TITLE: Running on the Road: Carefree, Arizona AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 14, 2006 9:06 AM DESC: ----- BODY: (The sixth stop in the Running on the Road series. The first five were Allerton Park, Illinois, Muncie, Indiana, Vancouver, British Columbia, St. Louis, Missouri, and Houston, Texas.) the low mountain desert of Arizona Back in 1998, the still relatively new Hillside Group spun off a third conference in its "Pattern Languages of Programs" series, the mysteriously-named ChiliPLoP. The name is a double entendre, one part based in the southwestern US culture and cuisine that are spicy by national standards, and one part based in the conference's intent to bring together patterns folks working intensely in groups on "hot topics" of interest. Since the beginning, I have been a regular, meaning that each spring I travel to Arizona for a great three or four days working on patterns and interacting with the some of the most interesting folks I've ever met. The first three years of ChiliPLoP were held in the rural area 50 miles northwest of Phoenix, at the wonderful Merv Griffin Wickenburg Inn and Dude Ranch. At the time I was still just a casual runner, so I jogged about the compound on gravel and sandy paths for 20-30 minutes at a time. In 2000, Merv donated the ranch to a charity, for use as a camp for wayward boys, and ChiliPLoP had to surrender its great Western luxury and find a new home. Spirit in the Desert logo Since 2001, ChiliPLoP has been in Carefree, northeast of Phoenix, at the Spirit in the Desert retreat center. That may not sound exciting, but it has been a great place to hold a working conference -- quiet, with lots of open space and kitchen area, autonomy, and a great staff. And, more to the point of this article, Carefree offers great running. Carefree is a young town of about 3000 people up the road from Scottsdale and neighboring the older and larger community of Cave Creek. It's basically a tourist community, with restaurants, trinket shops, and art galleries. Many of its residents live in expensive homes in the land that rings the small center center. When I run in Carefree, I go for three different kinds of outing. the sundial in the center of town In Town My shorter runs tend to be in and around the town area. There isn't really much town, but the streets in the vicinity of the retreat center wind around, folding back in on each other, making it possible to run for a few minutes without ever running in quite the same place. Just south and east of town, the roads are like the country roads I remember in rural Indiana, with a few houses, narrow streets with no shoulders, and little traffic. I can easily piece together a 5-6 mile run by aimlessly wandering streets with names like Bloody Basin, Nonchalant, Long Rifle, Sidewinder, and Breathless. low mountains north of town The Outlying Areas Farther to the east but especially to the north, I get into the "wild". There are still homes to be found, but they are fewer and harder to see, hidden atop hills and behind the desert's flora. These runs are much hillier, with a few big hills and many, many smaller but still significant rises and falls. I like to run early, and I often see javelinas and coyotes out -- the javelinas in packs, sometimes near the roads, and the coyotes alone or in pairs, scouting the ridges above the roads. My favorite runs are north of town. I take Tranquil Trail north across Cave Creek Road and follow streets where they lead me. Occasionally I hit a dead end at the top of a steep incline, so I double back to the latest choice I made and make another. We all study about backtracking algorithms in our CS courses, and I've tried them all as I explore this area. I don't worry much about distance, because the hills change my speed profile so much; I just run for an hour, or ninety minutes, being sure to stop moving farther from town near the 2/3 mark. One run of this sort is the strength work-out I need for a week, replacing any speed work-out or hills I might do at home.
Black Mountain
The Mountain When I started running more miles in 2002, I began to hear a siren call: Black Mountain. This 3700-foot mountain lies east of Carefree and south of Cave Creek, and it dominates the skyline as I look out the window of my room at the retreat center. I was running more mileage, and now I realized that something was possible that before had never even been conceivable. The mountain called to me: run all the way around me. the fountain at the LRC That first year, I mostly wandered the retreat center's tranquil grounds and imagined. But I looked at local tourism maps and guessed that the roads around the mountain's base form a loop of 10 miles or less, and the call got stronger. I also could not resist one other attraction of this run. The south border of mountain is called Carefree Highway, and all I could of was the old Gordon Lightfoot song, which I loved, and the prospect of telling my friends that I had run down Carefree Highway. In 2003, I did. The run convinced me that the loop -- beginning on the northeast side of the mountain at the corner of Tom Darlington Highway and Cave Creek Road, counterclockwise on Cave Creek around the north and west perimeters to Carefree Highway, east back to Tom Darlington, and finally north again to Cave Creek -- was only 8.5 or 9 miles. With a half mile or so to and from the starting point, I figure this run is in the 9 to 9.5-mile range. It has plenty of rise and fall, but not dramatic changes in elevation; the inclines and declines are long and gradual. This run is now a ritual of my ChiliPLoP visits. The roads of this route are two and four lanes and are the major roads into and out of Cave Creek and Carefree. So they are busy. That, coupled with the fact that I do have work to do at the conference, means that I usually start early -- no later than 5:30 AM, certainly, and as early as 4:15 AM. I start in darkness and end in light, much like the conference itself. Indeed, I have seen some remarkable sunrises as I come around the southwest corner of the mountain and turn east, when the sun seems to come alive all at once as the mountain no longer blots out my eastern vista. I hope no one is listening, because I often talk to the mountain. The first year, I spoke to it as a motivational device, because I'd never run such a hilly 9-miler. Now, I speak to it as an old friend, a partner that has seen me go from novice runner to old hand. Yesterday morning, I thanked Black Mountain for another glorious run. Unlike Coleridge's Ancient Mariner who bore the burden of guilt for slaying the albatross, I grew with the mountain and became its companion. ~~~~~ The software patterns movement is changing, as patterns and the OO software development that engendered it become a part of the discipline's mainstream, and I don't know how much longer conferences like ChiliPLoP will continue to exist as viable entities. I can only hope that it lasts for a while longer. I need my annual excuse to run in its world. -----