Thursday, November 24, 2022

Another Race Against the Clock

November 11, I went for a long awaited hike in my local canyons (Aliso and Wood). This time I set out only a few hours before sunset. So, it was another race against the clock, which meant no dillydallying, no stopping, no exploring, just constant moving to avoid being caught out in the dark. I Marched right past The Rock that sheds tears without even noticing and arrived back at my truck after 9.5 miles about 20 minutes after sunset -- just as the sky turned black. Good times! When I arrived home, I did a control fall out of the truck and stumbled into the house so warn out and trashed I was.These are the days!

Santa Catalina Island ~ 42 miles across the seaIMG_0423Looking back at Old SaddlebackIMG_0430

IMG_0432Meadows Trail

IMG_0451Toyon berriesIMG_0453Crossing Wood CreekIMG_0457



IMG_0488I turned suddenly around to find Wiley Coyote sneaking upIMG_0491Looking healthyIMG_0492








Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Proof of Autumn

A fortnight ago (October 28), I took my first autumn hike of the year. The joy set in less than 1.5 miles up the trail. Joy almost always sets in. And a mile and a half is about normal. I always wonder at that point why I’m not out there every day!

Anyway, I’ve been telling myself, “Wait for fall, then you can go out and enjoy the trails. When you see the crawdads, you will know the time is right!” Of course, I headed off to Wood Canyon (Aliso Viejo, CA) to see for myself. It’s become sort of a ritual over the years. And so, I was not surprised to witness crawdads fighting at the bottom of the creek. The chilly mornings kind of assured me that I’d find them there.

Proof of Autumn!

I hiked the big loop – that is the outside trails forming a loop (West Ridge on the way out, Wood Canyon on the way back, Cholla and Meadows Trail connecting them). The big loop was a totally irresponsible thing to do in my shape. But I did it anyway, knowing full well it would trash me. Turns out, I fared the 9.5 miles surprisingly well. And on top of spotting my crawdads, I saw several dear, including a three point buck. Then on my hike out of the canyon, I passed The Rock. It came out of nowhere, as I often walk by it with little consequence. Today, I stopped, climbed up and sat. And the tears instantly fell like a waterfall. I felt like I sat among ghosts up there on that boulder, me and my three young children, so long ago. I don’t even remember if I relished the moment back then as it occurred. I hope I enjoyed it as much as I miss it.

So, my first hike of autumn – that’s it in a nutshell. I can still hike 9.5 hilly miles and for that I am grateful!




Monday, October 10, 2022

The Benefits of Painting (& how it’s kinda like trails)

87596366Most people who have read Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer (or who have seen a movie adaptation) might think that Tom gets the better end of the deal when he charges a fee for the privilege of whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence. Tom ends up with a  a pocketful of riches – some marbles, a few tadpoles and a dead rat to name a few, as well as, a painted fence. But at what cost?

IMG_7462I’m not about to go into a spiel about how we can all probably benefit from hard work or about how accepting one’s punishment (painting the fence was Tom’s) builds character. I’m referring to the cost of what Tom lost: all that tranquil time, solitude, just he, himself and his maker, for hours on end – that very thing I yearn for when I set out toward the sunrise, when I hike for five hours only to turn around and hike back down. A subtle similarity exists between my aimless wandering in the wild and the mundane task of painting, so subtle, I’m not sure I can even explain it.

Maybe I’m just weird that way, always searching for a secret place. If I can’t get out and make the trek, I’ll find it around me, even in the mundane. So, I’ve been painting my house over the past month: scraping, patching, priming, caulking, painting. I’ve been climbing up and down ladders, sitting, standing, stretching with a paint brush in hand all at a snail’s pace, little by little, covering our little beach cottageIMG_7562. I do this for hours at a time, silent, without listening to music or anything else for that matter, except for the wind, distant neighborhood noises and  my thoughts. But it’s not like I’m consciously thinking. No, I’m observing thoughts, as they somethings fly and sometimes, meander in. I don’t usually follow the thoughts anywhere (as that would be altering this state). Instead, I merely observe my thoughts, as I dip my brush into the paint. These are not not deep thoughts, more like fleeting thoughts as they drift in and out. And hence come the tiny revelations, or brilliant insights, or some kind of connectiveness and understanding somehow emerges. Like I mentioned, I can’t really explain it. But I can say, that painting has done this for me, and perhaps Tom Sawyer missed out. Yes, he got a pocketful of treasures (just imagine what he could do with that dead rat!) but whilst he counted his treasures, he missed out on tiny, wonderous, fleeting revelations that comes with painting.

And then I clean up, and go for a walkabout – got to keep my legs moving so I’m ready for the mountains when the weather cools down! By then I should be finished painting (or not).

Walk About

Friday, September 2, 2022


I don’t mean to brag but my left arm now has 95% of its full motion back. It’s been about eight months since my slide down those slippery rocks in Holy Jim Canyon. I feared that I’d never get full range back. Now I’m confident that day is around the corner. As long as I don’t re-injure. And so, I tread carefully, very carefully.

Got in a hike last Friday (8/26) before this current heat wave. A nice and easy hike, about 2.25 miles each way, to sit silently for an hour. So thankful I can still do this.


Friday’s hike out to a secret place

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Time For A New Season


I’ve been away from trails for a bit, a LONG bit. I don’t even want to look up the last date I ventured out. I’m sure it was spring. It depresses me. I really need that contemplation that trails  afford.

Among my excuses: I’ve been busy, (plus it’s hot). Gratefully, I had a good amount of work this summer. I taught a session at the community college (online), had some committee work there as well and taught speech and debate to youngsters out in the San Gabriel valley – quite a drive every Saturday (100+ miles). I also painted my boys’ room (tan with cream trim and ceiling – the toughest part, it’s cathedral!). I also wrote more fiction and added a few short stories to my latest project – a collection based during the turn of the century, the last century in and around the areas that I love (San Juan Capistrano, Black Star Canyon, Silverado, etc.)  This project of course took a lot of blood sweat and tears and added to my ache for the trails. I couldn’t help but think if I could just get out there and wander aimlessly in the mountains say for five to eight hours at a time, I could pretty much finish up the entire collection in my head. But I didn’t do that, instead I struggled and had a rough time of it. I have to hand it to the writer’s group I attended for a while – deadlines really helped me churn out the pages. Lastly, for eight of these summer weeks, I spent my Monday and Wednesday mornings in an online piano class at the college I teach. What a joy that was! It’s been many years since I’ve played. Looking back, the summer was a success but there was always something missing. Trails. Thank God it’s still in my blood. I have this tiny worry that my love of trails is going to slip away and I’m give up that joy. (sigh)

To celebrate my physical return to campus, I went out for a little hike the Friday before the first day of the semester (August 19). I set out in the morning and hiked only a few miles (a little under four). It was hot as expected. But the shade was plentiful in Wood Canyon. I took the scenic trails, the less travelled, and hunted for a perfect spot to sit up above the trail in secret. I eventually found that spot, up from Coyote Run Trail, a nice shady location on a gigantic boulder beneath a canopy of trees. I sat silently above the trail for a nice long while taking in the soft breeze as it blew through the trees. Occasionally a cyclist rode by or a bird hopped about in the leaf litter. The climb down was steep and I scuffed up my knee a tad. Oddly back at home, seeing those scratches comforted me. It was back to normal. Hopefully, it will be that way more often. I know it’s early still and we’ve got more than three weeks left of summer, plus a few more hot weeks after that, but I’ll be happy to say “So-long summer!” It’s time for a new season.

Wood Creek Trail (Photoshopped with a saturation layer):SearchingPoison Oak (Photoshopped with a poster edge filter):PoisonOak

Friday, August 5, 2022

Anne-Marie (Annie) Harvey

IMG_6901The trail running community in my part of of this amazing and perplexing world said good-bye to a lovely woman, an exceptional woman this year. I knew her as Annie and I am blessed to have known her.

I met Anne Marie Harvey at my first long distance trail race – Calico trail run, January 18, 2009. I didn’t meet her officially then. I happened to sit next to Annie, and unknowingly her husband, Steve Harvey. I plopped down on the ground at the awards ceremony after finishing the 30k, wrecked, my skin encrusted in salt, knees bloodied and pebbles embedded in my arms. I wasn’t feeling that great.

This event was indeed my first fully physically trashed experience. It was the one event  that really started this quest for these types of endurance runs. And amazingly, to me anyway, serendipity put me sitting right next to Annie Harvey. If you know me, or if you know this blog, you may know that Calico Ghost Town, oddly, plays a significant part in my life (beginning with my first visit as a Girl Scout camper back in 1975, up to rediscovering it in 2009, then returning year after year.)

Annie ran the 50k in 2009 and finished well before I staggered across the 30k finish line. She finished placing in her category too (I believe she placed first). When Annie stood to take her award, she looked back at me and smiled. Years later, I would know that smile. Annie smiled often. And then she said to me with a wink as she stood to accept her award that day in Calico, “It finally pays off to advance to a higher age group.”

For the next year or so, I saw Annie off in the distance with others at various trail events. I didn’t actually see her again, up front and in person until nearly 2 years after my first Calico. Once again, I was wrecked, so wrecked, I wondered if I could even finish the race. That’s how these things usually went for me, especially in the beginning. The race: my first Saddleback Marathon, November, 2010. And as serendipity would have it once more, I got the pleasure of meeting Annie again -- this time at the last aid station of the race, the Trabuco Trail AS.  

For miles, I had been trying to catch my running friend, only to find out from Annie, that she had just dropped and had taken a seat in the last truck down. I was so disappointed. I counted on some camaraderie to help me make it to the end. My Garmin read something like 21 miles. How was I going to make 5+ more miles? I felt like I was going to collapse! My first time on this course (heck my first time in these mountains), I had no idea what was left of the course. 

Annie smiled. She leaned in and said, “You can do it. You’ve only got a mile and a half to go.”

“Wait. What? That doesn’t make sense.” I looked down at my Garmin.

Annie smiled again and put her fingers to her lips. “Shhhhhh,” she whispered. “The course is short.”

OMG! Well, you can imagine my glee? I was in pretty bad shape but not bad enough shape to stop me from stumbling through 1.5 mostly downhill miles. Thank you Annie for this wonderful news! I could have kissed her. I didn’t. I wish I would have.

I saw Annie in many races, either as a runner or aid station crew. She was a comforting soul at these events. She was too far out ahead of me in races to know her during the run. If my memory serves me correctly, Annie ran one of those Calico races with a broken leg (& I believe the Long Beach Marathon too). By 2015, we were working together side by side, sleeping in trucks parked along the road in the same lower Blue Jay campground circle for Chimera 100s, Old Goat 50s, and the Saddleback Marathons. Annie was always a delight. Annie was appreciative. She was humble and she was kind. We were not close but spent many hours together. I never heard Annie utter an unkind word. She was the type of person who was happy for you and what you could do. I know it’s cliché, but true in Annie’s case – she was one of a kind. 

annieI’m very fortunate that I got to work for Steve Harvey (Old Goat Races). I received much (immeasurable) on my part of the deal,  not the least of which, working with Annie. Annie was lovely. I really cannot think of a better word to describe her. She was the queen of Old Goat. This summer we said good-bye to a queen.  


I picked this up from a little piece of paper with this link printed at the photo showcase during Annie’s Celebration of Life in San Juan Capistrano this summer: “When Annie met Steve,” at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, June 1991. -

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Sunday Travels

Spring semester ended late May. It felt like a starting gun for me to squeeze into 2 weeks all that I have neglected. I have neglected much. But that is always the case (though I’m constantly moving. Never. Bored.) Two weeks is not enough time of course. But I still make my lists so that I can at least progress a little. I need to finish painting my boys’ bedroom. I have to get my truck worked on. I have to paint the kitchen and clean up all my stacks. Stacks, stacks, everywhere stacks! And I also have to prep for classes. Fortunately, I have a full load this summer – fortunately for the bills but not so much for tending to that which I have neglected. And not so fortunate for my quest of  trails and secret places.

Who needs trails for secret places? Trails make secret places very easy to realize. So, the answer is I do; I need trails for secret places.  But one can find such a place in a crowded room. It just takes focus, difficult focus. I don’t have that focus right now. I’m out of whack (more so than usual). So, when I can, I drive down to the ocean and find my secret place parked in front of the waves. This works wonderfully.

This past Sunday, I packed a bag and chair and walked down to the sand to set up office.The beach was crowded, the skies were blue. A gorgeous day! I caught up on much of my reading. It felt good. It felt good to get my legs moving too. That is, until it didn’t.

Somewhere in my Sunday travels, I must have twisted my knee. By the time I headed back, my knee was swollen and achy. Weary of injuries, I thought it probably wasn’t a great idea to hike back up Highway One with this knee problem. But after learning that the trolley doesn’t go up Highway One (only down!) and that the county bus wasn’t due to arrive for another twenty minutes, I decided to go ahead and make the trip by foot. Not a good idea. My left knee pained me all night. It was swollen, throbbing and locked up when I walked. I was so perplexed by this injury that I spent several hours icing and researching online. It seemed to me that I had one of two things, either 1) a meniscus injury, or 2) arthritis pain. Because of the locking, I suspected the injury (plus I had been walking around in sand with an uneven load – as if I didn’t know any better!). My prognosis for hitting the trails anytime soon looked poor. I was already planning my recovery.

The next morning I woke afraid to step out of bed. But something very strange happened. I felt no pain whatsoever. The swelling had gone down and there was absolutely no locking. I read that minor meniscus injuries can heal very quickly. But this quickly? I doubted that. So, now I’m a little worried that it was arthritis. Who knows. For now, my knee is good and I’m not going to worry about it. I’m done with carrying about worry.

My office for the afternoon:IMG_6815

Somewhere over here is where I think that I twisted my kneeConfused smile:IMG_6821IMG_6816IMG_6809