Thursday, January 31, 2019

Harbor Run

I was okay with not getting my Friday hike last week, mainly because I got in a good 11 mile hike the day before. Friday (1/25) , I had a faculty meeting 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. After that I set up office at the downtown Starbucks, right up from the harbor. I accomplished much over two large coffees (with added heavy whipping cream that I brought in myself!). Later, I enjoyed a small amount of nuts, cheese, and salami for lunch (or rather breakfast, because it was my meal of the day). This was a great big Starbucks, with lots of room. I have to say that I felt quite comfortable working away at the big desks they've got set up there.  I parked myself next to an outlet so that when the batteries ran low, I was back online.

I think that I packed up at Starbucks a little after 2 p.m. Being that I was already dressed for a hike (because I originally thought that I might do that, but decided that I had just too much to do), I decided to go for a short run (umm . . . TROT) down at the harbor. It really was a perfect day for it -- mild weather, cold but not cold enough to require extra clothing more than a thin long sleeve. So, I strapped on my Amazfit watch and hand held my phone for 4 miles, mostly along the marina, and then out to the beach past The Marine Institute. There were plenty of people mingling about, but nothing like tourist season. And there were lots of birds. Wildlife on the seaside on this particular Friday was mainly birds (but lots of squirrels too). Pelicans hung out at the wharf, seagulls swooped low to the water, and ducks dilly-dallied around the marina waters. Talk about pleasant.

To think that I have driven thirty, sixty, ninety minutes to hike or run elsewhere, when I have this a half mile from my home!

I can't get a very good account on my speed because of the little stops I make along the way to snap the photos that I just cannot resist taking. I can't imagine that it added up to more than ten minutes though. Nonetheless, here are some of my Amazefit Stats (as they do differ from my Strava stats, and that still annoys me):

Miles: 4.00
Total Time: 59:44
Calories (allegedy!): 301
Avg heart (bpm): 165 (doubting the accuracy here, seems high for an average)

Who knows when I'll get out there again. Happy for any opportunity. It makes life so much more bearable.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Adventures of a Mentally Sensitive-Mathis Loop

Aliso Cyn – Wood Cyn – Meadows – Mentally Sensitive – Moulton Meadows Park – Aswut – Top of the World – Alta Laguna Park – West Ridge – Mathis – Wood Cyn – Aliso Cyn

I got out before Friday for some more trails this week. I don't teach Thursday mornings this semester, which means I have the day until about 5:30 pm when I need to drive off to teach a math class. That leaves a lot of time for trails. I decided to spend some of that time putting in some long miles (11) sprinkled with the steepest incline in Aliso Canyon (Mentally Sensitive Trail!). 

The meadows were green. The creek was full. And the wildlife was out in abundance. Squirrels ran across my path. A bright blue bird swooped down in front of me. A road runner flitted across my path on Mentally Sensitive. And as soon as I turned the corner on Meadows heading toward Mentally Sensitive, I spotted a a rarity step out onto the trail from the meadow at my left. I mentioned in my last post that there is a delay in identifying animals when they are coming straight at me. The otherside of that is when the animal is not coming straight at me, there's instant recognition. This was the case on Thursday. I caught a glimpse of the cat from the side and immediately idenitified Bobby! (As in Bobcat). And what a beauty he was. 

Climbing Mentally Sensitive was a chore. Definitely  took my sweet old time. Half way up, I had grown so overheated, I needed to take off my long sleeves and tie them around my waist. The struggle was absolutely wonderful. And the green valleys and Saddleback Mountain views were very pleasing to these old eyes. Soon we will have fields of spring flowers. Hopefully we'll have a few more rains to keep the creeks flowing. Wet winters are a delight in California (not so much during the actual rain because we aren't used to it, and thus a lot of times unprepared and unpracticed). But the pay off from the rain sure is great.

Some Stats:

11.01 miles
Avg. Heart Rate (rpm) 122
Max. Heart Rate 165
1,522' Elevation Gain
1,480' Elevation Loss
Highest Altitude 1,168'
Lowest Altitude 150'


Uphill 35%
Flat 36%
Downhill 29%

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Chiquito/Chiquita Falls are Falling

The last time I hiked out to Chiquito Falls I said that the next time I visited they’d be falling. AND THEY WERE. Monday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday) I was off from work, so I drove up Ortega Highway and into Blue Jay Campgrounds. Due to the government shutdown, the campgrounds (and all the bathrooms) were locked (because you know, the peasants might go out and play on the king’s land).

I parked outside of the campgrounds on Long Canyon Road and trekked through the grounds to see at least 3 people camping. They parked outside too and hiked in their gear. I mean, who was going to enforce the closing if the government was closed? Nobody, that’s who, and good for the campers too who made the trip all the way up the mountain to find it closed. I do not believe that the actual trails were closed (that would be absolutely unenforceable), but all the campgrounds were for sure.

Despite the government locking us out from the people’s land, the trails were gorgeous on Monday, and they were empty too (until I reached the falls). I took Old San Juan Trail to San Juan Trail. And then, instead of getting right onto Chiquita Trail like I usually do, I opted for The Viejo Tie, which takes a bit longer. I was missing the tie, it had been years. And The Viejo Tie did not disappoint. It was just how I remembered – single track winding between giant boulders arranged on sandy desert-like dirt and then shady, lush areas with moss and shrooms. 

It got even better – Chiquita Trail was lush and green from all of our rains, and the creek was full. The trail was like an enchanted forest with green moss covering the rocks, and a lace like canopy meeting above. At one point, I noticed an animal running toward me on Chiquita, and as usual, it took a couple of seconds before I could determine the animal. It’s a strange thing that when I see an animal coming toward me my sight and thought are not synced. It takes a few seconds for my brain to register what type of animal I’m looking at. My brain registers the picture, but naming it comes a few seconds later. On Monday, it was a gorgeous gray fox. At first, after registering the longish snout and the big pointy ears, I thought coyote. But then my brain settled down and I registered its short legs and the creature’s closeness to the ground. Definitely a fox, and unfortunately, by the time I got my camera out, the fox realized that he was running straight toward a human, turned around and darted off the other way. I do not believe that I have ever caught a picture of a fox. I have perhaps seen a  half dozen on the trails, some in California, others in Texas. 

The falls were falling, and they were crowded with people who had hiked up from The Candy Store on Ortega Highway. There must have been a half dozen hikers laughing and having a good old time as they feasted on fruit at the top of the falls. There another guy playing a ukulele in the high grass right next to the pool, and a male/female couple sitting on the rocks a little further down. After about 15 minutes though, everyone left, and except for the water, it was silent. I had the falls completely to myself. (I posted a 50 second video of the falls here)

I loved this hike. It totaled 9.82 miles with 1,654‘ elevation gain (though that gain was really over about half of that, 1,654' feet in about 4 or 5 miles). I also ran a bit because I was falling behind on time. I took San Juan Trail all the way to the end (or beginning) which I haven’t done in years. It was delightful. It felt good to have dirt beneath my feet. And I didn’t even feel clumsy along that pretty technical trail.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Hiking San Juan Capistrano (Plus an initial review of Amazfit Pace sports watch)

I got a new sports watch for Christmas, and I have barely said a word about it. The fact that I haven’t said much is testament to its relative ease of use. I’m still learning how to use it to its fullest capacity, but I already know that me and this watch are going to be friends. The watch is an Amazfit Pace, and it’s battery lasts for days and days. Battery life, if I have not already mentioned before, is of utmost importance to me -- perhaps the most important. And so, Amazfit Pace hit that concern right on the mark. However, I’m not accustomed to a touch screen watch, and most of the time I cannot figure out how I got to a the menu I’m currently at (the menus can run deeper than my mind wants to go!). The good thing is that I can easily start and end a hike or run without getting lost in the menus on my Amazfit. I was also able to easily sync the watch’s data to the phone app. But, I’m not thrilled with the phone app, mainly because it’s a phone app. I prefer the large screen -- I’d like a pc app (like I had with my Garmin). The best I have found so far, is having the data upload onto Strava.com.

I somehow linked my Amazfit phone app to an old Strava account that I don’t think I’ve ever used. I didn’t even know that I correctly synced the two (it’s all a guessing game with me sometimes) until I received some “kudos” from a few trail running friends.  Also, another thing about the Strava upload, and this is going to bug me for a while, the numbers between the two apps differ slightly between my Amazit phone app and the Strava pc app.

Aside from all the usual stuff that I’m used to on a sports watch (distance, mileage, elevation, pace, etc), this watch also tells me the weather forecast for a week, records my heart rate and even tracks my sleep when I wear it to bed! Yes the Amazfit Pace tells me how much of my sleep was light versus deep sleep. And it shows me graphs with the exact timing of deep sleep cycles. Who knows how accurate the sleep data is, and I’m not sure even if that information is useful to me. I could download music to the watch too and listen bluetooth (which I probably will not do -- I’m old fashioned and still pack an ipod). Bottom line, useful statistics or not,  I’m back in the business of tracking stats.

On Friday, after a week of rain, I strapped on my Amazfit and headed out for some trails. I went as local as can possible being that I didn’t get out until the afternoon, and my son had a 4:30 doctor’s appointment. Seemed like as good a time as any to get reacquainted with the town that I so love, the town that got us out here --  San Juan Capistrano. I reminisced in my Friday video how many years ago I was travelling by train with my husband-to-be and his classmates from an urban development class at Cal Poly. As the train slowed down through the hills of San Juan Capistrano, I gaped at the beauty outside of my train window. I had never been to San Juan Capistrano but knew right away I loved it and exclaimed right there in the train, “I want to live here!” Turned out, my husband’s first job out of college was in San Juan Capistrano. We moved out here in December 1988.
Trabuco Creek flows right into San Juan Capistrano. From there the creek that I so love, meets up with San Juan Creek, and they both flow out to the ocean at Doheny Beach in Dana Point. I decided to meet up with Trabuco Creek before it met San Juan Creek. I parked my truck by the horse stables just outside of the Los Rios District.

It has been a while since I have seen Trabuco Creek flowing so forcefully through San Juan Capistrano -- at least a few years. It was flowing so well on Friday, that I could not find a place to cross. My hike came to a halt where the creeks comes tumbling down the rocks beneath the train tracks. So, I took a little detour and climbed up to the tracks, ran across the bridge then made my way back to Trabuco Creek Trail through the meadows that are dotted with orange trees. After meeting back up with the trail, I turned back off again to take the bike path beneath Interstate 5. From there, I made my way fairly easily to Arroyo Trabuco Trail, just past the golf course off of Avery Parkway in Mission Viejo. My hope was to make it to the first giant overpass (Crown Valley Parkway), but my hike came to a gradual halt when my feet began sinking down into the mud. The trail became so muddy that my feet sank down to my ankles. Pulling them back out of the mud to tredge on became tiresome, and I feared that I was going to fall flat on my face. So, I made my way back from this lovely hike in San Juan Capistrano a little earlier than planned.

7.43 miles logged
3:10:48 Total time
528 ‘ feet of elevation gain
220’ average altitude
121 bpm average heart rate

Friday, January 18, 2019

One More Mental Health Hike

I am back to work after a winter break. Work that is teaching. I teach computer applications at two schools (one community college and one k-12 adult ed), and HSE Prep/high school equivalency: math, reading/writing, social sciences, and science, (at another community college). There is much preparation time involved, so I am beat. I am beat because I also want to spend time with my family, keep the house clean, read, write, run or hike, and so on, and I haven’t yet figured out how to juggle it all with teaching (though I have a very big suspicion on what it is that I need to do).

So! Back to the reason for this blog (besides supplying a way to just ramble on about wandering trails), and that is, my last trail adventure. January 11, 2019, I took in one more mental health hike (my second of two). It was a change of plans, as always, that landed me in Laguna Wilderness that morning. The trails aren’t overwhelmingly beautiful to my tastes,  in that area anyway (sorry Laguna Beach Sad smile, I still love you though, very much! ). The trails here are mostly all completely exposed. There’s no shade, no place to recover from heat, and the creeks are almost always dry (but there is always the Pacific Ocean, which makes this a perfect place any time of the year!). Fortunately though, there is no need to escape from heat right now in Southern California. Our low temperatures during the day are in the fifties (Fahrenheit). If I drive 30, 40 minutes inland however, the temps can dip ten, twenty degrees.

Back to subject:Traverse Laguna Wilderness or Crystal Cove Parks during the wintertime!  There is no lovelier time in these parks (which run along the coasts of Laguna and Newport Beaches). In the wintertime, the weather is cool enough that you don’t need shade to recover. On Friday, I switched in and out of of my long sleeves, gloves and beanie, but I was mostly slightly chilled. Most of the hike, a gray sky hovered over a steel colored ocean. It felt somewhat eerie, especially when a ray of sun beamed down through a lapse in clouds causing a streak that reached to the horizon. There was a short time there that the clouds parted and blue skies appeared. And when that happened, I could see all the green more clearly, and it appeared as we were on the brink of spring!

This was my route (10.23 mi):

1,621' elevation gained