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Friday, June 24, 2016

A Good Ache

Gosh, I wasn’t really sure if I was ever going to make it back. Life really moves too fast. Feels like I’ve been riding a roller coaster and I haven’t been able to hop off, most notably for time along the trails. I’ve dreamt of the them though, both awake and asleep. And I’ve wrought myself with guilt over not making it out to some trails (go figure! As if they were a person I am neglecting). With school coming to an end into summer break, I had finals and grades to finish, not to mention the end of school activities for my boys, including a multitude of concerts to attend, one of them all the way up in Santa Clara (which is just south of San Francisco.) I also had one job ending (my job of 17 years shutting its doors) and another job beginning. But most importantly, amidst the hectic business of school ending, we received the sad news that my father-in-law died. The day after school ended, we were on a flight out to Texas to be with family. The trip was bitter-sweet, as we do so much miss the family, not to mention the open grasslands and big, huge Texas skies. Then the day we landed back in California, I was off to teach the first day at my new school.

Finally, I thought probably I could get some time to go out and wander. But then, oh, about three days later, my truck broke down. Well, we’re making it with one car for the time being (a big old SUV that I’m not used to driving) until hubby meets his work deadlines so he has time to fix my truck (the alternator we suspect). 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWithout a car, there was not much motivation to get out and run, especially since I had been off for so long, and we had edged our way into a heat wave (surprise, surprise – it’s summer!). I really cannot bear the heat anymore, real or imaginary (and there’s been plenty of imaginary). All the while during this hiatus however, I continued working out at the gym, hoping, so hoping, that it would keep me fit enough to wander in the wilderness like I so yearned. I kept imagining, actually wondering, seriously wondering, whether I’d be able to run at all.  Fortunately, this mystery was solved Wednesday afternoon, when I convinced my oldest son to head out to Top of the World with me in the late afternoon. (As you can tell from the picture above, he was noticeably excited about hitting some trails with Mom).

I was seriously shocked that I was able to run along West Ridge to Top of the World. True, I hiked the steeper hills, and I sweated it out big time. Struggling felt good. And thankfully, we had an onshore breeze (which is the breeze coming off the ocean, which equates to a cool breeze). We didn’t do many miles, a little more than five over rolling hills. Five is good for me.  When it was all done, I thought, heck, the time off really didn’t hurt me that much. But it did. The next two days, my quads ached, and I was a little sore all over. But I’d have to say that it was a good ache. I may be aging (more rapidly it seems now) and on the heavy side (much more than I thought I would be), but I can still get out there and put in some time on trails that make me ache some.  And that’s what much of the trails is really about – the struggle and the ache.  Where there is beauty, there is often agony.Winking smile

 West RidgeSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI sure missed seeing these guys (The Stink Bug)SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLooking back go make sure the boy is okaySAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Dang flash, kept going off – this was the best shot I could get Smile


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Loose Ends

I have been out of the world of trail activity lately. End of the semester, finals, can’t-get-caught-up blues, oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-old melancholy, and boy, I’m-just-a-piece-of-shit-how-do-I-get-out-of-this-hole-I’ve-been-digging-for-51-years (well, maybe not that bad) dilemma is just overwhelming me. In tying up loose ends, I noticed I didn’t post my past run, which was way back when on the 1st of May. Believe it not, I got in 10.20 miles on that sunny (though cold in the morning) run in Laguna Wilderness and Crystal Cove. Don’t recall much of the run. Things have been too busy and hectic to recall things that long ago. Too bad for me. But I do have the pictures and the garmin data to show myself that I really was out there about ten days ago. And so, in order to clean out the closet, here are a few scenes from that wonderful, long, yet breezy run that I wish I could enchant you with more details:


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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finding Falls Canyon (Again)

By the time I made it to the Holy Jim lot in Trabuco Canyon today (around 1PM), the place was packed. Note to self: stay away from Trabuco Canyon on weekends during the spring, that is unless I want a party, festive atmosphere. Lucky to find a place to park my truck, I immediately decided against following the trails that everyone travels. Instead, I decided to head off back toward the mouth of the canyon in search of Falls Canyon. I’ve been wanting to find Falls Canyon again for a while now, and I’ve kept eyes open for it to no avail. So, today  the search was on, and having been to Falls Canyon once before, I had a general knowledge of its location. First I knew that I’d need to locate the Tin Mining Company ruins, and then anywhere from a tenth of a mile to a full mile after that, I’d find it on my right. And that I did. And the experience was all in one, surreal, lonely and beautiful. I didn’t have a want for music on this trip -- the sounds about me were my music --soft and serene with water running and falling over rocks and breezes blowing through the trees. Occasionally, I could hear laughter from afar from other day trekkers who decided to take the road less travelled.  What an immensely pleasing hike! I only wish I could hold onto that peace throughout the day.


Friday, April 29, 2016

What’s That Over There?

I spotted a white cross from afar, high up in the hills above San Juan Capistrano some time ago. It appeared to be a tiny cross, but I knew that it was probably ten feet tall. And I knew that I had to find it. Cuz that’s what I do – I see something from afar, and I just must find a way to get to it.

I’ve been trying off and on to find access to these hills that border Laguna Niguel and over look Interstate 5. The main access point that I located in San Juan Capistrano however, was through a gated community, of which I could not find a way in. Every time I drove to work, I’d hunt for the cross in the hills, trying to pinpoint its location.

Today, I was off work at noon, so after lunch with my husband, I had some time before I needed to pick my youngest son from school, after which I planned to put in a couple hours at the gym. So, I went searching for access to these hills on the Laguna Niguel side. My first guess lead me to a cul-de-sac near a retirement community where I found a single track to SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTUREStravel down the hillside. There was no sign of the cross. I took a seat in a graffiti filled cement gulley looking across at the foothills and The Saddleback Mountains.  It was lovely really, being completely alone, yet surrounded by thousands of busy people making their way on the interstate, on the tollroads, on the overpasses going to the malls, etc., etc.  And I was able to figure out just how far off I was from the cross. My guess was that I needed to find access about a half mile south of my current location. 


After driving about some, I found another cul-de-sac with hillside access. I promptly jumped a dirt trail and headed up the lonely dry landscape. I was surprised to not see my tiny white cross anywhere. “Gosh,” I thought, “where the heck is it?” And that’s just when I focused straight down in front of me. Bam. There was the cross. But I had to get to my son at school. So I left the trail, and returned about a half hour later and hiked down a single track to a huge white cross in the hillside. Mission accomplished. I sat in the shade and peace of the cross studying the landscape and pointing out places that I recognized. I named the roads, the trails, studied rooftops to try and figure out what building I was looking at. The San Juan Capistrano Mission stood out majestically above it all. When you’re down there you don’t realize that the mission stands on a hill. But from afar, you can really tell that it stands higher than all the other buildings. Anyway, I enjoyed this all for a good half hour or more, before hiking out and heading off to the gym for some calorie burning. Looking forward to what I’ll notice next and wonder, “What’s that over there?”


Thursday, April 28, 2016

I’m Tired

I have been so flipping tired lately, it’s really rather absurd. I mean, there’s people who have ten years on me who put in many more hours of work than I do. And I really don’t work that hard -- in fact, I have the best job ever. I think that I just can’t handle this whole split-shift thing, not to mention that the distance between the classes that I teach is about 25 miles. If I could sleep in, that would be one thing. But I am a mother (in or ways than one Winking smile ) so, I am up at 6AM to make breakfast for those who want it, pack lunches, and drop boys off at three different schools. On good days, the oldest wakes early enough to walk to school. But lately, those have been few and far between.

After getting the boys off to school I feel like I’ve made a major accomplishment. Everyone’s been fed, they all have lunches for later, and I didn’t kill anyone! But now it’s time for chores -- laundry and such, as well as, getting ready for my first class of the day. Usually, that doesn’t take much – showering, dressing, drying my hair, then printing up rosters for sign-in (other class prep if needed, I usually do the night before.) And then I make a quick breakfast for myself, usually two cups of coffee, an egg and two pieces of toast, or a turkey sandwich, or my favorite if I have time, a smoothie from Jamba Juice on the way to work for $5.20 (but always the coffee – MUST have the coffee).

Anyway, I need to be on the freeway no later than 10:15AM, hopefully a little earlier. But by now, I’ve been awake for more than four hours. My classes Monday through Thursday start at 11AM (on Friday it’s 9AM). It’s really not that bad, and I’m not really feeling fatigued by this point. The worst of it in the morning is not finding a parking spot in the faculty lots at the community college that I work, because if there’s none in the faculty lots, I’ve got to park a mile away from class in the over-flow student parking. A mile away isn’t so terrible; I welcome the walk. But I usually don’t arrive early enough to walk a whole mile to class and get there on time. And so, in those cases, I’m late.

It’s when I get home after the first shift that I feel utterly fatigued. I pull into my driveway around 3PM. I am so sleepy, I can barely stand. Crazy. If there is some groceries to be had or some other chores, I try to do them during this off-time. If not, I take a nap. Now, it would be great if I could take a power nap, for say just ten to fifteen minutes. Usually, I konk out for a good hour. This of course means, I wake like a dang zombie, barely able to move or think clearly.  Seriously, it’s rather annoying, so I shouldn’t even nap in the first place. At this point, the boys are arriving home, and I get to see one or two of them, three if I’m lucky, before heading off to my next classes, which is only about six miles away at “the adult school.”. I’m off to teach Algebra and G.E.D. test prep from about 4 or 5 PM until 9:30PM, which again isn’t that terrible – if I wasn’t so dang fatigued. But that’s how it is lately. Usually, I have a gym bag packed in the truck, just in case I get out early. And I do get out early on occasion. When I do, I am lucky to put in an hour at the gym on the way home. Lately, I drive straight home, and I am in bed by about 10PM, which is too early according to the other folks in my home. No one can understand why anyone in their right mind would go to bed at 10PM.

Now, on Wednesdays and Fridays, I have a slight break from the split-shift, as on both of those days I have evenings off. Usually, I plan to run, but I don’t. Instead, I go to the gym. The gym is always my “easy” way out, as I can put in the time without the driving long distances to trails, and I burn more calories.

ANYWAY, so, as I mentioned, I am tired. Super tired. Pathetically tired. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s this split-shift thing. Saturdays, I always have reserved for running. But about every fourth Saturday, I teach a “Crash Course.” A “Crash Course,” is a computer class that begins at 9AM and goes until 3:30PM. I used to have lofty notions of running after these crash courses. Now, I know there’s no way that’s gonna happen. Instead, I drive straight home, arriving around 4PM, and promptly begin my nap. Once in a great while, after my nap, I head out for a 5PM run somewhere close by.

I have on-line classes that I manage as well, which I squeeze in here and there at odd hours.. And believe me, I really, really welcome the opportunities I have. And I really love all the students that I meet. But, I am tired. Dang tired right now. Did I mention that I was tired?  

Lately, I feel very fortunate when I can hit the trails, and for me the last time was last Sunday (as the Saturday before, I taught a crash course). Now, with this level of inactivity that I have lately (as it relates to running) I really have no business putting in more than five miles on the trails. But this past Sunday, I said what the heck, and put in 12 miles running The Big Loop at Aliso/Wood Canyons.

What is The Big Loop? Well, it is this:  From the ranger station at Anwa Road in Aliso Viejo, up Aliso Canyon, right on Wood Canyon to the end of the canyon, then up Cholla Trail, left on West Ridge to Top of the World, down Meadows, right on Wood Canyon, left on Aliso Canyon back to the truck.

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The loop totaled 12.32 miles, and I ran a good 90% of it, hiking mainly the steepest slopes (which really weren’t all that steep).  I had some plantar fasciitis pain in the left heel that stretching the calves seemed to help. I saw (and smiled and talked with) a student on the trails, and lots of mountain bikers and hikers, mainly along West Ridge. The temperature was perfect, never overheating or chilling even once. And I loved it all for this brief moment in time, flittering along the dirt. I didn’t fall. And I enjoyed the trip so much that I came home and made a YouTube movie about it. That way I was able to relive it a few times before putting the experience to bed. I feel quite fortunate for my time on the trails Sunday. Looking forward to the next trip.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Time to get Rid of the Farmer’s Tan

The grass in the coastal hills has turned mostly brown in Southern California. Temperatures have risen, and I’m not ready for spring to end. I’ve been making that my excuse to put in time at the gym instead of venturing out to the trails. But cross training at the gym is just not giving me what I need mentally. Today (or yesterday rather because it took me a day to post this blog), I packed a bag for the gym with the intent of driving there straight after work. Instead, I drove home, ate lunch, folded clean clothes and listened to my youngest son play the piano. I debated back and forth whether I should go to the gym or hit the trails in this heat (it’s been in the high eighties Fahrenheit lately). The clincher was learning that my oldest son was going to skip the gym today (as we often go together). If he wasn’t going, then neither was I. And so, with no class to teach on Wednesday evenings, I headed out the door at 4:30 PM in a tank top and running shorts. My handheld filled with ice water and my belt complete with phone, camera and lip balm, I was hoping to get rid of the farmer tan that I’ve been cultivating all year. You know, that tan that begins after the white shoulders, down about short-sleeve length on the arms. With these summer temperatures coming on, I would really like to wear a sleeveless sun dress without looking like a dork.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThough I did have all the time in the world, well, not actually that much, but lots of time anyway, I didn’t spend a ton of time on the trails. I wanted to get home to spend the evening with my family. So, I decided to take my T.O.W. run, but cut it short a bit. Instead of starting out in Wood Canyon and running up to West Ridge, I drove a little further and parked my truck right near West Ridge. That made this out-and-back to Top of the World 5.14 miles instead of the usual 6.5.

Hitting dirt finally at 5PM, the temperatures started to cool, and I had some nice breezes from the Pacific Ocean. There were lots of mountain bikers out, especially near Top of the World where fifty or so bikers wore numbered bibs and did timed, what seemed to me as death-defying runs down the backside of West Ridge into Laguna Canyon. They were a jubilant group of mostly men, but I did notice a couple women among these crazy folk.

Though my lovely green grass was mostly brown, Prickly Pears were in full bloom with yellow and orange blossoms abounding. I expected to see at least one snake, and I kept my eyes peeled, especially on those single-track detours along West Ridge. But alas, not even a single snake trail. A few times I worried about falling, even along the simplest portions.  Nothing seems safe to me right now. I can not afford another fall.


Overall, I got what I needed mentally. I didn’t burn as many calories as I would have at the gym. But I did get to hit my groove on the out portion of this out-and-back. I got some wonderful peace, some sunshine, and the passing company of like-minded people who love trails like I do.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSporting that farmer’s tan. Winking smile

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Battle Scars

After my last fall (which I wrote about in my last entry in “Seven More Miles”), I wasn’t myself for several days – not that “being myself” is all that great. But after the fall, I felt “under the weather,” achy and sore.  And the next day, my first day back to work, I was a bit cranky. I didn’t have as much patience as I usually do with my students. I apologized to them, and they said, “Oh, no! It’s me not you!!”   My students are so polite and appreciative. I love them. I told a few female students about my fall and showed them my battle scars. They cringed and turned quickly away. Maybe I should not have revealed the damage.

Quite frankly, I was a little embarrassed about walking around with scabby legs – as the scabs ran from my knee down to my ankle. Being that I wear dresses when not on the trails, I wore boots all week to cover the damage. And being that I did not run all week, but spent my workout time at the gym, I wore leggings instead of shorts, in order to cover the damage. To top it off, the hole in my hand wasn’t healing as quickly as I wished because I picked at it too much. Come to think of it, I picked at the scabs on my leg as well. Sad smile

It took me seven whole days to get back out on the trails. I needed about three days to recover from the accident, and then it rained for a few more days. Finally, on the seventh day (Sunday, April 10), we had a break in the rain, and amazingly, Aliso/Woods Canyons was not closed due to “wet and muddy conditions.”  It was a beautiful day, and I enjoyed my eight mile loop immensely. It’s always so crisp and clear after a rain. I’m glad I enjoyed it while I could, because little did I know that I would not get in a run for the next seven days. I have not run since. To make up for it, one might think that I over did it at the gym with three plus hours of cardio each visit. In reality, I can hardly feel three hours of cardio at the gym in comparison to a few hours on the trails. And all it is, is cardio, and that is not my ultimate goal – time on the trails where I can heal and grow – that is my ultimate goal.

My April 10 route: Wood Canyon, Cholla Trail, West Ridge to Top of the World, West Ridge, Mathis, Wood Canyon.


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