Summer seems to be dragging on and on—but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The days are getting shorter, and mornings and nights should soon be a bit cooler.

I’ve been joining Felipe Rodriguez, my friend and neighbor, for an earlier morning walk once a week so that we can get a good six miles in before it starts getting hot. We get started around 5 or 5:30 a.m., and we are done by 7:30 a.m. Our path is three miles out—and three miles back!

We walk a sandy trail/service road near our neighborhood. The sand becomes quite thick and deep at times during the gradual outbound uphill climb. The return has one steep street-hill climb, so it makes for a good workout. We sometimes veer off the trail onto adjacent trails and hills to mix it up a bit. I like a good challenging workout, and I like to keep it interesting by mixing things up—so when I see a hill, I’m all in!

When I asked Felipe what his favorite part of our early morning walks was, he responded: “The sunrise!” I wasn’t surprised. It is most rewarding to see the sky transform as the sun rises over the rolling hills. It makes getting up so early worth it.

I’m trying to get as many hill workouts in as possible to prepare for the annual Palm Springs Tram Road Challenge. Every non-pandemic October for the past 30 years, 1,200 or so runners/walkers have gathered along Tramway Road and the Palm Springs Visitor Center to conquer what is known as the “toughest 6K in the world!” Starting at the desert floor near Highway 111, at 700 feet above sea level, Tramway Road has more than 1,800 feet of elevation gain over 3.7 miles to the finish line, just below the Valley Station, at more than 2,600 feet—hence the challenge! It’s returning on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 7 a.m. (6:30 a.m. for walkers), and it is a great and fun challenge for the entire family. Are you up for the challenge? Join me! Register at tramroadchallenge.com.

If I can do it, anyone can! I have conquered the climb quite a few times—but it’s gotten the best of me a couple of times, too. It used to be my training grounds back in the day. It was the hill I loved to hate (and I’m not a hater), but it was and still is what I call the best and coolest workout in Palm Springs. Well, it’s the coolest if you go very early in the morning—and I mean very early, because it is sun-facing, so you could find yourself in the heat if you get a late-morning start. Alternately, you can go in the evenings right after the sun drops behind Mount San Jacinto.

I made the mistake of attempting the climb in the middle of the day one July. I hate to admit it, but I did—and it got the best of me. We learn from our mistakes, right? Well, I learned quickly that the best times to be on Tramway Road for a good workout are very early in the morning or in the evening after the sun drops. Also, remember to bring lots of water, and stay hydrated.

Felipe Rodriguez enjoys one of the many the trails near Little Morongo Creek in Desert Hot Springs. Credit: Theresa Sama

Another great October event where you can both get some great exercise and support a great cause occurs just one week after the Tram Road Challenge—DAP Health’s annual Desert AIDS Walk, on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs. This year’s theme, “Walk, Out Loud,” will focus on advocacy and uniting the entire community in the fight for LGBTQ+ health equity. Around 2,000 participants will walk a route through downtown Palm Springs to support ending the HIV and AIDS epidemics in the Coachella Valley, and to promote health equity and health justice. This event is family- and pet-friendly and will include a Health and Wellness Village at Ruth Hardy Park.

DAP Health CEO David Brinkman says it best: “Walk and raise your voice for health justice and LGBTQ+ rights. Lace up your walking shoes; join arms with your community; and be an advocate for change. Together we will end epidemics, whether HIV, COVID or monkeypox.”

You can walk with a team or individually while knowing that every step and dollar raised makes an impact in the lives DAP Health clients. Who’s with me? Let’s get out there and make a difference. Learn more and register to walk at desertaidswalk.org.

I hope to see you out there at these great events. The weather will be much cooler, making it a perfect time to get back out there, get some exercise and enjoy life again—but please do so safely.

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Theresa Sama

Theresa Sama is an outdoor enthusiast who writes the Independent’s hiking/outdoors column. She has been running and hiking the Coachella Valley desert trails for more than 10 years and enjoys sharing...

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