TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yaeger Mesa

During the late 1800’s a man named Jake Yaeger had a cabin along Trabuco Creek and mined a mesa he owned up the canyon.  His mining efforts (which ran between 1899 and 1925) proved unsuccessful, but his name still lives on with the mesa taking his name:  Yaeger Mesa. 

I have only visited Yaeger twice before.  It’s not an easy task, and one that should not be taken alone.  It’s steep, it’s lonely, it’s long, and it’s hot.  But it’s beautiful.  I took that trip for a 3rd time yesterday, Saturday August 23.  First however, I hiked up Trabuco Canyon with my son on Friday, the day prior, to stash water at what would end up about mile 8.5 in my Yaeger Mesa loop.

On the way we stopped of at an old shot-up car, and also posed at the base of a closed-off mine-shaft:

Saturday, I managed to get myself out of bed at 4:45 AM.  I woke to the noise of Hank’s text arriving to my phone.  He was on his way.  Fortunately, I only live about thirty minutes from the trailhead, so I was able to take in a cup of coffee and casually change into hiking clothes.  At 6AM, I met my friends Hank, Judi and Matt, and we headed up the steep county trail called Bell View.  Did I mention that it was steep?  Well, it was.  And this was only the beginning. 

Looking back on The OC:

After about a mile on Bell View, we got off the beaten path and took an unmarked single-track referred to as Bell Ridge.  The climbs were immense, but we had relief with the occasional downhills and flats.  I felt confident that we were headed in the right direction when we spotted the flag.    Soon after, we came upon a giant cross that I hadn’t see before.  We bushwhacked out to it for quiet awesome views of the county. 

And then we continued to climb, and then climb some more.  And when we climbed a hill that seemed so steep that we couldn’t possibly climb one steeper, we’d come up on an even steeper hill.  Often I used my hands and arms to hoist me up particular difficult sections.  The steepness was laughable. 

At about mile six, Bell Ridge turned abruptly to the left, and we headed downhill before one last uphill to the peak.  At the top of that next hill, at about mile 6.5, we took a turn onto another single track and headed down a ridiculously steep loose-dirt trail.  It was shady.  It was lush.  And it took all my strength just to stay up right.  Often I leaned into my hip and slid down, but was careful to periodically change hip sides to avoid injury.  At one point, when simply just standing, my feet flew out beneath me and I crashed to the ground.  With minor cuts to my right arm, I worried more about the status of my camera, which I distinctly heard slam against a rock on impact.  Fortunately, all was well with my trusty camera.  I would find out later that evening however, that all was not well with me from that fall.  (I experienced pretty severe back pain for several hours before finally taking ibuprofen to ease it some)

Around mile 7, we finally reached Yaeger Mesa which is a large field filled with bracken fern year-round.  On Saturday, the ferns were a yellowish-green which from afar (say from The Main Divide or Horsethief) looks bright green.  Other times of the year the ferns are brown, green or even red (see prior winter visit by clicking here).   There is nothing like it in Trabuco Canyon, or anywhere that I’ve been in the Santa Ana Mountains.  Yaeger Mesa is one of my happy places. Smile

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Catching Up

With life getting increasingly busy lately, I have fallen behind recording my runs.  So, in an effort to quickly catch up, here’s a picture recap of my last run (Wednesday of this week):

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Turning Back

I almost didn’t make it out the door for my Sunday run.  I so didn’t want to make the drive, 30 minutes of it off-road.  And I so much didn’t want to climb a mountain.  Why on Earth did I go?  Because I knew that I would love it.  Eventually. 

The time read 7:10 when I finally hit the dirt road into Trabuco Canyon.  From there it was another slow, bumpy thirty minutes to the trailhead.  Two other cars were driving out of the canyon.  I saw no others driving in.  But at the Holy Jim lot, a group of 8 or so hiker/runners set off up Holy Him.  And a few men and possibly their young sons prepped for a hike. 

I took off up Trabuco Trail, destination: West Horsethief.  Seriously, I would prefer never to look at that trail again, much less travel up it.  It’s miserable I tell ya!  Miserable!  I decided to run a counter-clockwise loop because I’d rather run the remote trails first and the more travelled ones later when I’m more apt to get sick or injured.  (I never see anyone on Horsethief, always see people on Holy Jim.)  And so, I trotted up Trabuco, through shady forest and then rocky desert terrain, without a single thought of Horsethief.  The flies were minimal, the breezes delightful, and the scenery gorgeous. 

I didn’t even think about Horsethief when I finally arrived after three miles.  It’s just too steep and relentless to think about.  I also didn’t fret about travelling up the switchback too slowly.  I didn’t think about “how much longer.”   I played my old trick – one foot in front of the other, until the misery was gone.  And when the misery was finally gone, elation set in. That’s what I was waiting for.Smile

I carried with me about 110 fluid ounces of liquids, and picked up an additional 40 on The Main Divide from a secret stash.  It’s tough to run carrying so much water.  I’ve got to do it on these hot summer days.  And I do love The Main Divide.  I’d carry 500 fluid ounces if I had to.  I get views of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.  I can see Lake Elsinore and Lake Matthews.  And of course, off to my left, there’s the grand Pacific Ocean.

My original intent was to run The Main Divide all the way to Santiago Peak.  The towers stood out in the distant, seemingly within reach.  I knew it was going to be a long day, but felt confident that I had the strength to do this.  I didn’t see anyone along The Main Divide.  The weather heated up and I rested twice in the shade to cool my body temperature. 

Cooling my temp. in the shade:

At about mile 8.5 I decided to cut off some of The Main Divide with a so-called short-cut up Upper Holy Jim.  The trek was steep.  And the trek was hot, terribly hot.  It felt like my inner body temperature was beginning to boil.  I let out a groan when I crashed through an elaborate spider web, and stopped in every spot of shade to cool down.  But it seemed that I’d heat up again within minutes.  My eyes stung from salt dripping off my forehead.  And to top it off, I felt lightheaded.  With no relief in the incline, shade completely disappeared.  I stopped in the sandy single-track, washed my face with water from my handheld and poured the remaining over my head.  80 fluid ounces down, I still had 70 ounces in my pack to go. 

Looking back on The Main Divide from Upper Holy Jim:

And then I started to see colored spots, yellow to be exact.  That’s when I decided that I didn’t really feel like almost dying today.  Making the peak was just not worth getting heat sick or worse.  Without another moment’s thought, I turned around and began trotting back down Upper Holy Jim.  I noticed a truck racing along the divide, kicking up clouds of dust.  Other than that, the mountains were desolate.  Then suddenly, two hikers popped out in front of me as they made their way up the trail.  The girl (or rather, young woman) was red-faced, desperate, she said, for a breeze.  The boy (oops, I mean, young man) was smiling, but struggling too I could tell from the heat.  It was afternoon about 12 noon.  I cautioned the two hikers to cool down occasionally, and went on, like a mother, to instruct them in the methods of cooling off.  

About a mile later, I arrived to Holy Jim, for a long, hot run down the giant switchback for a total run of 15.27 miles.  I met and chatted with a hiker with long white hair making his way up Holy Jim.  He was well equipped with fluids.  Yay!  I made it to my truck healthy, having avoided getting sick, happy that I had made the decision to turn back.  Pretty quickly, my legs cramped and continued to mildly cramp throughout the day.  More proof that I really needed to turn back.  Here’s to knowing when to turn back!!

Glorious shade, ready to descend on Holy Jim:8 17 14 a8 17 14

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marijuana Bust

Friday I got out by noon and drove along the toll road for a run in Crystal Cove and Laguna Wilderness.  I had forgotten that nearly every time I run there I think I will never return.  Why?  Because so dang little shade.  Somehow, I always find my way back, and smack in the middle of a summer afternoon.

I arrived to Ridge Park, the hills in Irvine/Newport that overlook Newport Coast, amidst loud and chaotic excitement.  A couple helicopters flew above dumping marijuana plants onto a pile in the middle of the road.  Police vehicles and news vans crowded the streets.  To top it off, spectators drove in and out of the one opened area, laughing and talking, excited about the smell of marijuana in the air. 

The marijuana fragrance was strong and stayed with me for a while on the dry hot trails.  I ran right through the commotion, thinking that law enforcement would stop me.  They didn’t, but I did notice a news camera following with its lens, and I thought, “FUDGE!  I don’t want to be on the news.”  (I didn’t quite use the word “fudge.”)

It wasn’t long before I was away from all the commotion.  I saw very few runners or hikers on the trails.  Understandably.  It was just too hot.  I wondered how on earth farmers were able to grow illegal crops in this mostly brown, exposed wilderness area.  How did they water the approximate 4,000 plants.  How were they going to harvest without being detected? 

I arrived at the bottom taking No-Name Ridge and No-Dogs a little overheated.  I decided to take El Moro Canyon back up to Bommer Ridge (the shorter choice), scratching my original plans to run past the canyon and straight up to Moro Ridge.  I’m not sure the canyon route was the best choice.  I felt like I was running in an oven.  On a ridge I would have at least experienced a breeze.  

No-Name Ridge:

No-Dogs Trail:

Making my way through the canyon & stopping in the first bit of shade:

Much needed shade (& this was about all of it):

With about a quarter mile left before reaching Bommer Ridge, I konked out.  Light headed, I needed to cool off my body temperature.  It appeared that I let heat exhaustion overcome me once again.  Dang it.  Sitting in the shade, I took in a nice breeze and it seemed my temperature cooled quickly.  After about ten minutes, I finally got to my feet and slowly ran the additional 1.5 miles to the truck. 

Recuperating, waiting or my temperature to drop:

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Oh!  And I was on the news – a Spanish language station.  A running friend, Conrado, took a picture of his television as I ran across the screen, and sent it to me via facebook. Smile with tongue out

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Change of Scenery

Tuesday, I got out the door at noon.  Noon.  And I ran 9.43 miles around town, down to the beaches, back up to the headlands and through town back home.  It was hard running at a quicker pace for more than nine miles.  I need to do this more often.  (Fat chance Winking smile)