FKT: Rob Manley - Cove to Grove Traverse (CA) - 2023-03-11

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
7h 18m 9s

I had been thinking about this route for quite some time. It’s basically two backcountry routes joined together so I had a feeling I might not see another person for the whole stretch. I pulled up to the La Quinta cove about 3:15am, pulled my gear and hit my watch about five minutes later. I was a little nervous because my sciatica returned a couple of days before this attempt and I didn’t want it to ruin the trip. I figured it was doable but could be painful. Both proved to be correct.

I kept a mellow and manageable pace on the Boo Hoff. It was dark, a bit cold and pretty windy. Perfect weather for more intense workouts. I made it to the Guadalupe Trail about 45 minutes in and my back and hamstring were already getting tight and painful. I just kept reminding myself that I’ll get a break just above the Cowboy Camp and get some mellow downhill in about an hour. I continued to push as the wind became stronger on the exposed ridge just below the camp. 2:04 in and I reached the iron stove at Cowboy Camp with a hint of scarlet and blue peeking across the horizon. I followed the trail as it dumped into the upper drainage until it led me to the top of my climb and started me down the descent toward Horsethief Creek.

I began to see the snowy peaks of Toro and Martinez as I ran the sandy wash until it reconnected to Cactus Spring Trail. What a gorgeous morning!! Couldn’t have asked for better weather!! I didn’t want to push too hard though because I promised my back I would give it a break, so I did. I decided to just enjoy the trail while I had it. I dropped into Horsethief Creek and, as I suspected, the creek was flowing hard because of the storm the night before! It’s usually just a nice gurgle about this time of year. Enough to splash your face and filter some water for the reservoir then hop a few rocks to the other side. There would be no hopping today! It was about a 15 foot wide, silty torrent! I filtered some brownish water, took off my socks and shoes and waded across. I hate running in wet shoes if I don’t have to (later on…I had to). After about 20 minutes of milling around with filtering and putting on my shoes, I made the climb up to the Cactus Spring trailhead and onto the, nearly joining, Pinyon Trail. I was on the edge of a storm hanging on the ridge so I was just getting the wind and mist and a rainbow over the Desert Divide. Gorgeous! I started having a little stomach issue for about 15 minutes but it thankfully subsided. Because of the sciatica, the tightness in my body started affecting my knee due to my stride being off but the run was too beautiful to get me down!

I dropped down from the Pinyon Pines area and met up with Palm Canyon (mile 20) where I found 3 mountain bikers and a strong flowing, muddy stream of water. I didn’t want to run through the water but quickly found it was impossible not to. It was just too wide. So I stopped being a baby and actually enjoyed the cold water on my hot feet! Thankfully the shoes I was wearing drained quickly and I didn’t have to fight with blisters or any other problems. I continued to move through the canyon enjoying the mountain scenery and then split off to the left onto the Potrero Trail. It’s an old native flat with incredible rock formations, bubbling streams and tall grass. It eventually dropped back down to the Palm Canyon Trail I was already on but a few miles downstream. The last two miles put me into the largest palm grove of its kind in North America. It was the first chance for shade since the Pinyon area which was nice as I was now back in the desert again and it was slowly warming up. Perfect timing! I probably crossed the stream 15 times by now and each time felt better! I saw a beautiful Rosy Boa sunbathing on the trail right before the end. It was strange though. I was like, “Where IS everybody?!” It’s a beautiful Saturday and no one is in the canyon (I finally saw two people near the finish). As I made the final climb to the Trading Post parking lot, I was surprised to find my friend, another runner, Marc Payan. He had the same look of surprise. “You made it!” I finished at 7 hours, 15 minutes but forgot to stop the watch until 7:18. Whatever. Then I found out the reason no one was around. The Indian Canyons were closed for the day for an annual 5k run and hike. I walked into the celebration part of it! Lucky me! My buddy Marc was in charge of it so I got the food hook up of pizza, chicken tenders, mini corndogs and granola bars (I was hungry)! Then I was able to ride a shuttle to the park entrance (only there for the 5k contestants…and me) where I called my son and talked him into picking me up and taking me back to my car 45 minutes away. I told him I would pick up the dog poop for him for a week

Great day out to run the desert mountains!! My body hung in there, but it was painful for sure. Well worth it though! This time could be brought waaay down!! I feel like my old butt should be able to drop another hour when I’m healthy, so any legit runner could crush this time! Hope to see it brought down soon!!