TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Looking Forward to Getting My Act Together (Dirty Paws Virtual Run & Other COVID19 Shelter-in-Place Stuff)

Spring semester officially ended for me yesterday (Sunday, May 24). I have submitted all my grades. All "paperwork" has been completed. It is finished. Which means of course, it's now once again time to get my act together. Not that I've fallen totally apart during this COVID19 shelter-in-place era of our lives. I got my plank up to two minutes (though it has been a week since I've done a plank). I began doing burpees out on the back lawn with my husband and sons (though it's been three days -- Doh! This is what I mean by get my act together! I'm not consistent.)  

Now that Billy Goat 1/2 Marathon is for sure postponed (was planned for June), I've got a little more time on my hands. I have time to continue running with my graduating high school senior. He is trying to increase his speed on the same two mile route that we take through the neighborhood -- a one mile loop with Pacific Ocean views that we reverse at the house. My son is more consistent than I. He runs this two mile loop daily, resting only Sundays. This of course means that he easily "laps" me. I on the other hand, take a couple of days off here and there to work on the plantar fasciitis. But I do occasionally get in longer runs -- my longest this month, 5 miles, an out-and-back out my front door and down the coast.  


Also, on the COVID19 front, being the multi-tasker that I am (chronic, my multi-tasking is sometimes so bad, it's debilitating), I decided to take along my dog Millie and registered for a DirtyFeet Race, Dirty Paws Virtual Race (the 5k). Millie's a squeamish girl and she'll bite you if you try to trim her nails. I thought running her on the sidewalk might file down her nails (no such luck!). Anyway, even if I didn't get those nails filed down, it was time to bond with Millie. I never did because I was so heartbroken over the loss of Daisy, the dog-love of my life. Millie has always been the kids' dog. I half expected that she wouldn't have me because of this. 

What a delight it was to take Millie out on her first few runs. She seemed thrilled, wagging her tail the entire way. She didn't seem to tire, and I did very little coercing. I had trouble at one corner where she is used to turning after years of walks with the boys. Other than that, she was a good girl. I also dropped her off after the first mile and did the second lap solo. She's a little dog, and also not so young anymore (kind of like myself!). 




About the third or 4th run, Millie seemed hesitant. After that she grew even more hesitant. She didn't whine, she didn't act like she was in any pain. All off a sudden she would just sit and refuse to go. I had to pick her up a few times and walk with her in my arms. The last run I ended up cutting her portion short by running her back after only about a 1/4 mile. I haven't been out since. But as I mentioned, school is out for summer (and I'm only teaching one online class), so I have more time to get my act together. First, I am going to stay in on this Memorial Day, the day thousands journey to my town for waves and barbecues. Then after the Memorial Day crowds go home I will get out and put some more lovely miles on my feet. Our beaches are now open in the OC, but face masks are required in public when you cannot keep 6 feet distance. Once those crowds are gone (or at least thinned) I'll get back out there. And once it starts to heat up, the crowds in the coastal hills and mountains will thin out too. YOU WILL SEE ME THERE.

Look for more news on Billy Goat 1/2 Marathon. If all goes well with the state's re-opening phases, we'll be able to have this race in October. Live sports events are Phase 4, which is the last category to re-open. I've heard estimates of August. That sounds good to me. 

Pics from my 5 mile run down the coast:


Sunday, May 17, 2020

My Friday Hike when "They" Closed OC Beaches (5/1/20)

About a month into Shelter-In-Place (#COVID19) I began experiencing some arch pain, first in my right foot, then in my left. I ignored it at first. Why? Because I'm 55 years old and I suppose I'm bound to have some aches and pains. Besides that, ever since Shelter-In-Place, I'm not really paying too much attention to taking of myself. After some persistence, I finally decided to "Google" arch pain because that has never really been my pain (I'm more a heal, hip, knee or nerves near toes pain sort of girl). Well, as soon as I saw Plantar Fasciitis pop up at the top of the list of arch pain, I knew. Plantar Fasciitis is my nemesis. It is the chronic injury that I have suffered most in my trail adventures. For the longest time I thought that ear infections would be the death of me -- big problems as a kid, and even into adulthood, especially during my swimming years. But now I have changed my mind . . . it will be Plantar Fasciitis!! Like I said, as soon as I saw Plantar Fasciitis at the top of the list of arch pain, I knew. I don't know why this condition didn't manifest in heel pain this time. Anyway, this pain has been quite painful, and the condition eventually overcame my left foot as well.

Just before my realization that my nemesis was back, I had planned a nice long beach hike out my front door for Friday, May 1 I figured with all the beach parking lots closed I could set out for quite a few lonely miles along the coast, keeping all social distancing guidelines intact. I thought that I might record a "Friday Hike" video -- I had never done one for my hometown. Then the night before I read reports that the Governor of California closed all beaches. I didn't think much of the order until the next morning when it was clarified. The clarification: Only Orange County (my county) beaches were closed. 

I think that I've had just too much inside time. Don't get me wrong. I love it at home. All things are getting cleaned. I get to spend time with my family and I'm getting everything organized. But something just snapped in me that Friday morning after realizing that my county's beaches had been singled out for closure. This is my neighborhood. The beach is about a quarter mile away. I can't drive to my trails for a mountain hike or even one in the coastal hills. And now, I can't even walk along the coast in my home town. I was not pleased. And so, I took a hike anyway, a nice long one.

First, I walked down to Doheny State Beach which was shut up tight with law enforcement blocking the entrances. Eventually after taking on a bit of the jetty, then the marina and island, I ended up at the Marine Institute. From there, I took a hike that I haven't taken in about 7 years -- a hike around The Headlands. What a beautiful spot of beach right here in my home town. There's tunnels and rock climbing and a secluded private beach. Very, very easy to social distance here. In all, I did 8.5 miles on this Friday hike. I also did some Facebook Live video during the portion around the Headlands and connected some of those clips with some video I took on the way down PCH to document my crime of civil disobedience (Here). In all, I did find some beach (Marine Institute and Dana Strands) and had a lovely Friday hike. 

It was great to get out for something longish. I miss wandering.

Ps. I didn't come within 6 feet of another single person (and it was actually probably more like 20')





Saturday, May 2, 2020

It's Been That Long

My middle son (the oldest still at home) took up running a few weeks into this shelter-in-place. He runs a couple of miles around the neighborhood and every day had been asking me if I wanted to run. I declined. So depressing. How many years have I asked my children to run with me? I have lots of hikes, but runs with my boys, not so much. Anyway, it is so difficult to run when I feel so utterly out of shape running-wise. Heck, I don't even feel confident about a hike nowadays. It's been that long!

This is not to say that I'm not tending to lots of things that need tending to (like organizing my office, books, and such, not to mention the tender loving ongoing deep cleaning of the house). Keeping myself physically fit though is something that has flown out the window during COVID19. And I'm not eating that healthy either (though I am fasting 18 hours a day, so at least that's something). I'm not saying that I'm a couch potato. I'm down on my hands and knees weeding our gardens. I've been working upper body cleaning walls, windows and floors. Overall, I'm keeping myself rather busy. But my strength sucks and I have no running stamina. So, back to my middle son, who has been bugging me for weeks to get back into it. He convinced me to do a daily plank, increasing 5 seconds each day. I'm up to 65 seconds, and though I hate this part of my new daily routine, it's not as miserable as it was on the first day (which I believe was 30 seconds and I wailed like a baby!) I can't remember the last time that I worked on my core. Oh, I have neglected so many things!

Somehow, my middle son has convinced me to get back to a little bit of running, miserable though it is right now (he just never gave up asking). I so much hate starting over. So, the miles are short, but they are nearly daily. I put it off to the very last moment of the morning before I absolutely must get to work. I always go out too fast because I just want to get it over with. A half mile later I suffer on an incline because of it, and then I go out too fast again on the next run, not even looking forward to the absolute wonderful feeling that comes with a run's completion. I know all this. (My son has been trying to convince me the benefits, about how great it makes you feel. I know, I know all that. It's not an instant thing though son, and I'm tired. I'm finally just plain ole tired!)

But not that tired. It's just been a while and I needed some pushing. I have much gratitude for my middle son in getting me out the door for these 2 mile runs around the neighborhood. The views are pretty good, even on these gray and dreary days, and the company's not bad either (though he pretty much leaves me in the dust). 😄







Saturday, April 18, 2020

The COVID19 Disruption

March 26 was the last time I hit the trails. I think that I didn't blog it because I'm too sentimental about it. To write a blog post means to miss my old life. My life before the COVID19 pandemic. And I don't really want to think about it. I don't want to think about the medicine that I've been missing since shelter-in-place was ordered. (It makes me sad; I'd rather not be sad.)

The last day I drove to work was Thursday, March 13 -- my last day of teaching before spring break. It was raining. We were in strange times, masks and gloves on about a quarter of the people on campus, but malls were still open, as were bars and restaurants. Still on that last day on campus, March 13, I was so naive to how things were going to drastically change. I remember it was cold, and I was wet from the rain even though I had an umbrella. The mood about campus was anxious. I filled my truck with gas a couple days after that. More than a month later, I still have a half tank. In my old life, I filled my tank about every 5 days. Now, I work from home, recording lectures and holding a computer "lab" online. I no longer drive 50 to 60 miles a day. 

My husband has worked from the home office for years now. And other than not having to drive the boys to their stuff in the afternoon, his life has not changed much. My parents' lives have not changed as well, but most everyone I know, my 3 sons, a freshman and senior in high school, and a junior in college, included are experiencing a major disruption.  

I have not been having that great of a time working from home, especially with trails out of reach. This is not to say that I don't enjoy all this extra time with my family. I do. It's wonderful, and there are lots of great talks and strolls around the yard. But my classroom is my kitchen. And there are unique challenges to Zoom lectures and email correspondence. To top that, the first week home my computer crashed. I had to purchase a new one, which was not in the budget. A few weeks later, my iphone was stolen out of my purse while I shopped for groceries. That hurt.

People are anxious. I am anxious. On the good side, as of now, everyone in my family, both immediate and extended are well. California has been on "shelter-in-place" since March 20. The moods have been tense since. At first, we were allowed to take hikes in the mountains and bike rides and such on the beach. Eventually, all those options have been shut down. I stopped hiking well before the local governments and forest service made it impossible by closing down roads, parking lots and trail heads. I have not hit the trails for nearly 4 weeks! I've had some small walk-abouts in the neighborhood. But that's it. And this is my greatest suffering point. It would help me a good deal to have the medicine that satisfying wanderlust amply provides. I don't have it; I look elsewhere for refuge.  Some good and some not so good.  I have since washed all the hardwood floors of our beach shack and then moved onto shampooing carpets (they were disgusting.)  I washed the walls, the bookshelves and cabinets. I weeded the planters and washed out the bird feeders (Oh, did they need it!). I began purging papers from the office/library. I haul out a garbage bag full every week. I really have neglected these things for so long, it's shameful. Normally, I'd go for a hike and process that with a positive note. I haven't processed my neglect with a positive note yet.

I suppose to remedy the minor existential crises this shelter-in-place order brought on, I force myself every day to make my surroundings better.  I cut flowers in the backyard for a kitchen bouquet. I have the boys sweep the porches and mow the lawns. I prune plants and remove wilted Calla Lily, Camilla and Birds of Paradise blooms. I feel oddly driven to do these things. I am driven to do them because it covers up how I feel that I'm failing intellectually, physically and spiritually right now. I've assigned myself some exercises. Not physical exercises (where I am drastically lacking), but instead intellectual and spiritual exercises. Aside from beautifying my surroundings, I began reading (once my great love) -- one book of fiction and the other non-fiction. Every morning I begin with my reading (and a cup of coffee). And after that, I make my bed. 

I have done all these things to try and substitute the medicine that trails provide (which too, is only a temporary remedy to the anxious-spiritually-struggling life that I keep finding myself at). I have always had this need to feel that I am moving forward. Shelter-in-place is perhaps as close as you can get to the opposite of moving forward, thus the manic reaction to beautifying my surroundings at home. There is a lot of beauty here at home too. Aside from the small little seaside yard and a peek of the ocean from the front porch, there's my family. It's good to be with them. (Though I still await seeing my oldest son who is in Ventura County.) I guess that I am rambling now, and really should get back to the purpose of this blog overall -- trails.

So, back to  my original intent for this post, it was March 26, as I have already mentioned and we were 6 days into shelter-in-place, but exercise was clearly allowed and even encouraged. I had read that amenities and parking lots would be closed at Aliso/Woods Canyons but that the trails would be open. Lack of parking lot has never stopped me. And so, I set out in the late morning, to a lesser known entrance to Aliso/Woods. Turned out, the city of Laguna Beach had closed all trail heads in the city, and I had to sneak into the park (which was open). It was not difficult by the way to sneak in. The person patrolling the closed trail heads, (I heard a city volunteer) had driven away by the time I made it to Meadows trail head, and by the time she returned, I was already well into the park (but I am fairly certain she had to have seen me from her vantage point upon return).

I hiked more than 10 miles, beginning in Moulton Meadows Park, down Meadows Trail to Wood Canyon, Cholla, West Ridge and Top of the World. At first, the trails were empty and I began to doubt the legality of my presence.  But once in Wood Canyon, I counted thirty or more hikers, runners and bikers over a 5 or 6 mile stretch. The park mind you is 4,500 acres, so even with 30 plus people, I had much time alone. About three-quarters into Wood Canyon I hiked off trail to the ladies room in a wooded area. And there in the deep shade, I stumbled upon a bob cat who froze for a second and promptly took off further into the brush. Back on the trail, about a 1/4 mile later, I spun around abruptly with hunch I was being followed. Sure enough, I spied a coyote trotting in my direction! Once he realized I had stopped, he was off the other way.

My last hike was a lovely one and much needed. When I arrived to Alta Laguna Park, I found myself fenced in and had to climb out. A few others were doing the same. The road was crowded with cars since the lots were locked shut. There were were a couple of police squad cars driving about, and city workers were posting "No Parking" signs. I enjoyed my last couple of miles back to my truck like I would a last cookie. I knew this would be my last hike in a while. As I made my way back down into the park, near Meadows trail, I could see the city truck patrolling the area right in my path, "I'm in for it," I thought and plugged forward ready to face the music. But the truck thankfully, had just driven off before I arrived. I was relieved to not have a confrontation. I haven't been out since, and that is not a good thing. Who knows though, maybe in the long run, it will be.

A View of Saddleback Mountains from top of Meadows Trail, Laguna Beach

View of the Pacific Ocean, Near West Ridge (Laguna Beach)

Looking down onto Meadows Trail, Aliso Viejo


 
 10.41 miles, 1,731 ft of elevation gain





Thursday, March 26, 2020

It's a Jungle Out There.

I believe it was March 20 when the governor made it official and ordered a shelter-in-place for California to help slow the spread of COVID19. With off and on rain, I was eager to hit some trails the next day (3/21), and as of late, I've been able to do that with the absence of people.  I have been known to occasionally hike off trail or hike places that are closed (but not in a long, LONG time).  This situation is quite different, so believe me, I checked out the shelter-in-place order before deciding on a Saturday hike. I found from everything that was published online on this shelter-in-place that I could walk my dog, run or hike as long as I did it alone, or with someone that I lived with. (Thank goodness, because the gym was out of the question as they were all ordered closed along with all the other "non-essential" businesses).  

I wasn't so naive to think that the trails weren't going to be crowded. Every place that immediately came to mind didn't seem right. I was trying to hide; I needed to go where others would not. What I really wanted was Black Star Canyon, but I knew, because of the ample parking and the relative ease of driving there, Black Star, was going to be packed. The coastal trails in my area were all closed due to "wet and muddy conditions."  I also wasn't up for the local beaches (not with the downright bad attitude posts I'd been reading from community members -- Wow, just wow, so mean, it's a jungle out there!). Anyway, if Black Star was going to be crowded, so then were Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary and Silverado Canyon, and they have much fewer parking spots. I also wasn't up for any big drives, so Blue Jay Campgrounds and that general area of the Cleveland National Forest was off. What I finally decided on is that lovely, quaint canyon behind Caspers, called Hot Springs Canyon. There's rarely any cars in the lot. There's also a little mountain driving, not much, but enough that I thought it might curtail hikers from choosing this trail.

I was wrong.

The parking lot was more packed than I have EVER seen.

Fortunately, San Juan Trail is a long difficult trail. That means most people don't take it. And once I got started I rarely saw anyone else on the trail. There were more mountain bikers than usual -- but that's always the case on San Juan Trail; it is a mountain biker trail. I also noticed once I climbed a bit and was able to look further down the canyon, that many of the people were merely taking a stroll up Hot Springs Canyon to Lazy W -- they were not headed up San Juan Trail.

So, it was a lovely, lovely hike! Really. The skies were blue. I could see the ocean and Catalina Island. The weather was cool and crisp. What an awesome 13 mile hike. It was not perfect "social distancing". Though I could travel for miles without seeing another soul, there were times when I'd come up on a group of 5 or 6 on this single track. When we could, we all practiced "social distancing". At my turnaround point, Cocktail Rock, I met about 5 others taking in the views. We stood about in somewhat of a circle, all about 6 feet apart. One-by-one, we all took off heading back down the mountain. I took up the rear, since I was the only one on foot. Right after leaving the scenic spot, I came upon 2 other hikers making their way up the trail. And then I was completely alone for the next five or so miles. I did my regular spill toward the bottom of San Juan Trail on my return (pretty much always fall on this trail -- it's so sandy slippery). My injuries were minor: a road burn and bruise on right shin. Barely felt it.

That was March 21. It's been five days since I've hit the trails. The online screaming matches continue regarding staying at home. What a wild, wild time. I do see people out and about, taking walks and hiking. But the streets are basically empty and those who venture out are getting lambasted online. It's really not a great time to be talking about hikes and running. I have been staying home, except to venture out to the grocery store in search of eggs and paper towels. Our grocery shelves are still practically bare. So, take care out there everyone. If there's things that are really bothering you, just turn it off (now). As my 10th grade history teacher, Mr. Gallatin used to warn us at the end of just about every class -- "It's a jungle out there!"

San Juan Trail during Shelter-In-Place
















Route: San Juan Trail out of Hot Springs Canyon, to Cocktail Rock just below Sugarloaf Peak.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Car Wreck/Rock-It Loop

March 19 (Thursday) Social Distancing was the talk of the town, but there was still no official shelter-in-place order. I had been converting all my classes to online and learning the software that I would be recording my lectures (Zoom). And so when we had another break in the rain, I was eager to take a break from work and headed on off to Aliso Canyon where the fields were green, but the skies were gray. The parking lot at the ranger station was closed but there was plenty of room to park on the street and in the church parking lot across the street. There were other cars parked about with hikers and mountain bikers -- I'd say 20 to 30. But this wilderness park is about 4500 acres. So if each of those cars had 2 people each, that'd be 60 people in a 4500 acre area, which of course means you stand a good chance of not seeing a single other person there.

The park itself was open, I confirmed by talking with a ranger. And then minutes later, as I was headed out toward Aliso Creek Trail, the rain began to fall. I hurried beneath the structure that houses a piece of historic farm equipment, hoping to wait it out. It was cold windy wind, so I took a gamble and headed off into the native plant garden to a couple of benches that I recalled beneath some trees that overlooked Aliso Creek. What I didn't remember was that those trees were deciduous, which means the benches were completely exposed this time of year (no leaves!). By the time I made it back to my truck in the church parking lot, I was pretty drenched. Fortunately, I was wearing a pair of quick-dry hiking shorts, and I had a dry beanie waiting to replace the drenched one upon my head.


I checked my weather app to see that this storm would be passing and leaving a wide area open for slight rain, or no rain at all. And I just sat there for a while in my truck, taking in the few people here and there scurrying into their cars. Twenty to thirty cars may seem like a lot for this pre-shelter-in-place "Social Distancing" phase we were in. But it's really not for this park on a spring day (and spring break for many), you could easily see 5 times as many people. I finally felt dry enough to venture out of the truck. It was about 11:30 am. I was still on spring break, and the next week, more after that, I was working from home, so I had time to get in a hike, and so grateful I was for that. The dark rain clouds at last parted and Aliso Canyon looked like this:


Aliso Creek was roaring


In Wood Canyon, about to cross over Wood Creek


Because I set out so late on this hike/run (but mainly hike), I decided against the Big Loop or any version thereof. Instead, I decided to head up Wood Canyon, turn off on Mathis, then before the big climb up Mathis, turn off onto Oak Grove Trail. This lovely green and wooded trail leads to a land of fairies and magical spells, a wrecked car from long ago (now destroyed from vandals) and a magnificently steep trail that climbs back up to Mathis (near West Ridge). I don't often find myself on Car Wreck, as it is quite difficult going up. But on this particular day, that kind of uphill climbing was just what I needed.

Kickin' Back on this Bizarrely Placed Bench on Oak Grove Trail
 

Car Wreck Trail


A tiny bit of rain came down on Car Wreck Trail. And surprisingly, I met up with two separate groups of people, each consisting with about 4 people (I think the first group had 5). That's quite unusual. As empty as this park was, I would have figured that one of the most remote trails (like Car Wreck) would have had no people sightings. I did some live video going up Car Wreck (it really is that fun of a trail!). And then at Mathis and West Ridge, I found the trails desolate once again.

I elected to head back via Rock-It and Coyote Run Trails. I saw a couple of people off in the distance on RockIt Trail. I don't recall any others. The park was pretty desolate. 4,500 acres is a lot of land. What a beautiful day it was!
Rock-It