TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Great Struggle

On the 7th day of my streak I drove up Ortega Highway, the main road into our local mountains for one of my favorite runs – The Candy Store “Loop.”  It’s a twenty mile route, and though I referred to it as a loop, it’s mostly out-and-back, with just two loops in between.  Basically, it’s 10 miles uphill, 10 miles downhill.

I easily found a profile from my historical stats (see below, since my garmin is broken).   I begin this run in Blue Jay Campground and run back down to the highway, across the street from “The Candy Store.”  Sure there’s some uphills on the way out, and a tiny bit of downhills on the way back.  But it feels like 100% pure uphill for those last ten miles

candy store loop

First things first, I stashed some water off Ortega Highway, at the turnaround point.  I wondered (fleetingly) whether I could pull off today’s run after a relatively tough eleven miles yesterday.  I didn’t dwell too much on my doubt.  That’s how I am.  I just do it, whether I think I can or not. 

The skies were gray, the weather cool and humid.  The ground was rocky, but I can do it now – run that rocky San Juan Trail.  I took the whole trail to Viejo Tie without tripping.  AND, I saw my first tarantula of the year.  This one was a lovely black velvety creature.  I’ve only ever seen brown tarantulas.  As a young girl, I once allowed a ranger in Joshua Tree to put one of these spiders on my arm.  I was the only Girl Scout to volunteer.  The other girls screeched as the tarantula crawled up and down my arm. 

I don’t think I would have let this one crawl along my arm today.  But I was eager to get in close for a good picture:

I felt a bit anxious running without a garmin today.  I should have at least worn a watch.  I had no idea how I was doing for time.  But I felt okay running along San Juan Trail.  From there, I hopped onto the Viejo Tie, a wonderful up and down, single track.  I came upon two trail running acquaintances on the Tie, as they took my route, but in the opposite direction.

Going out – view from San Juan Trail: 

I hit Chiquito Trail in seemingly decent time.  I took Chiquito up until I hit the San Juan Loop.  I felt good, strong in fact on the entire trip out.  I got a bit of rain.  I handled the technical trail with stable feet.  I took San Juan Loop for the climb up into the parking lot.  The climb was tough.  But it was NOTHING compared to what awaited me. 

The Viejo Tie:

Chiquito Trail:

Feeling good on Chiquito:

I could not, and I mean COULD NOT face up to the run back.  It has always been a struggle for me.  I can do it.  But the upcoming struggle produced much unwanted anxiety today.  As I took out my breakfast bar, which I ate on the run, I came up with my plan.  I couldn’t think about what I had to run.  I needed to CONQUER THE GROUND.  That is, continue to get trail behind me.  This mantra, “Conquer the ground,” took away my anxiety as I ran San Juan Loop back to Chiquito. 

San Juan Loop:

I ran much of the uphill, though slowly.  Several times I needed to hike.  I pushed myself off from giant boulders.  I grabbed at branches for support.  I knew as long as I could see the highway, I still had a heck of a long way to run to my next point, Chiquito Falls (which are dry).  Every time I thought that I couldn’t see the highway any longer, I would look behind me or to my left, and sure enough, there was the tiny road, way down there.  It was killing me!!  Finally, I decided I must not look for the road. 

Somewhere on my way to Chiquito Falls, I abruptly stopped.  I don’t recall why.  I just stopped.  A second later, I heard the rattling, and at that moment saw the snake coiling up in the middle of the trail several feet ahead.  I stepped forward for a closer picture.  The snake slithered toward me!  Stepping back, I took my picture further from the poisonous snake.  Then I waited until it calmed down and slithered away.  He rattled during his entire exit.  Well, that added some excitement to my run.  It actually helped take away some of the misery of this great struggle back to my truck.

The Rattler:

FINALLY, I made Chiquito Falls.  “Conquer the ground” wasn’t working for me anymore.  With a few more miles, a few more long miles, I told myself, all you have to do is “Do the time.”  A song by rapper T.I. came to mind where he sings, “Do the time, don’t let the time do you.”  He’s talking about prison time.  But on my run, that line seemed much more apropos to the few miles left on Chiquito.  I had to take the trail, not let it beat me up.  Just “do the time,” and it would eventually be over. 

Some of the boulders that litter Chiquito:

Just do the time.  Just do the time.  “Do the time, don’t let the time do you.”  After about a mile, I made the mistake and began looking forward.  I looked forward to the next point, the Viejo Tie / Chiquito intersection.  I knew I needed to cross over the dry creek bed twice, before I was even anywhere close to the tie.  Even then, it seemed unbearably long to meet up with the Tie.  I hiked often.  I breathed in a gnat through my nose.  Then when I took a deep breath through my mouth, I swallowed one of those dang gnats.  It wasn’t pretty.  No, indeed.  I was no lady.

I continued on with flies buzzing about my ear with a wanting, an unbearable longing for the Viejo Tie.   Finally, through the thick green forest, I saw it – the post!  The post!!!  I flew on past the Viejo Tie/Chiquito post, then hiked the uphill to the next flat.

“Two more deserts, just two more deserts and I reach San Juan Trail.”  Still looking forward (it was just too difficult not to – I was tired, I was hot), I had a lot of uphill before my next destination.  In between me and that spot are two stretches of trail that remind me of the desert.  They are dry.  They are brown.  And they are hot. 

The first desert felt miserably long.  I must have been delirious when I began to wonder if perhaps I had already traveled through the first desert without realizing it.  No such luck. 

Desert #2:

FINALLY, out of the desert, ready to run San Juan Trail back to my truck:

I began to see hikers making their way about on San Juan Trail.  I tripped semi-frequently on the rocks.  And I met a friendly group of teens who told me my pack was unzipped.  As a young girl zipped it up for me, one of the males asked, “Where did you run to?” When I told him “The Candy Store,”  he shook his head.  “The Candy Store???  That’s about ten miles from here!!!” 

To this I groaned, “I know.”  I got a good chuckle out of the teenagers.  My heart did not lighten when they shouted, “You’re almost done!!!”  Though it was great to meet a group of smiling faces.

I COULD NOT stop looking forward.  Just do the time.  Just do the time.  Don’t let the time do you.  But I did let the time do me.  The time chewed me up and spit me out.  I finally made it back to my truck, chaffed, and dirty.  My eyes stung terribly from a dribble of constant sweaty salt.  The best part was, I was finished.  The great struggle was over.  I had done my time.  I did the deed.  The last step was my prize (not to mention the adventure along the way).  And I was glad.  So very, very glad.

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