Ryan Mountain is the second highest mountain in Joshua Tree National Park and tops out at 5,457 feet. Though you may not think it’s overall elevation is very impressive, remember that Joshua Tree National Park already sits in the high desert and then you get to gain elevation to get into the park from that high desert. The overall hike up and back down this mountain is only three miles and there’s about a little over 1000 ft of elevation gain to the top. But, this is a technical trail with little respite and nearly no sun protection. the Joshua Tree National Park site (nps.gov) lists this hike under it’s “Strenuous Hike- Do Not Attempt In The Heat” portion of the website and they’re really, really right on this one.
So JT has steep trails. They’re good for me to incorporate into my fledgling training as I try to start running again, teaching my shorty legs that there’s such a thing as hill climbing gears and starting to get the old and creaky muscles to start responding again. Several weeks ago on a Friday (before it was closed) we hiked the Fortynine Palms Trail (I tried to run/hike fast) which is also another three miles and steep/rugged.
On this particular Friday, I knew I needed hill training, so I went back to some of my old stomping grounds in the park where I know it’s steep and will give me a great workout. Ryan Mountain was up to the challenge. I’ve done plenty of hikes up Ryan, but never attempted to trail run it. This time there was no running up the mountain as it’s a steep, rugged, hot, technical trail. But I also didn’t stop during the ascent, I trudged on. Hitting the top and grunting at the nice lady doing yoga, I turned around and knocked out a very nice run back down.
Overall my GPS says the trail was a bit shorter than 3 miles but I didn’t care because I’m really glad I went up and got the training knocked out. My legs hurt for several days straight but I’m ready to take on more hills, slowly. And, I’m not afraid to walk or rest breaks as needed.
Did I mention that I was really trying not to soil myself on the way back down the very technical trails because my smoothie had made it through my system? I had no TP and the trail was crowded. Rocks are a TP option in extreme cases but I opted to simply run harder to get to the bottom and back to the elusive prize of National Park pit toilets.