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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yaeger Mesa Run

While running The Main Divide in The Saddleback Mountains, I always notice what looks like a meadow, far off high up on the other side of the canyon.  I think I’ve pointed it out to everyone I’ve run with up there.  I always say, “I want to go THERE.” 

I used Google Earth to try and figure out the way.  I couldn’t make “heads or tales” out of that side of the mountain.  So, I surveyed my Facebook running friends, and Greg Hardesty told me that he could take me there,  the place called Yaeger Mesa. (Named after a miner Jake Yaeger who had his cabin on the mesa in the late 1800’s)

I was thrilled.  I heard from others it was a tough route.  Tough?  What’s tough?  I can do tough.  I just might be a little slow.  I thought nothing about resting up yesterday and not running.  I put in over ten miles instead

Anyway, we got a small group together for a loop up to Yaeger Mesa (Michael Perlongo, Robert Whited, Daniel Grieves, Greg and myself, plus Mark Rohren who ran the loop in the opposite direction.)

Here is the gist of our run up the mountain.  It was STEEP.  And I could not keep up with the guys.  I was pretty much way out of my league among trail runners.  But that’s okay.  This “run” pushed me harder than I would have ever pushed myself.  And the guys were kind and positive.  They didn’t let more than a quarter mile grow between us.

Running Bell View Trail:

Waiting for Lauren on Bell Ridge:

After running from summit to summit, I gave up hoping the next one was the last.  Some climbs, I used my hands and upper body strength to move upward.  Other climbs, I’d go up several steps, then slide back a couple.  During some climbs I actually had to rest for a minute! 

Mama Mia!

One foot in front of the other, up, up, up . . .

Sure the climb was tough, but the views were grand.  It was beautiful and it was remote.  We had shade cover for some of the way.   Other times I suffered from the heat, especially since I dressed for a cool day.  And we actually did come across Mark who ran this loop in the opposite direction.  As the guys chatted I looked beyond toward another climb and asked, “Do we need to go up that?”  Mark confirmed it, but said that the climb would be the worst of it.

The worst of it?  I thought two climbs back, scrambling on my hands and feet, grabbing at tree stumps was the worst of it.

Hardy laugh.

View of Orange County (& even Catalina Island way out there):

Standing before “the worst of it,” but not our last climb.  Left to right:  Michael (foreground), Robert (background), Greg, Mark, Daniel:


And then FINALLY, after only about six miles, we came to a natural arch made from the trees – an entrance sort of, into a shady, lush paradise.  Greg offered me the lead to run it on into Yaeger Mesa. 

Ferns grew along a single track of dark moist dirt.  Pines towered above us like giants.  Damp leaf litter added to the fairy-tale-like glamour.  And California Bay Laurel trees freshened the air with a delightful aroma. 

It was different on this side of the canyon.  The smells were different, the dirt was different, even the pine cones were different (much smaller, and without sharp edges).  The down hill was so steep we slid in areas.  And we stopped occasionally to smell the pine cones, or the bay leaves. 

Running down to Yaeger Mesa:

The climbs were WELL WORTH IT.  When we finally reached the mesa, I was utterly shocked to find that what I thought was grass from afar was actually a huge field of ferns – ferns that can take the sun!  This time of year, they were brown.  But I’ve seen from afar that most of the year, they are bright green. 

Yaeger Mesa:

We attempted to make our way to a smaller, lower mesa.  But instead we found ourselves at the bottom of Trabuco Canyon.  I recognized the canyon walls on the other side, but I just couldn’t figure out where we were (even though I’ve run Trabuco Trail countless times.)  I needed to walk across the trail, turn around to view it like I usually do.  Then I immediately recognized where we were.  How many times had I ran past, without even noticing, the trail that goes up to Yaeger Mesa?  Too many to count. 

Running down into Trabuco Canyon:

We refilled on Greg’s hidden water stash near Holy Jim, then made our way out Trabuco Canyon Road.  Finally, we began the climb back up the canyon side to get to our cars in Robinson Ranch.  Though the climb was not nearly as tough as the way up to the mesa, still I found it extremely difficult, and rather warm in some parts.  What a great relief to finally make our way DOWN Bell View Trail to our cars. 

Good hard fun!




  1. It's been a while since I'vice Ben up in the Santa Anas, but they ate filed with surprises!

    1. They sure are full of surprises Glenn. :) And it's a relatively small mountain range. I've only touched tiny parts too.

  2. I like the look of that trail. I'd like to do that one in the near future. Good group of trail runners there.

    1. For sure Hank. The north facing side is a different world out there!

  3. I hate that I missed that run; I saw it posted on the Trailheadz site and was planning on going and then my car broke down. If you're up for it again in the future, I'd love to tag along.

    1. Ahh, what a bummer Rachel! It would have been great to see you, and have another female in the group. I hope your car is fixed (I just hate cars -- way too expensive : )