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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Different Sounds of Silence

Oh, woe is me! When will I have the time and strength to wander again? This past Sunday, even in my lagging and out-of-shape condition, I did finally make it out to the wilderness to wander. Recently, I learned that Trabuco Creek Road had finally re-opened, so being so long away from my friend Cussin’ Jim, I made the trip out for a late morning hike. No running involved. I didn’t want to kill myself.

To begin, I didn’t arrive to the Holy Jim lot until about 10:30, and there were no parking spaces open. That’s expected on a beautiful warm spring weekend. I found a spot to squeeze my truck in about a quarter mile outside of the Holy Jim Lot, just past the volunteer fire department. There, I parked in between two other trucks, one of the owners still packing his gear for a fishing trip along Trabuco Creek, not twenty feet from our automobiles.

I cannot tell you just how many hikers I came upon along the road to the trailhead, and also along Holy Jim for a bit. The creeks were still flowing strong, even in many places that I have not seen water in many years. There were mini-falls over boulders, and creeks to cross even across roads. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI lost most of the hikers at the Holy Jim Falls junction, as that’s the main attraction in these parts. And after that, well, it’s a pretty hard ass hike. It’s not the worst of hikes, just a relentless, switch-back after switch-back, mostly in the sun.  And I’m not good in the sun anymore (still it was worth it!).

Spring flowers littered the landscape, and after about mile two, Lupin was in full purple bloom. Even though I always hope that it could, the camera can never illustrate the spring flowers full beauty. But it’s close enough to snap a shot anyway, again and again. 


I sure do love Holy Jim. But it is not a hike for the weak, and I’m teetering on that. There are so many beautiful scenes – ridges from afar, orange rock trail walls, flowers and snakes (I saw a rattler!), and every so often, glorious tunnels of shade through small groves of trees.  I wasn’t quite sure just how far I’d make it up the trail. And since the heat was strong, I really could have turned back at any time. But I endured to a little over mile four, to a location where I took a seat and looked out over these Santa Ana Mountains. 


Just before my turnaround point, about a half mile or so, I decided to unplug the music. I thought that the silence would suit me better at that point. I was hot, and I was tired. And the silence definitely did me better. Amazing how many sounds there are in the silence. Insects flying by my ears sounded like cars whizzing by on a tiny highway. The breeze blowing through the trees sounded just like the gentle ocean waves crashing onshore about quarter mile from my house. And as I got further down the mountain, I the stream broke through the silence. It was fierce and loud, kind of like an angry wind storm blowing through the trees. I didn’t miss the music piped in from my ipod one bit.

Miles: 8

Elevation gained: 1,964’


Friday, April 14, 2017

My Three Spring Breaks

Teaching at three schools, I had three spring breaks this year. Originally, I thought it would have been better if they all coincided. That way I would have had a full week completely off from work. My husband all along though, said, “It’s better this way.” I heard this so often from him that I grew completely annoyed and finally blurted out, “No it’s not better this way.” But turns out, it was better this way, but I’m just too stubborn to admit that out loud.

It was “better this way,” mainly because during my first week of spring break, after running with a sore throat on that Monday, I rapidly grew more ill. I ended up spending all of my off time during that spring break in bed. And I had big plans too -- with my entire mornings and afternoons off from Monday through Thursday . . . Big disappointment. So, I slept during the day, pretty much all day, then drank down some ghastly tasting medicine and drove off to my evening classes during my first spring break. Oh! All that I missed -- running along mountain trails covered in spring flowers, boosting my mileage up from the month prior . . .

1264139430196807264Smiley_green_alien_sick.svg.med (2)Alas, that was not the case. And as usual with me, with sickness, came depression. I hate being sick. HATE. IT. I don’t even try and fight the depression. I wallow.

That week came and went, and my first spring break was over. I got to the gym a couple of times during the next two weeks. And I also learned some heartfelt news, that a friend of mine, one who played a big part in my youth, was killed in a motorcycle accident not too long after the last time we spoke, THIRTY ONE YEARS AGO. I inadvertently learned of this the day before Old Goat 50.

OldGoat50_logo_blkSo, I went off into the mountains, the weekend before my next spring break, with my friend on my mind, and pitched a single man tent in the Lower Blue Jay Campgrounds for a race that I coordinate the volunteers. The race, as I mentioned above, was Old Goat 50, a race I attempted some years back, but was pulled at mile 41. It was good to get off to the mountains by myself. Well, I wasn’t totally by myself, there’s lots of people camping out the night before -- the timing crew, net control, and some of the drivers. But overall, I was alone, and had an oddly solid sound sleep, like I rarely have, camped out there in the cold. Yes, it’s still cold out here in some parts, especially in the mountains, and especially in the evenings and mornings. But I was warm and cozy in my little tent, air mattress and thick sleeping bag.

SAM_9002Old Goat weekend was rejuvenating. I got back to journal writing. I read a novel by lantern light. I talked to old friends. I met new friends. And I worked with a fantastic bunch of people who made the race a huge success despite some major no-shows (aid station workers, drivers and sweeps among the no-shows).

Anyway, that event got me out of my funk  just in time for my second spring break. That spring break gave me Tuesday and Thursday evenings off. But my illness had returned, just slightly, and I spent much of that extra time relaxing instead of wandering. I think I probably made it to the gym a couple 1264139410153426183Smiley_green_alien_disapointed.svg.medof times, not totally sure, and I’m much too lazy right now to check my records. Depression though had subsided, and that’s definitely a good thing. I’m not a good sick person (because I get depressed), and I’m not a good depressed person (because I don’t care about anything, else I care too much about everything).

I ended that second spring break with a hike to Chiquito Falls with a friend from way back. We met at Hell’s Kitchen, a biker joint along Ortega Highway, then drove into Blue Jay for a hike along Old San Juan, then San Juan. Being the tour guide, I decided to take The Viejo Tie, not remembering that I was added a significant amount to this  “small” hike. The air was wet, and even raining at times. And I didn’t take many pictures (though beautiful it was), because we spent most of the time chatting like not a day had passed since we had last talked in person (which was about ten years ago). So, the land was lush beyond belief. By the time we reached the falls, we were both drenched. The falls amazed us both with the amount of water flowing over those rocks. There’s no snow melt in these mountains. There’s been no heavy rains recently. Must just be coming from the saturated soil. Astounding. (8.37 miles total)

Standing at the top of Chiquito Falls:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I ended the second spring week, with an attempted run down to the harbor. By attempted, I mean, I thought that I’d go for a local run. But as soon as I got out the door, I felt so open and vulnerable, because running is more a personal thing with me, and I’m not used to being out in front of everyone, that I decided to just get out there and wander. Yes, I know, that people aren’t necessarily looking at me when I run through the city. But still, I felt so open and susceptible -- I just didn’t have the heart to run. So, I plugged in my earbuds and headed off to Doheny Beach. From there I walked out to the jetty and snapped some photos of the regular activity out there, fishermen (& women I’m sure), surfers, and walkers. Afterwards, I headed off to the marina, which even before tourist season officially opens, there was plenty of people milling about. There were dozens of folks disembarking off of a commuter boat from Catalina Island. And there were dozens more dining in the waterfront restaurants throughout.

View of surfers from the jetty:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA Great Blue Heron atop the bait shop on the jetty:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I walked at a quick pace, and really didn’t mind walking one bit. I recalled fondly, that this was the same route I used to walk my babies in strollers many years ago. There were single strollers, double strollers, sometimes scooters, sometimes bikes. Now, sadly, my oldest pretty much acts like he can’t stand me. And my middle son, though he still likes me, doesn’t recall as fondly as I do all those walks down by the harbor. Fortunately, my little guy (who is only 12 years old), still has that child within, and will even go down there with me (but not on this particular day), and recalls many happy memories down at the marina. I got in a little over 3.5 miles.

During my final spring break (which is this week), I got Monday and Wednesday evenings off, as well as, all day Friday. I can’t even recall what I did with that spare time -- still in a funk. I am coming to realize that I do best with a tightly structured life. None of this willy-nilly, this week has different days off than the next. I recall working this week, as I really do enjoy teaching and all of my students. But I pretty much don’t recall anything after that, except for Wednesday afternoon (that would be the day before yesterday). I had just completely had it with my laziness. So, after laying about on the couch for a couple of hours, I headed out the door and drove off to the closest trails, which are referred to as the Las Ramblas trails. This is the trail system that overlooks San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. I didn’t get out until 4pm. It was warm, and it was windy. But it was oh so beautiful, the hills overpowered with yellow daisies and yellow mustard plants. I got in four miles that day. And thank God for all those lovely flowers, otherwise my time would have miserable. I feel like I can barely run lately.

There is the story of my three spring breaks. Next week, I’m back to a busy, structured scheduled. I’m looking forward to it.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

3 20 17a3 20 17

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,


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


Rockit Trail:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMathis Trail:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMountain bike accident in Wood Canyon (probably winter’s fault for clocking out early!!):

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


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.


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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