Sunday, August 11, 2013

Notes From the Trail Throwback

From my Facebook blog, May 30, 2009. Glad to report I have become a pro at Peter's Canyon. Still haven't gotten to the Camp Pendleton Mud Run. Maybe next year. :)

In January, a friend announced he and his wife signed up to do the Camp Pendleton Mud Run this June. I was all aflutter and wanted to do it too. It got me thinking...if I'm going to do that course, I'd better get in shape. Start training. Stop eating donuts.

That's why I chose to do it next year. That and they were already sold out...secretly I was happy. Now I had a year and a half to get into hopefully less rounded in nature.

My mother used to take me hiking when I was a child. I had real (meaning expensive) hiking boots and woolly hiker socks found only in specialty stores like REI. Into my mini backpack was crammed lots of health food that was so easy to come by in the mid 70's along with a silver space blanket, whistle, mirror, compass, snake-bite kit and a pack of moleskin. I have vague memories of trail markers, tree limb canopies, and lessons on the local flora and fauna....including the incredible manzanita bush...of Southern California. I later joined the Girl Scouts and added lots of badges and a bigger first aid kit to my backpack. I stopped hiking long, long ago...but did not lose my love of the outdoors (or my near-paranoid need to overpack for a short trek to even a port-a-potty). 

I decided to start "training" for the mud run way back in January. I have been walking 3-4 miles at lunch two or three times a week (um, not so much the last couple weeks), but knew I needed something more challenging than a Rancho Santa Margarita residential neighborhood. I needed to find a trail that I could build my stamina and strength on. Six months after "making the decision," here on the eve of June, I finally hit the trail: Peter's Canyon Regional Park.

I haven't been to Peter's Canyon but once in the 35 year's I've lived in this area. I remember it being a bit hilly, (bwahahahhaha!! Oh, how the mind forgets...) but didn't know how long the trail is. I also did not look it up on the internet nor download a map, I just figured I'd show up, walk around the lake and go home. Break into the trail hiking softly. So, I got my dog, slung a small bag over my shoulder, grabbed my Big Sur walking stick and a small bottle of water and drove to the park. I was ready for adventure! I was totally and cheerfully oblivious!

It is a 5.5 mile up-and-down trail, on which I was the slowest in a sea of freakishly fit humanity constantly passing me by, chatting merrily about their lives as I huffed for air. I hit an uphill climb that I dubbed Death Hill. I'm sure it's not REALLY called that and I'm equally sure I'm not the first to coin that phrase. 
"Death Hill" from below. It looks so innocent from here.
See those little tiny pointy things at the top of the trail?
Those are humans who made it up alive

Death Hill from mid-point. Yes. MID-point.
Of course, having made it this far alive,  and being me, I became a bit full of myself,
taunting those at the bottom, "Go ahead! Try it! TRY IT!  MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAacksplurthack."
Eventually I began audibly exclaiming WHAT THE FUCK in varying degrees of amplitude as each peak lent me a view of only more peaks. And NO carpark in sight. I didn't even know where the hell the carpark was anymore. It could have been on the moon. I had reached the point of no return. No matter what I did, I was going to have to walk. Just keep moving, just keep moving.

So I did. I graciously moved aside for joggers and mountain bikers. I not-so-graciously and silently cursed one jogger as he passed a third time. I swore if I saw him again I'd trip the bastard up. But I rescinded my cruel intention as I'd noticed he was quite good-looking and ring-free and causing face-to-ground impact may not be the best way to meet him. Just a thought.

Two or three hills down, I gratefully met a hiker of MY kind: breathless, sweaty and round in a bright blue shirt clearly chosen to help rescue teams find his body from both ground and air search. Finally, here was someone I could relate to: definitely not a candidate for the cover of "Yuppy Outdoorsmen" or "Perfect OC Hiker Weekly". We smiled, greeted each other with a fatigued "Hey thar...I'm effing out of shape, got a stitch in my side, my heart is about to explode and I hate health freaks" nod. After a short chat and a tip about a cheater's shortcut, Rotund Blueshirt Guy said goodbye and we creaked off in opposite directions.

As I got to the cheater's fork in the road, I chose to forge left – and up AGAIN – to take the full route, knowingly adding another mile and a half to my hike. Thanks to my friend for the advice, but I am a very obstinate person and will usually force myself to see things through to the bitter, blistered end.

Oh, and then....sigh...I got to the 3 mile marker. I pretty much laughed out loud. I thought, this is pitiful. I have so many friends who could do this trail walking backwards on their hands. IN THE SNOW!! Ack. I just kept moving forward.

About a mile later I met up again with Rotund Blueshirt Guy. He told me about a little detour called Creek Trail. What a blessing. It reminded me of those tree-top enclosed trails I walked as a young child. And, amazingly enough, there was actually a creek. Torpid and green, but a creek nonetheless. There were delicate branches of leaves languidly draped from tree to tree, trumpet flowers, palm trees, cacti...and best of all, little wooden bridges that made a comforting hollow thump at each step...a sound that seems to me must have been the norm 150 years ago. Unfortunately I brushed up against something that caused my leg to start stinging. As I peered closely at my injured leg I saw that this mean little bush had defensively inserted minute, hair-like spikes into my skin. Demmit! It wasn't until I tried to remove them that I realized I just hadn't shaved in a few days. Whooops! My bad... * blushes *

In the end, with my tired expression, sweaty face and walking staff that was almost taller than me (that's not saying much), I felt almost biblical as I reached the last peak of my hike and saw my car waiting patiently across the lake! Fraptious joy! Hallelujah! Haven ahead!! Even the dog seemed to sense the end was near and momentarily perked up. But, oh, how that lake mocked us as I saw we had still to walk around it, rather than pay a ferryman to take us across. At least the River Styx gives you a ride to the other side. Damned be damned.

As my dog and I got to the car, we looked at each other tiredly. And that's when I decided I think I'll do this again tomorrow. 

Notes to self from the trail:

• Buy REAL hiking boots.

• No little fake hiking bag slung over shoulder....ANNOYING!! Wear backpack next time.

• More water. LOTS more water. 
• Leave the demmed dog at home next time. What the hell did he ever do to me?
• Joggers are like clowns: They are evil and must be stopped
• Wow! Muslim women like to walk hilly trails and talk on their cellphones. 
• GOAL: Must pass grey-haired people. (*Old farts. Healthy old farts. Healthy, grey-haired faster-than-me old farts!!*)
• Put some leather on that walking stick. OUCH.
• Try eating BEFORE going on a 5.5 mile hike. It'll do wonders for ya.
• Find space-blanket, whistle, compass, mirror, snake-bite kit and moleskin pack...just for old-time's sake.


  1. You have learned much as it pertains to hiking. Yes, preparation is the biggest part of a hike.

    Have a terrific Awww Monday. :)

    1. Thank you Sandee! I have grown in many, many ways since those times. My dog is also quite thankful. :)


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