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Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Years Day! (In August)

Tomorrow is my new year. Yay!!!!  It is my new year because I am a teacher. School starts tomorrow at two of the schools I teach. In another two weeks, I will be back at all three schools. And so, tomorrow, everything starts over, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like January first. And I am glad. I am so glad. I have had a rough summer. And now, I feel that I have a new beginning with New Years Day occurring tomorrow.

This summer showed me something, in abundance, that I have known all along is very important to my well-being. That is: I need structure. I need structure big time. If I didn’t have to do anything, it seems lately, I’d just laze around the house all day, taking naps here and there, accomplishing very little, even though I desired to accomplish much. Give me some structure -- then suddenly, I get to those things that have been weighing me down, things that I actually really want to do, but for some reason, with an unstructured lifestyle can’t seem to get it done. Case in point: I didn’t paint the house this summer like I planned, I didn’t find my novel, Beyond the Pale, so that I could give it a read and make changes (I think it’s under the bed), I didn’t clean out my closet, and most important and dear to my heart,  I didn’t get back to trail running.  Mostly, the things that I accomplished were those things that I HAD TO DO. I did get my syllabi created, my class websites set up, some cleaning and reorganizing of my office and also my boys the things they needed. But myself, my physical and mental health: total and utter neglect.

I’ll stop complaining right now, and say that it wasn’t all for naught. I got out and wandered some, and I spent several hours in the gym. But those wandering hours -- they are where it’s at with me. I love to wander. I have two such wanderings to clear out before the new year tomorrow.

The first was way, way back on August 11, for 6 miles. It was an evening expenditure, taking the first steps out my front door. My route included: Doheny Beach, Capistrano Beach, and the wharf. The weather was warm, but beach breezy. And at the wharf, I saw sea lions barking and swimming in the waters right off of Wind N’ Sea restaurant. 

Doheny Beach:IMG_0846

Sea Lions playing near the wharf:IMG_0860


IMG_0876The second was at one of my usual haunts, Wood Canyon way back on August 15, for 7 miles. I took this one in the evening, or thereabouts. No stress involved, just lovely scenery and moving the feet. It’s odd when I am so out of shape, and I mean it (really!), I can still hike seven miles. So, I guess, I’ve got a good base to start over with on this upcoming new year (that happens tomorrow!)

Wood Canyon:IMG_0879

Pretty cool hiking partner:IMG_0889

More Wood Canyon:IMG_0892

And some parting pictures from the year --

From our summer garden:IMG_0871

And . . . my cat in a box:IMG_0902

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Aliso/Wood Canyons Loop

August 2nd, Wednesday, in the muggy heat of the afternoon, I parked my car at Canyon View Park for a long hike in Aliso/Wood Canyons. The place was empty. Empty, as in not one car was parked along the road that is usually lined with automobiles. I noticed a young couple hiking up from Wood Canyon as I prepped at my truck, and overheard them ask a maintenance worker the whereabouts of a drinking fountain. The worker shook his head, and I shouted out that there was a drinking fountain over in the playground. Turns out, I went to check that out on my way into the canyon, and to my horror found that the drinking fountain was no longer there. Why would they remove the fountain? It actually annoyed me a great deal. Well, I trotted on down into the canyon to catch the couple, and offered them some of my water. I would after all, be able to refill at my half-way point. They politely declined and said that because they were from Texas, they could handle it. 

So, I took off into Wood Canyon, opting for the shady route for the first half. But as I inched into the canyon, I could feel the furnace heating up. And somewhat disbelieving that the Texas couple could hack their lack of water, I changed my route, and decided to head up Cholla and hike the same route as the waterless two.

Ends up, I never saw them again. And it was really a good thing that I changed my route. West Ridge was breezy and lovely. Much better than hiking the canyon where the heat gets trapped. About a mile in, I met up with some hiking company – gentleman named Kevin, a professor from Cal State Fullerton (my alma mater). We hiked those 3 miles up to Top of the World, chatting and comparing notes, which made the time scoot by quickly, especially on the two particularly steep portions that I struggle on of late. 

At Top of the World, Kevin headed off to his car, while I headed into the neighborhoods to pick up the park at the other end near Meadows Trail. At Meadows I headed down into Aliso Canyon. Then I made the trek back up Wood Canyon to my truck parked alongside Canyon View Park, for a total of 9.71 miles.

I saw lots of snake tracks along the way, but not a single snake, and snapped a few pictures of the scenery that I possess perhaps thousands of pictures of already. Smile


Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Gotta keep moving!

Hot and muggy in my parts, but nothing like what a little drive inland will give you. We are still WELL below 100 F. We even had a little rain the other night. And it pretty much constantly looks like a thunder storm is going to burst down upon us. Plus despite the humidity, we still have those cool ocean breezes a plenty!

Sunday late afternoon (7/30), I decided on the coolest route possible to get my legs moving – a walkabout in my own town. Took off on an incline to move inland some, then I caught the bike path down to Monarch Beach, where the Monarch Links (a golf club) overlooks the shore.

Miles for this loop totaled 7.7. Dark clouds loomed above. Cool breezes blew in my face. I am just so dang spoiled here. The climb out of Dana Strands to the Headlands was really tough (need I mention I’m out of shape!). But it was well worth it to venture across the Headlands. I arrived home just after the street lights came on.

Monarch Links:IMG_0759

At Salt Creek:IMG_0765

Salt Creek, or maybe Dana Strands:IMG_0773

Hiking the Headlands:IMG_0777IMG_0782

Back in town:IMG_0785

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Pillars Beneath the 5

The main highway in my parts is Interstate 5. I take to get pretty much everywhere. I drive the 5 to work. I take it north and it gets me to LA. I take it south and it gets me to San Diego. And as I have been doing since I was little girl, I daze out the car windows imaging all the places I could discover off of the 5 every time I travel it. I don’t know how may times, dozens, hundreds, I’ve noticed this particular dirt road at the edge of San Clemente just before Camp Pendleton, the marine base. It’s a long, wide road that travels beneath the 5, and heads off to the coast. I’ve made note of that road countless times, but in the 29 years I’ve lived here, I guess it kept slipping my mind.

As luck would have it, this past Saturday (7/29), I finally took the drive to the edge of San Clemente to take a look at that road. It was late afternoon, so I decided to just make a leisurely time of it. I did put on a pack, but that was merely because I didn’t know what to expect. I really just wanted to get out and clear my mind, not to mention move a little. 

I parked my truck on Christianitos Road, not far from the campgrounds. Being that I really wanted a beach destination, I hopped the crash guard and headed to the coast, as opposed to myriad of trails headed inland. Those inland trails will have to wait for another day, a non-summer day, as trees are sparse inland, which means very little shade. And as many who know me knows, I cannot take heat anymore.

The road began as a dirt path, and as it neared Interstate 5, grew shady from lush growth near a seasonal creek. There were plenty other travelers taking this road, most carrying surfboards, some wheeling wagons of day-at-the-beach stuff up from the shore.


IMG_0687I continued on the dirt path beneath the 5, where the grand pillars that held it up were covered with graffiti.  Four or five marines drinking Dox Equis beer came up as I studied the art beneath the 5. I knew they probably had to be marines because one of them called me Mam when he greeted me.


Beneath the 8 or so lanes of Interstate 5, the road turned to pavement. It went off to the left, and to the right (where a number of surfers were trotting down, surfboards in hand). I took the road straight, at the welcome to San Onofre Beach sign. From there, it was a slight decline to raised train tracks. I think the mileage totaled about 1.5 to the tracks. Just past that, the shore.

I found a spot in the sand to sit and watch the waves. Then I shuffled through the graveled sand for beach glass. I found a small handful of green, white and clear. The lifeguard stands stood empty, but the beach was far from empty. Though not crowded, this is obviously a surfing beach, with surfers everywhere – in the waves, on the sand, and even on their bikes tugging along their boards. Occasionally, a train roared by. And I noticed that beach goers drank beer freely, as opposed to the beaches near my home where you’ll get ticketed for drinking alcohol.


There’s an unusual amount of driftwood strewn about at San Onofre. Something I never see at my beaches. And even more interesting are the structures built out of this wood up and down the beach. They are literally everywhere – tepees and huts. The ones being used were covered with towels and such, but many were vacant, ready to be photographed.


So, after meandering about, hunting for beach glass and admiring all the makeshift huts, I decided to make my way across the tracks. From there I found a little dirt path that lead up to a paved road. This was the same paved road that veered off to the left on my way out beneath the 5.

IMG_0729 (1)

About a half mile later, I came to my turnoff, but before heading back, I stepped up on the bridge and peered down at the creek. It was my kind of world down there beneath the giant pillars of the 5, so dark, lush and green. One day, I told myself, I’d come back to explore. And then while looking over, I caught a glimpse of bright colors through the leaves. And that’s when I noticed some heavy-duty graffiti art deep in the growth.


I knew there had to be a way down. A chain link fence ran along the road to deter people from getting to just where I wanted. But you can’t fence in everything, there’s always a way in. Determined, I headed back to my truck, on the search for a trail that lead deep beneath the 5. It didn’t take to long to find it. The trail was overgrown, and littered with spray paint cans. When I finally located the walls, I found that the graffiti went on and on and on, pillar after pillar. I could have spent all day down there. But I got so deep into the brush, I spooked myself, fearful that I might come upon some guys looking for mischief, and then where was I to go? So, I headed back up, losing the trail here and there. I used the graffiti as a road map, making it back to the road safe and sound.


3.7 mile lollipop loop:san onofre

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Volunteering at The Harding Hustle

Well, it turns out that I can indeed get my butt out of bed if I commit to someone else. Can’t do it for myself, but if I tell someone else that I’ll be there, then I will. Case in point – last Saturday (7/22), I was up at 4:30 am and on the road by 5:00 am on my way for a day in the mountains, volunteering for the Harding Hustle. I’ve run this race once (the 50k portion) and have worked it several times. This year, I stepped up on a last minute call looking for volunteers. I had mixed feelings – volunteering for a race is a bitch, the day is long, and bugs are plenty. But being in the mountains, well, that is wonderful. Not only that, I get to see people I haven’t seen in a long time, and I always get to meet great new people. Generally, I like people.

The Harding Hustle begins and ends at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon, offering 3 options: 15k, 30k and 50k. It is a tough race, not terribly technical, but the climb is enormous. And the route is mostly exposed. Drops inevitably happen due to heat exhaustion. It gets HOT. I worked the Modjeska Peak aid station on Saturday, the spot where runners had to turn off of The Main Divide and run up Modjeska Peak and back. Then on their return from Santiago Peak, they had to run back up Modjeska Peak and back. It’s a tough spot for the runners. It wasn’t a bad spot for us (Pete, Sonya and I). We had a gorgeous view, and an occasional breeze. And I got to hike up to Modjeska Peak to place markers on the ground for runners to mark their bibs (a mile up, and a mile back).

We only had one drop at our station. But we picked up some more drops on the way down. We drove up on some pretty miserable runners. I almost cried witnessing one runner admit defeat. His shoulders slumped forward, his feet barely shuffling, it brought back a familiar feeling, a deep, dark exhausted feeling.

Anyway, we didn’t have enough space our truck to pick up the drops, so volunteers got out and ran back (with only a couple miles left). Can you imagine, being so utterly exhausted that you drop with only two miles left in a 32 mile race? I haven’t quite done that, but I can certainly imagine it, and I’ve seen friends do it. When you’re done, your done! Those poor miserable souls – they were wasted.

Anyway, I’m glad I went out, and am always glad to be in the mountains, especially helping runners on their crazy feats. But yikes! The day was too long. I pulled up in my driveway a little after 4pm.

Look at that cloud cover over the Inland Empire!


View from Modjeska Peak, looking out over Orange County


Standing on Modjeska Peak


View of Santiago Peak from Modjeska Peak


Modjeska Peak Aid Station (located at the base of M. Peak)


Traffic jam on The Main Divide when one truck on a convoy coming up gets a flat