I almost didn’t make it out the door for my Sunday run. I so didn’t want to make the drive, 30 minutes of it off-road. And I so much didn’t want to climb a mountain. Why on Earth did I go? Because I knew that I would love it. Eventually.
The time read 7:10 when I finally hit the dirt road into Trabuco Canyon. From there it was another slow, bumpy thirty minutes to the trailhead. Two other cars were driving out of the canyon. I saw no others driving in. But at the Holy Jim lot, a group of 8 or so hiker/runners set off up Holy Him. And a few men and possibly their young sons prepped for a hike.
I took off up Trabuco Trail, destination: West Horsethief. Seriously, I would prefer never to look at that trail again, much less travel up it. It’s miserable I tell ya! Miserable! I decided to run a counter-clockwise loop because I’d rather run the remote trails first and the more travelled ones later when I’m more apt to get sick or injured. (I never see anyone on Horsethief, always see people on Holy Jim.) And so, I trotted up Trabuco, through shady forest and then rocky desert terrain, without a single thought of Horsethief. The flies were minimal, the breezes delightful, and the scenery gorgeous.
I didn’t even think about Horsethief when I finally arrived after three miles. It’s just too steep and relentless to think about. I also didn’t fret about travelling up the switchback too slowly. I didn’t think about “how much longer.” I played my old trick – one foot in front of the other, until the misery was gone. And when the misery was finally gone, elation set in. That’s what I was waiting for.
I carried with me about 110 fluid ounces of liquids, and picked up an additional 40 on The Main Divide from a secret stash. It’s tough to run carrying so much water. I’ve got to do it on these hot summer days. And I do love The Main Divide. I’d carry 500 fluid ounces if I had to. I get views of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. I can see Lake Elsinore and Lake Matthews. And of course, off to my left, there’s the grand Pacific Ocean.
My original intent was to run The Main Divide all the way to Santiago Peak. The towers stood out in the distant, seemingly within reach. I knew it was going to be a long day, but felt confident that I had the strength to do this. I didn’t see anyone along The Main Divide. The weather heated up and I rested twice in the shade to cool my body temperature.
At about mile 8.5 I decided to cut off some of The Main Divide with a so-called short-cut up Upper Holy Jim. The trek was steep. And the trek was hot, terribly hot. It felt like my inner body temperature was beginning to boil. I let out a groan when I crashed through an elaborate spider web, and stopped in every spot of shade to cool down. But it seemed that I’d heat up again within minutes. My eyes stung from salt dripping off my forehead. And to top it off, I felt lightheaded. With no relief in the incline, shade completely disappeared. I stopped in the sandy single-track, washed my face with water from my handheld and poured the remaining over my head. 80 fluid ounces down, I still had 70 ounces in my pack to go.
And then I started to see colored spots, yellow to be exact. That’s when I decided that I didn’t really feel like almost dying today. Making the peak was just not worth getting heat sick or worse. Without another moment’s thought, I turned around and began trotting back down Upper Holy Jim. I noticed a truck racing along the divide, kicking up clouds of dust. Other than that, the mountains were desolate. Then suddenly, two hikers popped out in front of me as they made their way up the trail. The girl (or rather, young woman) was red-faced, desperate, she said, for a breeze. The boy (oops, I mean, young man) was smiling, but struggling too I could tell from the heat. It was afternoon about 12 noon. I cautioned the two hikers to cool down occasionally, and went on, like a mother, to instruct them in the methods of cooling off.
About a mile later, I arrived to Holy Jim, for a long, hot run down the giant switchback for a total run of 15.27 miles. I met and chatted with a hiker with long white hair making his way up Holy Jim. He was well equipped with fluids. Yay! I made it to my truck healthy, having avoided getting sick, happy that I had made the decision to turn back. Pretty quickly, my legs cramped and continued to mildly cramp throughout the day. More proof that I really needed to turn back. Here’s to knowing when to turn back!!