When it was time to leave California, we headed out before dawn to drive south from the Central Valley into hours of scrubby, bleached desert hills. Along the way we passed rocks, stones, pebbles boulders… you get the picture… what I think were Joshua Trees, and a town that seemed to consist entirely of a truck stop (no fancy restrooms, just porta potties), a motel, and six trailers – and precious few gas stations.
When we called ahead to reserve out Lake Havasu campsite, the owner of the campground assured us that no reservation would be necessary… because it would be 115 degrees.
As it happened, he was wrong: it was 120 degrees. On the upside, our tent looked directly onto the lake AND there were palm trees nearby. Not precisely the tropical beach vacation I’ve been dreaming of, but closer than I expected. Once we had things set up, we hopped right back in the car to rent some paddle boards. The whole reason we stopped in Lake Havasu was because of a photograph I had found online months earlier, of a woman paddle boarding on crystal clear water in a red canyon, which claimed to be taken on Lake Havasu. Turns out that’s at Lake Havasu Falls…. which is about 5 hours away according to online directions. Lake Havasu City, on the other hand, is a spring-break and motor-boat hotspot. But they DID have paddle board rentals, even if they were inflatables. And it was 120 degrees: off we went.
I’ve been able to enjoy paddle boarding on the bay a few times with my mom this summer, so I went into things pretty confident. Casey, on the other hand, was a complete first timer. He did very well, considering, but I did get a bit jealous of him… because it was 120 and falling off meant he spent more time in the slightly-less-hot water than I did! After paddle boarding, we took a walk along a state park trail a bit further up the lake, about 4 miles round trip. The park ranger, much like the campground owner, seemed a bit bemused and helpfully let us know that it was hot out (“hot as hell,” to be exact – which I suppose is really saying something coming from someone who lives in Arizona, in August.)
But we had a lot of fun regardless, and once the temperature cooled to a reasonable 106 we headed for sleep in our waterfront tent to get ready for our next day’s visit to the Grand Canyon, where we had big hiking plans.
We were up and ready to go fairly early, but it was still the middle of the day by the time we actually hit the Grand Canyon. We loaded up a backpack with what seemed like a ridiculous amount of water but given the previous days’ weather it seemed smart. I am quite certain I drank more water during our 120 degree day at Lake Havasu than I ever have on any other day ever, and I know for a fact that it was hotter than the hottest weather I dealt with in Afghanistan (a measely 115). It turned out that we were weather-lucky at the Canyon, though, and it was maybe in the mid 90s… which felt downright cool at that point. we got in several miles of rim trail, and several miles of the Bright Angel trail, but not nearly as much as we’d planned because we followed the “twice as long up as down” estimate they give at the trailheads in choosing our turnaround point. When we got to the top, it turned out we’d basically reversed those statistics, which seem to assume frequent breaks, and gotten back up in half the time – but better a short trip than becoming rescue statistics stumbling up a trail at night.
I can honestly say that the photographs I have seen of the Grand Canyon my whole life in no way encompass the impact of actually seeing it in person, the way it appears spontaneously amidst otherwise unremarkable trees. You can’t see it until you’re right up on it, and then the scale and more than anything else the minute detail visible in every direction appear so clear that they don’t quite look real. The thousands upon thousands of cracks, ripples, and ridges in the rock face fill up the enormous view with a seemingly impossible number of tiny, almost isolated views – the unexpectedness of it is startling and even a little confusing. So much detail makes something that enormous look simultaneously very small.
The views along the Bright Angel trail itself were closer to what I expected to see, beautiful in a very different way – and perhaps more imposing in that the air of unreality lessened when only a smaller section of canyon was visible (and looming quite nearby!) at a time.
The late afternoon light on our trip back along the Rim Trail also changed the appearance of the entire landscape – what had been impossibly, unrealistically detailed and somehow dizzyingly, vastly tiny in the midday sun then took on a more mysterious air – again, almost surreal, but less “Disney-too-perfect.” Those were my favorite views of the day, where the rock walls took on a blue tinge and faded into the near-white sky almost like they were filled with mist.
The local elk, however, where not nearly so impressed by this as I was… and they were equally unimpressed by the several hundred tourists trying to take their photo as they grazed right by the main visitors center and most accessible overlook in the park. I could learn a thing or two about chillin’ from these critters.
Once again: more to follow on our continued adventures! But for now, here’s two more fun workouts we did with our traveling trunk-gym.
Travel WOD #3
This workout was preceded by bent-over (the hood of the car…) kettle bell rows, for 3 sets of 12, to make sure we were still getting some pulling into our routine without a pulp bar or other usual suspects. Then, the WOD itself was:
50 2-count (because 4 count is annoying!) flutterkicks
walking lunge, 100ft
I wore the 40 pound vest, while Casey had the 50 pound sandbag. This was fun, and more of a cardio crunch than I expected – it was about an 8 minute workout for me.
Travel WOD #4
The next day, the weight vest and kettle bells made another appearance. We started out with some volume training on pushups – 10 minutes since we hadn’t been doing this regularly, 5 reps on the minute (20# for me and 35# for him), and moved on to a couplet.
10 kettlebell snatch
I had a lot of fun with this one, too – I kept the snatch numbers low because I used to struggle snatching the 35# bell. I could have upped the reps but it wasn’t a bad workout this way – they were still enough to interrupt the run and keep things from getting too comfortable.