TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Unspeakable Beauty (Trail Running in the Saddleback Mountains)

To bed early (9:00 AM – oh the glory!), I woke at 4 AM.  I hoped to make the drive to the Holy Jim trailhead by 5:40.  But I lazed around the house too long, drinking coffee, casually dressing, that I didn’t arrive until 5:50.  (At least I planned ahead and got my gas the night prior).

On my offroad drive into Trabuco Canyon, I noticed a smoldering camp fire.  A slight breeze blew through the canyon and I didn’t want to take my chances that this fire might spread.  Sure, I could escape, but what about my truck and all those cabins nestled into the canyon.    First off, and more importantly, who sets an illegal fire in the first place, then doesn’t completely extinguish it???  If you’re going to set an illegal fire, be DANG SURE TO PUT IT OUT.  I don’t mean to be judgmental, but am I wrong? Utterly annoyed, I turned my truck around.  Kicking dirt at the fire didn’t do much, as the dirt was compacted and dry.  Remembering that I had plenty of water in my truck, I eventually doused out the fire and headed onward into the canyon.  Not only did these careless fire makers risk a disaster, but they also cost me time.  Oh, the humanity!!!

I arrived to Holy Jim Parking lot, utterly alone.  As I strapped on my vest, I heard voices in the distance and wondered, who the heck is playing in the creek at this hour?  When I finally set out, I saw two runners coming into the lot.  I knew both by sight.  One of the men went to college with my husband, the other I’ve seen running all over the mountains.  Though we are more acquaintances than anything else, I can tell you, it was sure nice to see to familiar faces in a desolate canyon at this hour.  We chatted for a short bit and headed off in opposite directions.
 
I took off up Holy Jim trail, a relentless five-mile uphill switchback to The Main Divide (a truck trail that meanders back and forth behind and front of the mountain with Orange and Riverside County Views).

I have NEVER noticed this sign before (go figure):
More Holy Jim, switchback after switchback, through forest and desert-like terrain:
Looks like the spirit of Caballo Blanco making his way through this canyon (notice the horse head shape of the clouds):

The scenery was so beautiful this morning, I wasted much time taking photos.  I also took some extra time working on form – that is keeping my head and shoulders even with my hips while making my way up hill.  This form felt awkward for some time.  I felt like I was in a marching band, and also like my rear end was sticking out.  But when I checked, I found my column straight.  Odd.
 
I did not see one person travelling up or down Holy Jim.  This of course was perfectly fine with me.  When I’m working on form, I don’t really appreciate company of strangers because I don’t want competition to take over.  The mountains were desolate on this wonderful morning.  Peaceful and serene.  After the parking lot, I didn’t speak a single word.

The final stretch of Holy Jim:

I made it to the top of Holy Jim (Bear Springs) ten minutes slower than my slow time.  Great relief set in as I made my way along The Main Divide.  My ankle cause minor pain, nothing terrible.  But still it worried me.  I took two ibuprofen (Yes, I know that is a no-no).  Overall the Main Divide was unspeakably beautiful.  I could not help but stop to take a few pictures.  I was after all running ABOVE the clouds.  I can’t think of anything that compares to running above the clouds.  It’s a surreal experience running up and down, up and down those rolling hills for several miles.  The mere perfection of this beauty is simply mind-boggling.
   

At last I made it to the infamous West Horsethief.  What a relief!  I tried, and I tried oh so hard to become one with the land travelling down this difficult trail.  I loosened up; I kicked out the back.  And I did pretty dang good for a while.  Then when the fist-sized boulders set in, I began slipping and sliding.  Perhaps I should have slowed my pace.  But my goal was to keep my pace up down West Horsethief.  During races, I lose time going down this trail.  And I hate to lose time running down hill.  Perhaps I didn’t concentrate or focus hard enough.  I’m not sure.  But after several slips and slides, I finally fell.  Fortunately, I fell on my ass, which has lots of cushion.  After impact, I came down on my right wrist, which caused only minimal pain at first, and then it was over.  Even after the fall, I continued to slip and slide down West Horsethief – big bummer, but what a gigantic adventure! 

Despite this approximate 15 mile difficult terrain, I made it back to the truck with energy to spare.  Unfortunately, I’ve been icing my ankle off and on all night. 

Here’s to a quick healing --  here! here!!

Ready to descend on West Horsethief:
Running Holy Jim - Horsethie loop 6-15-2013, Elevation

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