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Friday, August 31, 2018

Much Needed Meditation

So, it was Sunday, I believe when I most recently hit the trails. Definitely a last minute decision. All morning I thought that I would go to the gym, but then suddenly changed my mind. And with that change of mind, I promptly drove up the coast, through Laguna Beach, and then headed up to Newport Coast where I parked my truck near Bommer Ridge.

IMG_3897My feet hit the dirt about 2:30pm. And though the weather was warm, it was not terribly so. It was comfortable enough to run, which I did for the first few miles -- of course those first few miles were mainly rolling hills in the downward fashion.

IMG_3905The route that I chose was mainly rolling hills with an overall decline for about 4.5 miles, where I landed myself on the sandy beaches called Crystal Cove. That of course meant that the climb-out was to begin. You can’t get much lower elevation than where my feet were planted at the time -- at the edge of the Pacific Ocean (which even after 53 years, I’m still in awe). It was a lovely picture -- lots of colorful umbrellas, glassy green waves pounding into the shore, with laughter and all around fun going on 180 degrees.


IMG_3939I chose something completely different for what seemed like my usual loop at this park. I usually take Moro (or El Moro) Canyon back to Bommer Ridge. But that route has the steepest climbing toward the end of the loop. And I do not appreciate steep climbs toward the end of my route (though I do it to myself again and again!). What I decided on Sunday was this: climb up BFI (which is very close to the coast) and make my way to Moro Ridge. That way, my steepest climb would be at about the halfway point, instead of toward the end. This minor change took the agony out of what in the past has been a grueling 10+ mile loop. Steep inclines are completely bearable, and even enjoyable when I take them on with strong legs. Steep climbs are miserable when I am fatigued. Let me tell you . . . it makes all the difference in the world to take the big ascents on strong legs (big climbs on weak legs is for the birds!)

In short, this 10.5 mile loop provided much needed meditation. I didn’t think much about anything. Instead, I just moved about in The Now.

10.5 miles, 1,467’ elevation gain

Route: No-Name Ridge (called something else at the start in Laguna Wilderness, but I don’t recall) / No-Dogs / route to Pacific Ocean / El Moro Cyn / BFI / El Moro Ridge / Missing Link / Boomer Ridge.

8 26 18a


Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Need to Wander

My summer vacation (17 days total, plus there were some weeks that I only taught 9 hours) is grinding to a halt. I am grinding to a halt. That’s what it feels like anyway, like I have little energy or incentive to do much of anything. That is why I keep a list of the top thirty or so things that I need to do. That way, in my lethargy, I will manage to get something done -- because of my neurotic need to cross things off a list.

So, why so lethargic and down? Well, first off, my diet has not been that great lately, with birthdays and other summer celebrations. When carbs were increased in my diet, my energy levels decreased, right on cue. But there have been other things too: the heat, the #HolyFire, some trouble for one of my brothers, and just overall worry about the near future. And I also recently attended my 35th high school reunion, which as is always the case with reunions, was bittersweet. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the night, and it was great seeing so many people from long ago. But events like these are draining, mainly so because I begin to think about the past, and really, the past is not the ideal place to be. Even to spend a little time in the past, though the past is by no means horrible, is stressful. (I don’t want to remind myself what a stupid kid I was!).

Today started off as a particularly lazy day. After accompanying my oldest son this morning to bring his car in for repair, I lay on the living room couch for about 3 hours. I don’t think that I slept. I just closed my eyes and pondered what I would do for the remainder of my day. I found that I had absolutely no ambition to do anything whatsoever as my days off from work slipped away. Some time after noon, I grabbed my middle and youngest sons and dragged them off to buy new shoes. They also start school next week. And shoes meant that I could cross something off my list. But then I found myself at home again with absolutely no ambition to do a single thing. Though I did some reading, and also checked emails (answered a couple). Finally about 4 pm, wearing flip-flops, I took my dog for a walk around the neighborhood. I loved the fresh air. I loved moving one foot in front of the other. And that’s when it dawned on me what I really needed. I REALLY needed to wander. The heat and the mountains on fire have deterred me from wandering lately, and I’m guessing that is helping with my low ambition. Wandering is part of the medicine that keeps me even, or rather, balanced. Wandering is like a sifter – it sifts out much of the unnecessary burdens that I’m carrying on my shoulders.

I took off out my front door at about 5:00 pm and headed down PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). And then I wandered. I wandered for 7.25 miles all the while making my way into Doheny State Beach, Capistrano Beach, and the Dana Point Harbor. I didn’t get much elevation gain (about 450’) and the terrain was not at all rugged. But I caught glimpses of pelicans nose diving into the ocean for fish. I watched the waves crash down while others enjoyed the surf. I saw the destruction that the tide had done to the beach parking lots at the southern end of town. I looked at the faces of many people. I smiled or at least grinned or nodded my head when eye contact was made. A rabbit crossed my path, and at least three trains powered by. I saw squirrels and seagulls and reflections in the water. And best of all, I got my feet moving in that robotic manner that I find so comforting. One foot in front of the other.

So, as mopey that I am, or as anxious that I am, at least I got to do that. I got to wander.

The journey (though it was dull, it was wonderful, because dull is wonderful, aside from the fact that nothing is ever really dull):

PCH -- Pacific Coast HighwayIMG_3772IMG_3774IMG_3776IMG_3778IMG_3788IMG_3794S. Doheny Beach, torn up parking lot:IMG_3800IMG_3803Capo Beach:IMG_3808IMG_3809IMG_3815IMG_3818IMG_3826IMG_3835IMG_3838IMG_3840IMG_3842IMG_3843

Friday, August 10, 2018


It is a little early for fire season in Southern California. I know. I was born in Southern California, and thus have 53 years experience. I have seen many seasons of fires and landslides. The destruction can be immense, it often brutally takes homes and lives. Gosh, there was one year back in the early 1990s when after a particularly tough fire season (hundreds of homes lost in Laguna Beach and elsewhere), we got it bad again when the rains came with landslides that destroyed more homes locally, and killed a few people as well. Usually, our peak of the fire season comes around October, occasionally September. Though, we can have fires any time of the year. And we do indeed.

Yearly fire stats for California (from Wikipedia for the last 18 years):

yearly stats

This past Monday, a fire broke out around my stomping grounds in Trabuco Canyon. The news media first called it the Holy Jim Canyon Fire, which was quickly renamed the Holy Fire (#HolyFire). Best I can tell however, Holy Jim Canyon was not the canyon that took the terrible destruction of the fire (yet). The fire seems to have originated somewhere near the Holy Jim Canyon parking lot. From there it travelled up Trabuco Canyon (not Holy Jim Canyon). The fire continued all the way up Trabuco to the Main Divide, and also travelled up West Horsethief (which I have written about many times in my blog).


This is the Trabuco Canyon Trail that I have experienced (Ah, lovely!):

trabuco canyon

trabuco trail

Gosh, the boundaries of the fire are enormous now. The fire has travelled all along the canyons in and around The Main Divide, nearly to Santiago Peak, and in the opposite direction to Los Pinos Trail (perhaps peak). From there it has also traveled down into Corona and Lake Elsinore (of course taking Indian Truck Trail along with it). Tonight, Friday night, the fire still burns. This morning, the number of acres neared 20,000, with I believe 5% contained.

As far as I can tell, the fire has not touched Holy Jim Trail. But the fire has burned Upper Holy Jim, which is a shrubbery forest of Manzanita (or was, rather). Of course, the social media world that I mainly identify with (trail runners, hikers, off-roaders by any means) are in a sad panic. We all know that we will never have it like it was – ever again – on those trails. It will grow back yes, but it will be different. And because I know that it will never be like it was again, I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. I’m very grateful that I got to spend countless miles and hours on the beautiful trails that #HolyFire has ravished. But I am also confident that those trails will turn beautiful again. It will be a different beautiful, and it will take some time. That is nature.

When a fire attacked Wood Canyon earlier this year, I couldn’t help but feel terribly sad. This time around, with fire attacking lands even more meaningful to me than the coastal hills, all I can feel is gratitude. Any sadness that I feel now is sadness for the 12 households that lost their rustic mountain cabins and possibly all of their belongings in Trabuco Canyon. At the same time that I feel this gratitude, I suppose as a defense mechanism, I’m glancing around the corner looking forward to the regrowth, the rebirth.

Fire is horrible, it is horrifying. Yet, it warms us, it keeps us alive, it is strikingly beautiful. Fire is a destruction that brings with it, a rebirth. I find that considerably odd. I should note that an arsonist, it appears may have started this fire. So terrible! I want to also state that this fire would have eventually happened -- a piece of glass in the dry vegetation, a spark from a car, lightning . . .  Fire is nature. It happens with our without us. It is sad that the state of California does not come up with a comprehensive plan to attack the natural disaster that occurs to us most often. I have big problem with how the “wild” lands are managed. But that’s for another post that I will most likely never post because land management seems to be a political topic, and that is not my intent.

Hopefully, the weather will turn, and the firefighters will gain the upper hand on #HolyFire.

From before (why I am grateful):

Prancing down West Horsethief in a skirt (Twin Peaks Ultra):taken-by-greg-h4Chomping my gum while marching up West Horsethief:chomping gumAfraid that I’m going to fall while running down a rocky West Horsethief:afraidHow I love thee:trailheadtop of westwest horsethiefanother w htAnd just a few more from West Horsethief:restingwhtht2

Friday, August 3, 2018

Into The Furnace

I believe that it was last Monday when I hit the trails.  Last minute decision, I took off up Pacific Coast Highway into Laguna Beach. The quickest route into Aliso/Woods Canyons is in Laguna Beach in fact. I parked along the curb in front of Moulton Meadows Park around 1:30pm. The weather was quite warm, somewhere in the high eighties (Fahrenheit). 

The beauty of parking at Moulton Meadows, even though I do a heavy descent at the beginning, the climb back is rolling and fairly gradual. (I prefer not to have a heavy descent first off -- I like that for when I’m fatigued). I began basically at the top of Mentally Sensitive Trail where there was a nice ocean breeze along the Top of the World ridge. The climb down this trail was steep, and of course I was quite happy that I was travelling down instead of up. I came upon one hiker making his way up, and not too far past him, another sitting in the shade of a small mass of brush. We spoke briefly. He was exasperated by the heat traveling on such a steep and exposed trail. Even though Mentally Sensitive is relatively short (my guess 1.0 to 1.5 mi), the first (or last, depending your direction) 2/3rd’s or so is about as difficult at you can get in this county’s coastal hills.This of course is why I chose to travel down it instead of the other way around.

7 30 18As I travelled down Mentally Sensitive, the breeze lessened more with each downward step. About halfway down the difficult portion, it felt like someone had opened the furnace door. And then finally, at the bottom where I came off of Meadows Trail and entered Wood Canyon, I was full on in the furnace. Can’t tell you how relieved I was to have bought along plenty of fluids. In my pack I carried 38+ fluid ounces of Propel ® water and a few protein/fat snacks (as I had not yet eaten on that day).

IMG_3659So, into the furnace I travelled along of Wood Canyon’s entirety. Even more green growth appeared in the burned areas than my last visit, which is a pleasure to witness. It still looked very burnt and stark though. At the end of Wood Canyon, I climbed up Cholla Trail with much eagerness to reach the ridge. During these hot summer months, the ridge is the best place to be, even if exposed. The ridge is where the breeze is!

And the ridge was empty (West Ridge). I had it completely to myself. I also had the park at the Top of the World (Alta Laguna) pretty much to myself, and the remaining 2 or so miles back to my truck. In all, I travelled 9.98 miles with with 1,248’ of elevation gain.

I will perhaps be staying in for a while to take advantage of the air-conditioned gym. Who knows, maybe one of these days I will be able to wake early enough to get out before the heat. It is possible perhaps, as I’m on summer vacation now! Taught my last class for the summer last night. I am off work fully until August 20.

Mentally Sensitive:IMG_3622IMG_3625IMG_3628

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