TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

Saturday, August 14, 2021

An Extended Fast (& finally a hike!)

I wish it wasn’t so hot, and it’s not even that hot! But it is for me. So heat sensitive I am in my older years (though I’m still in my fifties), I’ve been off the trails much of August. Just ten years ago I was exploring trails in 105 F degree weather. Right now it’s in the low 80s at most on the Southern California coast. Just a few miles inland the temperatures climb double digits. I walk here and there around town, and it’s lovely, but it’s also the middle of summer which means this seaside town is crowded with tourists. I’d rather stay more to myself these days. We are after all still in a pandemic.

Last week I felt that the time was right for an extended fast. It had been a while, and so I was excited leading up to it. My eagerness was similar to anticipating an ultramarathon or a long difficult hike. I felt excited because I knew that I was going to come out of it a little more grounded and a little more focused on what’s really important. But at the same time, just like with ultramarathons, or long difficult hikes, I felt some anxiety – anxiety because I knew that the feat takes some suffering – it’s kind of a joyful suffering really (just like with ultras or crazy difficult terrain). But suffering is suffering, whether or not it’s joyful, it’s hard.

IMG_8878The first 24 hours of the fast was relatively easy, as it is usually. The first day is a day of excitement, a day I begin a journey. It’s like a fresh start. It’s also like a day of reckoning, a day where I focus on prayer, reading, listening to music, working (because I have a job Smile) and some chores. One of the first things you will notice if you fast is how much time you have on your hands. There’s no meal prep, there’s no sitting down to eat, ever. That adds hours to the day. And then, I have even more time because fasting for some reason causes me to rise from bed one to two hours earlier than normal.

The second 24 hours was the most difficult mentally as it always is for me during a 72 hour fast. Day two is like walking past the scaredy-cat gate while in line for a roller coaster. It would be so easy to go ahead and satisfy my hunger and just do this some other time. During this second day, mornings aren’t a problem as I never eat in the morning. By the time afternoon comes around my stomach grumbles here and there. The stomach grumblings are surprisingly short lived. It’s evening that is most difficult on this second day. I feel physically strong but mentally weak. I try to wear myself out with my focuses. Day two is actually  ideal for a hike. But I didn’t that this time. Instead I added a good deal more focus to my work, as I’m coming to the end of Summer semester.   

pexels-felix-mittermeier-355915The third day is no longer mentally challenging because it’s the last day of the fast. It feels somewhat akin to running that last third of a race, barring anything disastrous, I’ll be finishing this race. I can look ahead with relief.

The hours really drag on in day three. And while I feel mentally strong, I begin to grow physically weak in the final fasting hours. The third day is not a good day to go for a hike or even grocery shopping (because of the heavy lifting), though I’ve done both. This time I took it easy and eased on into the finish line. I completed in the evening, with 72 hours ending around 7pm Friday evening, August 6. I broke the fast with chicken bone broth (with ginger and tumeric). A little later I consumed scrambled eggs and some cucumber pasta salad my husband made. I should have probably ate a banana or some electrolyte pills because as usual, my legs and feet cramped while I slept that night. Ouch. That needs to be avoided. During this fast I drank lots of Propel water which has electrolytes but obviously not enough. Aside from the slight electrolyte thing (I’ve placed an order for SaltStick), I didn’t have any adverse affects. The next day, I felt renewed and a little more grounded by the fasting experience. I was primed for a hike – what a perfect day to hike!  And it was (except for the heat).

IMG_8862

IMG_8915Originally I planned to hike Black Star Canyon. Imagine me thinking that I could handle Black Star in the August heat. But then something came up and I wanted to stay where I had cell service. I drove up the coast and continued on up a windy road to Top of the Word in Laguna Beach. It was late morning when I parked my truck at the park up there. The weather was chilly. We were socked in even on the ridge overlooking Laguna Beach. Yes, I’ve been complaining about the heat, but sometimes our mornings are pretty chilly, even in August (we’re lucky that way.)

I hiked down to the bottom of the canyon from Top of the World. And then I made a small climb up to a great little secret place. The clouds had dispersed by then and boy did it warm up, especially during those rocky uphill sessions with no shade. I hung out at my spot in the nice cool shade, enjoying the views for a good 90 minutes before heading back out. The climb back up to the ridge and then to my truck was hell but well worth the excruciating trouble. (A little bit of that joyful suffering)

IMG_8876IMG_8879IMG_8889IMG_8906In all, I hiked a little over five miles in these hot coastal hills. Upon returning home I noticed that for the first time in a long time, my skin was crusted with salt. I told my husband, “If you hear me say I’m going to Black Star Canyon, and it’s still summertime, don’t let me go!” (As if!)

Looking forward to summer moving on!

Saturday, July 31, 2021

No Matter the Distance

The cost of living is quite high on the west coast, too high for my tastes. Except in the summertime. When much of the state spends millions to air-condition their homes, we don’t even own air-conditioning (thankfully, because the cost is just too much!) Yes, there are households in my seaside town that have air-conditioning, or central-air, but we who live in those beach cottages that we were lucky to grab before they became unaffordable, we don’t have air-conditioning. Instead, we merely open the windows and turn on the fans and let the cool ocean breeze flow. It sounds like I’m bragging. But I’m not really. Just trying to give some rationale for staying on the coast (despite so many things!)

I’ve made a half-hearted goal to get out and walk or hike every day, and short distances are a-okay. Two days in, this half-hearted goal is a little more solid now, which means it could soon morph into a whole-hearted goal. Today (7/31) I walked downtown to the post office to mail a few items. No big deal, but it was something. And that’s what I’m aiming for especially since work is winding down – something, some kind of walking, hiking, running, no matter the distance.

Yesterday (7/30) was the prize. My husband and I went for an after-dinner-walk down to the beach. It wasn’t much of a walk as far as distance, one mile, maybe 1.5 tops. But it fits the criteria when distance doesn’t matter.

Doheny Beach, a longboard surfing beachIMG_8841

IMG_8844

IMG_8849Hwy 1 / PCH (Pacific Coast Highway)IMG_8860

Friday, July 23, 2021

2 Steps Forward 1 Step Back (But sometimes 5 steps back, so it’s gonna take a while)

So, I’ve got everything at home and at my job dialed in. I’ve been cleaning and organizing. The garden looks great. I’m on top of the banking, taxes and everything financial. I have a system with my lectures and have them posted every Friday. I’ve got all my paperwork complete. I’ve even been reading and writing (long loves that I’ve neglected for some time). This side of the coin looks good. And I do feel good about it.

But that’s just half of the story.

Yep, there’s always the other side of the coin. . . now more than a month into summer and I’ve done little to advance my on-going mental/spiritual and physical goals. I take a few steps forward, then it’s always a couple steps back. This of course, is the story of my life. It’s difficult to stay grounded in all three aspects (that is mind, spirit, physical). When it gets like this, I fast, and that helps to focus and ground me. I’m always better when I supplement with a fast. And I’m always better when I get out and hike or run or walk or whatever, just wander. These things, I realize may sound odd, but they give me faith in God and keep me grounded. Oh, and as a side benefit these things also keep me physically fit and relatively trim without even trying (or it feels that way anyway since it’s not the goal).

But alas my clothing fits a bit tight lately.

My last hike was June 29, and that’s been my only hike this summer. It was the Big Loop @ Aliso/Wood Cyns, Aliso Viejo/Laguna Beach, Ca of course, my stomping grounds  (12 miles!), so there’s that. I got a lot out of it, in all three aspects.

It’s been long enough to know it’s time to turn it around and take a few steps forward again.

From my first hike of the summer ~ June 29. The Big Loop

IMG_8689IMG_8690

A crawdad!IMG_8692

Wood Canyon:IMG_8703IMG_8711IMG_8732

I almost forgot to show the deer!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Last of June Gloom

Went out on a four mile hike the day before Summer Solstice (June 20) in my local hills off of Las Ramblas (In Dana Point). This was the second of back-to-back hikes, which is rare nowadays. June Gloom still had a grip on us here on the southern coast as you can see from my photos (you can also see the last of spring). Don’t let the clouds fool you – it’s not cold by any means and it’s humid.

IMG_8641IMG_8651IMG_8657IMG_8662IMG_8676IMG_8678

Thursday, June 24, 2021

No Detours (right!)

6/19/21, two days before the solstice,  I drove off to Wood Canyon in Aliso Viejo for a bit  for exercise (about a 20 minute drive). I warned myself beforehand – just keep moving, no stopping, no meandering. As soon as I told myself that, I no longer wanted to go. I had to force myself out the door because I really need the exercise. My physical fitness level has deteriorated quite a bit in just a short while. It’s not as if I’m sitting around doing nothing. I don’t have time for that. There’s so much going on that needs to settle before I can get physically fit again. Until then, I’ll do what I can, and not dilly-dally about the course.

Though I warned myself on Saturday not to meander, somewhere along Coyote Run I noticed a giant boulder up above the trail. I couldn’t resist. I bushwhacked slightly off trail and then up the side of the boulder to take a seat up above the trail out of everyone’s sight.

What can I say? I love secret places!

Not wanting to get caught off-trail, I listened for voices before finally heading off the boulder. Then wouldn’t you know, just about twenty feet before reaching the trail, I noticed a ranger walking up with a drill in his hand. I froze on the spot, which was slightly higher than the trail. I just stood there and watched him pass, hoping that maybe he wouldn’t notice. And then, just about even with me the ranger did notice me standing off-trail in the brush. Startled, he smiled and said, “Oh Hi!”  I returned the greeting and he continued on his way without another word. 

That was my only detour. I continued onward in Wood Canyon until the end where I turned around and headed back.

About 7.5 miles covered in all. The next day, my legs ached a some. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that!

IMG_8603IMG_8604IMG_8605
On My Rock Above the Trail: 

IMG_8610IMG_8613IMG_8614

Friday, June 11, 2021

Lunch Hike

IMG_8549I took a lackadaisical lunch hike on Wednesday (June 9). Lackadaisical, because I feel like I need to ease into things. Spring time’s still in the hills (though the tall grass is now brown). And I have fallen out of shape. It’s so hard to get an even balance with mental and physical health. Just when I feel like I’m zoning in on the mental health, (which really is just spiritual health to me), then I start slipping on the physical health. Suspiciously, at the top of my physical health (in my adult years anyway, but probably in my youth as well), that’s where I saw a saw a big decline in my mental health.  Hmmmm. So off into the hills I go anyway, because that’s what I do. But nowadays it’s not just for physical health.

Look, it’s still spring!IMG_8559Wood Creek:IMG_8563

I hiked into one of my secret spots and took a seat up on a cliff. It was a weekday, as expected, the trails were practically empty. Yes, cars were parked in the lot. Some people lingered about at the ranger station. Plenty of people rode or hiked and/or ran up Aliso Canyon. By plenty I mean less than a dozen. But I lost everyone somewhere around Wood Canyon while making my way to a awesome spot that I notice in the distance and wonder how many others see. There’s only 3 places that I know where you can see this spot, and of course there’s a trail to it, so other’s know about it (I just never see them). Let’s just says it’s the road less travelled.

Here at my spot (@ the 3.5 mile mark) I ate my first meal of the day – a tuna sandwich (with provolone cheese, black olives, green pepper, red onion, & dill pickle). I wasn’t really feeling the sandwich and smashed half back into my pack to throw away later. I wasn’t really there for the lunch though. I was there for the company.  If I could upload my “smart watch” I could report how long I spent in the spot (and also my heart rate and elevation). My watch hasn’t figured out yet that I’m in Pacific Standard Time. A few weeks passed before it finally updated that I passed through Central Standard Time. And CST it has remained. This of course seems to be related to,  or at least coincides with the fact that I can’t upload to the app at the moment. I’m guessing that one hour passed sitting in this lovely spot.

Time doesn’t really matter here on this particular day – I felt I had all the time in the world and wasn’t rushed in the least:  
IMG_8573IMG_8586 1IMG_8596

Total miles on this lunch hike: 7(ish)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Moulton Meadows Loop

IMG_8469

May 23 I finally got in some trails. (And I haven’t been out since.) With a lunch in my pack, I headed out early afternoon for a little known park in Laguna Beach named Moulton Meadows. From there, I caught Mentally Sensitive Trail into Aliso Canyon for some cave hopping in Wood Canyon. And I took my sweet time going about it.

IMG_8473IMG_8495IMG_8498

I scraped up my legs a bit hopping around on the rocks. And the wind kicked in for some lovely times on the cliffs. In all, the Moulton Meadows loop covered about 9.5 miles. I still haven’t got the data off my “smart” watch for the stats that I so enjoy. For weeks it still read Eastern Standard Time.

Much needed medicine but too far in between.

IMG_8489RockIt:IMG_8502IMG_8512IMG_8515IMG_8538