaped like an elongated triangle, with the angles pointing north, south and west. We'll start this inspiring run at the north end of town, outside one of the main gate towers, Rothenburger Tor (where the road to beautiful Rothenburg heads off to the north). There is a small lake there, Rothenburger Weiher, part of the water barriers that once protected the walled town.
Rothenburger Tor
To start the run, walk out through the gate, with the massive fortifications behind you, and run with the lake to your left side, heading north.
The Faulturm tower
At the north end of the lake, turn left to continue following the lakeside, and then left again to head back towards the fortifications, at the Faulturm tower. There is a public park here, with a big gazebo. There are a couple of parallel pedestrian trails following the outside of the walls, going southwards. Stay on the one closest to the wall, in the old moat. An earthen berm to the right side protects the city walls. You'll pass smaller towers every hundred meters or so, a really medieval setting.
Moat trail: wall to the left, protective earthen berm to the right
You'll head under a bridge that brings traffic through the western gate, the Segringer Tor. Keep running southwards.

After the one-kilometer-mark, you'll go under a narrow pedestrian bridge, where the trail circles back to take you up to the embankment to the right. Once up there, continue running southwards outside the walls. There are now various gardens between you and the walls.
The trail at the Segringer gate
When you come to the busy Südring traffic-circle at the south end of the old-town, keep running along the outside of the walls, past the Third-Dimension Museum (with its interesting optical illusions) located inside a fortified water mill with pointed corner towers. This is the two-kilometer-mark.
The 3D museum
Continue on the trail as it now turns northward, with a narrow side-arm of the Wörnitz River to your left, along the eastern walls. The open parkland keeps things nice and quiet.

There is a group of old houses outside the western gate, Wörnitztor. Keep running north through the archway through the yellow house, and into more parkland as we approach the spot where we started the run.
Wörnitztor gate-tower
When you come to the Schleuse Biergarten, where we started the run, turn left to run westwards directly between the wall and the Rothenburger Weiher pond, at the three-kilometer-mark.
The walls along the lake
Just before the round Faulturm at the northwest corner of town, turn left into the open pedestrian gateway through the wall, going into the old-town for the first time. Head between the old-fashioned gardens to the street ahead, Bauhofstraße. Right there on the corner is a huge half-timbered building that was once the armory, now used as a clubhouse for the kids' costume fest, Kinderzech.
Old timbering at the Kinderzech
Now just run south on this scenic street, past places like Weib's Brauhaus, the Schweinemarkt and the Rathaus (town hall). After you cross Segringer Straße, the street name changes to Föhrenberggasse as it curves to the southeast.

You'll pass a big baroque palace on the right side, the former local headquarters of the Teutonic Order, now used by the German tax authorities.
Teutonic Order palace
When you get to Schäfersgäßlein, turn left and run the one block to Nördlinger Straße. We're almost at the south end of the old-town now, so turn left and head back north through the eastern neighborhoods.

In a few blocks you'll come to the main church, the Gothic St. Georg, at the wine market. There are some other amazing old houses lining the market square here, take a look!
The Weinmarkt
Now run the few blocks north along Dr.-Martin-Luther-Straße towards our starting point at Rothenburger Tor.

Just before you get there, maybe turn right into the courtyard of that big yellow complex of buildings on the right side: the old hospital, the Spital. There are water wells, a water mill, a tread-mill, a theater and other interesting stuff to take a look at on a quick loop through the courtyard.
In the Spital courtyard
Now, aren't you glad you decided to get out and run today?

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Erfurt Old-Town Running Route

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Length 5.6 km (3.5 miles), terrain: easy, flat, gain 40 meters

Erfurt is packed with medieval beauty. The capital city of Germany's state of Thüringen isn't known by many people out there in the world, but Erfurt is a special place. And it's a great town for a memorable run.

This run will take you past many of the old-town's best sights: the unique house-lined bridge called the Krämerbrücke, the breath-taking cathedral hill, the Zitadelle fortress, the downtown, and the relaxed, green trails along the Gera River.
The Erfurt town hall
So, if you find yourself in this great little city and want to discover its treasures by foot, come along on this run through lots of great scenery!

To get running, let's first head to my favorite spot in town, the little park along the river at the north side of the Krämerbrücke. There, where the Augustiner beer-garden terrace meets the rippling water of the Gera there's a great view of the bridge. You can take in the beauty of the wall of half-timbered houses on top of the stone bridge, and see the old ford right next to it.
The Krämerbrücke
So let's get running: follow the path up onto the bridge and turn right to run over the Krämerbrücke, heading west. The walls of houses to each side make it hard to imagine that you're crossing a bridge. The old houses are home to a lot of nice tourist boutiques nowadays.
Crossing the bridge
When you exit the bridge, at Benediktplatz, the old synagogue is hidden in a courtyard across the square. Another great view of the bridge can be had if you turn to the right and look out from there.

Head straight out along Fischmarkt for the two blocks until you come to the real Fischmarkt square itself. This is one of the nicest spots in town, with the gothic town hall and some amazing renaissance houses gracing the Platz. We'll come back here again later for a closer look.
Zum Breiten Herd at the Fischmarkt
Now, keep going straight along the old shopping street, Marktstraße. You will run straight into the gigantic, open square in front of the cathedral hill, Domplatz. Sometimes there is a vegetable market there, but it never begins to fill this huge space.

The cathedral hill is pretty impressive, with its twin churches throning on the little hill across the square. The Gothic cathedral is to the left, and the three-steepled St. Severin's church on the right. Both are absolutely beautiful inside, and you should make sure that you come back later to explore.
Cathedral on left and St. Severin
But now, let's run up the steps that lead to the churches and run to the back side to take-in the view to the west.
At St. Severin
Now, run back down the steps and turn left to run to the north end of the Domplatz. There, on the next hill, Petersberg, thrones another highlight: the hilltop fortress called the Zitadelle.
Looking up towards the citadel
The stout stone walls beckon for a loop through the fort! So cross the street and head up the stone walkway heading up through the lawns along the hillside. There is a little vineyard to your left.

When you approach the walls, take the metal steps up to the higher road that heads into the main fort gate, Peterstor. The ornate gateway takes you through an archway below the fort commander's building.

Follow the cobblestoned lane as it continues upwards to the big open square. There is an old field-cannon there. Turn right and run through the square towards the big buildings to the right, along the north side.
The way up
There is a huge, abandoned barracks building and a romance-style stone building with an ill-fitting roof. The stone building is a thousand-year-old church, St. Peter's, which has a big history. It was part of an ancient Benedictine monastery which once stood here, next to the kaiser's castle. It was in this church that rebel duke Henry the Lion begged for forgiveness from Kaiser Barbarossa. When Napoleon conquered the area, the church was turned into a field hospital. It later burned out when the fort was attacked by the Prussians. The repaired building was later used as a warehouse, covered with the current roof.

Run between the two buildings towards the back. There, take the steps downward along the bastion walls. Now turn left and run back along the backside of the abandoned barracks building, turning left to come back to the fort's main square again.

Now let's run back out the same way that we came, heading downhill past the vineyard again, to the Domplatz.

Run south across the square, past the obelisk and then exit to the southeast on Kettenstraße.

Continue along Paulstraße, which ends at a long church, the Predigerkirche. Continue along the left side of the church along Predigerstraße for a block, until you come to the little lane called Schuhgasse, where you turn left and find yourself back at the Fischmarkt, with its Römer fountain.
The Römer fountain at the Fischmarkt
Now let's run through the lively shopping area of the old town, exiting the square towards the southeast along Schlösserstraße.

You'll soon cross the Gera River again, where there is an old water mill.
At the water mill
Continue straight along Schlösserstraße, where a tram line follows the street, taking us to the Anger, the main shopping district downtown.

Turn left at the Anger square and follow it to the Martin Luther statue and the church behind him where he once preached.
Demonstrators at the Anger
Just past the church, turn left on Meienbergstraße and follow it back to the Krämerbrücke, this time at the other end at Wenigemarkt.

The Aegidien Church covers the entrance to the bridge, so you run through the archway under the church to access the bridge again, then turning right to exit back to our starting point next to the river.
St. Ägidien at the Krämerbrücke entrance
You could stop here and enjoy the view if you feel like it, but why not keep running for another kilometer and explore a bit more of the leafy riverside?

So that's what the route does now: head north past the Augustiner and exit the park onto Schildgasse and then head further north on Comthurstraße.

At the Nikolai Hotel the street ends, but continue northwest on the riverside trail. After a few blocks, the trail loops through the little park called Venedig (Venice). This is our turnaround spot.
In Venedig-Park
To see something a bit different on the way back, take the footbridge to the southern part of the park, on an island in the river. When the trail ends, just continue the way we came in, just to the left of the island trail.

In a few minutes, you'll be back at the beautiful Krämerbrücke again. Time to stop and enjoy this amazing scene!