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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Finding Falls Canyon (Again)

By the time I made it to the Holy Jim lot in Trabuco Canyon today (around 1PM), the place was packed. Note to self: stay away from Trabuco Canyon on weekends during the spring, that is unless I want a party, festive atmosphere. Lucky to find a place to park my truck, I immediately decided against following the trails that everyone travels. Instead, I decided to head off back toward the mouth of the canyon in search of Falls Canyon. I’ve been wanting to find Falls Canyon again for a while now, and I’ve kept eyes open for it to no avail. So, today  the search was on, and having been to Falls Canyon once before, I had a general knowledge of its location. First I knew that I’d need to locate the Tin Mining Company ruins, and then anywhere from a tenth of a mile to a full mile after that, I’d find it on my right. And that I did. And the experience was all in one, surreal, lonely and beautiful. I didn’t have a want for music on this trip -- the sounds about me were my music --soft and serene with water running and falling over rocks and breezes blowing through the trees. Occasionally, I could hear laughter from afar from other day trekkers who decided to take the road less travelled.  What an immensely pleasing hike! I only wish I could hold onto that peace throughout the day.


Friday, April 29, 2016

What’s That Over There?

I spotted a white cross from afar, high up in the hills above San Juan Capistrano some time ago. It appeared to be a tiny cross, but I knew that it was probably ten feet tall. And I knew that I had to find it. Cuz that’s what I do – I see something from afar, and I just must find a way to get to it.

I’ve been trying off and on to find access to these hills that border Laguna Niguel and over look Interstate 5. The main access point that I located in San Juan Capistrano however, was through a gated community, of which I could not find a way in. Every time I drove to work, I’d hunt for the cross in the hills, trying to pinpoint its location.

Today, I was off work at noon, so after lunch with my husband, I had some time before I needed to pick my youngest son from school, after which I planned to put in a couple hours at the gym. So, I went searching for access to these hills on the Laguna Niguel side. My first guess lead me to a cul-de-sac near a retirement community where I found a single track to SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTUREStravel down the hillside. There was no sign of the cross. I took a seat in a graffiti filled cement gulley looking across at the foothills and The Saddleback Mountains.  It was lovely really, being completely alone, yet surrounded by thousands of busy people making their way on the interstate, on the tollroads, on the overpasses going to the malls, etc., etc.  And I was able to figure out just how far off I was from the cross. My guess was that I needed to find access about a half mile south of my current location. 


After driving about some, I found another cul-de-sac with hillside access. I promptly jumped a dirt trail and headed up the lonely dry landscape. I was surprised to not see my tiny white cross anywhere. “Gosh,” I thought, “where the heck is it?” And that’s just when I focused straight down in front of me. Bam. There was the cross. But I had to get to my son at school. So I left the trail, and returned about a half hour later and hiked down a single track to a huge white cross in the hillside. Mission accomplished. I sat in the shade and peace of the cross studying the landscape and pointing out places that I recognized. I named the roads, the trails, studied rooftops to try and figure out what building I was looking at. The San Juan Capistrano Mission stood out majestically above it all. When you’re down there you don’t realize that the mission stands on a hill. But from afar, you can really tell that it stands higher than all the other buildings. Anyway, I enjoyed this all for a good half hour or more, before hiking out and heading off to the gym for some calorie burning. Looking forward to what I’ll notice next and wonder, “What’s that over there?”


Thursday, April 28, 2016

I’m Tired

I have been so flipping tired lately, it’s really rather absurd. I mean, there’s people who have ten years on me who put in many more hours of work than I do. And I really don’t work that hard -- in fact, I have the best job ever. I think that I just can’t handle this whole split-shift thing, not to mention that the distance between the classes that I teach is about 25 miles. If I could sleep in, that would be one thing. But I am a mother (in or ways than one Winking smile ) so, I am up at 6AM to make breakfast for those who want it, pack lunches, and drop boys off at three different schools. On good days, the oldest wakes early enough to walk to school. But lately, those have been few and far between.

After getting the boys off to school I feel like I’ve made a major accomplishment. Everyone’s been fed, they all have lunches for later, and I didn’t kill anyone! But now it’s time for chores -- laundry and such, as well as, getting ready for my first class of the day. Usually, that doesn’t take much – showering, dressing, drying my hair, then printing up rosters for sign-in (other class prep if needed, I usually do the night before.) And then I make a quick breakfast for myself, usually two cups of coffee, an egg and two pieces of toast, or a turkey sandwich, or my favorite if I have time, a smoothie from Jamba Juice on the way to work for $5.20 (but always the coffee – MUST have the coffee).

Anyway, I need to be on the freeway no later than 10:15AM, hopefully a little earlier. But by now, I’ve been awake for more than four hours. My classes Monday through Thursday start at 11AM (on Friday it’s 9AM). It’s really not that bad, and I’m not really feeling fatigued by this point. The worst of it in the morning is not finding a parking spot in the faculty lots at the community college that I work, because if there’s none in the faculty lots, I’ve got to park a mile away from class in the over-flow student parking. A mile away isn’t so terrible; I welcome the walk. But I usually don’t arrive early enough to walk a whole mile to class and get there on time. And so, in those cases, I’m late.

It’s when I get home after the first shift that I feel utterly fatigued. I pull into my driveway around 3PM. I am so sleepy, I can barely stand. Crazy. If there is some groceries to be had or some other chores, I try to do them during this off-time. If not, I take a nap. Now, it would be great if I could take a power nap, for say just ten to fifteen minutes. Usually, I konk out for a good hour. This of course means, I wake like a dang zombie, barely able to move or think clearly.  Seriously, it’s rather annoying, so I shouldn’t even nap in the first place. At this point, the boys are arriving home, and I get to see one or two of them, three if I’m lucky, before heading off to my next classes, which is only about six miles away at “the adult school.”. I’m off to teach Algebra and G.E.D. test prep from about 4 or 5 PM until 9:30PM, which again isn’t that terrible – if I wasn’t so dang fatigued. But that’s how it is lately. Usually, I have a gym bag packed in the truck, just in case I get out early. And I do get out early on occasion. When I do, I am lucky to put in an hour at the gym on the way home. Lately, I drive straight home, and I am in bed by about 10PM, which is too early according to the other folks in my home. No one can understand why anyone in their right mind would go to bed at 10PM.

Now, on Wednesdays and Fridays, I have a slight break from the split-shift, as on both of those days I have evenings off. Usually, I plan to run, but I don’t. Instead, I go to the gym. The gym is always my “easy” way out, as I can put in the time without the driving long distances to trails, and I burn more calories.

ANYWAY, so, as I mentioned, I am tired. Super tired. Pathetically tired. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s this split-shift thing. Saturdays, I always have reserved for running. But about every fourth Saturday, I teach a “Crash Course.” A “Crash Course,” is a computer class that begins at 9AM and goes until 3:30PM. I used to have lofty notions of running after these crash courses. Now, I know there’s no way that’s gonna happen. Instead, I drive straight home, arriving around 4PM, and promptly begin my nap. Once in a great while, after my nap, I head out for a 5PM run somewhere close by.

I have on-line classes that I manage as well, which I squeeze in here and there at odd hours.. And believe me, I really, really welcome the opportunities I have. And I really love all the students that I meet. But, I am tired. Dang tired right now. Did I mention that I was tired?  

Lately, I feel very fortunate when I can hit the trails, and for me the last time was last Sunday (as the Saturday before, I taught a crash course). Now, with this level of inactivity that I have lately (as it relates to running) I really have no business putting in more than five miles on the trails. But this past Sunday, I said what the heck, and put in 12 miles running The Big Loop at Aliso/Wood Canyons.

What is The Big Loop? Well, it is this:  From the ranger station at Anwa Road in Aliso Viejo, up Aliso Canyon, right on Wood Canyon to the end of the canyon, then up Cholla Trail, left on West Ridge to Top of the World, down Meadows, right on Wood Canyon, left on Aliso Canyon back to the truck.

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The loop totaled 12.32 miles, and I ran a good 90% of it, hiking mainly the steepest slopes (which really weren’t all that steep).  I had some plantar fasciitis pain in the left heel that stretching the calves seemed to help. I saw (and smiled and talked with) a student on the trails, and lots of mountain bikers and hikers, mainly along West Ridge. The temperature was perfect, never overheating or chilling even once. And I loved it all for this brief moment in time, flittering along the dirt. I didn’t fall. And I enjoyed the trip so much that I came home and made a YouTube movie about it. That way I was able to relive it a few times before putting the experience to bed. I feel quite fortunate for my time on the trails Sunday. Looking forward to the next trip.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Time to get Rid of the Farmer’s Tan

The grass in the coastal hills has turned mostly brown in Southern California. Temperatures have risen, and I’m not ready for spring to end. I’ve been making that my excuse to put in time at the gym instead of venturing out to the trails. But cross training at the gym is just not giving me what I need mentally. Today (or yesterday rather because it took me a day to post this blog), I packed a bag for the gym with the intent of driving there straight after work. Instead, I drove home, ate lunch, folded clean clothes and listened to my youngest son play the piano. I debated back and forth whether I should go to the gym or hit the trails in this heat (it’s been in the high eighties Fahrenheit lately). The clincher was learning that my oldest son was going to skip the gym today (as we often go together). If he wasn’t going, then neither was I. And so, with no class to teach on Wednesday evenings, I headed out the door at 4:30 PM in a tank top and running shorts. My handheld filled with ice water and my belt complete with phone, camera and lip balm, I was hoping to get rid of the farmer tan that I’ve been cultivating all year. You know, that tan that begins after the white shoulders, down about short-sleeve length on the arms. With these summer temperatures coming on, I would really like to wear a sleeveless sun dress without looking like a dork.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThough I did have all the time in the world, well, not actually that much, but lots of time anyway, I didn’t spend a ton of time on the trails. I wanted to get home to spend the evening with my family. So, I decided to take my T.O.W. run, but cut it short a bit. Instead of starting out in Wood Canyon and running up to West Ridge, I drove a little further and parked my truck right near West Ridge. That made this out-and-back to Top of the World 5.14 miles instead of the usual 6.5.

Hitting dirt finally at 5PM, the temperatures started to cool, and I had some nice breezes from the Pacific Ocean. There were lots of mountain bikers out, especially near Top of the World where fifty or so bikers wore numbered bibs and did timed, what seemed to me as death-defying runs down the backside of West Ridge into Laguna Canyon. They were a jubilant group of mostly men, but I did notice a couple women among these crazy folk.

Though my lovely green grass was mostly brown, Prickly Pears were in full bloom with yellow and orange blossoms abounding. I expected to see at least one snake, and I kept my eyes peeled, especially on those single-track detours along West Ridge. But alas, not even a single snake trail. A few times I worried about falling, even along the simplest portions.  Nothing seems safe to me right now. I can not afford another fall.


Overall, I got what I needed mentally. I didn’t burn as many calories as I would have at the gym. But I did get to hit my groove on the out portion of this out-and-back. I got some wonderful peace, some sunshine, and the passing company of like-minded people who love trails like I do.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSporting that farmer’s tan. Winking smile

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Battle Scars

After my last fall (which I wrote about in my last entry in “Seven More Miles”), I wasn’t myself for several days – not that “being myself” is all that great. But after the fall, I felt “under the weather,” achy and sore.  And the next day, my first day back to work, I was a bit cranky. I didn’t have as much patience as I usually do with my students. I apologized to them, and they said, “Oh, no! It’s me not you!!”   My students are so polite and appreciative. I love them. I told a few female students about my fall and showed them my battle scars. They cringed and turned quickly away. Maybe I should not have revealed the damage.

Quite frankly, I was a little embarrassed about walking around with scabby legs – as the scabs ran from my knee down to my ankle. Being that I wear dresses when not on the trails, I wore boots all week to cover the damage. And being that I did not run all week, but spent my workout time at the gym, I wore leggings instead of shorts, in order to cover the damage. To top it off, the hole in my hand wasn’t healing as quickly as I wished because I picked at it too much. Come to think of it, I picked at the scabs on my leg as well. Sad smile

It took me seven whole days to get back out on the trails. I needed about three days to recover from the accident, and then it rained for a few more days. Finally, on the seventh day (Sunday, April 10), we had a break in the rain, and amazingly, Aliso/Woods Canyons was not closed due to “wet and muddy conditions.”  It was a beautiful day, and I enjoyed my eight mile loop immensely. It’s always so crisp and clear after a rain. I’m glad I enjoyed it while I could, because little did I know that I would not get in a run for the next seven days. I have not run since. To make up for it, one might think that I over did it at the gym with three plus hours of cardio each visit. In reality, I can hardly feel three hours of cardio at the gym in comparison to a few hours on the trails. And all it is, is cardio, and that is not my ultimate goal – time on the trails where I can heal and grow – that is my ultimate goal.

My April 10 route: Wood Canyon, Cholla Trail, West Ridge to Top of the World, West Ridge, Mathis, Wood Canyon.


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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Seven More Miles . . .

Sunday, March 3, I went long. I went long on Harding Truck Trail, which starts at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon. I arrived fairly early, as those limited parking spaces fill up quickly, and took one of the two remain spots. It was just before 8:00 AM when I took off up Harding Truck Trail. Several other hikers took off behind me.

Though it was relatively early, it was not so for trail people. I met quite a few hikers and runners coming down as I made my way up that steep grade. Boy, is Harding Truck Trail steep. It’s not so technical, as it is a truck trail after all  (though actually closed to traffic). I found the trek up Harding very difficult, and actually ran very little of it. Once I passed the 5 mile mark (where Laurel Springs Trail branches off), I came up on very few people on Harding Truck Trail. Overall, the views were delightful – lots of spring flowers and above blue skies with white puffy and smeared clouds. The scene was serene.



My goal (or turnaround point) was “Four Corners,” which is where Harding meets Maple Springs and The Main Divide branching off in two directions. I will not lie and say that the climb up to “Four Corners” wasn’t tough. It was tough as hell. But then again, when do I ever say the climb wasn’t tough. IT IS ALWAYS tough for me. I kept the following in my mind on the way up – “at mile 7.5 you get a reprieve!” That’s when there’s a slight downhill, and then the climb after that isn’t so steep. Right about mile 7.5 I came across what appeared to be three brothers. I didn’t ask if they were related, but they all looked alike. There was a small, a medium and a large blonde haired boy, just like my three sons (though not blonde), but these guys also had a few years on mine. Anyway, I passed them, and kept in the back of my mind not to let them catch up (because I am weird that way).

Finally, FINALLY, after three hours and 45 minutes, I made it to 4 corners. There was one dirt bike rider who came up on The Main Divide. Other than that, I was alone until the three brothers arrived and carried on along The Main Divide. I probably stayed about 15 minutes drinking my protein shake, taking photographs and looking out onto Orange, Riverside and Orange Counties. I felt fully rested, and quite content.

As I made my way back down Harding Truck Trail, I came up on a semi-large hiking group that I had passed on my way up. It was like seeing old friends.


The run back down was uneventful for the first 2+ miles. Thing was, I didn’t focus well on the trail. Instead, I found myself thinking about work and other such worries. Okay, I know that I must focus, especially when fatigued on trails. You would think that I would have learned. But, NO! I let myself get lost in thought. Then with about 7 miles remaining, I tripped. And when I tripped, I went flying forward. I don’t know where my tuck and roll went, but apparently, it’s gone. Now, it’s just spaz-out free fall. And that’s just what I did.

I landed hard. And though I knew I was hurt, I knew that I did not hit my head, and I probably had not broken anything. But, my breathing out of control, I was certain to vomit. Oddly, I made my way to the edge of the trail so that I could vomit (because I thought it was polite to be neat about it). Leaning over a fallen log, I noticed the blood oozing from my leg. But all I really cared about was puking. Just as I started to dry-heave, I got some reason and focused on getting my breathing under control. I have no idea where that reason came from; I guess just from within. Slowly, so, so very slowly, my breaths lengthened, and I took in more oxygen. It was at that point that the nausea left me.

I could tell that my immediate injuries were to my right leg and palm. The injury to my palm looked terrible with ripped skin covering a small hole in my hand. I actually felt sore all over, but the visible injuries came from the aforementioned. “Seven miles,” that’s what I told myself. All I need to do is focus for seven miles. So, I wiped the blood off of my leg until that was moot – I mean, why wipe the blood when it doesn’t matter? It was just going to keep oozing until it was done, and I didn’t want to wait. And so, I swallowed three ibuprofen and took off trotting down Harding Truck Trail toward my truck parked at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary.


Those last seven miles were bearable, with my main problem coming from my hand, and a part of my leg that was not bleeding (the right side of my front right calf). With about two miles remaining, I ran up on two lovely ladies who were hiking the trails now in afternoon heat. One of them noticed my leg, and made comments to the affect that I was a bad-ass for traversing the trails seven miles with my injury. That kind of praise always cracks me up (like when people were amazed that I made it two miles to my truck with a broken arm). I mean, what was I supposed to do? I am no bad-ass for running those miles with my injury. I did it because that’s what I had to do to get to my truck. I had no other options. Believe me, if I could have dialed in a helicopter (free of charge of course) to come pick me up, I would have surely done so. Winking smile


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Total trip miles: 18.84 miles (30.32 km)

Elevation gained: 3,666’ (1,117 m)