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Monday, July 23, 2018

Hiking’s the Key to the Heat

My oldest son’s college roommate came in from northern California Friday night. They were in and out of the house all day long. It sure is nice having young ambitions in the house. Last I saw of them, they were headed off with a couple of other guys late at night. Of course, I don’t get the most ideal sleep when someone in my family is out still there in late night/early morning hours. But then again, I am usually an early(ish) to bed person. I think that everyone was still up when I went to bed Friday night.

I don’t know what time it was when I rolled over and found my husband asleep next to me. I asked, “Is Justus home yet?” He said that he didn’t have any idea. He didn’t toss and turn. He fell directly back to sleep. I suppose I was behaving rudely by waking him in the first place.

I didn’t sleep well after that. I may have slept an hour, who knows, maybe more. It was one of those nights when I couldn’t really be sure. Eventually, I found myself wide awake in my bed, and I could see through the cracks in my partially closed bedroom door that lights were still on in the rest of the house. So, I got up. It was 3:30 am. The bathroom lights (2 of them) were on. The living room lights, two fans and the television were on. The kitchen lights were on. The back door was open, and our dog, Millie, was still outside. Millie, by the way, is an indoor dog; she does not sleep outside. But there she was, laying on the back porch.

“Oh,” I thought. “The guys are in the man cave.” And so I walked through the yard out into the garage which is our “the man cave.” The door was open. It was fully lit inside and out. Inside, the fan was running, the television was on. And even more peculiar, my husband’s office (also known, as my library, which is a self-enclosed room behind “the man cave”) was fully lit also, with its sliding screen door wide-opened. The guys were not in the man cave. No one was anywhere, and my house was fully open and exposed. Fortunately, we had Millie to guard us out on the back porch. She’s a barker, and she’ll alert to us to anything -- a rat running along the telephone wires, a possum on the fence, or even a bird landing in the yard.

First thing that I did in the house was check the boys’ room. And sure enough, all four beds had a person sound asleep in it. That was great. Everyone was home safe and sound. I could sleep assured.

But I could not sleep. I was wide awake. I thought momentarily that I should just stay up and go for an early morning hike in the mountains, take advantage of the early weather. I did not do that of course. TO MY DISMAY. Nope. Instead, I tossed and turned on my living room couch for another five hours, constantly re-adjusting the fan.

FIVE hours of this (at least -- I’m only estimating now because alas, I did not take notes). When it came time to finally face the day and wake up (only my middle son had awakened -- he’s 16 years old), I was just so dang tired, I turned my face into my pillow and moped. Not sure how long I moped. I’m thinking a couple of hours.

So, I finally rose to the day. I drank a cup of coffee -- a very nice cup of coffee (with stevia leaf and heavy whipping cream). I did a few minor chores while I put together my pack. Because dang it, I really needed to get my legs moving. I needed to just meditate in the moment. And the easiest and best way I know how to do that is to start taking some steps on dirt. Lovely dirt.

I made another delicious coffee-to-go and headed out the door at about 10:00 am. After running another errand, I pulled into Aliso/Wood Canyons Wilderness Park at around 11:00 am fully prepared to pay for parking -- I was actually looking forward to paid parking, since it would mean a slightly shorter distance to the truck when whatever unspeakable thing that I was about to do was all said and done. But it was a particularly warm afternoon (this is after all, Southern California, which is relatively close to the equator in comparison to other parts of the world.)

New Growth After the Fire:IMG_3465IMG_3464

IMG_3489Ends up, it was hot, quite hot in the coastal hills on Saturday. The canyon (Wood Canyon) was actually quite pleasant with an occasional semi-cool breeze. This relative comfort lasted 4.5 miles. The key for me was really to not overheat. So, I took it casually, especially up that little climb called “Cholla” to to West Ridge. There were very few people outdoors in the canyon and on the ridge. No doubt, this was due to the heat. The weather though, was not terrible -- mid to upper eighties (Fahrenheit). Just a couple of weeks ago we saw triple digits.Still, it was warm enough to know that danger lurked if I did not heed to the heat.


And so I hiked in with full intent of hiking the entire “Big Loop Version1.” The ridge actually was warmer than the canyons. Usually, I find the canyons warmer due to the humidity. But today, it was the ridgeline that poured on the heat. It is fully exposed, as most ridges our in my parts, and there was little breeze. It was hot. But it was bearable. It was bearable because I hiked most of the twelve miles. And that is a sure way to control the body temperature.

In all: 12 miles, 1,392’ gain

Route: Aliso Cyn/Wood Cyn/Cholla/WestRidge/Top of the World/Meadows/Wood Cyn/Aliso Cyn


Friday, July 20, 2018

Climbing In

Normally when I hit the trails in Laguna Wilderness/Crystal Cove I spend about $15 in tolls for a speedy route and easy access parking near one of the trailheads. But then, when it’s all said and done, I have to climb out. Grrrrrr. This past Tuesday (7/17) I decided to spend my $15 on the California State Parks parking fee instead and start down at the coast. This of course means, the climb was on the way in, not the way out. And oh my, this is so the way to go during the summertime. No doubt about it.

I highly suggest doing the climb when you’re not fatigued and you will surely stay a lot cooler on the California coast during the summer. To begin, we were socked in on Tuesday afternoon. That means the sun didn’t really get through the marine layer, and with the ocean breeze, the weather was quite comfortable. About half way through the climb (about mile 3 or more) I left the marine layer behind for sunny blue skies. And the heat began to show its face. But with just about 1 mile remaining of the climb, it really didn’t bother me. Besides that, I only had 3 miles on my legs, and with only 3 miles on my legs, I can probably do just about anything (maybe).

This was my route:

Beginning at the ranger station down in Crystal Cove Park (in Newport Beach, or is it Corona Del Mar, or even possibly Laguna Beach? – Doh! I have lived out here since 1988, and I don’t know), I took “No Dogs” trail to “No-Name Ridge.” And then I took a delightful little single track called “Ticketron.” Ticketron continued up to a secluded campground (with approximately 4 campsites). From there I took “Red Tail Ridge” to “Fence Line” (which was not a marked and legal trail when I first took it many years back). From “Fence Line” I began heading down that wonderfully steep trail called “Elevator”. This trail dumped into El Moro Canyon which I took back to the coast and to my truck.

In all I travelled 8.24 miles (running about half of it, hiking the other) with 1,256’ of elevation gain. Nothing eventful happened, which is what I think I prefer in the middle of summertime on the California coast. No exhaustion, no heat stroke. All was good. And the best thing was: I did not have to climb out!

View from “No Dogs” trail (climbing in):IMG_3399On “No-Name Ridge” (still climbing in):IMG_3403Ticketron:IMG_3425Campground off Ticketron:IMG_3433Moro Canyon:IMG_3444My New Kitten, Simba:IMG_3454

Friday, July 13, 2018

Arroyo Trabuco -- The Great Suburban Trail

Oh my gosh, super behind in blogging my trails. Time to catch up because I finally have a little time off in the summer (only teaching evenings now, starting today!). This means that I have more time to hit the trails. But alas, it has been so hot . . .

My last trail (hike-run) was Arroyo Trabuco, right as our temperatures began rising. Of course, I left my house in the afternoon. And I parked further out this time too (near The Water District). This way, I got to skip Tijeras Creek Trail, which gets a bit too sandy, and has that incline at the end -- and I don’t like inclines at the end. However, with this choice, I was going to add two miles to my regular out-and-back.

IMG_3069The date was June 30. The day was a Saturday, and it was frickin’ hot. And so, I decided to hike (to save myself, else I die because as you may recall, I do not do good in heat anymore). I hiked practically all of the “out” of this out-and-back, which ended with 7 plus miles at O’Neill Regional Park. Hiking certainly took a lot of the stress out of the heat. My travels were comfortable and  pleasurable. And even better, the trails were basically empty.


At my turnaround, it was late afternoon, or rather, early evening. A soft coolish breeze began to blow soon after. With the new temperature, I kicked out the back and put in some running (or jogging rather -- hehe).

Well, gosh, I have been on this trail so many times -- countless times. So, this time, at about 2 or 3 miles in on the “back” portion of this out-and-back, I decided to take “Loop Trail” with the assumption that it was the same trail that met up with “Loop Trail” just next to the creek, a few miles up Arroyo Trabuco. Basically, I always stay only on Arroyo Trabuco when I take this gigantic trail (which I can catch locally in San Juan Capistrano). I’ve been on the offshoots, but always with someone else (mainly Tom, and several years ago).

So, down a pretty steep incline I traversed onto “Loop Trail.” At the bottom I crossed the creek. Quickly afterward, I found myself climbing up a pretty decent incline toward the neighborhoods on the canyon cliffs to the right. But I needed to go to the left. I thought this trail probably did turn to the left eventually. When I studied my surroundings, I could find no evidence of this however. And then a young lad came by on a dirt bike (which are not actually allowed on these trails). Out of politeness, it seemed, he stopped when he approached so as not to kick up dirt or make too much noise. And I asked him where this trail I was standing on lead. He said that it lead up to the right, to a park on the cliff. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Doesn’t it at some point turn off to the left?” The kid assured me that he had just come from the park, and that the trail only went to that location.

(There really is no better word than “lovely” to describe the scenery):


Back to the young man on the dirt bike. I should not have believed him. Not that he was lying. He probably just didn’t know. The thing was, I really, really didn’t want to backtrack and hike up that hill back to Arroyo Trabuco. Yet, I turned back anyway with hopes of finding some single track I didn’t notice after the creek, that I could eventually take back to the Loop/Arroyo Trabuco junction.

Well, there was no single-track. But just before the creek, I noticed a clearing in the thick brush. If I ducked my head, I could make it through to what seemed like a slight trail running alongside the creek. So, do you think that I did that?

Of course I did.

By this time, the weather had cooled a great deal. It was lovely. And it was quiet and lush after making my way through the cave-like brush. And yes, I did catch a small trail alongside the creek. In my estimation, it would only be couple of miles, at most, until I made it to my junction. If the trail was like it was currently, the trip would be a breeze.

But the the path got thinner. And the path got wetter. It lessoned to a point that I wasn’t really sure if I was on a trail anymore. I noticed a few offshoots, which I explored. But they didn’t look promising and I always turned back to the creek. I didn’t want to go back though, dang it! There was too much backtracking to be had and the evening was wearing on. It was about 6:30 pm (and don’t mountain lions search for prey in the evening hours?)


Eventually, I found myself traipsing down the middle of the creek with no promising offshoots whatsoever. My path had disappeared. All along, my luck had held out. I still had a decent amount of energy. I had avoided the poison oak (which doesn’t bother me -- I am immune) and the stinging nettle (which does bother me -- I am not immune). And best of all, I hadn’t been eaten by a mountain lion. Open-mouthed smile

So, it was time to make sure that my luck continued to hold out (because I was now pretty much boxed in, breaking through brush to move forward in the stream). I turned back. There was sort of a defeat in that. But there was also relief, because I knew the way back, and exactly how it would look. I’m not quite sure if it was just before or after I turned back that I brushed into the stinging nettle. I got it in the left shin and on the tip of my right index finger.  It wasn’t a terrible sting. But it was a pretty good sting that lasted both on my leg and my finger at the same intensity for the entire night. (It was only when I woke the next morning that I noticed that the sting had been tamed by about half).

The backtracking added some mileage to my trip. So, I decided to take a short cut up to Oso Parkway, where I made my way along that busy road back to the parking lot near The Water District. I probably cut off two miles with the short cut. But the climb was steeper, but not at all terrible.

On Oso Parkway, overlooking Arroyo Trabuco Trail, with Santiago and Modjeska Peaks in the background:


Oh the fun times!  I am fortunate (I don’t realize that enough).

14.22 miles / 958’ elevation gain