Saturday, I ventured up to Santiago Peak with my writing friend Elaine, and her three friends, two of which like herself are avid hikers. We met at the mouth of Trabuco Canyon, piled in my truck and drove that bumpy road to the trailhead. The two wild turkeys were still in the Holy Jim lot, the same turkeys I met four weeks prior when I broke my arm in that very canyon. My new trail partners got a kick out of the birds and snapped photos away like I did the first time I encountered them.
We got a later start than I usually take to the peak, which I was glad for, as I appreciated sleeping in. Sleeping in meant waking at 6:45 and leaving the house by 7:30 AM. I much prefer that to waking at ass o’clock in the morning, especially now that the heat is gone. (Oh, I’m loving winter!)
The creek flowed heavily, with plenty of little falls along the way. Where there has been dry, rocky dirt for so, so, long, we made about five stream crossings. None of the group, except for myself had been to Santiago Peak, or Holy Jim Trail for that matter, so it was wonderful to see people first discovering this wonderful place. People are often surprised that we have these gem canyons right here in The O.C. Most people think of beach communities, gated neighborhoods and meticulously planned out urban areas when they think of Orange County. And for these reasons, we have a bad reputation. But there is so much more – like Holy Jim, and Santiago Peak!
It was a good climb on that never-ending switchback to The Main Divide. We stopped once by the spring that has so often saved my life. And while I whipped out my protein bar, the others pulled out their nuts and chocolates. I shoved some of the chocolates into my pocket for the remaining hike up. They were dark chocolate balls filled with fruit juice.
Reaching the top of Holy Jim does not mean the climb is over, in fact, it gets steeper, and took a good long while to finally summit. On the east side of the mountain, we had to walk through some snow and ice. And I gingerly made my way through it, so fearful that I’d slip and fall and re-injure my arm.
At the summit, we took a seat upon the rocks and looked out on the immense space of ranges, and also to the great sea of clouds covering the Pacific Ocean. Just the top of Catalina Island poked out above the clouds. I pulled out another protein bar while the others took out their sandwiches, canisters of nuts, oranges, berries (blackberries and raspberries). I think I even saw cheese and other goodies. I had to giggle to myself on how differently hikers and trail runners do the nutrition thing. I ate my protein bar, and had my fair share of cashews (love cashews!). We all posed for pictures, and then finally left Santiago Peak at 2:30PM. We had just three hours to get back by dark. Needless to say, we hauled ass down the mountain arriving to the truck just at dark. By 5:30 PM, we were driving that dark canyon road back out to civilization. We picked up two other hikers and their dog, who rode in the bed of my truck back to the lot. Turkeys were gone, or up in the trees I suspect, and surprisingly, there were still several cars left in the lot. I didn’t realize that many people still played in the mountains after dark.
I have to say that it was such a thrill hiking with the three ladies who are what I’ll call international hikers. They all met training for and hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Africa last spring. One of the ladies spoke of heading off to hike St. james’ trail in Spain some time over the next year. I learned about a lot of wonderful hikes all over the U.S. as well, many of them mule supported, which I can definitely get used to. Funny thing was, they called me crazy and teased me about my trail running, and they are just as crazy -- hiking elevations like Kilimanjaro with a summit of 19,000’.
Though the trail running community and hiking community are very closely related, and there are many crossovers, and much is the same with the too groups (like we are both kinda crazy), much is different between the two groups. And I’m telling you, I’m going to be heading over to the other side more often.
Some differences I noticed and giggled about (& I realize this is not true about everyone – just generalizing for the fun of it):
Trail runners want to know the elevation gain, hikers want to know the elevation (I spent some time changing the settings on my garmin).
Trail runners want to know how much time has elapsed, hikers want to know the time of day.
Trail runners wear the smallest packs possible & cram everything in, hikers have plenty of room in their packs
Trail runners (generally) don’t use poles, hikers do.
Trail runners bring boring food like bars and gels, hikers bring fun food like nuts, cheese & berries.
Trail runners rarely stop, hikers enjoy stops.
Trail runners put electrolytes in their water and are known to frequently run out of fluids, trail runners drink straight water and bring plenty of it.
15.43 miles, 4,102’ elevation gained