Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Thanks to Closet Traveler blog for the kind words!

Dawn Miller, another writer who does the Closet Traveler site at www.closettraveler.com, just did a nice write-up of our site. Thanks Dawn! For anybody interested in some fun travel ideas, check out her site!
The Closet Traveler article about Running Routes

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Aqua Liques Trail, Costa Calma, Fuerteventura Running Route

Click here for route map

Length 10.2 km (6.3 mi), terrain: fairly flat, gain 121 meters

NOTE: This is sandy, rocky desert country: make sure you bring water on hot days, avoid the afternoon heat, and watch your step!

When vacationing in the tourist hotel-town of Costa Calma, there are a few simple getaways waiting right at your doorstep. One of these is this 10K coast-to-coast run across the narrow El Jable sand desert that connects the southern Jandia peninsula to the rest of Fuerteventura.
The desert sands of El Jable
The island is only 5 kilometers wide at Costa Calma, with a whole different desert experience waiting for you just west of town. And on the other side waits the wild west coast, with its cliffs, peaks and booming surf.

NOTE: Other great Costa Calma runs include the two obvious beach runs: north of town along Playa Matas Blancas, or south of town along Playa de Sotavento.

In the park: nice jungle!
So if you're ready to try something different, and run across the desert, get yourself to the start of this route. Follow the long, jungly palm-park that lines Avenida Jahn Reisen through the whole town, and get to the El Palmeral Shopping Center. Now head behind the shopping center, northwest along Calle Playa de la Jaquerta, going through a local neighborhood towards the new bypass freeway.
El Palmeral Shopping Center: head out back to get onto the route!
At the end of the road, at the dusty lot next to the freeway, turn right to run along the dirt path. We need to head north for a block to find the tunnel that takes us under the freeway so we can get back to the same spot again on the other side.

The dirt trail takes you to the tunnel, where you run through it and then turn left to run the dusty road parallel to the freeway again until you are opposite Calle Playa de la Jaquerta, at almost the 2-kilometer mark. We're now across from where we were just a couple of minutes earlier.
The start of the cross-island trail
This is where the real trail across the desert begins. There's a big trail map on the wooden signboard for the Jandia nature preserve. You can take a look: basically, we just follow the jeep trail straight across the isthmus. We'll run parallel to that line of wind generators on the ridge to the left.

So now, just head northwest along the rocky, sandy trail. The beige, sandy soil is unique on Fuerteventura, joining the other dark-sand, volcanic areas to either side of El Jable.
Trail marker
Keep your eyes open for the light-blue-colored wooden posts marking the way. There will be occasional cross-trails, but we'll just ignore them until we reach the other coast.

If you look closely across the dune-like landscape, you might spy small herds of goats roaming the area. The desert vegetation is also worth taking a close look at: it's amazing how the plants have adapted to such a dry place. But don't forget: we're in a nature preserve, and we need to stay on the trails.
Goats roam the landscape
When we get to the highest spot, at about the 4-kilometer mark, we cross the island's north-south hiking trail, GR131, where there's a waymark. It's trail markers are painted red-white.
Crossing the north-south trail, GR 131
We keep running straight, there's just one more kilometer until we reach the west coast.

We'll soon come to a spot where several cross-trails split off, and the trail starts going downhill. We're almost there. Just keep running down the slope until the panorama of the ocean opens up and you find yourself standing above the cliffs of Aqua Liques, with amazing views in both directions. The powerful breakers stream-in from the northwest in a never-ending onslaught.
View north from Aqua Liques
You can go down to the water, but I'd stay out of it: there are a lot of rocks and riptides. In the week that I was there, two tourists drowned at this spot.  
And looking south
NOTE: If you want to extend the run, you could run north along the shoreline down on the ledge below the cliffs, near the water. It heads towards Los Boquetes. That's the next little promontory, which you can see, standing there at Aqua Liques.

So, once you've taken-in this impressive scene, it's time to turn around and follow the same trail back to town. Luckily, there are enough lounge-chairs and pool bars back in Costa Calma to quickly recover!
A little recovery time at the hotel!

Monday, 10 February 2020

Capitol Gorge Trail, Capitol Reef NP Running Route

Click here for route map 

Length 7.6 km (4.7 mi), terrain: fairly flat, gain 223 meters

NOTE: This is desert country: bring water and don't hike/run in the afternoon in summer. Also, this canyon is a wash, meaning it turns into a rushing torrent within minutes when a shower hits the area: keep away when showers threaten! In fact, the whole Scenic Drive can have dangerous flash-flood spots, so check the weather report first. When I was there, it started raining at the turnaround-point, and I had to race to get back to the car and out of there as the roads started to flood!

This trail combines a lot of great stuff: petroglyphs, the "Pioneer Register", water tanks (potholes that fill with water in the spring) and lots of colorful rock in the impressive canyon walls.

To get there, take the Scenic Drive south from the Fruita Visitor Center. The paved road ends at the junction for Capitol Gorge Road, where you keep left. This is a gravel road, which is normally good enough for a normal 2-wheel-drive car. This drive itself is fun, winding into the gorge over little side-washes.
Hikers in the Capitol Gorge
The road ends at the trailhead parking lot, with its picnic shelter. There is a trail upwards here to the Golden Throne, a peak just north of the trailhead with great views. We'll stay down in the sandy wash inside the gorge, though, with just an easy run/hike out and back, with a couple of little side-hikes for added interest.

This route follows the road to the eastern edge of Capitol Reef National Park. The road actually continues eastwards to Notom Road, if you want to add distance. Or, alternatively, you can turn this into a shorter run by turning around at any time, something you might consider during hotter weather. I was here during the very cold spring of 2019, and we actually got snowfall on the next day!

OK, so here you are at the trailhead, in the middle of God's Country. Take a minute to soak-in the amazing canyon scenery. This sandy, rocky road used to be the main way into the area from the east, before Route 24 was built.
The wash at the start of the gorge
Some of the main sights of the run come up pretty quickly, so let's get to it.

The first part of the trail, the Narrows, is hemmed-in by the narrow, high gorge with its fascinating rock formations, little caves and colors. Some places are only 3 meters wide. You're running slightly downhill until the turnaround spot. We're following the wash, a usually dry creek bed.
In the Narrows
After about a half a kilometer, there are some petroglyphs (Native American rock carvings) off to the left in a side canyon. There are animals, antlered-beings, sunbursts and other interesting carvings in the red rock. If you haven't seen many of these before, here's your chance.

In another half-kilometer, you'll see the Pioneer Register, graffiti on the rock walls where pioneers coming through from the east carved their names, some as recent as the 1920s.
Pioneer names scratched into the rock walls
Then, at about the 1.4-kilometer mark, you come to a cool place to interrupt your run to climb up to see the "tanks", depressions in the slickrock above that fill with water every springtime. 

Climb these rocks to get to the tanks!
There are a series of tanks, and the little side-canyon is beautiful.
Some of the tanks above the trail
The wash widens and softens as you continue your vaguely downhill progress, with the slickrock looking more like gentle hills.
The canyon scenery is constantly changing
When you come to the park boundary sign, it's time to turn around and see it all from the other direction, which -- luckily -- is another great view of natural wonders in the Great American West.