TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Chasing Euphoria

I mentioned recently receiving a sense of euphoria during one of my recent runs, though I don’t talk about that aspect of running much. It’s that feeling I get once in awhile on my runs. It’s a feeling of perfect intoxication, exhilarated sort of, but softly. It is more than happiness. It’s kind of an out of this world joy. Actually, it is simply pure joy, like I am at one with everything, that I understand and accept everything, that nothing is a problem -- everything is perfect -- the weather is perfect (whether it’s storming or sunny), my steps are perfect, the world is perfect. Oh wow, you would think this is the reason I run. But it’s not. I didn’t even know about this feeling until I had been running for a while. And even now I never know when this euphoria will hit on a run. I cannot go out there expecting it. And I certainly don’t run or chase after it. It’s just not something I can chase after and catch. It’s just an unexpected gift that happens occasionally. As a matter of fact, if I try and go after this feeling, or manufacture it by possibly running the same course, or doing the same thing that I was doing when it last happened, it will never hit me. It’s when I totally forget that this wonderful added gift of running even exists, that it gently hits me again.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHardly ever does this feeling come to me two times in a short period. But it did recently. Tuesday, March 22, just the second run after my last euphoria,  I set out on Tijeras Creek and ran down to Arroyo Trabuco for an out-and-back into O’Neil Park. From the onset, my step felt quicker than usual.  But I still looked forward to a long 12 plus mile run that would surely tire me out. It never really did that to me -- yes, I felt fatigued here and there, but never wiped out.  

The creeks were semi-full. The air was cool and breezy. Everything was green and the grass was tall. Though I wasn’t running quickly, the miles seem to pass quickly. I tend to break each way of this route into three portions, with the first portion measuring about 2.5 miles, which on the back is the last portion. It was during this last 2.5 mile portion, when I hit the shade after a quick downhill that the euphoria hit me. You can imagine my surprise and delight to have this happen so soon again. I just rode the wave.

12.12 miles run

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI know I said that I can’t chase after euphoria, and I wasn’t doing that when two days later I set out again on the same trails for the same out-and-back. Thursday, March 24, I just had a lot of spare time and wanted to go on a mindless run. Arroyo Trabuco is the perfect place to go on said mindless run. It’s not too dangerous – no cliffs to fall from and such. I know there wasn’t a chance in hell that the euphoria was going to hit again so soon, and on the same trails at that. But I did have a delightful run, and I would have done it again the next day if I did not have Old Goat 50 to work the next couple of days.  Though did not experience that intoxication that I call euphoria, I did feel in harmony with the land. I noticed flowers I hadn’t noticed before. I watched a roadrunner bird sprint about in the fields. And I crossed the creeks seamlessly without getting even a toe wet. One woman stood off to the side watching me move across the rocks, audibly nervous that I was going to fall clapped when I reached the shore. “Wow! Good job,” she exclaimed.

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Miles run: 12.29

What a week! And I’m almost caught up.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Palm Sunday Run

Sunday, March 20, I hit the trails after church for solo Palm Sunday run.  It was also the spring equinox, as well as, the Persian New Year (which I know because the majority of my students are Persian).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnyway, I thought it apropos to run Santiago Truck Trail and take the first steep unmarked single-track up to a cross monument that stands high above the trails there. Over time, people have placed a multitude of little items on the rocks that surround the cross – things like glass, and pieces of barbed-wire. I left the cross that was given to me at church that morning. It was made from palms in Tanzania.

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Though the hills were a struggle for me on Sunday. I felt at peace with them. From the monument, I ran out to the vulture crags where I took a seat on the ground beneath the flags flying nearby. The the flapping sound of these flags whipping around in the wind added even greater peace and calmness that I think I really needed. After taking in the view of The O.C. beneath these flags for at least twenty minutes, I headed back and came up on two snakes – one tiny black snake and another larger brown colored one. I also came upon three or four solo cyclists. Total miles run this Palm Sunday:  7.73  with 1,439 feet of elevation gained.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reversed

Saturday, March 19, I got out to Trabuco Canyon about 7AM to run my regular fourteen mile loop, but this time in reverse. Reversed the loop is: up Trabuco Trail, UP W. Horsethief (Mama Mia!), up and down The Main Divide, and then finally down Holy Jim (Joy, joy!)

Although I arrived fairly early to the Holy Jim lot, it was already full, except for one spot that I backed into next to the porta potty. There was a large group of hikers prepping for a hike to Santiago Peak via Holy Jim.  Seeing this made me a little glad that I had decided to reverse my loop with that many people going up (had to be more than twenty). Though I really do love people, I tend to shy away from them, as I prefer solitude.

So, I took off trotting up Trabuco Trail toward the trailhead when one by one, 4wd trucks began to pass me. One truck stopped, and the man inside rolled down his window and I thought I heard him ask, “You lift?” I almost answered, “Well, no, but I used to.” But I stopped myself short, thinking, “Now Lauren,  he’s NOT going to ask if you lift weights.” So, with my early morning diversified and bountiful vocabulary said, “Huh?”

Turns out he asked if I WANTED a lift. (Laughing). Then another driver asked if I wanted a ride. I chuckled and replied, “No thank-you, THIS is the goal,” and continued on running toward the Trabuco Trailhead where a dozen or so cars had already parked. It is very rare that even a single car is parked in this lot.

Well, a group of sixteen hikers were going up W. Horsethief this Saturday morning. And it turned out to be okay, in fact pleasurable going up that terrible, beautiful trail with sixteen others.  It’s actually comforting to suffer with others, even strangers, I think especially with strangers.

To my utter delight, salamanders roamed Trabuco Trail on the way to W. Horsethief. They were everywhere crawling about the moist trail. I can’t tell you how much I love salamanders– they’re adorable! When one some of the hikers caught me, we got to talking about the salamanders, and I told John, the hiker in front of me, that they reminded me of puppies. “That’s weird,” he said with a chuckle. I told him I was serious, that when I pick salamanders up and look at their little orange faces, their faces remind me of puppies. (I had already picked up three or four that morning). John said, “Have you ever thought of getting help for that Lauren?” (Big laughs here).

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESReaching the top of W. Horsethief came as a huge relief. Really! That climb is super tough for me and I take it at an actual snail’s pace. I didn’t take The Main Divide much faster, but at least I was able to run the flats and down hills, and some of the up hills that were not so steep and long. The views and the trek were literally breathtaking – wait, maybe the breathtaking came from the march up toward Trabuco Peak! That’s a brutal trek also, especially as warm as it was on Saturday.

Off roaders passed here and there. Everyone waved.  Views of Riverside and San Bernardino counties were crystal clear. I could still see snow on The San Gabriels. On the OC. side, the ocean was covered with a sea of clouds.  

I actually ran up on three or four runners along The Main Divide, which is rare. At the Holy Jim trailhead, several hikers rested in the shade, beat from the climb up. One man wore a netted hat, though the gnats were far and few between. 

I felt great running down Holy Jim. What pure joy to run down that giant switchback! I came upon several hikers and a couple of cyclists. I even ran up on a runner who recognized me from this blog. His name is Brandon, and I really enjoyed stopping and talking local trails with him. He’s one of the few people I can talk Yaeger Mesa about. He even knew the story of the bell up there. He knows the guy who carried it up. Anyway, we must have chatted for ten minutes before I took off again, delighted in the cool breeze (as I had been growing quite warm).  Euphoria set in while finishing up Holy Jim. Gosh, euphoria is one of the great benefits of trail running – perhaps the best (and it does not always come along). 

The bottom of the canyon was absolutely packed with day hikers. Most everyone was smiling, but I noticed a few grimaces, as uphill hiking isn’t so enjoyable if you haven’t  done it before. I overheard a woman complain about the gnats. And I thought, Oh my, you have not seen nothing yet!  He, he – better learn to embrace the gnats.

Great time out there on this day.

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14.21 miles, 3,519’ elevation gained.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Car Wreck Trail

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFriday, March 18, I headed out to Wood Canyon after work around 1PM. With my normal quick out-and-back in mind, I headed up Cholla, and ran along West Ridge to Top of the World. But I had a lot on my mind and didn’t want to return home so quickly. So, after running back down West Ridge, I turned off at Mathis and headed down an old technical favorite, Car Wreck Trail. It’s a tricky trail, rocky and steep, named after a wrecked car toward the bottom. And it helped me a great deal, as I needed to focus so closely on the trail, that I didn’t have time to ponder the craziness in my mind.

Though it’s tough, Car Wreck Trail is beautiful:

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Car Wreck Trail eventual turns into another (I think it’s called Thousand Oaks Trail?) which in turn dumped me right back out onto Mathis, At the creek crossing at Mathis, I took a seat on the rocks and got caught up in the sound of rushing water. It had a great calming affect. Not sure how long I stayed, but it was a while, possibly twenty minutes.

And then I was off again along Wood Canyon, and I must have noticed five different snake tracks. One of them looked extraordinarily large. Sorry to have missed that one!

The wind picked up further into the canyon, and the grass fields swayed in waves. Mesmerized by the flow, I abruptly stopped along the field and watched the fields of grass move up and down like an ocean. It nearly took my breath away.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES7.78 miles, 1,136’ elevation gained

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Arroyo Trabuco out of San Juan Capistrano

Sunday, March 13, I decided to take it relatively easy by hiking Arroyo Trabuco Trail out of San Juan Capistrano late in the afternoon. We’ve changed the clocks, so I’ve got more hours of daylight (which is wonderful since I have had so little time to hit the trails).

I don’t have much of a story to report on this one. I got to think quite a bit (since it takes longer to hike a trail, than run it). And I took a different leg of the Arroyo Trabuco because I couldn’t find a place to cross Trabuco Creek beneath Crown Valley Parkway without getting my feet wet. I also came up on a snake, a type I don’t recall ever seeing before. And I saw very little people hiking or running, though several cyclists passed me by.

Taking the new leg instead of crossing beneath Crown Valley turned out interesting (though taking a new trail is ALWAYS interesting to me). This one ventured further and higher away from the trail than I expected. For about a half mile or so, I hiked a very slim muddy path at a slant, then wound down through a green field that finally met up with the creek below at Oso Parkway. Here I finally crossed the creek and headed back into San Juan Capistrano along the portion of Arroyo Trabuco that I am accustomed to. After a few miles, I needed to cross the creek at Crown Valley in order to be on the correct side of the world with my truck. I walked straight through Trabuco Creek, drenching my shoes and socks this time. And this I enjoyed immensely.

9.27 miles with a mere 443’ elevation gained.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Back to the Scene of the Crash

Saturday, March 12, I hit the trails to return to the scene of the accident that broke my arm. In fact, I ran the exact route: Holy Jim to The Main Divide, down West Horsethief to Trabuco (where the crash occurred) back into the Holy Jim lot. 

I am happy to report that I did not crash again. Sadly, I gingerly made my way across the rocks along Trabuco Trail so fearful was I that I would fall again. But overall, I spent a marvelous several hours in the mountains. I wore a jacket most of the time, and even gloves, and didn’t need even half the water that I packed. I was serenaded by the woodpeckers hammering against the tree trunks as I made my way up Holy Jim. I also met several hikers on the way up, and then spent many sweet lonely hours along The Main Divide. Come to think of it, I didn’t run across anyone on W. Horsethief or Trabuco either. Running down West Horsethief was a bit tricky, as the rocky terrain still strikes fear in me. A fall on West Horsethief would most likely fare far worse than one on Trabuco.

I love this route. It’s the toughest 14 miles I know. Probably the most beautiful in my parts too.  I think it’s apropos that it would be THIS route that would break something. It was bound to happen I suppose.

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14.07 miles, 3,605’ of elevation gain

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Downtown

I believe it was Saturday, March 5, that we got a huge downpour. I’m so behind now, facts are leaving me. The next day after our rain was blue, bright and sunny, but still a little chilly, which is always good for me – the cooler the better. But the coastal hills were all closed due to “wet and muddy conditions,” and I wasn’t much in the mood for sneaking in. And I was getting such a late start, that I really didn’t want to make the trip to the mountains. And I really didn’t feel like chancing getting stuck in the mud either. Boy. Dilemma, dilemma.

Finally, around 11AM, I decided to do something I have not done in a long time. I ran down to the beach, where San Juan Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, and ran the bike path (which I call the river walk) into downtown San Juan Capistrano.

Where San Juan Creek meets the Pacific Ocean:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Bike Path:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLots of runners, walkers and cyclists made their way along the bike path. As usual when I run that route, I ran right along the edge of the path. I’m not sure why. A misstep could send me plummeting down the cement slope into the creek. Perhaps that’s what I want. Maybe it’s because I’m closer to the water and the myriad of sea birds when I run along the edge. I noticed that here and there, there’d be someone else right on the edge. But most people went smack down the middle of the path.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe creek was loud, roaring almost. It sounded lovely to my ears. I have missed the sound of flowing water for so long. I really think it’s one of the best noises on this planet. The Los Rios District was booming with people. Little kiddies rode horses at the petting zoo. Trains arrived and departed with floods of people mingling about. The streets were crowded with cars, lots of them tourists, as Swallows Day was just around the corner, and the city was gearing up.

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After making my way through downtown, I picked up Trabuco Creek Trail. It follows Trabuco Creek, which had split off from San Juan Creek a few miles back.  The creek was so full, I couldn’t wait to get to the train tracks where it flows down the rocks into a giant pool. For so long, those rocks had been bone dry. But not today.  Trabuco Creek rumbled and crashed down on the rocks. Spray splashed up on my face. And the roar was so loud, not a single other thing could be heard. I took a seat there on the rocks and sat for a good twenty minutes before heading back.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES12.57 miles run / 20.23 km