TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Never, Ever

Someone please remind me to never, ever, ever, EVER run Arroyo Trabuco during the summer. Last weekend, it was still technically summer, and I forgot that I can’t do that trail in the heat. Big mistake. The last 2.5 miles of my ten mile run on this wretched, mostly shade-forsaken trail, I played that game where I had to lay down in the shade every ten minutes or so to recover, cool down and get my heart beating normally. It was awful. AWFUL.

As always, I managed to take a few pictures, none though of myself sprawled out on the dirt floor trying to regain my composure. Winking smile

So happy to finally close the door on summer (though not necessarily the heat, but that is soon to come)!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Maple Springs!

More than two years ago, Silverado Motorway (AKA Silverado Trail, Bedford Trail) was set aflame by a local resident who apparently was attempting to keep wild animals out of his yard. The fire burned about a thousand acres, all mainly up the Motorway. But the Silverado Motorway trailhead is just about fifty yards into Maple Springs Road. Thus, the fire closed down Maple Springs Road in its entirety. That was the first year I coordinated volunteers for Chimera. The 100 mile course had to be altered, which was a minor inconvenience. More importantly, Maple Springs Road, which zig-zags up Silverado Canyon to “Four Corners,” where The Main Divide in two directions, as well as, Harding Truck Trail meet, was completely and totally closed to all traffic. CLOSED. More than TWO years. I cannot tell you how much this weighed on my heart, as it seemed the longer they kept that gate locked and closed signs posted, the more Maple Springs became the only place I ever wanted to be. Go figure.

For a while there, I telephoned the ranger station to inquire when they’d open up the road again. First it was in September they’d open, then in the spring, then the following fall, etc. Eventually, I gave up hope and stopped calling. Part of me wondered if the powers-that-be wanted to keep the road closed for good, perhaps to preserve the land from us trompers.

Last week, I received the glorious news via a Facebook post from a fellow trail runner who lives in Silverado Canyon (perhaps you know him, Greg Hardesty), that Maple Springs is now open.

Be still, my beating heart!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd so it was, last Sunday (9/11), pretty late in the morning, I drove one hour from my seaside town to the tiny, yet wonderful town of Silverado in the Saddleback Mountains. The parking lot at the Maple Springs trailhead was full which was not a surprise -- I’m sure lots of people have longed for Maple Springs over the past two years.  But I drove on past that, winding my way up a single lane paved road, relatively crowded with hikers, mountain bikers, bikers and runners. Three and ½ miles in, I rested my truck in a small dirt turnout, just where the paved road ends. And then I strapped on my hydration pack, and made my way up Maple Springs Road to “Four Corners.”

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe climb up this truck trail was steep. The sun was hot. But it was all worth it. Surprisingly, not much had changed -- I remembered the same huge boulders, the same fallen trees as I traveled up the rocky road. Maple leaves were just beginning to yellow. A dozen or so four-wheel drivers passed me by, some going up, others down. Not a single person was rude along the way -- everyone either smiled or gave a little wave.

I hiked much of that incline which totaled a little over 4 miles. I also snapped a lot of photos, as if I didn’t already have hundreds of them back at home on hard drives, sd cards, and flash drives (which by the way are scattered all over the place, in plastic baggies, in my book bags, etc).  I also scoured the dirt floor for cat tracks, any animal tracks for that matter. I didn’t see any, though the road was so covered with bike tracks that cat tracks could have easily been obliterated. Still, I felt safe, as the mountain was more active than I’ve ever seen it (except for of course, during races).. There have been times that I’d ventured up Maple Springs and didn’t see a single other soul. It was good to have the company my first time out in over two years.

It was good, so good to be back.

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9.21 miles (14.8 km), 1,666’ (508 m) elevation gained9 11 16

9 11 16 a

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Labor Day Run

Another day off, and it’s so early in the school year. Monday was Labor Day, a national holiday we celebrate in the U.S. that honors the labor movement and the contributions workers have made to this nation that I gladly call home. Most people don’t work on Labor Day, but many, so, so many do – for example, department and grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and such were open. But we had no mail delivered, schools were closed (and so was Costco), trash was not picked up, streets were not swept, and banks shut their doors too.

14207675_10210798877826657_155935735202120547_oTraditionally, there is no big celebration for this holiday, though it’s thought of as the last hooray for summer. Mostly, people take quick little trips to the beach or river – they picnic, hike, bike ride,  4-wheel, or have BBQs at home. I did none of the above. But I did get a new kitten – an 8 week old, blue-eyed, white ragdoll mix.

I love her.

Picking up our new kitty, not to mention purchasing all the essentials (bowls, bed, scratcher, litter box, etc), put me way off schedule concerning squeezing in a run on this Labor Day. I got out pretty late, about 4PM, which was a good thing. It was a good thing because the weather was rather mild and breezy by that time. It really was the best weather for an end-of-the-summer Labor Day run. And being out this late in the day, most people had ended their adventures, returning home for that BBQ dinner in the backyard, thus the trails were fairly empty. I myself had dinner cooking in a slow-cooker (beef stroganoff), so I had all the time in the world.

In all, I put in a tad over 7 miles, running all of Wood Canyon in Aliso Viejo in its entirety and back. Nothing spectacular happened. But it was a spectacular run.

Happy Labor Day!

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

One for the Views

Work was cancelled for me Friday, which freed up many hours to get my house in order. Unfortunately, no matter what I do, I always feel like my house is not in order. But I keep trying. So, after getting my youngest off to school, I loaded the truck up with boxes of books, toys, clothing and such to drop off at the Salvation Army. Back at home I vacuumed floors, cleaned the bathroom, washed dishes and laundry. Finally, about 12:30 PM, I filled my hydration pack with water and popped in a Nuun tablet, put on my running shoes, and drove the toll road through the coastal hills to Ridge Park in Newport Coast.

My feet finally hit dirt around 1PM, and it was hot. I didn’t expect anything less – it was after all September 2 (just about the hottest time of the year around here). The heat is the reason I opted to stay up on the ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You’d think with no shade whatsoever, the ridges would be the hottest spots on trails. But not in the coastal hills – up on the ridges is where you get to feel the ocean breezes. And up on the ridges is also where you get the awesome views.

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I chose an out-and-back for simplicity’s sake. I’ve been going for the out-and-back’s lately, even though I really am a loop gal. It’s much easier to come up with a route with the precise mileage I want with an out-and-back. I simply turn around and head back at the half-way mark. On Friday, I figured I’d go for 7 or 8 miles, and the best way to do this was Bommer Ridge to Moro Ridge and back. In my mind, I felt that Moro Ridge was at most 2 miles.

I suppose it was the heat of the day, and time as well, that made the trails virtually empty on this day. The emptiness was serene. I felt comforted by it, and secure and confident in the loneliness. I especially like empty trails in the coastal hills where I feel relatively safe. I am rarely without cell service in these areas, and access is not so remote should I find myself injured.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEnded up that Moro Ridge was significantly longer than I remembered. I ran it up until the trail starts to descend down toward Pacific Coast Highway. That put me at about the 4.6 mile mark. Though the return trip was mainly uphill, I did not find it excruciatingly difficult, as the incline was gradual. Don’t get me wrong – it still wiped me out, but it didn’t beat me up and spit me out. Though nearly sweltering, this run with a view was well worth the time, and I’m thinking it did me good, by pushing my mileage up just a tad. And even if it didn’t, it was still nice to be out in the not so remote wilderness overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Total miles: 9.2, Elevation gain: 800’

9 2 169 2 16a

Friday, September 2, 2016

Flagpoles

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’m a little behind here in jotting down my runs, so here it goes quick as can be: Last Sunday, August 28, I had the rare opportunity of late to run in the mountains and with friends. I met long time running friend Sheila and her friend Robert at Santiago Truck Trail in the Saddleback Mountains, and we did 7+ mile out-and-back to the flagpole. Sheila and I have run this on other occasions, but it was Robert’s first along this single-track that was once a truck trail.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we do on group runs, the distance between us lengthened at many points, with Robert up ahead, Sheila in the middle, and me at the tail (no surprise there Winking smile ). Having started off fairly early (8AM – which is pretty dang early for me, not so for Sheila), we escaped some of the heat. But by the time Sheila and I reached the flagpole across from the vulture crags, it was starting to warm up significantly. Herein is where the adventure lies in this story: Robert was not at the flagpole. And we didn’t see him pass us if he had headed back.

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Certain that he must have kept on running for some extra miles, Sheila headed off further along the trail to check around the bend about a three-quarters of a mile away. I stayed back taking in majestic scenes. I wasn’t ready to increase mileage yet at this point. I am trying to be very careful about that, mainly at my husband’s urgings. Alas, Sheila returned empty handed, having not seen any sign of Robert. That’s when some of the mountain bikers overhead us talking and said they had seen a runner some miles back asking if they had seen two women running. They hadn’t of course at the point, and what the heck was Robert doing back there anyway – surely we would have seen him pass us along the trail!

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Perplexed, we headed off back toward the trailhead. And it donned on me – he must have gone to the other flagpole! “What other flagpole?” Sheila proclaimed. Hehe, now that was funny. Sadly, I had never mentioned the other flagpole. I myself hadn’t even noticed the other flagpole until after many runs along this trail, and it isn’t actually on Santiago Truck Trail. The other flagpole flies up on a hill that you need to take another trail up to. I’ve trekked up there before – and it was not fun, so steep and rocky, and overgrown the trail was.

Well, to make a long story short, I’ll quicken it up right here to say that, yes indeed, Robert did go to the wrong flagpole. Frankly, I was amused, and love stories like this. You can imagine how he felt when he ran back to the cars to see that we weren’t there. It was a mystery to Robert until he took his phone out of the car and called Sheila on the trail. So, turns out this was not all for moot – I found out (never really knew) that we have cell phone service on Santiago Truck Trail.  And from that point on, I couldn’t get this song out of my head: Flagpole Sitta (by Harvey Danger). The tune lingered in my mind all day long.

8 28 168 28 16a

Monday, August 22, 2016

8 Mile Hometown Loop

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSunday was like one last hooray for me, which is why I couldn’t pass up a run even though I had little energy to put in even a mile. This week, it’s back to work for me at full-force, teaching adults at three different schools. I’m going to be living out of my truck most of the time, hitting the gym in between classes when I can. Though I am anxious regarding getting back on a busy work schedule, I think it’s good for me. I do best with a routine.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe weather wasn’t too warm when I set out from my house at 2PM on Sunday. But it was windy, especially so for the first two miles of this eight mile hometown loop. Frankly, the wind made it so tough (as I was going against the wind), that I let it discourage me some, and resorted to walking here and there in the beginning. When I finally turned inland, the wind didn’t cause as much trouble, but my foot sure did. Will I ever get rid of this foot pain? Hitting the sand was an extremely welcome relief. Don’t think I had foot pain at all whenever I got the chance to hightail it off of the cement. And I took that chance as often as I could. Smile

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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Best Part

My feet didn’t hit dirt this morning until after 10:30AM. That was late for a run in the middle of August. I’m not lying when I say that it was struggle from step one. Just don’t focus, I told myself, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the music. I really thought that today’s trail run was going to be one of those runs where the best part of it all was when it was over, when I finally got to stop.

Wood Canyon (Aliso Viejo):SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I played that same old game, the one where I mentally cut the run in half just to make it seem easier. The halfway point was only three and a half miles. I can do 3.5 miles. And then I counted the miles down beneath a throbbing sun with little or no breeze.  Then oh, about five miles into this run, as I staggered over probably my tenth snake track in the dirt, I noticed something in the distance that looked like animal. Running up on it closer, I couldn’t quite tell – was it a dog, perhaps a cat? Upon closer examination, it resembled more a pile of brown rocks – just like the ones strewn all over the place in this canyon. I’m not sure why I didn’t trust what my eyes were telling me, that it was just a pile of rocks, but something made me stop and focus my sight. And after standing there a few minutes, the bobcat came into clear focus.  

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Its been years since I’ve seen a bobcat in these coastal hills. What a treat! I watched cautiously, but confident that I probably wouldn’t cause the cat alarm. He was focused on something in the field. And then cat pounce on something. He missed. He whisked off into the brush behind the field but not before giving me a good long stare. Well, this wasn’t going to be one of those runs where the best part was when it was over. This was definitely the best part, right here in this field.

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Still on a high from spotting the cat, I continued my struggle beneath the heat, but this time with a smile upon my face. Yes, I still counted down the distance left – by quarter miles. They moved by slowly.

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Within a mile of the bobcat, a deer surprised me by darting across the trail. Stumbling for my camera, I missed catching a photo of this very secretive animal. But I had it in hand and was able to catch a photo of the second deer that quickly followed behind.

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