Always set and excited to adventure, I agreed to sign up for the Canyon X Half-Marathon through a section of Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Nation near Page, AZ. This enticement was initiated in March! I used to commit to travel and adventure this far in advance, but since moving to Colorado and working in Shiprock, we have just been adventuring on the cuff, making the most of our surrounding area, not really traveling more than the 2 hours radius from our home, but the idea of running in Antelope Canyon was so appealing. How often do you get the chance to run in beauty on sacred land? In mystical slot canyons? With loads of amazing people that have touched your life in some way while working in Chinle? You commit. You say, yes. You feed your soul.
The lead up to the run was loaded with life expectancies – a move, a new home, work, all of Kayla’s school activities, mountain biking, a theatre production and some training mixed in. I am absolutely embarrassed to admit that I did far less training than I have in the past or could have done, but juggling the 10 hour work day, coupled with 2+ hours of commuting, crippled my running specific training. On the days that I was able to commit, I laced up my shoes, got into the mountains, ran by the lake and did what I felt like endless head lamp laps around my neighborhood to get some miles on my legs.
October quickly crept in with birthday love, hot air balloons at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and green chile picking. While at the Fiesta, our friend Ray, reminded us that he was going to be in Page, AZ flying the same weekend at the Lake Powell/Page Balloon Regatta, which was the same weekend as my run! It was a little like winning some sort of prize – hot air balloons, amazing landscapes, sacred lands, amazing humans. I often think to myself, “how am I this fortunate?” I revel in this energy that I am often surrounding with.
The weeks continued to close in until the race week approached. Kayla had to stick close to Cortez, due to theatre obligations…this real life reminder was initially tough, but she saw the importance of participating and practicing as much as possible (her actual performance was amazing, by the way!). Then there was the weight of a busy week and a cold snap that dropped snow that Monday, which changed my taper to nightly yoga sessions rather than freezing runs. That Thursday was challenging, getting home, frantically packing, throwing whatever could make breakfast and dinner into our cooler, and filled water bottles for consumption, I looked like a tornado. Prior to the chaos, I was greeted with a surprise arrangement to make our trip 100x better, since we were planning to boondock in the now cooler weather.
The surprise arrangement came on my commute from work, Alek, insisted that I meet him at our friend, Jeff Mobley’s shop, High Desert Outdoors, because he was lending us his newly built, off-road camp trailer, which completely elevated our camping situation. This trailer has EVERYTHING! Lights, a full sized bed, shelving, a computer to upload and edit photos, outdoor cook space, a “kitchen sink,” an awning, as well as every imaginable bit of camping gear/element, to make for an incredibly comfortable camping experience. If you aren’t familiar with these off-road trailers, a quick good search will wet your appetite to have a unit of your own, in which all of your camping gear will have a place and will be portable, increasing your ability to hit the road in an instant. This trailer allowed a late night pull into Page, a town that we weren’t familiar with, without overthinking campsites. Parking, maneuvering and use of the trailer was easier than pitching a tent. The best part of this experience is that this trailer will be available as a rental (everything you would need included), in the near future with High Desert Outdoors, which will help to reduce the overall burden of gear acquisition, allowing you to better opt outside!
Friday morning (11/1) we played in the sky and chased colorful globes around Page, as well as met new people with similar interests and fascinating lives. The day flew by. Alek’s uncle met us in the afternoon and all concluded that a campsite was better than boondocking in the city limits, with two big dogs. We opted to support a local Navajo family at their camp ground, Arrowhead Campground, which was 5 minutes away from the race. It was refreshing and restorative to sleep under an open sky.
The race day was finally upon me – it was amazing. The positivity of the promoter, the participants and the environment created positive energy that continues to reverberate in my soul. When we were unleashed in the canyon, with a prayer, the beauty surrounded us, then enveloped us, even the trial of the uphill return, reminded me of the labor of life. We were welcomed back with cheers from friends and family, and a high five from the race promoter, a handmade finisher bracelet, a sweet long sleeve shirt and the ultimate cherry on top – a fully loaded Navajo Taco. The weight of the canyon laid heavy post-race, rest was the only thing I desired to integrate this new feeling. After some down time, my achy legs still needed some movement, and after reviewing some good intel, we decided to explore a different part of Page, somewhat away from the man-made lake. Stud Horse Point, was an ethereal landscape of Martian hoodoos, sandstone bluffs and buttes, slick rock slot canyons and geological wonder that made every tender step a moment to appreciate the power of earth’s ability to create, just like the beauty of Antelope’s curves and the lights ability to dance on every corner. I appreciated that I was forced to slow down and take in the landscape. After some exploration, the Sun was quickly migrating to the mountains in the west, indicating that we should return to our designated camp site for a camp fire and dinner. I quickly turned in to the warmth that awaited in the camper.
Sunday ended with a quick camp breakfast burrito, followed with gas station coffee, on the way to help with a final balloon chase in the desert. Coming in a few minutes late, we tried to find a way to be helpful, but there was a crowd that was making quick work of the project to get into the air. Ray insisted that I jump in the basket, since I ran in the canyon, hoping to maybe catch some more canyon time, but the winds had their own plan. The stagnated air current allowed for inspiring views of the surrounding area, slowly taking in a view that grants you time to appreciate the earth’s ability to create with movement, water, wind and time. Everything comes to an end, landing in a suburban cul-de-sac, and a quick pack up with many hands, led to quick goodbyes and a journey back to Colorado.
A few takeaways from this trip:
- Visit or call High Desert Outdoors. Although we have basically everything that you would need to have a comfortable camp situation; not having to prep and gather our gear helped tremendously to just get on the road. This trailer had high clearance to allow use to get to places we enjoy exploring as well as plenty of space to carry every imaginable piece of gear, to create an instagram worthy camp photo. This will also be available for rent! Also, just stop by and visit the shop, Jeff and his crew want to help you have the best experience when you opt outdoors, plus, you will be supporting a local business!
- Support indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs when you have the opportunity. Between the race promoter, Harold Bennally and our camp hosts at Arrowhead Campgrounds, you get to see the spirit of creation and love for the sacred land they inhabit. I felt welcome because of the love that was put into the race and the campground, it was a good wave to ride.
- Being presents. The entire weekend was about being presents: in the canyon, on the ground, in the air, exploring new places and being around people who bring value to our lives.
A special thanks to Jeff Mobley and High Desert Outdoors for a killer camp set up, Ray Klein with Aero Diablo for helping us get into the sky, Harold Bennally for promoting and creating a soul-quenching race, Alek for his devotion and willingness to help me chase balloons, Jeff Herrick for boondocking with us and providing endless entertainment with Chip and Buford, our Chinle crew (shout out to Dylan for his super fast finish and to Sarah’s ability to commiserate about the beauty and challenge of this race), the Dolores crew (way to run in beauty, Abi and Lara), and to Kayla, who let me run off and play on her birthday weekend (14 years old!!!!!).