Monday, October 25, 2010

Bryce Canyon Link-up Trail Run

Back in June I was intrigued to learn about Craig Lloyd’s 39.2-mile Bryce Canyon Link-up run. Since I drive by Bryce National Park at least once a month on my way to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab for work, I knew this was a run I wanted to do.

I had originally planned to complete the run back in September. But a torn plantar fascia plus surgery for a torn rotator cuff put those plans on hold – until this past Sunday!

Keeping in my personal tradition of a lazy Sunday morning, I didn’t hit the Riggs Loop trailhead at Rainbow Point where the run begins until 9:30 am. At the trailhead the temperature was a chilly 38 degrees. A little too cool for my liking! The forecast called for cloudy with a high of 52. The cool weather, coupled with the fact that it rained heavily the day before and the sandy sections of the trail would likely be firm, had my spirits high that this was going to be a great run.

The Riggs Loop immediately drops off the rim through pine forests descending approximately 2000 feet to the Riggs Springs campground and then climbs back up to the rim where it intersects with the Under-the-Rim trail. As I got close to the intersection with the Under-the-Rim trail at 8 miles I made the decision to run back to the car (an easy half mile detour) to get the arm sling I have been wearing for the last six weeks after having rotator cuff surgery. I had hoped to run without the sling, but after about five miles I could feel a strain and pain at the point of the attachment. Rotator Cuff surgery was the most painful thing I have ever experienced and the recovery has been frustrating slow. There was no way I was going to take a chance on a setback.

I was happy to have the extra carrying capacity the combination sling/man purse provided. Into the sling I tucked an extra couple of gels, some yogurt covered cranberries, and my arm. My lazy ass shoulder was thrilled to no longer have to bear the weight of my arm.

The next 23 miles of the link-up follow the Under-the-Rim trail. For some reason I had expectations that I would be running along the bottom of the rim walls amongst brilliant red and orange cliffs, hoodoos, and fins. For the most part this trail meanders through unremarkable ponderosa forest, much of which has burned in recent years. There was a tremendous amount of fallen timber that left me thinking the trail should really be called the Over-the-Logs trail. While I had been averaging 11 minute miles on the Riggs Loop, my pace slowed considerably as this section required climbing over fallen trees, dancing from one side of the eroded trail to the other, and navigating through large washes scattered with loose rock. As I trekked across sections of rock and mud deposited by the previous day’s runoff I appreciated the landscape forming power of erosion on steroids.

After running along Yellow Creek I was looking forward to exiting the trees and climbing up to Bryce Point (31 miles) where I would again be on top of the rim and would get to enjoy the best views in the Park. Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point and Sunrise point did not disappoint. Absolutely magnificent views!! And, super fast trails that allowed me to once again pick-up the pace. From the top of the rim the final 6.5-mile leg of the Link-up is along the Lower Fairyland Loop where you run through and amongst magnificent rock formations. This is what I had imagined the Under-the-Rim trail would be like. The best part of the run had been saved for the last! The Bryce Canyon Link-up terminates at Fairyland Point. Total distance 39.2 is miles with approximately 15,000 vertical. Total running time 7:40.


weather said...

weather forecast from GFS,

jun said...

Dude, phenomenal run and good time overall. I really wish I could have done the Fairyland Loop section as I knew it would be, by far, the best section of the whole run. Next year, for sure.
Congrats on getting through it with a bum shoulder too. Wow. Nice.