Me and Tim -- now that was a good breakup. No yelling, no terrible things said, just a mutual parting of the ways. Now it's a year later and when I got the idea to do a Bear Canyon Loop to ring in 2013, I knew Tim would think that was a good idea, and he did!
It snowed in the Catalinas yesterday and I could see it from my house and in pictures on Facebook and for some reason, I wanted to go up there. Originally I had planned to do the traditional WOG Saguaro East run. Then Tom mentioned a Sunday-morning BCL and I started thinking that sounded good. Then out of nowhere came the idea for a midnight BCL. Why, I don't know. Because I have had only lame New Year's Eves, like, every single year since I moved to Tucson? Because it was a little bit crazy and seemed like it might be epic? Or (most probably) because it would get my obligatory January 1, Back-to-Working-Out-After-Almost-Two-Weeks-Of-Sloth run out of the way and allow me to sleep in on New Year's Day? All of the above.
We parked at Sabino at 9. It wasn't that cold, not freezing, I think 37 or 38 degrees. I had on tights, wool socks with poop bags over them in anticipation of snow (hey! they work! and I am a fan of the cheap and low-tech), my brand-new trail gaiters, a thermal shirt with a long-sleeved tech shirt over it, nice warm gloves, a neck warmer, and a hat. I am pleased to say I dressed right and was neither too warm nor too cold anywhere on the run.
We decided to do the loop in reverse because we anticipated the water would be flowing in Bear Canyon and did not want to do the whole run with soaking wet feet after the crossings, so we headed up the tram road. Right away I was not feeling good, tired and cranky and icky stomach. My fault: on the way over to Tim's, I got a Mushroom Angus Swiss burger from McDonalds. AND fries. AND a big Diet Coke. All because it was my last day that I was going to let myself eat like crap. When I got to Tim's house and ate the burger, I looked at the waxy cheese and the congealing grease and wondered, briefly, if this was a good idea. Then scarfed it down anyway. It was NOT a good idea! Also not a good idea to drink that much soda right before a run. What was I thinking.... I have no idea.
The tram road was almost empty except for one group of walkers about two miles up and one little pair of red eyes, maybe bobcat- or coyote-height, shining in the light from my headlamp when I looked into the bushes. As soon as we got to the top of the tram road and starting climbing up into the mountains, the moon gradually came out and illuminated the mountains to the east. They had snow on them and looked stunning in the moonlight. When we got to the East Fork-West Fork junction we turned off our headlamps and listened to the silent mountains. I ate a nearly-frozen GU, so cold I could barely squeeze it out of the wrapper, and then we took off again for the long slog up and out of Sabino Basin.
A little ways up Tim called down, "Snow!" and pointed. There were tiny little patches of snow scattered on the sides of the trail. As we climbed higher, they got more numerous, and finally the whole trail was covered in powdery snow. This was neat for about five minutes. Then I remembered why I hate snow. The higher we went, the more I hated it. My stomach was bothering me (and I kept flashing back to the way that burger looked, all slimy and disgusting under the street lights at Tim's house, and burping up tastes of it) and I was slipping all around. I pictured myself slipping and sliding right off the edge of the trail. I also pictured throwing up that entire disgusting dinner and leaving the mess in the middle of the trail so Tom and Sion would have to step over it in the morning when they did their BCL. I actually stuck my finger down my throat, gleeful and inspired by that thought, but my stomach refused to cooperate as always when I tried to purge something, so I just went on, miserable.
Tim was far ahead of me and was loving the snow while I was getting more and more annoyed. We got to the top of the East Fork trail and he took off running. I was grumpy and walked. Then suddenly I heard something large and heavy crashing through the bushes on the slope above me. Okay, it was probably a deer and NOT the mountain lion I saw in my imagination, but still... I screamed for Tim, who was way ahead of me, and kept screaming until he turned around and came back. I was so ready to be out of these scary, snowy mountains. I could not stop thinking about whatever had made that noise until Tim tactfully pointed out that my bloodcurdling scream had probably scared away everything in the vicinity. This was true.
We were headed downhill now and could hear the rushing water way down in the canyon bottom. I usually fly down this stretch of downhill but couldn't because there was still some snow and it was covering the rocks. Just before we got to the canyon crossing the clock hit midnight and we stopped and screamed, "Happy New Year!" at the twinkling city lights down below us. That was that and we kept on going.
I had totally planned on getting wet crossing the canyon since I knew there was a lot of water, but actually we were able to walk across on rocks like always. This is good. In all these years of running BCL I have managed to never once get my feet wet. I have no interest in ever doing it either. We were mostly walking by now (because of me and my stupid stomach) so were getting colder, and didn't really want to add wet feet into that. The only time I got wet was on the dirt road going back to the visitor's center, when I decided I didn't need a light because there was enough moonlight and promptly planted my foot in a mud puddle just as Tim, who had his head lamp on said, "Puddle." Thanks a lot!
Back at the parking lot, Tim made tea while I was in the bathroom. There was one other car in the parking lot, covered with frost. No one else. Then an older SUV pulled in and started driving in random circles around the parking lot. It would drive for a minute, then stop and sit, then drive a little more and stop for a few minutes. That car creeped me out and I was glad to leave the parking lot and head home.
All in all it was a great New Year's Eve, and the Catalinas looked amazing in the dark with snow on them. But I was reminded of two things. Snow running is not for me, and neither is nighttime running. Good to know; that should quell any latent desire for a 100-miler.