Running along Lake Michigan’s unnaturally crystal blue waters is nice, and I’m sure many people would prefer the shoreline’s paved tranquility over desert. After all, the lake trail can’t be beat if you’re a people watcher.
But picture this: Roll out of bed in the morning, walk about half a mile through a few blocks of streets, which leads to a sidewalk that cuts through pleasantly-preserved desert and dumps you onto a trailhead. Follow a quarter-mile wide wash up through desert chock-full of saguaros, cholla, rabbits and lizards.
Cookie-cutter homes on the surrounding cliffs give way to mansions, mansions give way to mountains. The intoxicating scents of giant ragweed and creosote blend to create a desert perfume that always leaves me feeling heady and refreshed. The morning sun hides behind mountains, which keeps temperatures cooler than elsewhere in the Valley.
With a few dozen miles of immediately accessible trails available practically out my door, I’m in a runner’s paradise. No more watching every driveway for sleepy-headed businessmen. No more running on hard pavement meant for cars. No more dreary building after dreary building.
I was made for desert running. I LIKE unpredictable footing that requires full attention. I love how the trail is never constant, suddenly lurching to the right or climbing up a steep embankment out of the wash, then diving back in. I even LOVE watching out for potentially dangerous snakes, coyotes and big cat. Even the heat doesn’t bother me, as long as I run in the morning and drink the requisite gallons.
I even enjoyed a moment of humor. As I ascended a wash cliff, an overweight millionaire standing over his back yard empire waved to me as his dog pooped in the Midwestern-inspired grass. The scene reminded me of an old cartoon: Man in his underwear, belly overhanging his prodigious gut, watering a sea of grass saying something like: “I’ll make Arizona look like Michigan yet!”