Monday, July 31, 2017

The Pillars Beneath the 5

The main highway in my parts is Interstate 5. I take to get pretty much everywhere. I drive the 5 to work. I take it north and it gets me to LA. I take it south and it gets me to San Diego. And as I have been doing since I was little girl, I daze out the car windows imaging all the places I could discover off of the 5 every time I travel it. I don’t know how may times, dozens, hundreds, I’ve noticed this particular dirt road at the edge of San Clemente just before Camp Pendleton, the marine base. It’s a long, wide road that travels beneath the 5, and heads off to the coast. I’ve made note of that road countless times, but in the 29 years I’ve lived here, I guess it kept slipping my mind.

As luck would have it, this past Saturday (7/29), I finally took the drive to the edge of San Clemente to take a look at that road. It was late afternoon, so I decided to just make a leisurely time of it. I did put on a pack, but that was merely because I didn’t know what to expect. I really just wanted to get out and clear my mind, not to mention move a little. 

I parked my truck on Christianitos Road, not far from the campgrounds. Being that I really wanted a beach destination, I hopped the crash guard and headed to the coast, as opposed to myriad of trails headed inland. Those inland trails will have to wait for another day, a non-summer day, as trees are sparse inland, which means very little shade. And as many who know me knows, I cannot take heat anymore.

The road began as a dirt path, and as it neared Interstate 5, grew shady from lush growth near a seasonal creek. There were plenty other travelers taking this road, most carrying surfboards, some wheeling wagons of day-at-the-beach stuff up from the shore.


IMG_0687I continued on the dirt path beneath the 5, where the grand pillars that held it up were covered with graffiti.  Four or five marines drinking Dox Equis beer came up as I studied the art beneath the 5. I knew they probably had to be marines because one of them called me Mam when he greeted me.


Beneath the 8 or so lanes of Interstate 5, the road turned to pavement. It went off to the left, and to the right (where a number of surfers were trotting down, surfboards in hand). I took the road straight, at the welcome to San Onofre Beach sign. From there, it was a slight decline to raised train tracks. I think the mileage totaled about 1.5 to the tracks. Just past that, the shore.

I found a spot in the sand to sit and watch the waves. Then I shuffled through the graveled sand for beach glass. I found a small handful of green, white and clear. The lifeguard stands stood empty, but the beach was far from empty. Though not crowded, this is obviously a surfing beach, with surfers everywhere – in the waves, on the sand, and even on their bikes tugging along their boards. Occasionally, a train roared by. And I noticed that beach goers drank beer freely, as opposed to the beaches near my home where you’ll get ticketed for drinking alcohol.


There’s an unusual amount of driftwood strewn about at San Onofre. Something I never see at my beaches. And even more interesting are the structures built out of this wood up and down the beach. They are literally everywhere – tepees and huts. The ones being used were covered with towels and such, but many were vacant, ready to be photographed.


So, after meandering about, hunting for beach glass and admiring all the makeshift huts, I decided to make my way across the tracks. From there I found a little dirt path that lead up to a paved road. This was the same paved road that veered off to the left on my way out beneath the 5.

IMG_0729 (1)

About a half mile later, I came to my turnoff, but before heading back, I stepped up on the bridge and peered down at the creek. It was my kind of world down there beneath the giant pillars of the 5, so dark, lush and green. One day, I told myself, I’d come back to explore. And then while looking over, I caught a glimpse of bright colors through the leaves. And that’s when I noticed some heavy-duty graffiti art deep in the growth.


I knew there had to be a way down. A chain link fence ran along the road to deter people from getting to just where I wanted. But you can’t fence in everything, there’s always a way in. Determined, I headed back to my truck, on the search for a trail that lead deep beneath the 5. It didn’t take to long to find it. The trail was overgrown, and littered with spray paint cans. When I finally located the walls, I found that the graffiti went on and on and on, pillar after pillar. I could have spent all day down there. But I got so deep into the brush, I spooked myself, fearful that I might come upon some guys looking for mischief, and then where was I to go? So, I headed back up, losing the trail here and there. I used the graffiti as a road map, making it back to the road safe and sound.


3.7 mile lollipop loop:san onofre

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Volunteering at The Harding Hustle

Well, it turns out that I can indeed get my butt out of bed if I commit to someone else. Can’t do it for myself, but if I tell someone else that I’ll be there, then I will. Case in point – last Saturday (7/22), I was up at 4:30 am and on the road by 5:00 am on my way for a day in the mountains, volunteering for the Harding Hustle. I’ve run this race once (the 50k portion) and have worked it several times. This year, I stepped up on a last minute call looking for volunteers. I had mixed feelings – volunteering for a race is a bitch, the day is long, and bugs are plenty. But being in the mountains, well, that is wonderful. Not only that, I get to see people I haven’t seen in a long time, and I always get to meet great new people. Generally, I like people.

The Harding Hustle begins and ends at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon, offering 3 options: 15k, 30k and 50k. It is a tough race, not terribly technical, but the climb is enormous. And the route is mostly exposed. Drops inevitably happen due to heat exhaustion. It gets HOT. I worked the Modjeska Peak aid station on Saturday, the spot where runners had to turn off of The Main Divide and run up Modjeska Peak and back. Then on their return from Santiago Peak, they had to run back up Modjeska Peak and back. It’s a tough spot for the runners. It wasn’t a bad spot for us (Pete, Sonya and I). We had a gorgeous view, and an occasional breeze. And I got to hike up to Modjeska Peak to place markers on the ground for runners to mark their bibs (a mile up, and a mile back).

We only had one drop at our station. But we picked up some more drops on the way down. We drove up on some pretty miserable runners. I almost cried witnessing one runner admit defeat. His shoulders slumped forward, his feet barely shuffling, it brought back a familiar feeling, a deep, dark exhausted feeling.

Anyway, we didn’t have enough space our truck to pick up the drops, so volunteers got out and ran back (with only a couple miles left). Can you imagine, being so utterly exhausted that you drop with only two miles left in a 32 mile race? I haven’t quite done that, but I can certainly imagine it, and I’ve seen friends do it. When you’re done, your done! Those poor miserable souls – they were wasted.

Anyway, I’m glad I went out, and am always glad to be in the mountains, especially helping runners on their crazy feats. But yikes! The day was too long. I pulled up in my driveway a little after 4pm.

Look at that cloud cover over the Inland Empire!


View from Modjeska Peak, looking out over Orange County


Standing on Modjeska Peak


View of Santiago Peak from Modjeska Peak


Modjeska Peak Aid Station (located at the base of M. Peak)


Traffic jam on The Main Divide when one truck on a convoy coming up gets a flat


Friday, July 21, 2017

What a drag it is getting old . . .

I’ve come to a point in my life that I cannot sleep. I can drag myself to bed dead-dog tired, and then lay there, seemingly all night. Sure, I get some sleep here and there. But I wake constantly, and when I do, it is very difficult to fall back to sleep. Usually, at that point, I stumble out to the living room, turn the fan on full blast and eventually fall back asleep on the couch.  And then, when morning comes, I really cannot drag myself out of bed. If there were something that I HAD to do, like go to work, or get the boys off to school, I could probably get out of bed. But right now, the boys are out of school, and I don’t need to leave for work until around 5:30 pm.

I’m in a slump. Actually, I’ve been in a slump for some years now, off and on, but it seems to be coming to a peak right now. On a good day, I get out of bed at 8 or 9 am, but it’s usually more like 10:00/10:30 am. There was a time (for many, many years) that 5:30/6:00 am was standard.

Maybe it’s hormones. I am after all, 52, wait . . . 53? Let’s see, 2017 minus 1965 . . . 52. That’s really not that old, but I feel old, and I feel like I have been rapidly aging. I am out of shape, and getting back into shape has been like starting all over again. And that sucks. It really sucks.

Fortunately, two of my sons are gym rats, and that gets me into the gym here and there. And I’ve actually started lifting weights again. I just feel so weak, I figured it’s about time I start strength training. I do this about 3 times a week (on a good week). I also set out to begin running, starting with short road runs. My chosen route has been the harbor island, which many people don’t even realize is an island. One of my sons even exclaimed, “The island! What island?” And he’s lived here his entire life.

IMG_0557I usually drive down to the harbor mid afternoon and run basically a 5k, which includes taking the sidewalks beneath the bridge and over the bridge to include the entire island. And that has been utterly miserable. Seriously, there is nothing worse than running when you’re out of shape, and in the IMG_0427summer heat no less!  My first run out, I actually fell, which, wait, there is something worse than running when you’re out of shape -- and that is running and falling on the cement when you’re out of shape. Attempting to cross the street (actually jaywalking), I tripped on piece of uplifted sidewalk and hit the concrete with a thud. I felt humiliated sprawled out there down on the sidewalk, listening to the cars whiz by. One guy pulled over and asked if I was okay, and I was hardly even grateful for that. I skinned both knees, one worse than the other.

I don’t carry anything on these harbor runs, no water, no camera, no phone – just my garmin strapped around my wrist and an ipod clipped to my shirt. I got back out there pretty quickly for another 5k at the harbor. I didn’t fall that time, but the next day, I came down with a sore throat and a cold that wiped me out (see – rapidly aging, since when does a cold take me out?)

the island

It took quite some time before I got out for my next harbor 5k.

Harbor runs since my last blog post:

June 29: miles = 3.15

July 1: miles = 3.20

July 13: miles = 3.08

July 20: miles = 3.18

While those short runs have proved miserable, I was able to get some miles in at Aliso/Wood Wilderness on July 14. I ran very little of the route, mostly hiked, but it was still a good workout. And just stepping out onto the dirt, I felt a wave of anxiety rush away from me.

I let my son use my truck, so he dropped me off at Moulton Meadows in Laguna Beach. It thrilled my heart when the first thing I noticed was a rattler crossing my path. I ran up to it to make sure I could snap a picture before it slithered away into the brush. From there I hiked down Meadows into Wood Canyon which I took to Mathis Trail. Wow, what a climb that was. Yikes. I did it using the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other method. And it was a bitch, but at least it was beautiful.


Climbing Mathis behind mountain biker up front:


Climbing Mathis with mountain biker behind:


I did 6.23 miles ending at Top of the World. From there I caught a canyon trolley down to the coast, hopped on another trolley in Laguna Beach where I caught the Dana Point Trolley back near home.

That’s all I really have to report. I really, really hate feeling weak and starting over to get back into shape. It’s the pits!