Summer 2014 Road Trip: Week 3

Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 11, 2014 at 12:05 AM

Week 3

Day 15: Monday, June 2

I awoke early for a short run through Florence, Alabama. It was a cool 70ºƒ with humidity hovering around a wet 70%. Running through downtown brought me to the University of North Alabama. A beautifully small campus, they housed two lions, brother and sister, Leo and Una, in a luxurious cage centered on campus. Unfortunately, the two were not out while I ran past. In addition to learning about the lions, I learned that the Florence area (Muscle Scholes) was home to music productions and near the birthplace of Hellen Keller. While lacking mountains, there were plenty of rivers and hills to satisfy my curiosity about trails.

The lion cage on University of North Alabama's Campus.


After cleaning up, I headed off to my interview 30 minutes outside of town. Following the interview, a woman from the company was kind enough to show me some interesting things around town, including the world’s only Coon-Dog Cemetery and the Rattle Snake Saloon, a bar housed on the side of a cliff over a pond. Both were situated on some back dirt roads, nested in beautiful areas of dense, green woods.

The Rattle Snake Saloon – under a cliff overhang!


A dinner out and walk through the quaint downtown lit with fire flies saw me to bed. Reflecting on the day, the cultural differences were cast in stark difference between the southwest and midwest. It wasn’t bad, just different and interesting. Overall, I felt that the interview went well, as did the rest of the day. I look forward to hearing back!

The only Coon-Dog Cemetary in the wold; brought to you by Alabama!


Day 16: Tuesday, June 3

Today was a travel day with an adventure at the end. After checking out of the Alabama hotel early, and an hour drive over to the airport, I found myself on one of the most interesting plane rides of my life. I was seated on a full fight back to Salt Lake City next to a 95 year-old lady. She was the sweetest lady in the world, but didn’t know what personal space meant. It was 4 hours of leaning, chatting, and trying to tempt me to eat some of the food she had packed (which included hard boiled eggs, a hamburger, chocolate covered raisins, cookies, pretzels, and more). I had planned on watching a movie on my laptop, but it felt too rude to even try. I listened patiently. Whoever her grandchildren are are very lucky to have such a loving, kind, and experienced grandmother.


Mark met me at the Salt Lake City airport and from there we took off to the trails that branched off into the Wasatch range starting not two miles from the back of his apartment complex. It started with a huge hill climb, loose dirt and rocks falling away beneath our feet. I’ll admit, I am timid on downhills, especially ones that seem nearly vertical to a Midwestern native. Mark gave pointers on how to become a better downhill runner which summed up came down to “Don’t think about it.”

Coming down one of the super steep hills.


And he was right.

I really don’t think about the uphills that I so love to run. I just like feeling like what I imagine mountain goats must as they prance and bound gracefully along mountain peaks. While I was hardly able to keep up with Mark on the downhills, by the end of the 7 mile loop (with 4,000 feet of vertical gain!) my downhill strides were much improved.

Awesome views to be had just outside of the city!


The sun was hot, but the humidity that I had experienced in Alabama all but nonexistent in Utah. After a long morning of travel, the hill climbing and speeding down steep slopes had me feeling relaxed that evening. The run closed with an awesome belated graduation present from Mark; dinner at the Vertical Diner, a completely vegan restaurant. The food was phenomenal. The perfect ending to a long day.


Day 17: Wednesday, June 4

After the days of travel between Utah, Arizona, and Alabama, I was exhausted. I slept in to a late 7 AM. I planned to meet Mark down at the Trail and Ultra Running warehouse to try on some hydration vests after he got done with work. While waiting for the afternoon to arrive, I explored an outdoor mall in downtown Salt Lake City; it certainly was beautiful with fountains and a small creek running through the lower walkway. I learned that they allowed shoppers to take their dogs into stores with them. Wishing Sophie was with me, I wistfully examined workout garb in various stores that I knew I didn’t need, but certainly wouldn’t mind owning.


I had been wanting a new hydration vest for a while. I love my Mountain Hardwear Fluid 6; it has a lot of storage space, a huge pouch for packing a lot of gear, pockets in the front, and fits well. However, as a pack to wear in hot weather, it allows for little back ventilation and is a bit much for wearing in a race. With the Brcye 100 but ten days away, and aid stations ten or more miles apart, I wanted something that would be better suited for racing. Handhelds are great for races, but knowing how hot it can get in the desert and how far apart the aid stations are, I thought a pack would be a better choice for Bryce.


At Brighton, we traversed these super steep slopes.

I met Mark at the Trail and Ultra Running warehouse where I tried on a LOT of packs. I was really amazed at how many designs and fits there actually were. I learned that I’m not a huge fan of the bottles in front. Some of the packs’ arm straps were too form fitting, and I couldn’t easily see or reach pockets on the side. Others had a lot of storage options in the back, but I prefer to have more storage in front. I finally settled on the Ultraspire Alpha. With pockets in the front large enough to hold small water bottles, and a pouch in the back just the right size for an outer shell and headlamp, the size of the pack wasn’t overkill. The added benefit of being able to store 2 liters of water and being able to easily access all of the front and side pouches when I was wearing it sold the vest for me. Mark and I then went to give it a trial run through the Brighton Ski park.


A half hour drive out of the city of Salt Lake and we were at Brighton. It was a good 15º cooler on the mountain than it had been in the city, and snow still remained on most of the slopes. We began our trek to Mary’s Lake then to try to access one of the peaks (I’m forgetting the names). There was still a lot of snow, most of it crusted and packed, but with snowmelt racing beneath meant that breaking through in areas was unavoidable. The trail was covered and we went off track, but reached a decent elevation.

We found Jim on the trails!


For the first time I traversed a mountain. It was one of the most fun, exhilarating, and scary things I have ever done. Digging the soles of our shoes into a 50º slope, with a stick in one hand and balancing with the other, we made our way across a bowl. I was slow. Mostly because I was timid and a bit afraid. If you start to slide, there was no stopping, hence the stick. Should you slip and fall, you dig the stick into the snow and hold on for dear life. I sloped and slid a little once, but thankfully didn’t go very far.


I was much more confident on the ups rather than the downs. Up is easy. Coming down takes a lot more skill and confidence that I have yet to build up. To really be good on terrain like that, you have to train on it consistently or seriously have no fear. I’ll admit, I’m not fearless. But it was a LOT of fun.

Mark embracing the awesome.


Just as we began to descend, we ran into Jim Milar, a friend of Mark’s and fellow ultra runner. Searching for the trail covered in snow, we joined Jim in ascending part of the mountain a bit more before running back down. It was absolutely beautifully breathtaking. Jim was great company and it was fantastic to listen to Jim and Mark converse on the Wasatch 100, of which we were running parts of the course. What a wicked course; just from the small snow-covered sections we had run and the stories from Jim and Mark blew my mind about this race.


Annndddd… now I want to run it.

But I’ll save that for a future adventure. When I feel ready.


Returning to the car, I had forgotten that I had even been wearing the Ultraspire. Happy with its fit, with the afternoon adventure, and with meeting Jim, I slept well that night.


Day 18: Thursday, June 5

I did but a short loop around Salt Lake City in the morning before packing up to meet up with Cheyney, whom I had met at my internship in Arizona the previous summer. He had invited me to join him and his friends on an 80s rock motorcycle Utah tour. I had no idea what to expect, but at the least that it would be fun!


After an hour drive, I met Cheyney at his office, where he had a brand new pair of Altra Zero Drop Superiors waiting for me. While working together last year, he had mentioned that he was friends with one of the co-founders of Altra and was able to hook me up with a pair of shoes. I will be forever grateful; the shoes will definitely get the mileage they deserve We packed up his Harley-Davidson and took off for Vernal, Utah with Cheyney’s friend Keith.

One of the pit stops we took on the way out of Salt Lake City.


I had never been on a motorcycle before.


It was kind of scary. Given, I was riding on the back. It’s like being a passenger in a car and having no control where you’re going. It was an experience for sure! After about an hour of riding, I became more comfortable. I can see why road trips cross country on bike can be enjoyable; you don’t just see the scenery, you experience it. You feel the temperature changes, smell the fields as you drive by, the sprinklers, the grass. The dust blasts against you with each gust of wind, the smell of the desert entwining itself with your skin. The pockets of cold alternating with heat, and the radiation of the sun. Things you don’t feel enclosed in a car.


But riding a motorcycle also hurt my butt a lot.


We arrived in Vernal, met up with another friend, checked into the hotel, and went out to dinner.



Day 19: Friday, June 6

I awoke the next morning before everyone else and went for a run around Vernal. I knew that there were dinosaurs in Utah, but I hadn’t really thought about where. We were close to the Dinosaur National Monument, and Vernal reflected this in its many dinosaur statues and museums.

Unloading trucks.


Vernal is also situated in a more desert-esque landscape. The mountains, canyons, and hills that arose from the earth were a sunrise orange with streaks of tan and red. Even though the morning was a cool 50ºƒ, warmth and heat radiated from the rocks.


Returning from my run, I met up with Cheyney, Keith, and Snow. Cheyney, having some extra tickets, had invited me as him and Keith knew the people who were organizing the event and assisting in setting it up. We headed over to the venue (but two blocks away) to help in any way we could. Mainly, it was a lot of loading things on and off trucks where I felt more in the way than anything.


Cheyney & Keith's motorcycles.

After a relaxing afternoon by the hotel pool, we went over to the concert for the first night of bands. I was technically backstage (which was really cool–we got to talk with the bands and socialize a bit), but it was really more off to the side watching. I’m not a huge music person to start with, and 80s rock isn’t quite my thing, but it was actually a lot of fun. It was simply enjoyable to be around new people and experience something different. This is, after all, the summer of “Why not?”*


Backstage pass, yo!

*within reason


Day 20: Saturday, June 7

After another morning run around the desert of Vernal, I joined Keith and a couple of his friends on their Harley-Davidsons for a ride down a canyon and out to a reservoir in the Ashely National Forest. It was absolutely beautiful (and kind of fun to experience mountain driving on a motorcycle) but there was a part of me that was frustrated. There were so many dirt roads and trails branching from the main roads that I just longed to run and explore. Each time we reached an unpaved road, it became a turn around point. Those points, though, would have been where the real fun and beauty of the canyons begun had I been hiking or running. I’m much more of a travel-by-foot person.

The Flaming Gorge Dam that we visited.


Nonetheless, it was beautiful. Headed back down to the desert from the mountains, we were rained on. The desert air at the base of the forest quickly dried us out, and we headed back to the hotel to clean up before the second night of the concert.

Keith being B.A. on his Harley.


The second night of the concert was similar to the first, but there were many more people in the stands. There was a rumor going around that Nicolas Cage was at the concert, accompanying a band, but I never saw him. I was the first one to return to the room; I was tired.

Up close to the stage!


Day 21: Sunday, June 8

I spend the majority of Sunday getting back to Salt Lake City. We took our time, leaving late in the morning and stopping along the way back. When I got back to Salt Lake, it was the afternoon. After saying good-bye to Cheyney, I went back to Mark’s apartment and was surprisingly exhausted. Being around that many people for that long wears me out more than running 50 miles. I enjoy people, and parties, and stuff, but it overwhelms me to a certain point and I just need to decompress. So I did. It was a relaxing evening and day that didn’t have much to report on.

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