About NATRA Blog

This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Aeries-Cockscomb: A long 5.7!

10 NATRA runners closed out 2013 in grand style on the 5.7 miles of Aeries Cockscomb trail. To avoid the shadows we ran clockwise, this however did not help keeping this from feeling more like a 10 mile run. 50+ Saturday group runs, 600+ participant days, about 7 miles per run = 4000+ NATRA miles on the trails of Northern Arizona! Happy Trails to 2013 and stay tuned for the line up of runs on natra.org. Next week we will celebrate the City of Flagstaff's purchase of State Trust Lands on Observatory Mesa by heading up the Urban Trail from the Thorpe Bark Park at 9 AM!

 Kathy Leads the way!
 David makes sure everyone knows to turn left at the end
Heading out clockwise. 
 Anne at the halfway point
Beautiful views of red rock country
 Sweeping vistas of the Verde Valley and Jerome on the west side of Doe Mountain
Only Flagstaff runners sit outside in the chilly of early morning winter in Sedona! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day 2013

No better place to celebrate running on Christmas than in Buffalo Park with NATRA!  On a blustery xmas morning, eight runners did 1.5 to 2 loops (3-4 miles) around the park before heading home to celebrate with their families. On the hill, runners spotted a very frosty NATRA member who seemed content to spend the rest of his life in Buffalo Park!  Happy Holidays to all!  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Solstice Survivors Run

On a cold blustery day, 50+ Flagstaff runners celebrated the Winter Solstice by participating in Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association's Free Solstice Survivors Run in Buffalo Park. Due to the popularity of last year's epic Mayan Apocalypse Run to End All Runs 5K, Ramble Brothers and NATRA felt it was important to continue the tradition of running on the Winter Solstice. 

The run brought out families with kids of all ages, and even an elusive sasquatch!  A brief burst of snow as runners finished was the icing on the cake that marked the beginning of winter. Thanks to Flagstaff Brewing Company for the beer and whiskey specials for Solstice Survivors. Next up - Christmas morning run, 9 AM in where else, but Buffalo Park!  

50+ runners excited to celebrate winter's arrival.


Heading off counter clockwise towards Mount Elden.

The sasquatch was really friendly especially so after the Old Milwaukee peace offering.

Flags Brew for beers and whiskey specials.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hangover II: Revenge of the Cow Pies

Fourteen runners and two pooches began NATRA's second visit to the Hangover Trail on a brisk morning. Unlike last time, no one really wanted to hang out on the saddles because the northeast wind was really whipping, as it was across the steep ascent on the backside. The hangover had several icy spots, inducing quesy feelings in more than one runner as we gingerly passed. 

It was rumored that another runner, with dog, had joined us, and indeed his vehicle was in the parking lot after we all finished, but really, we only have his word to go on.

Lunch (yes it was that late) was at New Frontiers, with some partaking of the New York bagel place nearby. (Thanks to Bruce Higgings for the past and photos!). 

Next week: Special Group Run: Solstice Survivor's 5K at Buffalo Park, 4:30 PM. 

Our destination is up yonder

Tzeidle jogs through an elfin forest of cypress. 

The speck of a runner nears the high point of the first saddle.

Don nears the high point of the first saddle:

The second saddle.

Happiness at the saddle.

Sara leads the way down the Cow Pies.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Heroic Guardians of the Streak! Brrrrrr....

(Thanks to Bruce Higgins for the post) At 9am, 5 of us met to consider our running options. The plan was supposed to be Soldier Trail, but the wind chill temp was 5 degrees.

The first suggestion was to bag it. Someone suggested Sedona. Finally, we just took off, not observing the obligatory 5-minute late-comer rule. (Heck, we didn't even wait 2 minutes; it was too cold and we were in danger of chickening out.) Two more joined us along the way.

Thinking we would just run the Soldier Trail 5k route, we decided to do part of the 10k route, once we reached the fork. (Being in the trees, the wind chill had abated some.) Once we reached the road before the amphitheater, we decided to just complete the whole 10k route. Of course this meant frozen faces, as we had a half-mile at the end directly into a stiff breeze and a wind chill near zero.

Warm-up occurred AFTER the run and was at the Bean.

Guardians of the record this day were: Rob, Robert, Ron, Anne, Katie, Matt and Bruce.

Its cold; let's move it! 

5k/10k decision point:

Frozen hair begins to melt:
The post-run warm-up:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

5th Annual Wet Beaver Creek Polar Plunge

To celebrate our return to running trails every other weekend in Sedona during the winter months, 6 NATRA runners ran the Wet Beaver Creek trail. Only Veteran Susan and newbie Joe took the leap of faith in the icy dark waters of the "Crack". 

 The Blanchard Clan

 Susan enjoys an icy soak

Running on the Edge of Glory
The Fog!

Returning to Flagstaff we could see the odd phenomena of the fog that enveloped town. David Blanchard shared the satellite image below. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Turkey Predictor Run 2013

11 NATRA runners made room for Thanksgiving dinner by running a couple of warm up loops in Buffalo Park and then joined in on the 32nd Annual Free Flagstaff Road and Track Club Turkey Predictor 2 Mile Fun Run. The two mile fun run has been a great local tradition for family and friends and as word has clearly spread, this year's run had far more participants than ever!

Nat White discusses the history of the event in the above video made in 2011.

The run consists of one loop around the outside perimeter of Flagstaff's premier running venue, Buffalo Park. Runners/walkers predict how long it will take to make one lap, and winners are determined by those that are closest to their predicted time. Winners then choose from a variety of tasty treats, including a turkey, and NATRA head wear!

Runners sign their names and predicted times on the Under 20 minutes, 20-30 minutes, and over 30 minute sheets.

Nat White asks runners to have a moment of silence for all we have to be thankful for, including Buffalo Park, which, if not for a handful of concerned citizens would have been lost to a highway development in 1985. 

Runners young and old excited for the start of the race!

Nat White shouts "Only one rule, NO WATCHES!

A record crowd stretches for nearly 1/2 mile across the park! Happy Thanksgiving!


Snowy Campbell Mesa, No Yeti Sightings

Ten NATRA runners braved the elements and ran through 6 inches of heavy snow on Campbell Mesa. While there was only a skiff of snow on the west side, the east side got hit a lot harder. For all you snow lovers, take note, when we call Campbell Mesa in late fall, expect a good storm!  Again, we went in search of Yetis, but no sightings. 

 With a little coaxing from Bruce Higgins, Kara hosted a wonderful impromptu coffee, blueberry pancake and waffle breakfast while we streamed the NCAA Cross Country Championships live. Congrats to NAU for their second place finish! Next week, the infamous Wet Beaver Creek Polar Plunge.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Run Through History: NATRA's Abandoned Johnson Canyon Railroad Grade Adventure

Twenty-one years ago, my co-workers at the Kaibab National Forest filled my head with wonders when they showed off an abandoned railroad grade that led to the infamous Johnson Canyon Tunnel. That year, they convinced me to take a graduate historic preservation class at Northern Arizona University taught by the late Dr. Charlie Hoffman. Charlie required us to nominate a site to the National Register of Historic Places, and he further encouraged me to re-write the nomination as a paper for the 1993 Arizona History Conference in Kingman. Surprisingly, "The Johnson Canyon Railroad Grade: 9.3 miles of Treacherous Railroading in Northern Arizona" won best graduate student paper along with a $250 award!   For those of you on yesterday's run, click on the link and you can read more about the history. (It is important to note that while most of the grade is on the Kaibab National Forest, the tunnel and lands around it are privately owned.)

(Johnson Canyon video from 2012 run)
In short, crews constructed the grade across Arizona in the spring of 1882, however, Canyon Diablo (this may warrant a future group run) and Johnson Canyon proved to be major impediments holding up opening the opening of the Atlantic and Pacific railroad line. The Atlantic and Pacific established construction camps around both troublesome areas and each had their own colorful short-lived histories. Once workers completed the bridges and tunnels the railroad reached both Flagstaff and Williams in September 1882, and the construction sites soon became ghost towns.
In 1960, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad abandoned their rugged grade through Johnson Canyon due to its high maintenance costs and built a 22 mile double-tracked re-route from Williams Junction to Crookton. Today, the abandoned grade is closed to motorized travel making it a perfect mountain bike ride and judging by Saturday's turnout, it has become one of our most popular annual Northern Arizona Trail Runners group adventures.

We parked near the bottom of Johnson Canyon where it crossed Forest Road 6. This greatly helped as our steepest uphill greeted us about 50 yards west of the cars, warming our bodies quickly. it was nice to have a tail wind propelling us as well! After topping out we enjoyed a quick view of the 200 yard diameter Johnson Canyon Crater thought to be a sink hole or a collapse lava tube. However, the debate goes on; I was once told by a local that UFOs landed there regularly. When I told him I had never heard that story, he told me that I was part of the government cover up. Ha.

(Kathleen O'Neill Photo)

Soon enough we turned onto the old grade and headed east passing through rock cuts and the same scenic views that cross country travelers once enjoyed from the comforts of the Santa Fe "Chief" train. After 2.4 miles on the grade, we finally arrived at the spectacular tunnel. We figured that if we played chicken with a downhill train, the 18 of us might just win. On the tunnel's east portal, the group all gave a mighty choo-choo and we took the shot below. Robert suggested we set up a coffee shop here and call it "Late for the Train." 

(Matt Ryan photo)
We all felt like freight trains powering back to the vehicles as the return was completely downhill. Try this on a mountain bike. If you don't have a head wind, you can cruise the whole ride without pedaling!  In hindsight I suppose we should have finished this run at Late for the Train, but we chose to hit up the Kickstand instead for great eats and hot coffee to warm our chilled bones.

Next Saturday we will be closer to home at the Campbell Mesa Trail System! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oldham Variations and Girls on the Run

(Thanks to David Blanchard for the post!) While Neil was off in Vegas running his first Ragnar Relay in nearly 4 years, twelve runners showed up for the Oldham Trail run at Buffalo Park -- along with many young girls for the "Girls on the Run" 5K race. Seems like this has happened before with one of our Buffalo Park runs.

After crossing the pipeline, there is a fork with the older Oldham Trail veering right and the newer Arizona Trail (AZT) and Flagstaff Loop Trail (FLT) bearing left. The faster runners opted for Oldham while the more sensible runners chose AZT/FLT. It climbs slowly on a well designed trail and skips some of the steep "Oldham Steps" then rejoins the Oldham Trail for the final climb up to Elden Lookout Road. From there, we jumped on to Rocky Ridge -- which suffered some serious erosion during the heavy rains this summer. Cross the road and then we were on the AZT again to Easy Oldham and up the final climb into Buffalo Park. As we traveled along the straightaway, the GOTR were running the outer loop and then finished at the park entrance. It was a great finish for us -- and for GOTR.

Of course, we ended up at Kickstand Kafe for coffee and conversation on a very warm and sunny November morning. Autumn days do not get any better than this.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Arizona Trail: Tarantulas and Walnut Canyon Overlooks Run

Bob leads the way.

Not too far from Route 66, Ludo gets his kicks.
Trail Divas on the Run.

Fifteen NATRA runners enjoyed a perfectly wind free run out to the Walnut Canyon view points.  The women won the battle of the numbers 9 to 6. Putting a stamp on the great showing, the Flagstaff Trail Divas took the best photo spots on the edge of Walnut Canyon.

Flagstaff Trail Divas at the first overlook.
Tarantulas on the prowl.(Thanks Matt Ryan for photo!)

There was much excitement as several runners spied a male tarantula  sunning himself on the trail. Ironically on Sunday, there was an excellent column in the Arizona Daily Sun about our hometown tarantulas!  Once everyone regrouped a the trailhead all but two runners packed the back tables at Wildflower enjoying coffees and free pumpkin pie spread!

NATRA took up most of the back tables at Wildflower!