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Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Hearty Welcome Back from Holy Jim

I’ve really been wanting to get back to the Santa Ana Mountains for some mountain trail running, specifically up Holy Jim Trail.  I was fortunate to have a taker for the run, Jeremy

We arrived to the base of the mountains, Trabuco Creek flowing loudly beneath cloudy skies.  I kept the two layers of long sleeves on (plus a short sleeve that I thought for sure I’d be running in soon) and we headed up Holy Jim.  I rarely run in long sleeves than say, more than a half hour.  CIMG0253

I was surprised how much easier it was to make that gigantic switch-back of a climb, running much of it, compared to the last and only time I “ran” it before (the Saddleback Marathon). 

We crossed back and forth across the stream when rain began to fall.  Fortunately, we had plenty of tree cover at first.  When the switch-back began, the clouds were so thick there was no viewing the canyons below. 






Several other crazy people made their way up Holy Jim – at least two mountain bikers (it’s kind of a blur now) and countless hikers.  I could have counted them, but didn’t, let’s just say there were lots.  Some were smiling, especially the kids, but others had looks on their faces like they wondered what the heck they had gotten themselves into.

And the rain fell a little harder.  And the wind blew a little colder.  We were completely drenched by the time we reached the top of Holy Jim.  What a surprise to find out that trail measures nearly five miles!  Great training trail.  I seriously thought it was a little over a mile, maybe two miles and the reason it kicked my butt last time was because I was so dang tired by the time I reached it (at about mile 10).

On the Main Divide, I finally took out some gloves and a beanie to wear beneath my cap.  That’s when I found out my camera didn’t work, as everything in my pockets were drenched, including the camera.  I didn’t even want to think about my ipod.  Fortunately my phone still worked.  Water poured from Jeremy’s glove when he clenched his fist.

Oh the fun of running an exposed mountain range in the cold rain and wind! Smile  When the Main Divide snaked to the other side, facing Lake Elsinore, it warmed up some as we were protected by the wind.    Still, I really couldn’t feel my legs.  We just kept on moving, hoping that at each turn West Horse Thief would suddenly appear.  Visibility was pretty low.  I mean we could see where we ran, but we could not see off into the distance.  Then glory, glory, West Horse Thief seemed to appear out of  nowhere. 

The run down was glorious, though it was wet and it was cold, and it was rocky.  Toward the bottom of the mountain dozens of orangish-brown salamanders made their way across the muddy trail, away from the stream.  I could have sworn that I saw one salamander with a worm in its mouth.  I desperately wished that my camera worked, and thoughts ran through my mind how I could collect one or two of these creatures and bring them home to the boys.  But I had no container, no way to keep them moist for the drive home (and believe me I was dreaming about turning that heater on full-blast in my truck).

With about a mile and a half remaining, I got whipped by Stinging Nettle.  I thought the reason it stung so badly was because my skin was wet.  Soon the little bumps appeared, and the stinging didn’t disappear like the last time the plant attacked down in San Juan Capistrano.  It felt like a thousand microscopic needles pricking my leg over and over again.  But the pain was very bearable, as my main mission, to finish this run, was still at hand.

Finally seemingly out of nowhere, 14 miles after we started, we ran up on to the parking lot. 

Great run, but a very difficult run, mostly because of the weather.  As promised I drove with the heater running full-blast, all the way home.  I might also add a funny side note:  the skies were blue as I drove home, not a single drop came down upon the windshield.  It took me a long time to finally warm up also at home.  8:30 PM, my leg still stings from the Nettle. 

It was all worth it though.  Holy Jim, I’ll be back!

Finally toward end of run, camera begins to work somewhat (all the pictures turned out mostly blurry)CIMG0278

Elevation Profile:  Holy Jim to Main Divide, West Horse Thief to Trabuco Trail.Holy Jim 5-15-2011, Elevation - Distanceholy jim satellelite loop 5 15 11


  1. What a beautiful, beautiful run. My favorite part was the tree cover.

    I'm sorry you got stung, though. ::hugs::

  2. Oh it was a cold one today. It dumped today! I didn't know it was supposed to rain. :) love running in the rain though! You look like you had a ton of fun! I am glad you camera started working again. Beautiful Pix. :)

  3. Ha, now that makes me jealous! I would so love to run that with you, rain or no rain. Maybe one day...year...life. The photos are great. Hope your camera is OK. Mine seems to die and then fix itself again as it gets dry. I suppose that will continue for some time only and then it will just die. I can't wait for June when my trail season will start.

  4. After a day of looking back that run, we are so lucky to be able to run in such a beautiful place. I would loved to look around a little more, but I didn't want to step on one the salamanders who felt it necessary to sleep on the trail.

  5. Thanks for reading Green Girl! I loved the tree cover too. : )

  6. Thanks for stopping by Kate! I'm not usually a big fan of running in the rain. But I love, love, love running in the mountains, some rain come on! : )

  7. Thanks for reading Johann. You were right. Camera is working now. If you ever come to So. California, I take you on this run -- it is truly beautiful.

  8. Thanks for the company & for reading Jeremy. Those salamanders were dang cute. I would have hated stepping on one. I was looking down mostly running down that rocky Horsetheif though -- afraid of falling : )

  9. At least you went the right way on West Horsethief. Down! Great run! How was the road into Holy Jim?

  10. Definately the right way on Horsethief. Before this run, I debated which was harder, Holy Jim or Horsethief. I have to say Horsethief.

    The road to Holy Jim goes all the way through now. And it is graded better, much smoother than I ever remember. But I've never been the driver, only passenger.