click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Maple Springs / Modjeska Peak Out-And-Back

I look forward to my mountain runs.  I enjoy them so much that occasionally I break the cardinal rule – the buddy rule.  Always run with someone.  Problem is, sometimes I find it difficult to find a buddy to run mountain trails.  That’s understandable.  It just takes so much time out of the day, not to mention, it’s a tough feat.

Since I broke the cardinal rule today, I was sure to run prepared on this early morning, cold-weathered run.  Funny thing . . . I took off onto Maple Springs the same time as a Boy Scout Troop.  They were on their third training hike for an upcoming 70 mile hike.  For those unfamiliar with the Scouts, their motto is “Be Prepared” and their number one rule is the “buddy system.” (I was a Scout as a child).

Heading up Maple Springs alongside the “boys” (& men):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I ran the canyon (which is mainly paved) without music because I wanted complete awareness of my surroundings.  I figured if I’m going to get into trouble (ie. mountain lion, a human with bad intent, etc) it’s going to be in the canyon with its high mountain walls and overall enclosed feeling. 

But I did not fear.  The canyon was breathtakingly beautiful.  The maple’s yellow leaves had mostly turned brown.  The creek ran strong.  Colorful birds swooped down onto the road and rustled about in the brush.  Good thing I know that birds make loud sounds in the brush.  Used to be I didn’t know the difference between the sound of a bird/small animal in the brush (because they are noisy) compared to a larger animal, say a buck.  It’s kind of like knowing the sound of a rattlesnake.  Before I knew what their rattles sounded like, EVERYTHING sounded like a rattlesnake – cicadas sounded like rattlesnakes.  Once you hear a rattler’s rattle though, you KNOW exactly what it sounds like.

Long after passing the Boy Scouts, I heard something loud tramping through the brush and I knew it was not a bird or squirrel.  It was branch-breaking loud and it stopped me in my tracks.  I listened for a bit, looked closely down at the stream, then took off cautiously up the canyon.  I figured it was probably a deer as I’ve heard that kind of loud, almost clumsy, branch-breaking sound before, and it was always a deer.  Still, I’ve never heard a mountain lion make its way through the brush, so there’s always that fear.  So, I took out my pepper spray, made sure my knife was in instant reach and continued up the canyon.

Scenes from the canyon:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Attempting a stream pose:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA


Camera timer is ticking & I can’t make it to the spot in time : )SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The climb to the Main Divide was peaceful.  It’s loneliness was lovely.  I dropped my camera once.  I took in awesome mountain views of several Southern California counties.  Pretty much nothing ran through my mind.  And even though I carried a pack on my back, Maple Springs lifted all my weight off my shoulders.   

I noticed gray, bushy-tailed squirrels scurry up and down trees.  I saw these wonderful black and white birds with red head-tops that I’ve never seen before.  And I saw snow in the distance! 

A perfect place for a picnic (or photo):SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Quickly scrambling for my camera to catch this shot of the moon as the clouds swiftly moved to cover it:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Nearing the top of Maple Springs:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I reached the top of Maple Springs and the Main Divide, a place known as “Four Corners” at the same time as a group of runners came up Harding Truck Trail.  They were a happy bunch.  When I asked if they were part of a running group, one guy answered, “No, we’re just a bunch of dumb asses who thought it was a good idea to run up here in the freezing cold.” 

I might add that it was dang cold on the Main Divide and the wind blew fiercely.  “Well,” I answered, “I’m a dumb ass who thought it was a good idea to do it alone.”  They took off ahead of me to Modjeska Peak while I attempted another posed picture that didn’t turn out so great.  But I didn’t want to mess around too much trying to get a good picture, as dark clouds were rolling in, and I could see a rainbow in the distance.  I did not want to run down this mountain in a storm.

Meeting some runners as they come up Harding Truck Trail to Four Corners intersection:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Four Corners before taking off to Modjeska Peak:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I ran up to Modjeska Peak joyfully, taking so many pictures of the snow that you’d think I’d never seen snow.  I’ve seen plenty of snow in my life.  BUT I have never run trails in the snow.  There wasn’t a lot of snow, but the thrill of it made me forget about that wind whipping my hair onto my face. 

When I reached the peak, the group of runners were starting to make their way down.  I took a couple photos, then dropped my camera.  That was the end of my camera.  I couldn’t get it to work after that. (That’s number two camera killed on the trail!)




View from Modjeska Peak:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Santiago Peak behind me:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The weather grew colder as I ran down the mountain.  About 1 or 2 miles down a biker making his way up said, “Lauren?  Is that Lauren?  I thought I saw your truck.” 

I wasn’t in thinking mode at the moment and wondered, “Who do I know that rides?  Think, think, think . . . “  I couldn’t think of anyone!  And then as I approached I couldn’t believe my luck.  It was my good friend Tom Fangrow!  I laughed out loud.  What are the chances that we would meet on this empty, freezing cold mountain road?  To me the chances seemed pretty slim.  I just had to have a picture of this chance meeting, but with my camera broken thought that wasn’t going to happen until I remembered my phone!  And click, I had it.  Tom was off for a big loop, down some very tricky switch back that we ran together with some other friends two summers ago.  I could barely do it back then.  And I was off down Maple Springs for the remaining 6 or so miles. 

Meeting Tom on the Trail:SPhoto270

Another delightful run for the records; this one was finished off with light rain.  18.06 miles (29.07 km) ran happily, joyfully, playfully . . .

My Activities Maple Springs to Modjesko Peak & back 12-17-2011, Elevation - Distance


  1. What a nice surprise to run into you today! Glad you had a safe run. Great pictures. It almost looks like you could have skied down from Modjeska!

  2. I wouldn't worry about mountain lions. They are stalkers. Like a cat. Have you ever heard your cat when it sneaks up on prey? LOL.

  3. Thanks for reading Tom! It was a super surprise to see you. I think I could have skied down Modjeska! I'm hoping to get up there again soon!

  4. What you say is very true Glenn. : )