While I broke even on the first day of my journey with the closure at Pinnacles National Park, the odds ironically looked to be in the favor as I awoke in Las Vegas the second day. I had two goals in mind that Tuesday morning: a trail run and a lake swim. I ended up hitting the jackpot with both– plus a spectacular sunset in Utah. This was the adventure I wanted so I didn’t waste any time and hit the road early. First stop: Boulder City and Bootleg Canyon Park.
If you weren’t paying attention you would probably miss Bootleg Canyon driving through Boulder City. Encompassing an area just north of town, Bootleg Canyon is a trail runner’s & mountain biker’s dream. I drove around a few miles to find parking, and when I did find some, the empty lot made me wonder if I was in the right place. Not to mention some of the local creatures gave me funny looks. Finding a park map and combining it with some ideas from Alltrails.com, I quickly devised a route to get started on my journey. I wanted to run 5 or 6 miles as the sun and temperatures rose. Jumping on a trail I headed into the canyon on a good single track which twisted and turned pleasantly along. I honestly didn’t care where I went, I just wanted to enjoy the trails after the last week and the many months of the pandemic. Just roll with it.
Bootleg Canyon’s trails were simply incredible: Sandy single track leading up and around the surrounding hills. Then things got pretty spiritual. To my amazement as I came around one corner, there sat before me on the ground none other than Baby Yoda. He sat against a rock holding a sign, “Jump gap you will!” I read it and in the tenth of a second that followed noticed the whole in the ground in front of me—just managing to leap across the gap. Yes, the force was clearly with me at that moment preventing me from faceplanting. I continued to make my way along the single track, up and over hills, and down into dry creek beds. I found myself all alone, cherishing every moment of it. In so many ways the run really was spiritual. The burden of four years of command and six months of lockdown lifted from me albeit temporarily, I danced and floated along those trails that morning. Things were bad across the world then, but on those trails that morning, I was on a whole different planet, treasuring it all. After 5.5 miles I returned to my car deeply satisfied. I stretched, took in a few moments with the wildlife, ate a snack, and ventured on.
A short drive from Bootleg Canyon sat Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the site of my next adventure. Originally I wanted to hold my own triathlon on Lake Mead’s shores, however time and logistics were not on my side. I opted to do something I hadn’t done in six months instead: swim. Lake Mead, being a national recreation area and part of the National Parks system, required me to get a Parks Pass at the entrance. Fortunately being in the US military, I received a free one year park pass good at all US national parks, which served me well in the days ahead. I found my way to Boulder Beach, one of several swimming spots along the lake, parked, and grabbed my swim gear consisting of a towel, goggles, and my New Wave Swim Buoy. Water temperature was a glorious 85 degrees and stunningly clear. The only challenge: a very rocky, pebbly bottom to wade out in and which motivated me to get swimming quickly. Fortunately at this beach there were buoys set out about 100 meters offshore which allowed me to not only swim out to, but also site and swim parallel to. Doing a lazy L, out and back, I managed nearly 1200 meters. With air temperatures already in the 90s as I finished, I soaked up this moment. I finished my Lake Mead experience eating lunch on my tailgate taking in the stellar views all around me before getting on the road again. Given more time I could see my family and I spending days on Lake Mead’s pristine shores and on the surrounding trails. For now however, it was time to press on to Utah and the next day’s adventure: Zion National Park.
My goals in Nevada completed, I ventured north to St George, Utah, and Zion National Park. I drove northeast while smoke from a nearby Arizona wildfire lazily followed me . This smoke lingered for nearly 100 miles up into Utah and Zion.
Arriving in the late afternoon to the western entrance of Zion, I parked and explored a little. Next to the entrance stood a small shopping center that housed the Zion Brewery. Seeing a long line to the entrance and not having the patience to wait, I opted to go next door to the general store and purchase some snacks and a local beer instead. Once familiar with the entrance area I drove to my hotel and checked in. Getting carry-out from a local restaurant I ate alone quickly in my room, hoping to catch the sun before it fell below the horizon. First, however, it was time for my beer.
For this great day I chose to go big…to go epic–and by epic, I mean Epic Brewing Company of Salt Lake City and Denver. I’d picked up a 22oz bottle of their Utah Session Mountain Ale for my evening. While only 4% abv, the beer made a superb pair to the day: flavorful, hints of fruit, and a delicious caramel color. It was so good in fact, I decided to take it with me (in a covered coffee mug) as I hunted the sunset.
Beer in hand, I walked down the road to catch up with the sun. When I met up with it, my heart leapt. I can only describe it as purely radiant: the combination of sun, smoke, and sky all converged into this majestic vision. They don’t get much better than this. I’ll let the pictures of my walk tell the rest.
The day complete, I went to bed dreaming of what adventures play in store the next day at Zion National Park and beyond. Finally, after all the planning and preparations the fruits of my labor came together and would continue in the coming days.