TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Equinox 2017

After a short hiatus, one that seemed too long, I hit the trails on Monday (3/20) in late morning. How, you might wonder, was I able to run trails during the morning on a week day? Well, I teach at three schools, and it is spring break this week for one of those schools. (Yes, I have 3 different spring breaks.) That meant, this week, the first week of spring, I am wide open, schedule-wise, until 6 pm, Monday through Thursday.

Wow, whatever am I going to do with myself?

Well, first off, I woke with a sore throat, and I know from experience, that of all things, I cannot run with a sore throat – it ALWAYS makes my sickness worse. But I did it anyway. To hell with it. I was ready, I was willing, and I was semi-able.

I chose a 10.7 mile loop through Laguna Wilderness (a county park) and Crystal Cove (a state park). And for some odd reason, though I recalled vividly the hell I encountered last time I “ran” this loop on the climb out, I somehow either didn’t think it would be as bad, or I flat out ignored reality. Not sure which. I was just so happy to get out there for a few hours, just me and the trails.

To begin, it was beautiful. Lots and lots of green, and lots and lots of spring flowers.

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The first six miles were a joy. The weather was cool, almost cold. The terrain was extremely unstressful, not very technical at all, and mostly gradually downhill. I took Bommer Ridge to El Moro Ridge, which I ran to the coast. From there it was a significant downhill (on BFI – “Big Friggin’ Incline”),  and then a side trail to the Pacific Ocean. Cannot make this trip without a quick detour to the ocean.

The side trail off of BFI:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I felt peaceful after that detour. The sound of the waves rumbling in does wonders for my soul. But, that peace came with a price. I cannot tell you how wretched that climb out up No-Dogs and No-Name was back to my truck. Well, maybe I’ll try. First off all, the marine layer burned off, and the sun came through strong. And the trip was overall uphill – lots and lots of uphill. Yes, it was beautiful, and I took any excuse I had to stop and click a photo. But I felt light headed, and at times like I wanted to vomit. I just am not in shape for this. Stupidly, I think that I can do anything, but I can’t. I’m not in shape to do this kind of stuff. But I guess it wasn’t such stupid thinking, because I did get through it eventually. It was just miserable, utterly. I basically behaved like a zombie (except for the eating human flesh part), I mindlessly, joylessly, placed one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again.

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I counted steps. I stooped over, with my hands on my knees to try and gain more strength. I played with my garmin. I even browsed the internet during some of those hills – anything to get my mind off the hell I was enduring. Eventually, with about 1.5 miles left (I think!), I remembered the tank top I had stashed in my pack. Thank God for a reason to sit and rest!

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So, anyway, after that change of clothing, and rest in the dirt, it was all a little more bearable. Perhaps what made it even more bearable was that I could see the trees where my truck was parked.

Yikes. I really don’t think that I will do that loop again.

I was sick in bed that night after work. And sick the next day, napping as much as I could for a speedy recovery. Because hell . . . I can’t wait to hit the trails again.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dear Winter,

As far as I know, winter officially ends March 20. That’s 8 whole days after my last trail run (which by the way was Sunday, March 12, in the scorching heat). With all due respect, winter, I think you clocked out early here in Southern California.  Now I could be wrong, but I believe that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year. And you know just as well as I do, that means SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER. Consequently, you should be here with us almost until the end of April.

I sincerely hope that this oversight is rectified immediately.

Yours truly,

LaurenontheRun

10.34 Miles, Aliso Creek/Wood Cyn/Mathis/Coyote Run/RockIt/West Ridge/Mathis/Wood Canyon/Aliso Creek Loop

Aliso Creek Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESCoyote Run Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA coyote on Coyote Run Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Rockit Trail:

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBack on Aliso Creek Trail as the glorious fog begins to roll in:

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Goal Met

Amazingly, I met my increase 10% goal for February (except for elliptical cross training – but I don’t really care about that). I increased my running mileage just a tad over 10%, and I am pleased about that.

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For March though, I am lagging, and if I don’t get my butt into gear, I’m not going to make that 10% increase goal. My first run of the month was this past Tuesday, March 7. It took everything I had in me to change out of my clothes in between jobs, and hit the trails off of I 405 in Irvine. Yes, that’s Shady Canyon, where I took to Quail Hill loop, 4 revolutions. Quail Hill is still lush green with spring flowers popping up everywhere. I don’t reall the last time I saw this rather boring trail so dang beautiful.

That first loop was pure hell (meaning I felt sluggish and overly heavy) and I wondered how the heck I was going to put in any more loops. But by the second, I felt much better, and even better on the 3rd, and even more by the 4th. By then it was time to go, as I had to get off to my next job up Interstate 5. But first, I hit my gym for a shower, and outside the gym, a half a sub sandwich at Subway. I really need to get going if I think I’m going to pull off the 10% increase for March. So far, it’s not looking that great. But thankfully, the trails still are. Winking smile

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Re-Introducing The Motorway

Saturday morning about 9 am, I headed off to Silverado Canyon in my trusty pick-up truck. Precisely one hour later, I pulled into the Maple Springs Visitor Center’s parking lot. There was one spot left to park in a lot that has only five or so spaces. (The rest of the people park throughout the canyon).

I decided to go up The Motorway (aka, The Silverado Motorway, Silverado Trail or Bedford Trail) to Bedford Peak for an out-and-back. I thought this was a perfect way to break in my brand new Adventure Parking Pass. Plus, I haven’t been up this trail in its entirety since the fires that closed it down in 2014. For those of you who don’t know the trail, it’s the first one off to the left up Maple Springs Road (less than a quarter mile in), and it goes for 3 miles at a tremendous climb. A tremendous climb! About 2,000 feet of gain in those 3 miles.

Here, I’m about a half mile in, looking back at the canyon from where I started:

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The hills were covered in green on Saturday, and also spring flowers, and lots of tiny landslides. Aside from the beauty though, it was a pretty miserable trek. I breathed the words, “Oh lord,” many times, and ran very little on the way up this switchback single track. On the way, I saw lots of other hikers, no runners, and a couple of dozen mountain bikers. I saw deer tracks here and there. I searched for, but noticed no other significant tracks. There was plenty of coyote scat however, and lots of dark lizards scurrying about.

Some of the flowers:

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Some more of The Motorway:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Finally reaching The Main Divide came as a great relief. That relief was so great in fact, it made the whole difficult trip worth it. “This is why,” I thought . . . “This is why.”

I turned right on The Main Divide, ran for about a half mile until I came to the trail to Bedford Peak. It’s not marked, but is obvious. Anyway, I found Gary’s bench at the end of the trail (which is now marked “Gary’s Bench,” otherwise, I would not have known it was Gary’s). The old bench that I had sat on before was on the ground, partially burnt, possibly from the 2014 fire. And in the time since I had been there, Gary had died. His family left a new bench in his remembrance and a journal for visitors to write in (which I did).

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I sat a while on Gary’s bench, taking in the mountains both close and afar as I listened to the surrounding silence. Then after about ten, maybe fifteen minutes, I ran all the way to the truck. It was a treacherous trot, as I stumbled more than once. And when the cliff was steep and the trail rocky, I hiked, so that if I did fall I wouldn’t plummet to my death.

It was a very difficult 7.87 miles (totaling 2,323’ of gain). All of it, very much well worth it.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Cut the Trail or Die in the Mud ;)

By the end of last week (Sunday 2/26), I was just shy of increasing my monthly mileage by 10%, which is my goal right now (hoping not to re-injure myself). I wracked my brain for a ten mile loop in my repertoire. I could not think of single one. Last thing I wanted was run circles around the parking lot after my run. But all I had to do was apply a little math to realize that I only needed a bit over nine miles. I had plenty of those in my repertoire.

Weather reports promised rain, but I figured I still had enough time to run some errands and then head off to Aliso/Woods Canyons for my old standard Aliso/Mathis/Top of the World/Meadows loop. I think it must have been been about 11AM before my feet finally hit dirt. And I actually felt cold . . . gloriously cold. Can’t tell you how much I’m appreciating the cold weather now (especially at my age!). Anyway, I took off with beanie and jacket, wishing I had packed gloves. But I knew soon enough, I’d be peeling off the layers (and indeed I did).

About a quarter mile in, a woman approached and asked if I thought the trails were safe. I do think they’re safe, and told her so, but also showed her my stun gun. Still nervous some, she asked if she could accompany me into Wood Canyon. We did those first 1.5 miles together, chatting some, talking about the park and the trails. It was a nice break from the loneliness I was about to venture out on. A little bit into Wood Canyon, we went our separate ways. I think she felt more comfortable about the park at this point, as there were several hikers, runners and mountain bikers making their way about. 

The dark gray cool skies continued. And about 3 miles into my run, it began to rain. I wasn’t turning back though – 1) because I was already committed to the loop, and 2) I figured the rain would come and go.

The rain did come and go as I made my way up that wonderful-terrible climb called Mathis. I’ll take the rain on Mathis any day over the heat.

On Mathis here, with the beginning of the climb approaching: SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

More of Mathis:

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I made it to Top of the World relatively dry. I took a doogie bag out of a dispenser in the park up there and covered my devices (phone and camera), and I clipped my ipod to the inside of my jacket. And then I headed off through the neighborhoods to re-enter the park near Meadows Trail.

1.5 miles later, I found this:

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Ummmmmm. What is one to do but break the rules when something like this happens? Rain was beginning to fall harder. I couldn’t turn around and go back the other way – it was either cut through this and have 3 miles remaining, or turn back and go another 6 miles in the rain.

You can guess what I did:

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By the time I reached Meadows Trail, my clothing was fairly wet. I could wring water from my jacket sleeves, but my first layer of clothing was still somewhat dry. Secure in the knowledge that I only had three miles left, and that it was all downhill, I felt fine at this point. Little did I know the grief that awaited me.

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I had totally forgotten how slippery the mud gets on Meadows Trail. I literally slid down the trail, tugging on branches and barely missing twisted ankles. Using every muscle in my entire body to stay upright, I am amazed I did not fall. There were MANY close calls. Eventually, I couldn’t take it any longer. So, I cut the trail (I know – gasp!). It was either trek straight down the hillside through the grass or die in the mud.

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This is what I traipsed through to avoid sliding down the hillside:

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I will not deny that I felt utterly miserable in the rain going down Meadows. But on the other hand, I loved the adventure. And if the mud and rain hadn’t forced me off of the trail, I might have never seen water collecting like diamonds in the leaves of Lupins. My pictures come nowhere to giving that sight justice.

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Upon reaching the bottom of Meadows, I got off the trails and rain straight to the paved Aliso Creek trail, where I sloshed through puddles to get the thick mud off my shoes.

Back at home, my arms and legs itched furiously, I’m sure from cutting the trail to avoid the mud. So, I guess I deserved that. Then at night, as I lay down in my bed, every bone and muscle in my body ached.

Wonderful. Smile

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