Sunday, September 24, 2006

Papago Park Run

The plan was to take my son to his archery tournament and run Papago Park in the morning. Archery tournaments are fun for the archers, but not so much for the spectators. Even when your son or daughter is shooting, you can only watch so much. Of course, if you’re into proper form and winning the tournament, then you might spend all day coaching your kid. My kid was more than happy to let me run and shoot in peace.

So off I went on my morning run. It was in the high 70’s by 10 am, a good day for a run. Papago park is divided by McDowell Road. On the north side is the archery range, softball fields and the Oakland A’s spring training practice fields. On the south side is the Phoenix Municipal, the game field for the A’s, the zoo, botanical gardens, golf courses and picnic areas.

I started out on the north side, which used to be a POW camp. During World War II, we would house many German POW’s at this site. Imagine Hogan’s Heroes with Nazi prisoners in 110 degree desert. These soldiers most have thought they went to hell. But, it probably beat being on the front lines of a war back in Europe.

This part of the park is pretty flat. Lots of trails going every which way for mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners and lots of rocks. Pretty easy to turn an ankle, so I went even slower than I would normally. While I ran I remembered a story about the POW’s. At one point the prisoners decided to dig a tunnel under the fencing to the canal. They would then float down to the Salt River (Rio Salado), steal a boat and cruise on down to the Colorado and then to Mexico. There, they could find a way to get back to Europe and help in the war. They actually did tunnel to the canal and floated down to the river. What they didn’t realize is that most rivers in Arizona are dry. There were no boats to steal and no water to navigate. All of them eventually ended back at the camp. Some of them had to ask to be allowed back in the very next day.

A half mile into the run I crossed McDowell road to get to the old amphitheater. With lots of energy I raced up the steps to the top and ran around the butte to get to the southern portion of Papago Park. Here there’s a closed asphalt road that slowing goes downhill to the golf course. A nice easy run, as I passed hikers, strollers, other runners heading back up and a guy on a skate board. Hard work going up, but he was having a great time going down.

Galvin Parkway divides the park into west and east sides. I needed to cross here to get to the zoo, my ultimate destination 1.7 miles from the archery range. It was still early enough that I could run on the exit side of the drive since not very many people were leaving the zoo. I made it to the zoo entrance, a bridge that goes over one of the park lakes. In the lake are a lot of turtles. The like to swim up to the logs and climb on. Soon too many turtles are on and the log rolls spilling all the occupants back into the water and the show starts again. I took a breather watching the turtles, went inside the zoo for a quick bathroom break and bought a soft serve ice cream cone.

Then, I turned around and retraced my steps back to the archery range. It took me about 21 minutes to get down to the zoo and 25 minutes to return uphill. I wasn’t concerned with time, I was having too much fun taking pictures and enjoying the trip. If you haven’t done a desert run, I highly recommend it. Just do it when it’s cooler.

Here’s some pictures of my run at Papago Park.

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