click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Station to Station

For a while now I’ve had this notion to do a run that connects 3 local trail systems:  Crystal Cove, Laguna Coast Wilderness and Aliso/Wood Canyons.  And so I woke early this morning and walked down to the bus stop in the dark and stood there waiting in the cold fog.  I was so happy to see the bus finally pull up that when the doors opened I said, “Ahhhhh, warmth!”  To which the bus driver replied, “Well, where’s your clothes???!!”  He started my morning with a good laugh, and when I told him I was going running, he looked out into the dark fog, laughed and said “You’re crazy.”  I put my dollar fifty into the slots, sat down and continued to crack up every single time he picked up or dropped off a passenger.  He had something funny to say to everyone.  (That man deserves a raise!)

Though it was no longer dark when I arrived to Crystal Cove, fog was thick.  Very few cars were parked in the lot as I walked up to it.  Off to the side, a lone coyote, plump and larger than usual (at Aliso/Wood they’re scrawny)stood looking over us.  He seemed so eerie standing there against the fog, like he was a werewolf about to change as soon as the fog cleared.  Coyotes roam in packs, so I had to wonder what the heck he doing all alone out in the open like that.  When I took out my camera to click a picture, a car drove by and the coyote was off.  Note:  sure way to get a wild animal to leave is to take out your camera and try to get a picture. 

At Crystal Cove Ranger Station ready to runCIMG7996 

I began running up El Moro Canyon with my ipod turned low and pepper spray strapped to my wrist.  I was a little worried running a desolate trail in dense fog that I’ve only run once before.  The fog though lifted quickly, probably just a couple hundred feet in elevation.  By then, I felt strong and happy to be on this running adventure. 

From the canyon I took a little detour up “Slow and Easy” which I ran at a slower pace but I wouldn’t exactly call it “easy.”  (On the other hand, it wasn’t hard – I still felt strong.)  At Bommer Ridge, I checked my maps and headed off in search of Old Emerald Falls Trail in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

El Moro Canyon


My map didn’t exactly show where Old Emerald Falls Trail connected.  I’ve run this trail before, always with someone else.  And we’ve always had a hard time finding it, since it is unmarked at the top.  I figured if I ran down Moro Ridge, I was bound to find it.  And that was what I did.

Well, I didn’t find my trail.  I studied my map again and again, asked a hiker passing by, and then another.  And then the trail was lonely again.  Except for a bobcat simply sitting in the middle of the road.  I stopped running, because I didn’t want to run past the cat.  As I walked the cat slowly turned and walked away from me, stopping to bask in the sun here and there.  She was toying with me.  As I got closer and closer walking at a moderate pace, she didn’t speed up one bit.  In fact, she actually took a step or two toward me.  I stopped, waved my arms and yelled, “Get going kitty!!”  That darn cat!  She wasn’t afraid of me.  So I stopped and simply stood there looking at her.  And then my camera malfunctioned and I couldn’t get even one picture.  After some minutes, I took out my phone to snap the one below.  Finally, the bobcat meandered off into the brush. 


After the cat was gone, I continued running the ridge when I realized there was no way, according to my map that I should have been running this far without finding my trail.  So, I turned around and ran back up the ridge.  Approaching Bommer Ridge again, I took a turn off onto a trail that didn’t really look like a trail.  Within minutes I recognized it all – that lovely single track that goes down, down, down into an immense wet meadow.  I was finally on my way!

View from Old Emerald Falls Trail


Approaching the bottom of Old Emerald Falls





I took another look at my maps at the end of Old Emerald Falls Trail and headed down Emerald Canyon Road for a bit to find Old Emerald Trail – another climb up to the ridge.  Somewhere on that trail, I lost my maps.  Duh! (My husband still can’t believe it.)

Old Emerald Trail


At Bommer Ridge again (mapless), I knew to turn right.  But I didn’t remember how to reach Laguna Bowl Road, I asked a biker, he didn’t know.  Then I saw a guy running Bommer Ridge barefoot.  I ran with him a bit, asking him how to get to my trail.  He was going down a different way and didn’t know about the bowl.  He asked where I was parked, thinking I was trying to get back to my car.  I told him I took a bus and was running Crystal Cove Ranger Station to Aliso/Wood Ranger Station.  That’s when he gave me a double look with a squint in his eyes like what the heck are you thinking???  I didn’t remind him that he was the one running barefoot : )))

After we parted ways, I came to Laguna Ridge Trail, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I thought perhaps I should run it, but it went off in the wrong direction.  So I called my husband.  He got onto the internet and guided me in the right direction.  I eventually came out of this park via Laguna Bowl Road landing myself on Laguna Canyon Road, not too far from the Sawdust Festival.

Bommer Ridge looking toward a socked-in coast


Some street running along Laguna Canyon Road to cross at a light on Canyon Acres Road


Finishing up two parks didn’t really do me in.  It was the climb to Top of the World that did it.  First off, I could see the climb I would be making from across as I ran Bommer.  I knew it was going to be a bear.  I psyched myself out.  Secondly, I didn’t have a trail map.  And most importantly, it’s one HELL OF A CLIMB.  I also took one turn on the way up that added more distance than I needed.  I actually took two phone calls on the way up too (the modern world!). 

The first thing I said upon reaching Top of the World was “Thank God.”  And then a young man repaid me for all my questioning of other runners and hikers across the canyon by peppering me with questions about the trails.  I answered them all, nearly breathless. 

The beginning of my hellish climb up to Top of the World



Very excited to reach Top of the World where I refilled on water


I ran across Top of the World utterly fatigued.  Plopping one foot in front of the other, I didn’t feel good about my run, despite the great fun I had through the first two parks.  In Aliso/Wood I felt weak, like all my training wasn’t helping, otherwise I wouldn’t be so beaten.  I had to remind myself that the climb up to Top of the World was extreme and Calico’s 30k doesn’t have anything like that. 

I didn’t “fly” down Meadows like I prefer.  But I did run it all the way to Wood Canyon.  I took a few hike breaks along the last trail (Aliso Creek, which I don’t really consider a trail since it’s paved).  I arrived to Aliso/Wood Ranger station more mentally beaten than physically.  Since my husband couldn’t pick me up right away, I had plenty of time to stretch and relish the breezy shade.  And soon there was a smile back on my face. 

Meadows Trail


Sitting outside Ranger Station in Aliso/Wood Canyons Park


Elevation Profile:  18.53 miles logged, +3,515 / –3,509
station to station 12-11-2010, Elevation - Distance

Station to Station 12-11-2010


  1. Wow, what a great adventure and seeing a bobcat, I have never seen one of those!

    Great job in navigating the trails look amazing!

    I love that you take the bus to the trail head!

  2. I agree, what an adventure - I love that you did that.

    You look so happy in that last shot with the warm autumn leaves in the background.

  3. Sweet run! Loved the view from Bommer Ridge.

  4. Awesome run! I've been wanting to connect Crystal Cove/Laguna with Aliso but have yet to do that...
    Love the pics...pretty surprised at how much wildlife you encountered as I never see anything that cool in Crystal/Laguna

  5. Holy crap! That is quite the run! The elevation to the top of the world looks intense!! I hope you feel good about your run now.. because that is intense you have got to be in some serious condition to take that 18.53 milage on.

    The view from Emerald Falls Trail is amazing and that crazy Albert Einstin chrismas picture is awesome. :) A freakin bobcat (glad you are safe) and a shoeless man.. your yesterday was rockin! Great post!

    I didn't know they had a run in Calico Ghost Town I went to check the site out once on the way to Vegas but was too cheap to pay the enterance fees. :)

  6. Wow, you are one tough trail running chica! What a fun adventure you had!

  7. You did that the hard way by dropping into Emerald Canyon and then going to the end of Bommer Ridge into Laguna Bowl! Impressive!

  8. LOL Glenn! I wasn't trying to do it the hard way : ) What I really wanted was to cross Laguna Canyon at a stop light, that's why I picked Laguna Bowl.

  9. Thanks Whitney, it definately was a fun adventure. I'm not that tough though, just a little loco. I come up with these ideas that I won't let go of until I do them.

  10. Thanks for commenting Kate. You made it sound so exciting. It was fun reading your comment, it made me think, omg, I did that! What was I thinking???

  11. Thanks for reading Rachel -- I was wondering if you were out there on Saturday. I talked with a young woman at the ranger station before taking off and wondered later if it was you. I guess I've been pretty lucky as far as seeing wildlife. So far, I've seen at least 5 bobcats, 1 of them on Saturday and the other in Laguna Wilderness (the other three at Aliso/Woods)

  12. Thanks Trail Jogger -- I feel very lucky to have 3 awesome parks so close by.

  13. Thanks for reading Green Girl. I love reading your comments. You always make me feel like I did something great. You are so supportive.

  14. Thanks for commenting Stuart, always appreciate them. I love the bus thing too. The bus trip alone could be an entire blog entry, it's such a fun and strange adventure (I didn't grow up riding buses so this is new to me). And what a deal! $1.50

    Always looking for new adventures. (but not too rad : )

  15. Unbelievable run! I really enjoyed reading this and looking at all the photos. Thanks for sharing. A true running adventure. Have a good week!

  16. Now that's a running adventure! You should consider arranging running tours. I think you'd be good at it. I loved your pictures too. But, that elevation chart was just a little scary! :)

  17. Impressive run! Next time I'm "walking" around the trails, I'll show you an easier way to connect the parks, and include Quail Hill, too.

  18. Thanks for reading LMC. And thanks for the compliments. Don't think I could arrange a running tour though, runners would have to wait for the tour guide (I have lots of pictures I call, "waiting for Lauren" )

  19. Thanks Tom! I suspect it's much easier to connect via West Ridge/Cholla -- I just don't know if there's a light to cross at that end. Climbing up to the park at Top of the World WAS A BEAR!

    Would love to do a four park run. Tell me when you're ready. Maybe beginning of February? I'll call it "The Grand Slam."

  20. Thanks Johann. I appreciate you stopping by and reading. You have a good week too!!