All week I had been daydreaming about running in Silverado Canyon. Since I had received a transfer on my Spartan Beast race (more on that later), I looked forward to making a trip out to Silverado Canyon for a jaunt up Maple Springs on Saturday. Friday a fire erupted in Silverado Canyon. It burned partially up Maple Springs and I’m pretty sure all the way up Silverado Motorway.
Saturday the fire continued to burn. And it was so dang hot (news reports said 103F in the local mountains) that I decided on air-conditioned cross training in the gym.
Sunday, I read that the Silverado fire was contained, and being that I didn’t want to waste another weekend day, I headed off for the mountains. Not Silverado Canyon, but several canyons away to Trabuco Canyon. Pulling into the parking lot late, 8AM, I noticed only one car parked in the Holy Jim lot. And I thought, “Oh crap. There’s only one other person crazy enough to go out in the hellish heat – and that person was at least smart enough to arrive earlier.”
I nonetheless trotted off happily, with visions of making Santiago Peak. I hoped that I could lookout and ascertain fire damages from afar. The canyon was eerily lonely. It seemed that no one even stirred in the cabins. About a mile later, I came upon this note from The Holy Jim Fire Department taped up at the trailhead:
Then I crossed the bone-dry creek pictured below. I could have ran right down through the dry creek bed. But I chose to run the wood plank instead.
Within about a quarter mile, I ran off trail to the “ladies room,” and found the remnants of some semi-recent gold mining. I’m not sure if it’s legal to mine in National Forests. If it is, one rule should be that the area is put back the way that it was found. In addition to the bits of trash, a pair of underwear and a shirt strewn about, there were two dug out holes – one in the ground, the other in the mountain wall. The hose was also left behind, which probably syphoned water from the creek (that used to flow).
So, I continued onward, up through the forest. Gnats swarmed my face. They fought to get into my ears, into my eyes. I coughed up more than one gnat when I remembered to keep my mouth shut! The only solace that I felt running through those buggers was knowing that when the giant switchback began, I would lose them (but gain the burning sun).
And gain the burning sun I did. I didn’t fret; I hardly fret anymore because I know how to cool my body temperature. For those of you who get caught out there in the heat, here’s what you MUST do:
1) Hydrating is not enough. You must cool down.
2) Get in the shade (or expose yourself to a breeze if you can)
3) Stop moving, preferably sit, if you are feeling really bad.
4) Wet your clothing
6) Do the above OFTEN, and every time you feel lightheaded, nauseated, or strange in any way (like seeing colored spots, tiny flies, etc).
In addition to the above, I didn’t push myself. How, might you ask, is running up a mountain, not pushing yourself? Well, I took it lackadaisically, just one foot in front of the other. On the way up, I passed my spring in the mountain wall at about mile three. It’s just an occasional drip now. But I did notice that there were two small containers beneath the drip, both filled to the brim with the mountain water.
The shade came back strongly at about mile 4.5. And the gnats swarmed in worse than before. I struggled out of Holy Jim, as the dirt was so dry and loose that I slid back with each step.
Safe from Holy Jim, I was once again fooled by the shade and The Main Divide’s beauty. Forget the fact that gnats swarmed my face – I took that bend in the road willingly, and headed upward toward Santiago Peak.
I struggled immensely traveling the next 1.5 miles up The Main Divide. I no longer ran, or even trotted. Painstakingly, I put one foot in front of the other. And I rested in the shade. This was my view the last time I rested – here I sat in the shade for 18 minutes, poured water over my shirt, and took in my surroundings, feeling, seeing, hearing and smelling all of it. I experienced NOW– and it was wonderful. I really didn’t need the peak anymore. I had received what I sought -- tranquility, as I sat there on The Main Divide. I looked up and snapped this picture before traveling another half mile up the rocky road:
This is where I turned around and headed down Upper Holy Jim back toward The Main Divide closer to Holy Jim (lower):
Upper Holy Jim was treacherous and hellish with heat. The ground slid away beneath my feet with each step. I couldn’t help regret my choice. It was the “short cut” that added at least a half hour to this “run.”
I came off Upper Holy Jim in a slide and ran The Main Divide back to Holy Jim dreaming about those two containers of water in my mountain spring. As I stood at the top of Holy Jim, the earth slid beneath me and I fell onto my bottom. Then it was onward for 5 more miles of hellish heat. (105F, I read later).
I COULD NOT WAIT UNTIL I REACHED THE SPRING. I needed to cool down my inner temperature. Badly. With little shade ahead, drenching my clothing was my best prospect.
I arrived to the spring exasperated. I felt even more exasperation when I noticed the empty container in the wall spring. And then my heart filled with joy when I saw that the other container was still full. Someone had come along and used only one container. Only one! And they left the other for someone else – a stranger . . . me! Well, I ripped off my pack to make sure that I had enough electrolyte water to make the next three miles. Confident I had enough, I took that water and poured it over my head, down my back and chest. It felt ice cold. ICE. COLD. And for a short while there, I felt cold running down the mountain. Glorious.
Summer. I am done. Now be gone.