TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving Epilogue

I know for certain these two things about myself: 1) I am a sucker for a routine. And why wouldn’t I be? Routines have proven to give great returns. I am focused, accomplish more and am generally more content if I follow a regular routine. 2) I am productive, have greater energy and am clear headed when I spend very little time consuming food (& when I do eat it’s high fat, lo-carb).

As soon as you mess up my routine, with things like pesky vacations, I start to flounder. Ha! ha! I love vacations; I even think that I need vacations. Just recently I was camping for three days, and then wham, it’s Thanksgiving – which meant (besides a really wonderful time with family) a feast with desserts. One of the things that is so relaxing with my way of eating is that I can always partake in the celebrations if I chose. And I do chose, but when I do nowadays, I consume much less calories than I did in my youth during celebrations. When you never IMG_5397ever eat potatoes, you can only eat so much when you give yourself the occasional treat. The same with pie – I ate a lovely slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but it only took a thin slice with a few dabs of whipped cream to do the trick (& even that was too much!).

The thing with these celebration routine interruptions is they need to be quick. If they are quick, I bounce right back into my routine and get back to my “regular” diet. I feel fine, my energy is good, and my weight is maintained, and even overall on the downward trend (which is my wish). I know that quick interruptions are okay, and even desired, from experience. But I have been watching (& very closely!). And this is what I have found: my diet affects my mental condition. Note that diet and routine are very closely related. When I change my routine, my eating habits naturally change. Inevitably, my eating window changes and my macros fluctuate too (for various reasons when a routine changes). In a nutshell, when I move away from a low carb diet, darkness moves in. I see everything in a different light when I change my diet to include carbs and desserts. High fat, low carb, I roll with the punches. I keep busy, and I try to move positivity even if things are fucked. When that changes, I don’t want to get out of bed. I feel hopeless and sad. I am 53 years old, and only now do I fully understood how much diet affects my mood. Vacations and celebrations need to be quick.

So! Back to the subject, which was I took in a hell of a lot more carbs during Chimera and then Thanksgiving than I am used to. And that was due mainly to my routine changing. Even though I knew the depression was coming, it didn’t help me any in recognizing it.

After Thanksgiving, I had three days to get out and hit trails. I didn’t. I slept in. I got a few things accomplished, but not nearly as much as I had hoped. But on the good side, I got to see more of my oldest son who was home for Thanksgiving break. Friday evening, I knew that it was time to get out and put one foot in front of the other. As dense as it seems that I am sometimes, this I have realized: I MUST WALK (or drive, or run, or move in some manner!). I walked with my husband down to the harbor to take in the Christmas lights. The lights were beautiful, especially their reflection on the water. Total miles on this night time stroll: 2.4

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Walking even a short bit did wonders, but I was back in the same funk pretty quickly. Not having fully shut-off the carbohydrate spout, I knew that I had to at least take the minimal step to get back to a routine. The easiest step was to shorten my eating window – it wouldn’t change my melancholy mood immediately, but it would be a step in the right direction. While I did that (shortened my eating window) I tried to focus in on what was bothering me. Aside from all personal tribulations that I do not wish to list here (because though life is wonderful, it also sucks to the same extreme), a main problem is my list of things to do is enormous. ENORMOUS. I had been crossing things off that list during Thanksgiving break – but not nearly as many cross-off’s as I had intended. Step 3 in getting back into my routine (step 1 being shorten my eating window, and step 2 get out and move) was to focus in on this list and start crossing things off. That helped immensely.

And then ice cream set me back, French vanilla. And I really only ate a tiny amount, but a tiny amount times two. (Oh, but it was so creamy, rich and delicious!) That certainly didn’t help the melancholy blues. So, Saturday night, I headed out again for another walk to the harbor – this time solo, and adding a bit more in distance from the night prior. On the way back up the big incline on Golden Lantern, on a whim, I decided to run. I picked a spot and pushed until I arrived, only tiring at the end (it was uphill after all). I was amazed that I was able to do it even for that short distance. Total miles for Saturday evening’s walk: 3.75

Sunday, the last day of my vacation, my mood was minimally better. Then out-of the blue (and really out-of-the-blue, as I had actually lay down to nap!) I decided to go for a run. Not a walk, a run. It wasn’t that difficult at all, which was really surprising. Thank God I had the wits about me to get out and get moving. It did wonders. Total miles run: 4.04.

I’m not back to my “regular” self. Needless to say, I am stressed. Slowly but surely (because that is my manner), I’ll climb out of this funk. I’ll climb out of this funk, just in time for Christmas vacation. On the good side this time, I was sad enough to actually go out and run, not hike-run, but RUN. And for that, I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Chimera 2018 Behind-The-Scenes

Chimera 2018 is finished. First we thought there would be no Chimera ‘18. The fires burned through much of the course. And then just about 6 weeks out, RD Steve Harvey got approval for a revised course – “The Candy Store Loop”, 5 loops for 100 miles (approximately). Difficult course, perhaps not as difficult as the previous Chimera courses, but difficult indeed (and what 100 miles wouldn’t be?). On a good day, when I am fit and have lots of miles on my belt, it takes me 6 hours to complete a slightly longer version of this loop (my version is 21 miles). Conceivably, it could take me 30 hours to finish five loops, but there’s no way that I would be able to keep the 6 hour pace after the first loop. The cut-off for Chimera 2018 was 34 hours. There were very few 100 mile finishers (7 completed).

The course: Start in lower Blue Jay campgrounds and run up Old San Juan Trail near the outhouses at the top of the road -- from there, quickly cut left to San Juan Trail. Run San Juan Trail past the Chiquita trailhead and turn left at The Viejo Tie, then turn right at Chiquita Trail and take that to San Juan Loop to the left to end up at the parking lot across the street from the candy store on Ortega Highway (Ortega Oaks Candy Store). The way back is the same, except runners take the other half of San Juan Loop back to Chiquita.

IMG_5290After weeks of prep, show time began Friday, November 16. I got up to the campgrounds around noon, partially set up camp (mainly the tent, pillows & wood). Steve had the shelters set up at the start/finish line. Stoves, heaters, lanterns, canned goods, tables, cooking utensils and such were unpacked. Whitney S. (AS captain at The Candy Store) was down in Lake Elsinore buying the food. It felt good to be back in the Cleveland National Forest. There were quite a few campsites available in “upper” Blue Jay. People weren’t really in a rush, I suppose, to campout here 3 weeks into November. Even at 3 pm, the weather was quite cool as I waited for Chris D. He and his friend Bill H. are regular volunteers and they always request the most remote station. One awesome perk about that is Bill is a licensed HAM operator. But this time around, Chris’s truck couldn’t drive to the most remote station -- they had to pack it in to Chiquita Falls. It would take runners about six miles to reach the falls. By cutting the course, you can get to the location in about 3.25 miles. And for weeks we had been doing that -- stashing water (about 90 gallons total) near that site.

Friday afternoon Chris, myself  and Ace (a Wisconsin who was camping with his wife and baby, volunteered on the spot, and remained with us until the end) hiked out to Chiquita Falls with the remaining gear: a small table, two sleeping bags, a lightweight tent, lanterns, extra batteries, glow sticks and other essentials. I must mention that the terrain to Chiquita Falls is technical and difficult in places. The last three-quarters of half mile coming back into camp is the most difficult with a terrible incline (or great incline, depending on how you look at it). We were all really pushing the pace Friday afternoon, having left the camp a little after 3:00 pm. We got caught by darkness with about a mile remaining which was not a bad thing. But I wasn’t sure if my text had gone through to my husband saying where I was when he arrived and I was not back. The company was delightful. I hardly had to talk at all, instead listening to interesting tales, occasionally chuckling and feeling glad to be out on the trails even though I hadn’t felt like going out originally.  The sunset was striking -- set against pinkish-orange wispy clouds. We could see the ocean from of the higher points. And that transition period between light and dark was eerily beautiful. The weather was still and the weather and growing colder. Eventually, I had to switch on my headlamp (which I held in my hand because it was too dark to figure out the adjustments -- and I didn’t want to stop because we were on THE MOVE).

Back at camp at 5:40 pm, I had dinner with my husband and two of our boys. Then I worked on setting up the start/finish line for registration early the next morning. I finally lay down to sleep at about midnight, and it seemed that I did not sleep a single wink the whole 5 hours that I lay there. I wore a long sleeve thermal shirt, flannel pajama pants, socks, a knit a beanie, and zipped all the way in my sleeping bag, I still froze. Damn was it cold! I could hear the zombies panting outside my tent.

I was happy to bounce up Saturday morning when my alarm rang out at 5:00 am. It meant that I could move around and get warm. Volunteers were already busy checking in runners at the registration table. Whitney had packed up and was at The Candy Store. Mike E., Noel S., and Steve’s daughter Kate were directing parking along Long Canyon Road. Chris and Bill were down at the start line, ready to head out to Chiquita Falls for the next 24+ hours. And the Hailey, Christine and her friend were ready to hike out to the San Juan Trail aid station.  All of the stations would have at least three shift changes, except for Chiquita Falls which would not change shifts until Sunday morning at 7:30 am.

Saturday (11/17) early morning check-in:IMG_5284Chris & Bill getting ready to head out to Chiquita Falls:IMG_5285Part of the Blue Jay AS morning crew:IMG_5298

Chimera 2018 Aid Stations:

  1. Blue Jay (located at start/finish line in lower Blue Jay Campgrounds off of Ortega Highway)
  2. Chiquita/San Juan Junction (around 2.4 miles on first trip for the runners).
  3. Chiquita Falls (about mile 6)
  4. Candy Store (mile 10)

Once race day arrived, my job was actually much easier compared to prior years when I needed to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs on The Main Divide. This year, the weeks leading up were much tougher (stashing water, clearing the trail). But this year, race day was much easier for me. I made sure I was down at the start line to greet shift changes, draw up maps, go over things with the volunteers, and coordinate equipment drop off. The Blue Jay station was so20181117_201214 well-staffed though, that after I showed the various shifts where everything was, the station was up and running without me. Head chef was Steve’s daughter Kate (her vegan chili, burgers and tomato basil soup were superb). 

At the homestead:20181117_133851Freezing our asses off Saturday night (11/17):20181117_194810IMG_5344

So, were there mishaps in the volunteer coordination and logistics? Of course there were. There always is. Maps can be drawn, but under darkness, or other conditions (like cold!) turns are missed, directives are forgotten. But no mishap was detrimental, and in the long run, everything worked out great, and the volunteers went above and beyond (again and again). Case in point: the so-called Chiquita/San Juan Junction aid station was set-up at the wrong location -- it was actually short quite a bit, and nowhere really near Chiquita Trail. I think the best thing about this error was that the volunteers got to be in a much more comfortable area (especially during the cold of night) because of its close location and tree coverage.  And I did not learn of this until Sunday afternoon. Ignorance is bliss. There was nothing to fix, the runners found their way, and the volunteers got a much cozier location.

But the poor guys at Chiquita. We had radio contact with them, and on 3 occasions they were told that hamburgers from the grill were on the way. All 3 times, they were delivered to the wrong aid station (which was also in the wrong location). And then, the replacement crew (bless their hearts!) got lost on the way to Chiquita (I drew maps, I did, but I don’t think anyone looked at them.) When I heard that the Chiquita Falls replacements hadn’t showed up by 8am, I grew quite concerned, but later learned that the two volunteers figured it out and made it. Whew! Chris and Bill finally made it back to the start line from 24+ hours at Chiquita Falls. And the first thing that Chris joked was that he had lost all faith in humanity (being told on 3 occasions that burgers were on their way out to them, only to never arrive!). To top that off, it got damn cold out there deep in the valley -- Chris claimed that the sleeping bags we hiked out the day prior saved their lives! I can imagine how cold it was. We all froze that night at the start/finish line. Really, it was damn cold! (About 39 degrees at the candy store, and I believe we were probably colder).

Todd V with Chris and Bill, & Ace between them (after returning from Chiquita Falls):IMG_5359

As usual, the help we received from volunteers was immeasurable. They put in countless hours in sometimes uncomfortable circumstances. It was just more of “what can we do to get it done?”

It really does take a village to get this race done. In no particular order (except RD Steve and wife, Annie, are first), here is a pretty complete list of the actors who put Chimera 2018 on the books:

Steve and Annie Harvey, Ace and Shannon, Mike E, Noel S, Cat O (& spouse), Yen D, Tom and Minerva B, Tom T, Kat, Christine H (& friend), Hailey A, Joyce L (& four friends), Walt H, Stefan B, Chris D, Bill H, Rob N, Jessica, Whitney S, Leon, Ryan B, Chris F, Tracy K, Nancy I, Dave T, Colleen S (& 2 friends), Todd V, LT, Jean, Laura, Kate, Lexi (& hubby), Lucas M, Leonard Z, Victor, Mark, AND AT MININUM TEN MORE! (I wish that I had everyone’s names) 

Looks like I have a little time off for now. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Bald Peak For The First Time (Again)

Last Sunday, I got out fairly late (about 8:30 am) and headed out to Maple Springs Road. I was hoping to re-take photographs of the yellow Maples (having accidentally deleted them a couple of weeks back!). Upon arriving to the trailhead, I continued onto Maple Springs Road, driving the first 3.5 miles, just like I always do. At the end of the paved road, I backed into a space on the dirt over the dry creek. Getting situated in the spot just right, I accidentally pushed down the accelerator instead of the break (which was so weird) and I lurched forward up the road. And it was at that very instant that I decided not to park, but to keep on driving. On a whim, I drove up a little over four miles to a nice flat area called “Four Corners.”

Well, I arrived too late in the season to re-take pictures of the beautiful yellow maples. Their leaves had all dropped. But all was not lost. Maple Springs is still a beauty to the eyes no matter what season. The drive up was slow, and fun – I am probably too careful when it comes to off-roading (I don’t do it much). The wind was rough and cold at the top (the top being Four Corners where Harding Truck Trail, Maple Springs and The Main Divide meet). And when I opened my truck door it slammed against me. After that, I sat in my truck a bit to gather the nerve to face the wind and cold. I did so shooting a live Facebook video. Saying what I was going to do on live video, meant I had to do it (even if only one or two people watched).

IMG_5162Being that I saved so much time by driving up the mountain instead of hiking it, I decided to make another go at Bald Peak. A few months back, maybe weeks, I hiked to what I had thought was Bald Peak (again) and happened to turn on my phone gps. Lo and behold, I was not standing on Bald Peak. So, I have been wanting to find the real Bald Peak for quite some time now, being that it was already crossed off my peak list.

The actual Bald Peak was easy to find, having mapped it out previously. Had to do some scrambling to reach the top, and it was a bit scary hiking down due to its steepness. Thankfully, there was a sign posted at the peak to show me that I had indeed bagged the actual Bald Peak.

Some of the fire damage on The Main Divide:IMG_5171IMG_5173

Looking across at Maple Springs Road:IMG_5178IMG_5187IMG_5208

The climb up to Bald Peak:IMG_5226IMG_5230IMG_5231IMG_5232IMG_5253

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

No Time to Post–But I’m Gonna Anyway! (Wood Cyn)

Super-duper behind on everything, literally everything in my life. But I do manage to get in my hikes here and again. This one was from over a week ago (Nov. 4) – I took a nice little stroll through Wood Canyon in Aliso Viejo, with a detour onto Wood Creek and Cave Rock trails. It was lovely and quite therapeutic. I saw 2 coyotes and 5 deer – and all at once. Alas, I was not able to retrieve my camera fast enough. Also, it suddenly came to me to check out the creek for crawdads, because it’s fall! And that’s when the crawdads show their faces. I’ve been searching out crawdads since I was 17 years old when my husband and I started dating. We used to catch them in Walnut Creek in Covina California and put them in his aquariums. Sure enough on this hike, I found several walking about the creek floor on my way out. On the way back however, I checked again, and those orange fresh water crustaceans had completely disappeared. I did catch a picture of the crawdads who appeared to be angrily waving their claws at me, and I caught a lot of other cool pictures of this lovely, local canyon named Wood Canyon. I’ll just let them tell the story because I don’t have any time. None. Zero. Zilch!

7.75 miles

Wood Canyon Trail:IMG_4969IMG_4971Wood Creek Trail:IMG_4982IMG_4995My Crawdad friends (look closely through the water):IMG_5012Cave Rock Trail (a hidden gem in Wood Cyn):IMG_5019IMG_5037IMG_5045IMG_5060IMG_5061


Monday, November 12, 2018

Scouting Chiquita

Way back on November 2nd, I drove up Ortega Highway in the morning and parked across the street from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store. My mission on this Friday’s hike was to simply scout out San Juan Loop and Chiquita Trail to Chiquita Falls. This is the one section of Chimera that we haven’t had a look at recently. Sounded like a great opportunity for my Friday hike.

The trails were pretty much all clear, except for one particular spot where a branch had fallen, but was still hanging from the tree, directly over the trail. That’s something that’s got to be cleared.

It was a lovely, strenuous 9+ miles. It’s tough, and quite technical -- the landscape is littered with boulders. It was so tough that I even ran out of fluids, but fortunately, I knew where the water stash is. I probably would not have drank as freely had I not known that I could refill at a certain point.

Rather than post pictures, because frankly, I do not know where the pictures are. I do know that they are not on the sd card that is in my computer. But I do know where the video is, so video clips it is for my San Juan Loop/Chiquita Trail hike.




Sunday, November 4, 2018

Clearing Chiquita

We are still in prep mode for Chimera (11/17-11/18), hiking out to the trails every weekend to clear fallen trees and stash water. It’s been fun, and at the same time. I’d like to clarify something before continuing though. Is the trail off of San Juan and San Juan Loop in The Ortegas called Chiquito or Chiquita. Well, for years I called it Chiquito Trail because that’s what all the official maps read. But everyone, and I mean everyone, calls it Chiquita Trail. I felt a little foolish being the only person I know who calls it Chiquito Trail. Well, it turns out, and this is pretty funny, that the sign at the San Juan Junction reads: Chiquita Trail. But the sign at The Viejo Tie junction reads Chiquito Trail, and the sign at the San Juan Loop junction, reads Chiquito Trail also. That’s pretty dang hilarious. So, I decided I’m going to call it what everyone else calls it, Chiquita Trail, even though 2 out of 3 of the signs read Chiquito Trail.

Anyway, I ended October (10/27/18) with another trip to the Chimera trails. We stashed water, and did some trail clearing. It’s looking pretty good now, and we have about 72 gallons of water hidden. That is about 70 gallons short of our goal. It’s tough getting volunteers to hike that those technical trails weighed down with water. But thankfully, we have a few hearty souls every weekend. It’s a fun, hard workout, and also thankfully, we have nice breezes being that we are fully into autumn. Gotta love, love, love that autumn.

And so does this baby tarantula:IMG_4817IMG_4820IMG_4835IMG_4823Taking selfies while the buys work Winking smile:IMG_4843IMG_4847

Total miles: 7

Elevation gain: 1,151

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hike in the Hometown

IMG_4765Last Friday’s hike (10/26/18), I was fortunate to have my husband along. This is the reason I opted for a hike in the hometown – a nice long 5.41 mile walk along Doheny and Capistrano Beach. The tide was high, the breeze was cool. And we were back home in no time, which was important for my husband so that he could get back to work. For me – it was my day off! And what a lovely day off, complete with lovely Pacific Ocean views. We ploughed through the sand for some of the miles. But the beach ended up at such a slant in certain locations, that we opted for boardwalks and parking lots. It’s a strange wonder that I don’t walk much in my hometown anymore. Instead, I’m constantly on the road, driving good distances to hike in locations far away were I can only see the great Pacific from afar. I really do live in a wonderful location, expensive as hell, but we were fortunate enough to get in before we were priced out. The California Riviera, that’s what some people call this place that I have called home for thirty years. I have never been to the Riviera, so I don’t know for sure about the comparison. But I do know that the coastline out here is magnificent! 

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