click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Solitude Run -- Out and Back to Top of the World

I had originally posted a group run for this morning, but then learned about possible rain. So I cancelled that post, with the hope still that rain would not fall, and I'd get out there anyway. Gear ready, ipod loaded, I went to bed with my phone alarm set for 6:00 AM. I'm unsure exactly what time it began to pour -- somewhere between two and four AM, and I continued to wake throughout the night to the sound of high winds and more rain.

There went my plan.

I slept in (oh, til about 7:00 and lay about on the couch). Skies were clear when a few hours later I phoned the wilderness park to learn it was indeed open! By this time, I was preparing breakfast for the boys, and I thought all hope was lost for a trail run today. Oh, I'm going on and on here -- needless to say, I got out to Aliso Wood Canyons for a nice long run today.

The wind blew cold and hard as I made my way down into the canyon. The skies though, were bright and blue. Glorious. The trails were virtually empty, one or two bikers here and there. I saw one runner making my way through Wood Canyon. The solitude was joyous.

Who says we don't have fall color in California? (Oops, it's not fall anymore -- yesterday it turned winter : )

Crossing the stream on Wood Canyon before Mathis Trail

Still on Wood Canyon Trail, 3rd stream crossing

Mistletoe clumps high up on Sycamore branches

Leaf litter at the base of giant Sycamore in Wood Canyon

Shelter from the wind came just a bit after the Sycamore above, where the Coast Live Oaks shade the trail and the stream gurgles a few feet below the trail's edge (a little over 3 miles in from the ranger station). I didn't notice any animal tracks, no bunnies hopping about, no quail families wobbling alongside the trail. I was completely alone. Even when I came to the end of Wood Canyon where usually a small group of bikers congregate before making their way up Cholla -- no one.

Fungus along Wood Canyon Trail

Wood Canyon -- Moss growing along stream's edge

Running up Cholla was tough -- but it's getting easier. I made that turn at the top on Westridge and continued up and down, mostly up before any huge relief. The wind blew stronger on the ridge which was a little more populated with bikers and hikers. Just as I reached the top of the slow steady climb toward Rockit (& the water tower) a biker cycled up and stopped in front of me.

"Whew," he said. "That was tough! I WAS TRYING TO CATCH YOU BACK ON CHOLLA." He shook his head. "You're good."

There was a biker on Cholla? I chuckled. I guess I am improving some. Though I didn't acknowledge the compliment, I heard it loud and clear, and smiled.

"We've got a few more tough ones up ahead." I pointed up Westridge toward Top of the World.

"Oh, I'm going the sissy way," he said. "I'm going down Rockit."

"I wouldn't call that the sissy way," I laughed. And he zoomed down Rockit like a "bat out of hell."

On Westridge looking over, ALMOST THERE . . .

Top of the World! At last!

The wind blew its strongest at Top of the World. I took a quick detour into the park to refill on water and call home with an estimated time of arrival. The wind blew so hard that my husband couldn't hear me. Upon ducking into the bathrooms, I told him I'd be back at the car in about an hour and a half. And then I ran back up to the trail and headed back exactly the way I came. And it was a joy! Even back on Wood Canyon when I found myself kicking my ankles (from fatigue), it was still a joy. There were more bikers, a couple more runners, several more hikers. I saw a boy and his dad standing with their bikes on the side of the trail. They pointed out a coyote to me who stood off in the field. He was just looking at us.

Passing Mathis Trail, I began counting down the miles -- a sure sign of fatigue. Two and a half miles left! At the end of Wood Canyon, I turned back onto Aliso Creek Trail -- One and a half miles left! When the dirt trail ended -- .75 miles left! After passing the last sign marker -- .5 miles left! And then I could see the Church Steeple! That meant it was almost over -- success at my fingertips.

I ran on into the parking lot feeling pretty good for a hard 14 mile trail run. I was glad. Mighty glad.


  1. Thanks Jessica and Billy. I'm addicted to carrying my camera on the run -- every time I don't, I see a bobcat or something else I wish I had my camera for.

    Hope you have a great holiday!