I may not look like it in this picture – but I HATE West Horsethief. I really do. That trail is a vampire. It sucks the blood right out of me and leaves me there in the dirt to die. So, ask me this: Why did I decide to take on Horsethief in the middle of the afternoon during the summertime? I have a good explanation for that. Well, I don’t know how good. To make it quick, I needed to pick up our youngest son in Wildomar on Sunday. Just so happens that The Saddleback Mountains separates me from that destination. Normally, I would have driven around the mountains. On Sunday, I thought, “Heck – I’ll take a short cut. I’ll drive to the top of the mountain. AND, while I’m at the top of the mountain, I’ll run back down into the canyon . . . then run back up to the ridge – via Horsethief.”
What the heck!!!
What. Was. I. Thinking?
I knew right away that I was probably in trouble. I felt miserable at 1:30 PM climbing up The Main Divide in 100+ F degree weather. And I felt pretty miserable running down Trabuco (because the terrain was so rocky I couldn’t get a foothold!!!). But it certainly was GORGEOUS. Trabuco is awesomely beautiful. Enough to forget about the potential hell that awaited.
My real troubles began as soon as I set foot upon Horsethief. I yearned for shade. SHADE. SHADE. SHADE. I felt that I could not bear the trek another step. But I had to. Had to. I was in a canyon with no way out, but UP. I pretty much hated every second of it. But I plugged forward, else fall down in the dirt and cry. Hell, I tell you! Hell. When I finally reached a bit of shade, there were no branches strong enough to lean against and hold me up. I tried to hunch over and grab my knees. But my hands just flew off my knees from the sweat. Finally, I just decided that in order to cool off, to stop my insides from boiling over on this ridiculous incline, I needed to stop and SIT in the shade. And this is what I did. I sat until I could feel my body temperature decline.
And then, I finally made it. I reached The Main Divide. I wasn’t giddy, and I wasn’t elated. Instead, I bushwhacked my way to the water stash. I was so grateful to find the stash was still there. Thing was, the tarp was thrown off and the tens of gallons were exposed to the hot heat. After washing my face in HOT water, I poured a jug over my head. And then I filled my pack with this hot water. I didn’t mind taking the time to put the tarp back over the water. I was in no hurry to continue on. Eventually, I took off on The Main Divide in sopping wet clothes, but thankfully with a body temperature declining.
As the gnats swarmed my face, I caught a clear glimpse of Lake Elisnore. Not far from the lake, our youngest son played, joyfully I’m sure, with his friend at his nearby home in Wildomar. I couldn’t wait to get there. But move, I could hardly manage. I ran the flats and I ran the downhills. I didn’t run quickly though. And I didn’t even much look at my garmin for pace. Misery. This is what I was training for. How many more steps? Don’t think about that. Just one foot in front of the other, and then I will be done . . .
That took FOREVER. But I made it. Indeed I did.
When I drove home that evening, I drove around the mountain instead of up and over. I was done with mountains for the day!