TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Friday, July 21, 2017

What a drag it is getting old . . .

I’ve come to a point in my life that I cannot sleep. I can drag myself to bed dead-dog tired, and then lay there, seemingly all night. Sure, I get some sleep here and there. But I wake constantly, and when I do, it is very difficult to fall back to sleep. Usually, at that point, I stumble out to the living room, turn the fan on full blast and eventually fall back asleep on the couch.  And then, when morning comes, I really cannot drag myself out of bed. If there were something that I HAD to do, like go to work, or get the boys off to school, I could probably get out of bed. But right now, the boys are out of school, and I don’t need to leave for work until around 5:30 pm.

I’m in a slump. Actually, I’ve been in a slump for some years now, off and on, but it seems to be coming to a peak right now. On a good day, I get out of bed at 8 or 9 am, but it’s usually more like 10:00/10:30 am. There was a time (for many, many years) that 5:30/6:00 am was standard.

Maybe it’s hormones. I am after all, 52, wait . . . 53? Let’s see, 2017 minus 1965 . . . 52. That’s really not that old, but I feel old, and I feel like I have been rapidly aging. I am out of shape, and getting back into shape has been like starting all over again. And that sucks. It really sucks.

Fortunately, two of my sons are gym rats, and that gets me into the gym here and there. And I’ve actually started lifting weights again. I just feel so weak, I figured it’s about time I start strength training. I do this about 3 times a week (on a good week). I also set out to begin running, starting with short road runs. My chosen route has been the harbor island, which many people don’t even realize is an island. One of my sons even exclaimed, “The island! What island?” And he’s lived here his entire life.

IMG_0557I usually drive down to the harbor mid afternoon and run basically a 5k, which includes taking the sidewalks beneath the bridge and over the bridge to include the entire island. And that has been utterly miserable. Seriously, there is nothing worse than running when you’re out of shape, and in the IMG_0427summer heat no less!  My first run out, I actually fell, which, wait, there is something worse than running when you’re out of shape -- and that is running and falling on the cement when you’re out of shape. Attempting to cross the street (actually jaywalking), I tripped on piece of uplifted sidewalk and hit the concrete with a thud. I felt humiliated sprawled out there down on the sidewalk, listening to the cars whiz by. One guy pulled over and asked if I was okay, and I was hardly even grateful for that. I skinned both knees, one worse than the other.

I don’t carry anything on these harbor runs, no water, no camera, no phone – just my garmin strapped around my wrist and an ipod clipped to my shirt. I got back out there pretty quickly for another 5k at the harbor. I didn’t fall that time, but the next day, I came down with a sore throat and a cold that wiped me out (see – rapidly aging, since when does a cold take me out?)

the island

It took quite some time before I got out for my next harbor 5k.

Harbor runs since my last blog post:

June 29: miles = 3.15

July 1: miles = 3.20

July 13: miles = 3.08

July 20: miles = 3.18

While those short runs have proved miserable, I was able to get some miles in at Aliso/Wood Wilderness on July 14. I ran very little of the route, mostly hiked, but it was still a good workout. And just stepping out onto the dirt, I felt a wave of anxiety rush away from me.

I let my son use my truck, so he dropped me off at Moulton Meadows in Laguna Beach. It thrilled my heart when the first thing I noticed was a rattler crossing my path. I ran up to it to make sure I could snap a picture before it slithered away into the brush. From there I hiked down Meadows into Wood Canyon which I took to Mathis Trail. Wow, what a climb that was. Yikes. I did it using the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other method. And it was a bitch, but at least it was beautiful.

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Climbing Mathis behind mountain biker up front:

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Climbing Mathis with mountain biker behind:

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I did 6.23 miles ending at Top of the World. From there I caught a canyon trolley down to the coast, hopped on another trolley in Laguna Beach where I caught the Dana Point Trolley back near home.

That’s all I really have to report. I really, really hate feeling weak and starting over to get back into shape. It’s the pits!

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

What Goes Down, Must Come Up

Friday, June 23 -- I did it again. I started on the downhill, which of course meant I ended on an uphill. A long uphill. Because what goes down must come up right? And I did it because I wanted something a little different at Aliso/Woods Wilderness, and I wanted just a quick drive up the coast.

I parked my truck in Laguna Beach, at a little unknown park called Moulton Meadows. The weather was actually cold, and I thought for a second that I should have brought long sleeves. I quickly scoffed at the thought. Who was I kidding?Southern California’s in the middle of a heat wave, even if we’re enjoying mid sixties temperatures on the coast.

Sure enough, the closer I got into the canyon, the warmer it grew. And it was no simple task getting into the canyon down Mentally Sensitive Trail. The trail is so rugged and steep, that I even had to butt scoot a small section. I made the entire thing without falling!

IMG_0369Anyway, the 9.11 miles were mostly quite warm. Thankfully, an ocean breeze did manage to come up over the coastal hills. And then just like that, back at the Top of the World, it was cold again, eerie cold with white heavy mist full clouds rolling in. I felt like I was in a scene from a horror movie.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Maple Springs to Four Corners

Tuesday was my day off – the entire day off. So, in my infinite wisdom, I headed off to Silverado Canyon around 12:30 pm, driving that single lane road past Maple Springs Trailhead, to arrive at the dirt truck trail called Maple Springs Road at about 1:30. I knew right away that the heat would give me trouble, but I took that step anyway.

It was serene and beautiful and all – pine forests in the distance, short bursts of Maple Tree shade. Little yellow butterflies and also large Monarchs flittered between flowers that still dot the mountains. And the trail was relatively empty – I saw only two mountain bikers, and also one guy on a motorcycle, and another group of guys in a jeep.

Overall, the trek was hot, as in really, really warm. And it was also steep. But you know how I love to suffer. And I also love this part of our mountains so much, that I was able to grin and bear it (not too much grinning though – until I reached the top).

My top on Tuesday was a location dubbed “Four Corners.” It’s where the Main Divide goes off in two different directions, and where Harding Truck Trail and Maple Springs Road meet.  From this point, I had views of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, a bit of LA County, and Orange County as well. In the distance, loomed the much larger mountain range, the San Gabriel Mountains, whose shadows I grew up in.

I ran most of the way back, being that it was down hill. Tripped only once, and I was so grateful that I remained upright. I am still really freaked out about falling. But if I had to fall anywhere, it would definitely be on Maple Springs Road.

8.77 miles, 1,672’ elevation gained.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Best of Both Worlds

When I took off for the coastal hills on Sunday (about 2 o’clock) I had every intention of doing a five mile loop. And I was happy to do that – the pressure was off. But I mis-calculated some. Well more than just “some.” In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve done this particular loop, that I really just had no clue. For the record, the following loop out of Newport Coast totals 9.4 miles:

From Ridge Park, that trail downhill that turns into No-Name, then No-Dogs to the ranger station; from the station to beneath the highway to touch sand at Crystal Cove State Beach; then back through the parking lot to catch El Moro Canyon; the canyon to Nice N’ Easy Trail back to Bommer Ridge and then back to Ridge Park.

This really is a love trail system, with the best of both worlds – wilderness and majestic ocean views, not to mention a stop at the great Pacific. But the thing that I REALLY hate about this park, is that I start at the top, which means downhill in the beginning. Of course, downhill in the beginning means uphill at the end. I hate uphill at the end. Uphill at the beginning is always my first choice. (For the record, parking is free if I start at the top at Ridge Park and enter via Laguna Wilderness. If I park at the bottom and enter via Crystal Cove, parking is $15.00. I am a free parking kind of gal, though I do purchase adventure passes so that I can park in the mountains.)

Anyway! Climbing out of El Moro Canyon was a bit hellish. I was wiped out before the really hard part too. Funny how I kept thinking, “The really hard part is almost here,” as I staggered about the trail. I probably looked like a drunkard. The hardest part is the hardest part because its exposed (meaning it will get hot) and super steep for too long a distance. And then, when I finally reached the REALLY hard part, yikes! Just put one foot in front of the other was all I could do. And it went on and on and on. And Nice N’ Easy, was NOT nice and easy. It went on forever as well – all the while with pretty ocean views.

Needless to say, I was home much later than planned. But I was happy to have done it. All the struggle is really worth it. I think I thrive on struggle.

No-Name Ridge:IMG_0232

Aha! The ocean comes into view on No-Name:IMG_0233

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Crystal Cove State Beach:IMG_0244

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Hemlock lined trails:IMG_0251IMG_0258

The REALLY hard part:

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El Moro Canyon:IMG_0278

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Friday, June 9, 2017

My Step Forward

I have broken yet another camera. But this wrecked camera is not accompanied by some dramatic event. I did not fall off of a cliff and toss it in the process. The wind did not blow it off a post. The zoom just refuses to open. And alas, I will not be purchasing another anytime soon -- expenses are astronomical right now, and I wouldn’t feel good about purchasing myself a camera (as low priced as they are). With a son just graduating high school, it’s like we’ve been throwing money by the handfuls out of the house: prom tickets, tux, Senior Disneyland day, Grad Nite, senior pictures, announcements, cap and gown, tassel, replacement for ruined Calculus book, college enrollment deposit, dorm housing deposit, oh my gosh -- it’s mind boggling (plus we have music lessons for all the boys, dental appointments, dermatologist appointments, not to mention the house is in desperate need of a paint job.) So! There will be no new camera for me. Not to worry, because I hear these things that are glued to our palms (otherwise known as phones) have pretty good cameras inside them. Winking smile

Needless to say, I did not get off to as strong of a start that I had hoped with my classes ending. I’m now on break from two of my schools, returning to one of them shortly. You would think I have more time. I suppose I do, but then again, there’s more to get done (did I mention the house needs painting?) And the more and more I neglect working on my physical strength, the more depressed I grow. I have only lost about three pounds, and in my morose mood, I grow even more so in reflection. It dawned on me this week that I have the exact same issues with myself that I had when I was sixteen years old. I can’t tell you how disappointing and sad I was in realizing this. Blah! Just breathe and go forward, I told myself. Don’t reflect, just stay in the moment and BE. That’s all I can do. I don’t know what else to do, but keep on trying -- forget about the failures, forget about my multitude of shortcomings. Just take a step forward.

So, Tuesday, the 30th of May, when the boys were still in school (they are out for the summer now), I got in a short run down at the harbor. That’s something I want to do now, that is, get back to road running to try and gain some speed. It was tough as hell though, even with the weather cool and overcast. Three miles, I told myself, that’s all you gotta do. It was not fun. I should have worn a hat, as sweat from my head ran into my eyes. The first few minutes pounding the sidewalk were torturous. Really, I felt like my legs were lead, and my breathing wasn’t under control. “Don’t worry,” I assured myself, “it will get better in just a little bit.” As bad as it is to begin any run, it always improves with time. And yes, I did feel a little better after a half mile or so -- but I never felt good. It was tough the whole way, which I account for staying at a much quicker pace than I ever run, the entire route. (3.27 miles)

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dripping cave2The next day, May 31, I took to Aliso/Wood Wilderness for a stress-free hike (with very little running) through Wood Canyon. The weather was overcast again (June Gloom). And I really had a fine time, mainly because my route was lonely, and I took some side routes. Beginning in Wood Canyon, I took Coyote Run Trail to Mathis, and from there I caught Dripping Cave Trail. I haven’t seen Dripping Cave for quite a long time. Nothing much has changed at what is sometimes called Robber’s Cave. It was cool, overgrown and quiet. I enjoyed the short visit in the cave, and marched off back into Wood Canyon for another side route called Cave Rock. After climbing to the top of the big rock, I hiked down to the other side of it (the side that does not face Wood Canyon) and spent a short while in the small caves hidden there. Back to Wood Canyon, I made it to the end (where it hits Aliso Canyon) and headed back to my truck, taking Wood Canyon its entire length. Total trip: 8.02 milesdripping cave1cave rock

This brings me to yesterday, Thursday, June 9. I set out late in the day, around noon, and it was actually cold enough to wear a long sleeved shirt over my t-shirt. I had just been so disappointed in myself of late, that I opted for the BIG loop in Aliso Woods. I didn’t really care if I grew utterly fatigued. In fact, that’s exactly what I wanted. I just wanted to march in the wilderness and let my mind be free from baggage. The Big Loop is 12 miles long, with the following route:

From the ranger station, Aliso Canyon to Wood Canyon; Wood Canyon to the end, then up Cholla Trail to the ridge; West Ridge to Top of the World to exit the park; re-enter near Meadows Trail; take Meadows back down to Wood Canyon, and Wood Canyon to Aliso Canyon back to the truck.

IMG_0204As far as journeys go, the twelve miles were uneventful. And that was wonderful. The weather remained cool through Wood Canyon. The trek up Cholla was difficult and warm. The trek up the rolling hills of West Ridge had some company (several hikers and a few runners). By then the clouds had cleared and I had my long sleeve shirt tied around my waist. The trip to Top of the World was quite tiring, but I was not miserable.

IMG_0193IMG_0208IMG_0198The construction on the trail leading back into the park was finished. I was surprised to see they had put in so many steps, and even a hand rail. I much prefer the old rugged trail. But I had that one for a good long while, and I suppose less people will be injured on this new, clean trail.

IMG_0216Travelling down Meadows proved to be difficult, as much strength was needed on my part to remain upright. Some might think that traveling downhill is easy. Well, it’s easier than uphill, but not exactly easy. Much focus is needed to refrain from falling, not to mention that core strength (that I have so very little of) to remain standing after little missteps and such. I came up on a beautiful ribbon snake (black with yellow stripes on its side) but was not quick enough for a photo. I was quick enough however to catch a partial of the gopher snake I nearly stepped on toward the bottom of Meadows Trail.

IMG_0225Meadows Trail was terribly overgrown. During the last half mile or so, the trail was so thin (only about a foot wide), that I was practically bushwhacking. I turned the music off and focused a great deal, being on high alert for rattlesnakes. By the time I reached Aliso Canyon, I was so tired of focusing on the snake thing, that I opted to take the asphalt road back that last mile and a half. Sure I’ve seen plenty of snakes on the road. But they are so much easier to spot well in advance of danger without all the growth, and I really needed to let my guard down and relax, which I did on that final stretch back. (Total trip: 12.12 miles)

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