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Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Devil Wears Cholla Cactus

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! Smile with tongue out