The JTree Traverse
As you saw with my last post, I took some time off from blogging. There was a lot going on, primarily another career change, and I needed to be focused on that. However, this past weekend I was fortunate enough to take part in something that I am very excited to share and it’s time to get back to some semi-regular blogging. I know, I know, you are all VERY excited to get more of me back in to your lives just try to contain yourselves and not get to carried away. On to the run…
This weekend a small group of incredible runners (Toby, Jess, Ben, Dax and Carlyn), and myself, assembled in Joshua Tree National Park to bring to life something that has been in the works for almost a year. The brainchild of Toby Guillette, “The JTree Traverse” is 37.3 miles along the California Riding and Hiking Trail that navigates it’s way from one end of the park to the other. This was the 3rd attempt to get the run together but because of delays last fall and sickness and injuries earlier this year we had to push it back. Fortunately, the 3rd time was definitely the charm and this run was an epic. While there are many accounts of multi-day hikes along the trail and people running it in sections, we haven’t been able to track down a documented single effort run across the entire distance. However, after this weekend I have no doubt this is going to become one of the staples to the Ultrarunners checklist of runs that need to be done.
For those of you that are interested in putting this on your list, I’ll spare you the personal details in favor of the logistics from the day with the exception of this brief note. This was my longest run to date and I couldn’t have asked for anything more than what I got out of it. The dynamic of the group was outstanding and made the miles fly by. Between the views, the weather, the people, and this being my first time in Joshua Tree it’s hard to put in to words the feelings I have after this day. It was an outstanding experience to be a part of and I hope to use it to grow as a runner and outdoor enthusiast.
Now for what you really want, the details and the pictures. (Almost all of these pictures came from the rest of the crew so I highly recommend checking out their pages for more great shots!)
We got the run started at 5:15 AM and depending on the time of year I would strongly encourage you not get started any later than this. We had great weather and a good wind that kept the temps in check all morning but it starts to get real hot, real quick once the early afternoon hits.
As you can see, the trail is broken in to sections by road crossings which gives you a good way to break up the run mentally and also multiple options to stash hydration/nutrition if you need to do so. We were fortunate enough to have Dax, despite a shoulder separation, offer to come out and still do a portion of the run with us and make our logistics much easier. The night before a car was dropped at Keys View Rd with our fuel and post-run equipment. Dax joined us for the run to Keys View, and a few extra miles, then drove the car to the finish to pick us up. This was awesome and made for much less driving the night before. The original plan was to stash a cooler at Keys View Rd, park the car at the finish then have to drive all the way back to the start. It would have been a lot of driving the night before an early run.
As for the trail, it’s got a little bit of everything. It starts and ends with a few miles of loose sand that makes footing difficult but it doesn’t last too long. The biggest problem with the sand in the beginning is that you are also doing most of your climbing here so it can be tough. Focusing on not fighting it and lifting the legs instead of pushing off seemed to help mentally. The nice thing is you hit your highest point of the day around mile 5, from there until the last few miles you are on quality solid trail the entire time. The loose sand during the final few miles are actually not bad at all because it softens the gradual downhill running you’ll be doing.
The views are really quite impressive the entire time. With the trail being so far removed from the roads/cars/exhaust the Joshua Trees are so healthy and grow to be much larger than I saw in the main part of the park and you are running through fields of them as far as you can see. The second half loses a lot of the trees but makes up for it with rock formations that will make you want to leave the trail to try some climbing. The highlight for me was a section around mile 13 (I think?) after a short climb we were looking at the trail coming up and it was a gradual descent that traced the spine of a ridge. Standing there looking at the trail I was like a kid on Christmas and this was by far the biggest box under the tree. It was such a beautiful stretch of trail that I couldn’t help but completely zone out while running it and get lost a bit in the moment.
Jess happened to catch it on camera.
The trail truly is something to behold and being able to see parts of the park that most people never encounter on my first trip to JTree made it that much more memorable.
I’ll leave you with a collaboration of pictures from the crew. Like I said almost all of these came from them so check out their sites for more pics and recaps of the day.
Thanks to Toby, Jess, Dax, Ben and Carlyn for making this happen!