TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Breakfast at Black Star

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Hiked up Black Star Canyon Road last Thursday (2/4) with breakfast in my pack. Despite the crowds at the bottom canyon (and the awful graffiti, which is sparse but there, not to mention the barbed-wire electrified fences), Black Star Canyon is wonderful, which is why I chose it for breakfast. Once you begin the climb up, the crowds and graffiti and barbed-wire electrified fences fall behind and the canyon opens up to this awesome playground that most people don't venture.

IMG_5640I left early enough to avoid the crowds at the base of the canyon. There were just a couple of others on the trail during the first two miles. And after that it would be several hours before I saw another person. My intent was to possibly have breakfast on the boulders above the falls and then afterward spend some time at the “Indian” site. The weather was wonderfully chilly which made the climb up that giant switchback road very enjoyable. Once I got above the clouds, it warmed up some – but not enough to take off any layers (except for the gloves and beanie). I’d say that the temperature was perfect. Also, the clouds were absolutely magical, softly, silently swirling about in the sky.

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IMG_5698After 4.5 miles I took a sharp turn off the trail and headed down a single track straight into the canyon. There’s a lot of overgrowth, and a couple of places I needed to duck to avoid a branch. In the end, the trail dumps out at the dry creek bed where massive boulders are strewn about above the falls. Being that the creek was dry, I ventured further than I had before, through a small cave made from the boulders and down to a nice long flat rock, perfect for breakfast. When I finally landed on that rock, I felt so miniscule compared to all that surrounded me that it made me nervous. In fact, the rocky canyon ledge that hovered above nearly took my breath away. It was frightening almost, sitting there beneath this huge cliff that could squash me in an instant. I settled myself down with some breathing and prayer and then in awe took in the massiveness of this place. After some while, I hiked back out and up to the Indian village to have breakfast.

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IMG_5737The Indian site of course was the perfect spot for a meal. . It is no wonder why the Tongva-GabrieliƱo people chose this spot to do the same. It’s perched out over the canyon with awesome faraway views. There’s shade and grass and boulders scattered all about. It is said that the Tongva-GabrieliƱo people came here during the summer because of the cool weather. They grinded acorns in this spot which was their main source of food up here. I sat just a few feet from some of the grinding holes to partake my breakfast. Across the canyon I could see Baker’s Cross. The spot was ideal.

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Brought enough so to have choices: Dubliner cheese, peanut butter Larabar, couple of beef sticks, bag of cashews, bag of dried fruits and nuts. Ate about half before packing it up and heading back down the mountain. In all, I hiked a little over 11 miles with 2,842’ of gain.

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Monday, February 8, 2021

Weekdays

IMG_5524The trails have gotten so crowded during the pandemic, that it is best to leave the weekends mostly to others and venture out myself on weekdays. I should clarify that when I write “crowded”, it’s not amusement-park-like-crowded. It’s actually only crowded near the parking lots and in the lower canyons and easily accessible ridge lines. But during a pandemic, “crowded” of any sort is not the best choice. Generally, as soon as the climb begins, the crowds begin to thin, so I will hike weekends here and there, but right now weekdays are definitely best.

IMG_5511Wednesdays especially have become a favorite of mine – last Wednesday (Feb. 3) I got out nice and early, when the weather was still quite cold and walked through an empty parking lot into Aliso Canyon. I lucked out and right away caught several pictures of a road runner just milling about at the park entrance. I had practically given up on getting a picture of these birds. I had tried so many times, but they are just so quick, I always fail. Imagine my excitement to finally catch some fairly close-up shots of the bird before it darted off. Believe me, the excitement was real! I knew this hike was going to have dividends. Deeper in Aliso Canyon the fog was still hanging on, and it grew so chilly that the buff came up and over my chin and nose quite a few times. The canyon just kept giving as it always does.

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Both Aliso and Wood creeks were flowing and the canyons were healthy with evidence of spring right around the corner. Deer stood off in the distance grazing grass. Ferns and moss grew thick in the shady areas, and green grass was beginning to poke up in the fields.  I spent some time at the creek crossing off Mathis remembering a blog friend who in five short days from then would pass away from cancer. I hiked up Coyote Run after that, my favorite of late, and headed straight over to Nature Loop, where I took my ritual climb to the top. And I stayed there for about thirty minutes before hiking the ridgeline back into Mathis Canyon.  In all, I travelled nearly 7 miles with 1,116’ of gain. I felt solemn and at the same time renewed. 

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Thursday, February 4, 2021

New Territory

IMG_5397This past Saturday (January 30) I covered some new territory on a point-to-point hike in the same mountains that I always hike, the Santa Ana Mountains (home to Old Saddleback or Saddleback Mountain, my happy place). As is the nature of most point-to-points (unless you take a bus or some other public transportation) you don’t do it alone, which meant that I got to enjoy some company on this long one-way trip. Under darkness, I met running/hiking friend Kelly and her friend Lilly down Black Star Canyon Road. That was a little eerie being that it was pitch-black dark with no illumination from city lights. From there, Kelly drove us to our starting location, off of the 91 Freeway where we parked at the Green River Golf Course. According to Google Maps, that put us in Yorba Linda. It also appears that the golf course is located within in Chino Hills State Park, as are much of the foothills around the area.

We took off just as the sun was rising and found our way to the foothills by way of a wildlife corridor that runs beneath the 91. It was dang cold, probably not freezing, but just a few degrees above. My flimsy buff covered all but my eyes on most of the climb up Coal Canyon. The climb was immediate and in no time we were above the clouds with views of snow capped mountains in the distance. We wasted some time on this leg of the trip pulling the cameras/phones out at all the scenic spots. It really was breathtaking.

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The road up Coal Canyon was jumping with new growth, ready to burst for spring. Several miles up the canyon we came upon a grove of young Christmas-looking trees that I later learned are Tecate cypresses. They gave off a strong fresh, amazingly magical aroma that matched perfectly with it’s bright green foliage. Back at home I did some research and learned that these grow only in three places. Three. We were in one of them, Carbon Canyon. I felt lucky once again out on the trails – lucky that we came upon this grove and that we noticed their specialness without having to read it online beforehand. (I will return for the sole purpose of checking in on these trees again, as much of them were destroyed in recent fires, and this was part of the glorious new-growth that inevitably occurs some years after a fire rolls through.)

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IMG_5443After about 8 miles of climbing we summitted Sierra Peak, my first summit of Sierra Peak. It was amazingly crowded, with most of the 20+ hikers coming up together as a group. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to summit another peak in my mountains. The views were spectacular of The San Gabriels across the immense flatlands of San Bernadino, Riverside and Los Angeles Counties – somewhere down there was where I grew up, just a few short miles from the San Gabriels.

Though it had warmed enough to remove the beanie and gloves, it was still a bit chilly at Sierra Peak. The area was spread out enough also, making it easy enough to keep our distance from the others. Though our governor has lifted a statewide “shelter-in-place,” social distancing is still the protocol. (As a side note, though it is a highly debated topic in our area on whether or not masks help prevent the spreading of COVID, we did wear masks in the automobile since we were in closed quarters. Out hiking however, we went mask-less).

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Before reaching the peak, we had turned off onto Leonard Road (some more new territory for me) and after summitting, we enjoyed a little downhill continuing off on Leonard Road. We had some nice and easy rolling hills for a bit, coming up to Skyline Trail a couple miles later. And just a little bit after Skyline, Black Star Canyon Road – I was in familiar territory! We stopped for some snacks at a photo-op here. And then we began the 8 mile trek back our cars. It was pretty much all downhill for those 8 miles – good thing because I was pretty beat by then.

What a trip!

Approx. 19.25 miles (our watches varied), w/  3,370 ft of gain.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Well Worth Trouble

I honestly thought that I had probably never mentioned fasting in this blog before. But I did a quick search just to make sure, and lo and behold, I’ve mentioned fasting about a half dozen times before. (That’s me, not paying attention again!)

So, a reader of this blog may know that I fast. The history in a nutshell: I’ve been fasting regularly since 2018. I fasted in my youth (as a teenager, 1980s) as a religious sacrifice, though I knew little of what that meant. Then on February 14, 2018, after some study on autophagy and ketosis, I ventured onto a haphazard journey that quickly lead to regular 24 hour fasts and intermittent fasting as a normal way of life. I recall the date exactly because that was the date of the Parkland high school shooting massacre. I recall much about that day. I recall much about that week even leading up to that day that I’d like to forget. But those were the steps that got me here, and so for that they are good!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

pexels-suzy-hazelwood-2523659Initially, I reached out to fasting because I wanted to feel better, have more energy, and rid myself of the sugar cycle (addiction!). I also wanted to run again. And I wanted to feel strong again. And I wanted to change my mood. I had no idea this autophagy venture was going to keep opening doors until the obvious happened; I combined my prayer life with my fasting life. I mean duh. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I have read and studied fasting science, rituals and techniques for several years now. I knew darn well that Jesus fasted, as did his disciples. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle fasted. Ghandi fasted. But it wasn’t until my mother texted my sister and I back in early November of last year that it dawned on me to use fasting as a specific prayer tool. It was her idea. As soon as I read the text, I was in, and so was my sister.

IMG_5284So, fasting has gained more significance in my life since I began the journey back on Valentine’s Day 2018. Fasting is now combined effort – a new and improved fasting.  I fast to humble myself. I fast to focus and seek the face of God you might say. This combined effort has made all the difference in the world to me. It’s not so much about the health anymore either. I admit that the added health benefits aren’t so bad. I came out of the pandemic feasting holidays a few pounds lighter. Imagine that (all while enjoying the holiday dinners and desserts!)

One might wonder how fasting interferes with my trail days. Surprisingly, I feel no adverse affects hiking after 1 or even 2 days of fasting. Hiking on a 3rd day fast on the other hand is quite another story. I feel weaker and hills are difficult to take on these extended fasts. Usually, I purposely refrain from major activity on the 3rd day. But this past Wednesday (1/27), I decided to hike on my 3rd day of fasting, on purpose. Challenge.

I chose a quick short lollipop loop in the coastal hills during the late afternoon and boy did I luck out. Pretty quickly in I came upon this lovely bobcat below in Aliso Canon. She was so interested in a rodent hole that she didn’t even notice the hikers behind her. And just to her left there’s about 9 deer in the field! 

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I felt fine during my hike on flat trail and even on gradual inclines. But boy oh boy, those few short hills that I chose gave me some trouble. But it was well worth trouble – a lovely struggle actually. I hiked to one of my special places overlooking a canyon to take in the sunset. And then, I raced against the final remnants of the sun hoping to make it out of the park before dark. Dusk went quicker then I planned, so I found myself leaving the trails after the sun was long gone. I almost forgot to look behind me on the way out, which means that I nearly missed the very last scene (pictured below!).

I surely plan to do this again.

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Approx. 6.5 miles w/ 630’ of elevation gain.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ccccold on a Tuesday

I started this past week strong by getting in a hike early on, Tuesday 1/26, in between storms. I chose Black Star Canyon, just after sunrise. And it was ccccold (that’s my literary attempt at conveying the fact that my teeth chattered). I was prepared with almost enough warmth. My only problem was that I couldn’t warm my chin and mouth while trekking through the shaded and wet canyon floor, even though I had cinched the hood of my over shirt so that only my eyes poked through. How cold was it? I don’t know exactly how cold – the rain puddles were frozen over with a thin layer of ice at the base of the canyon, so I’m guessing that it was of course freezing at one point, but probably about 40 F when I arrived. Two and a half miles in the climb begins, and so I was able to warm up enough to take off the beanie and hood. The climb is constant after that. It’s constant until you reach the outcropping on the right, the site of the historic Indian village. When I say warmed up going up that mountain, I don’t mean that I was warm – I mean that I was warmer, or rather, less ccccold. And so, the gloves remained, and I don’t think that I took off another layer the entire lovely trip. (For the record, I had four layers on up top: sports bra, tech shirt, cold weather long sleeved sports shirt, and wind/rain breaker with hood plus & beanie and gloves).

IMG_5149Being that Tuesday was a work day, I didn’t have all the time in the world, so I made this hike relatively quick, just up about 5 miles to the Indian Village. The fairytale spot (no, not really fairytale,  more like nature’s church)  was empty of course being a Tuesday, so I sat down at my seat on that giant rock across from Baker’s Cross for quite some time before heading back. In all, I put in about 11 miles with 1,600’ of elevation gain. On a Tuesday!

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