Friday, January 10, 2014

Zion 100 Course With Biggest Running Group Ever

I am deeply, madly, wildly in love with running on trails. I love trails more than Justin Bieber loves hairspray. I love trails more than Miley Cyrus loves being repulsive. I love trails more than Whitney Houston will always love you. (Ha ha! I just hijacked your brain and got that song stuck in there!)

What's fun is sharing some of the awesome trails in our area with people who haven't experienced them before. I put an open invite on Facebook for anyone to come and run one such trail, the Grafton Mesa Loop this past Saturday. We had 19 runners there! That is the most people I've ever run a trail with outside of a race.

All of the following pictures are part of the Zion 100 course. Grafton Mesa is one of my favorite places to run. It starts off with a long, steep climb but these guys weren't deterred.

There is some huffing and puffing to get to the top but in comparison to some of the other climbs in the Zion 100 Grafton isn't too bad. After a mile or two we made it to the top of the mesa. Check out this fine group of folks who survived the climb and made it to the top. (That guy holding the dog on the right is Jud. He didn't carry that thing on the run. That dog ran the whole 8.5 miles on a challenging trail!)

After reaching the top of the mesa we pulled over for a few minutes and watched a beautiful sunrise lighting up Gooseberry Mesa:

And then, just in case the legs have a little juice left, there is some more climbing:

The route back around the loop involves going down something called Crybaby Hill. I took no pictures on the decent because it is so steep that I was just trying to keep my feet moving one foot in front of the other without tripping and doing a two mile somersault down the hill. Me and Cherie celebrated finishing the loop. My seriously funny friend Turd'l was just a tad late on the jump. (Sound familiar?)

I had so, so much fun running with these guys.

My friend Rick Whitelaw signed up to run Zion as his first 100. He wanted to check out some other sections of the course and I wanted to get in more miles so we planned to continue running after Grafton. Our next spot of the course was the Guacamole Trail. This is Rick enjoying his first view of the mesa rim:

Here are some of the amazing views we enjoyed out on Guacamole:

There are little pools of slick rock all over the trail. I've been here after a storm when the pools are full and it is just amazing. We still found a few that had water in them.

You can see that this trail skirts right along the edge of Zion National Park:

Our last destination was the climb up Smith Mesa which is positively insane in the membrane. It is vertical. It climbs straight into the sky. In the 1950's the military tested jet propulsion by launching monkeys over the cliff to test ejection seats. Hence the name of the trail that climbs to the top of the mesa is.....The Flying Monkey Trail.

During the Zion 100 there was an actual flying monkey at the top. You can see the picture HERE. I caught this little arch on Saturday which I've never seen on this trail before:

I learned this about Rick after many miles, many hours of running, and almost 4,000 feet of climbing: Rick is ready for the Zion 100 in April.

The view near the top is a bit difficult to enjoy since your lungs will feel like they are full of molten lava. But it is about as good a view as you'll find anywhere.

It's easy to see why people are eager to come and run this race.


  1. Wow. Every picture you post is more beautiful. Just wow.

  2. That is an awful lot of love for the trails, "so I'll go but I know I'll think of you every step of the way."

  3. What a group! Thanks for organizing this! Did you know that there's a singletrack option at the top of Grafton Mesa that will connect you up to Smithsonian Butte road as well?

  4. Cory, great post! I ran Zion 100 last year and ran guacomole in the was a mind numbing experience, but Turd'l saved my life with a bean burrito at the start of guacamole and his hammer gel panacakes when I finished the longest nine mile loop of my life. Thanks for the pictures, it's beautiful during the day!

  5. Not Whitney!! I'm so suggestible. That song has taken root and I can't shift it now.

  6. Great day Cory! Thanks for the tour and all of your great advice.

  7. Hi Cory, I'm a lurker on your blog..and also running the Zion 100. I've never been on these trails before (I'm from Ohio.)
    I am arriving a few days early to reccy the trails and wanted to know which trails on the Zion 100would be good to run/hike before? I was thinking the Guacamole Trail and the Grafton Mesa Loops since I will be going thru at least the Guac Trail in the dark.

    Thanks for any intel on your trails there!


  8. Hi Kimba, I'd suggest checking out the Guacamole Trail. It is more technical and challenging to navigate, so getting an idea of the trail a few days before the race would be helpful. Grafton Mesa has some climbing but isn't too difficult to navigate as long as the course is marked okay. Good luck, you're in for a treat. The course is AMAZING.