Being A Warrior Princess is Tougher Than You Think

by Emily Monday, February 27th 2012

As a kid growing up in the woods, I fantasized about being a warrior princess: a powerful girl trained in the arts of survival and war, who could stalk soundlessly through the brush and skillfully ambush prey. I wanted to live in a house made of earth, fish in the river with a spear, wear clothes of sewn buckskin. In real life I kept a diary of my fake exploits by writing on birch bark with a burned charcoal twig. But the truth is, I could be living this way; in fact, I know people who do: folks who hunt their own meat, grow their own vegetables, and make their own clothes, their knapsacks, their baskets, their houses. I've seen how long it takes to make a buckskin dress. It's a lot of work. And, it turns out, so is the simplest of components in my childhood daydream: walking barefoot. When barefoot folks walk soundlessly, I don't think it's because they're trying to be silent; they just have to place their feet very carefully. I went for a walk in the desert to discover just how gently we have to walk on this world when we take away all the stuff between us.

It all started with a minor hamstring injury. I'd been attempting to rest my tweaky leg for a few weeks until I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to do something physical to get my ya-yas out. I'd browsed through some of the new books we have at the shop on barefoot running, and balked a little at the advice of both authors, that minimal shoes are no substitute for being truly barefoot. I've been wearing and running in my KSOs for years now, and always felt like I got a lot of feedback from the ground; I love how thin they are, and when I read this criticism of them, I really didn't believe they could be that different. I decided to use the down time on my leg to go for a slow, gentle hike on the Yetman Trail to see if they were right.

bowen ruin yetman trail 

The Yetman Trail, as it turns out, is not a great trail for a first-time barefoot hiking experience. I remembered it as being a flat, short jaunt to the Stone House on old soft dirt trail. In actuality, some of the trail is soft, with a dense layer of dust that's comfortable underfoot, but the majority of this trail is what should be expected from the Tucson Mountains: volcanic gravel. Barefoot folks who write books and blogs on the subject love to stress that your bare feet get a lot of "sensory awareness" that you just can't get through any shoe or sock. That's a really lovely way of saying that most things hurt. This stuff hurt. The trail also crosses the wash several times, which is a deep bed of pumice waiting to scratch all your calluses off. I walked barefoot for maybe a quarter mile before the soles of my feet started feeling raw and overwhelmed, and then I took my Fivefingers out of my pack and put them back on. For a moment, I thought: barefoot is bull crap.

yetman trail

But it was when I put my shoes back on that I realized Vibrams really do insulate your feet from the ground a lot. Suddenly my flimsy thin footwear felt like a couple of plush pillows. My feet were happy and cushy and protected, and Barefoot Ken Bob and Jason Robillard were right: being in shoes is an entirely different experience. I walked at a quick pace for half a mile before the trail smoothed out again, and I suddenly found myself itching to feel what the ground really feels like again. I took my shoes off, and lasted maybe another quarter mile before I had to put them back on again. So it goes. While walking at a (literally) painfully slow pace, I at least got let in on one of nature's little secrets: spring's first California poppies, hidden behind a rock a few yards off the trail. With my normal proclivity toward running or at least blazing forward to a destination, I probably wouldn't have noticed them. I found myself stopping a lot to take photos of all kinds of details on the trail. I was moving so slow anyway, what was a couple of seconds more to snap a picture?

first poppies

I went for a much more successful walk at Catalina State Park, where the trails really are smooth and soft, and all the wash crossings make it fun to get your feet wet. I still walked slow, and it wasn't exactly comfortable; I stepped on cactus needles a couple of times. But I started to appreciate how we take our comfort for granted sometimes. The earth is not soft; there are rocks everywhere, and the dirt is gritty, and there's plenty of detritus that will give you a sharp poke. Maybe it's not such a useless endeavor to learn to tread lightly.

barefoot in soft grass

Activities | Trails

2012 Fleet Feet Arizona Trail Race Report

by Charles Monday, February 20th 2012

The day started with a early morning departure to Colossal Cave Mountain Park for the 8 mile 2012 Fleet Feet Arizona Trail Race - it was cold as we got in the car and hoped that it would be just a little warmer by the time the race started. The start and finish is the La Posta Quemada Ranch, as we turned into the Ranch we immediately saw the start/finish line and runners warming up, seeing so many runners ready to hit the trail was exciting!

It is still chilly as we line up for the start - but in no time we are running and beginning to warm up. The start of the race winds around the road/parking area to spread everyone out before running past the Arizona Trail sign, thru the gate and onto the trail. After about a mile the temperature starts to feel perfect - this trail is a blast to run as it winds across and along Posta Quemada Canyon.  The scenery is gorgeous and the lines of runners on the single track create bright ribbons of color.

The layout for this course is great - a loop at the end of the course ensures that there is a minimum amount of time spent contending with runners trying to go both directions on the narrow trail (although you will have to step aside for the leaders if you run at my pace). To create the loop you turn off the Arizona Trail (a big thanks to the race staff for such great directions at all the intersections!) and turn onto the dirt road that that takes you back to the final section of the trail. The final climbs are a nice challenge before the fast downhill finish.

Part of the fun of this race was having so many friends and colleagues at the event - from the Summit Hut we had Jeremy Davis - Owner, Dave Baker - Founder, Richard Allen - Buyer, Charles Miles - Buyer, Dana Davis - Owner, Frank Camp - Marketing Director and Alison Taylor - Buyer (race results) - a great group to enjoy the fabulous breakfast with after the race.

If you missed this race this year think about signing up next year - but sign up early, this race is fantastic and will certainly sell out quickly! You can find quite a few pictures of this race on Flickr from Everyone Runs.

A few notes about gear we used on this run:

Photo Credit: Fleet Feet Tucson and Dave Barger.

Hot Peak 60, Inov-8: I like the fit on this cap and the sweat band does a good job keeping sweat out of my eyes and off my glasses - plus in the Black/Lime color it looks fast! - Charles 

Photo Credit: Fleet Feet Tucson and Dave Barger.

UV Arm Sleeves - Print, Moeben: Moeben arm sleeves were perfect for this race! The start was quite chilly so having some extra warmth was great while the last mile of the race, when I spent a great deal of energy trying to catch Frank, I got hot and was able to push the sleeves down for a cooling effect. The UPF 50 would have been great as well if it had been sunnier! -Dana

Performance Mini Crew and Ironman Thunder Pro Low-Cut, Injinji and Wigwam: By combining my original weight Injini socks with the Wigwam Thunder Pros I get maximum cushioning while keeping the toes separated so they do not rub against one another- they are the perfect match! -Dana

Photo Credit: Fleet Feet Tucson and Dave Barger.

F-Lite 230, Inov-8: I put quite a bit of thought into which shoes to wear for this run. In the end, the 230's won out - solid protection, great fit, minimal enough that I had to put some focus on good form. -Frank

Summit Hut Go Hat, Headsweats: This hat is incredibly lightweight, offered some sun protection and kept sweat out of my face! What more can you ask for? -Frank

Events | Gear

Product Review: Buff

by Jonathan Friday, February 3rd 2012

If there were a Ten Essentials list for garments, the Buff would definitely be on it. The Buff website describes it as a “multitasking bandanna”. It is its versatility that makes it a nearly indispensable item.

The versatility is a result of a combination of high tech material and design simplicity. What could be more simple than the seamless tube of fabric? The fabric itself is a lightweight stretch polyester microfiber that offers excellent moisture management and insulation against both cold and hot environments. For those who prefer natural fiber fabrics, merino wool versions are also available. A note of caution regarding the wool products, some insects find fine wool products an irresistible source of food – something to keep in mind when storing.

Like the traditional bandanna, the Buff is worn primarily in the area of the head and neck. Just a few minutes of playing around with the Buff reveals its potential. A diagram on the packaging (also on the website) shows seventeen of the more common configurations. From cap, to hair tie, to neckerchief, the Buff has you covered.

A wool base layer, and Buff neck gaiter are perfect for a cold morning hike in the desert.

Those of us who live in Tucson are used to heading out in the early morning on our hike or bike ride with temperatures in the low 40’s, then finishing our trip in the afternoon with temperatures in the upper 70’s. We like garments that can be worn over a broad spectrum of temperatures, but we really like garments that functionally adapt to wide temperature swings. It’s nice to have a jacket that can be worn across a wide temperature range, but it’s even better to have the cool-weather jacket that turns into a warm-weather shirt. The Buff will do that. Wear it as a neck gator in the morning, then as a headband in the afternoon. Wear it as a cap over the head and ears in the cool morning air, and over your nose and face as a mask against the sun in the afternoon.

On approach on a cool morning

I always wear a buff under my bicycling helmet. It not only dramatically increases the comfort of the helmet, but it keeps perspiration out of my eyes and off my sunglasses. It also keeps my head warmer in the morning and cooler in the afternoon. I find that it performs well under a climbing helmet too. For women cyclists who may want to stop for a cup of coffee or a meal, the buff can be employed in a number of stylish ways to mask the dreaded “helmet hair”. Actually, the use of any helmet can be enhanced with a Buff.

Preparing to don the helmet over the Buff

IMG_0641sm 2
Helmet hair? No problem!

During some recent experimentation and brainstorming, I thought of a new application. If you turn the Buff inside out, then slide it over your head down to your neck, then pull the top down over and carefully tuck it into your button-down collar shirt, it can double as an ascot! Now, I know that not many people are familiar with the ascot tie, and even fewer have ever worn one, but is it not nice to know that if you ever needed an ascot, and you did not have one, that, in a pinch, you could use your buff? Hey, you never know.

Buff doubling as ascot tie

Gear | Gear

Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls

by Jonathan Tuesday, January 3rd 2012

Sabino Canyon is a spectacularly beautiful place to hike. Halfway up the side of the canyon, the Phone Line trail contours along length, offering great vistas. Other trails include Blacket’s Ridge. A paved road runs along the bottom, along which runs a tram.

Bear Canyon, the next canyon over from Sabino Canyon, while not as spectacular, has its own treats for the avid hiker. With the exception of the trail, the canyon is undeveloped. Like Sabino, water flows year-round. Many hikers enjoy rock hopping back and forth across the stream as they follow the trail. Many find the bear Canyon trail a more natural riparian experience compared to the paved road in Sabino.

Sycamore trees, boulders, and water in Bear Canyon

The boulders, sycamore trees, and water make bear Canyon worth the trip. The coolest feature, however, is Seven Falls. About two and one half miles in from the mouth of the canyon (four miles from the parking lot), there is a fork in the trail. The fork that goes down to the left, will take you to an area of slickrock with waterfalls both above and below. While none of these seven waterfalls are particularly tall (the largest not more than about 20 feet), but they are all pleasing to the eye and ear. The water flows across the slick rock forming a number of small pools. The place is ideal for sunbathing, sitting quietly and listening to the mantra of the water, or if you are so inclined, climbing up the rock cliffs to the next fall. A note to parents: kids love this place, and opportunities to slide or fall off cliffs abound.

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Falls, pools, and slickrock at Seven Falls

The other fork in the trail, the one to the right, will take you further up the canyon eventually joining the trail that runs from the Prison Camp area to Upper Sabino and Hutch’s Pool. The upper part of the trail provides access to Thimble Peak, the distinctive and aptly named high point on the ridge that separates Sabino and Bear Canyons. Ambitious hikers and trail runners make a loop combining the trails of the two canyons.

To get to Bear Canyon, park at the Sabino Canyon recreation area parking lot (permit or fee required). Take the dirt path from the parking lot to the road, then the road to the bridge over Sabino Creek - the crossing of which will put you face-to-face with the trailhead for both the Phone Line and bear Canyon Trails. Soon after stepping on the trail, there will be a sign pointing to the left for the Phoneline Trail, and right for the Bear Canyon Trail. It will be about another mile to the actual mouth of Bear Canyon.

There is, for those who prefer, a road that parallels the trail for that one mile segment. I generally prefer taking the trail, having already done some pavement walking from the parking lot. In fact, on our last hike there I saw three white tailed deer foraging not far from the trail.

White Tail deer foraging near Bear Canyon Trail

The relatively low elevation makes Bear Canyon a good choice for winter hiking. Remember, however, that canyons such as Bear Canyon often active as drains for cold air in the higher elevations, making the bottom of the canyon somewhat cooler than the surrounding area. Summertime can be enjoyable to, as long as the water is flowing and peak high temperatures are avoided.

The traffic in both Bear and Sabino Canyons is substantial - they are just north of town. However, Bear Canyon is still an excellent choice for those who like to hike along a stream, and experience waterfalls, while avoiding long drives.

The mouth of Bear Canyon


The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!