Okay, I’m wondering if the English translation for Cholla is SATAN. I’ve come across many things on the trail, and I’ve learned to stay away from many of those things – like say for example, Stinging Nettle. You would have thought by now, I would have learned about Cholla Cactus, AKA Jumping Cholla. I have after all, run Cholla Trail on countless occasions. But I have only admired this treacherous plant from afar. That is, until Tuesday morning.
There I was, minding my own business, running along Aliso Creek Trail in Aliso Canyon and I passed by a Cholla in bloom. It has such a lovely (deceitful) flower. I stopped and went back to snap a photo. I took one from afar, then I pushed in close, stepping beneath the lower branches for a close-up.
I stepped away oblivious to what had transpired beneath the bush. But I realized right away with the first step that I took. Ouch! It felt like needles were poking the bottom of my foot. I glanced down to see that I had stepped on a fallen Cholla branch. And I could not kick it off. After some attempts using my other foot, I managed to break the branch away. What remained were dozens of Cholla thorns penetrating the soles of my shoes – poking ALL THE WAY THROUGH the insoles. I could not take another step without prickly pain. AND my attempts at releasing the thorns were futile. They poked quick and deep into my fingertips, drawing immediate blood. I took a rock and tried to shave off the Cholla thorns. But that only broke them at the surface, still leaving them deep in my shoe. Finally, I found a thick branch that I used to pry the suckers out of my shoes.
STILL! One little thorn dug into my forefoot after I put my shoe back on and tried to run. After unlacing them two or three more times and trying to dislodge the unseen thorn with my bloody fingers, I sat at the side of the trail nearly beaten. Forty-five minutes already wasted dealing with these demons, I whimpered a bit before pulling myself back in the game. “It’s just an obstacle,” I told myself. “Figure out a way!”
When I walked I could not feel the thorn. When I ran, it jabbed hard into my forefoot. Obviously, it was buried beneath the insole padding. So instead of finding the little sucker, I decided to crush the little it where it hid. With a rock and some spirited anger, I smashed down into my insole, then laced up my shoes once more. Success. Obstacle defeated. I was off again, for a shorter run then planned, with a loop totaling 8.39 miles (I guessed 8.4!!)
I am certain to never stop anywhere near a Cholla cactus again. Never, ever, ever!