09 November 2013

Rescued By the Blogosphere

If sneaking a run in while only in Pennsylvania was a motivation enough to boldly test the Achilles (now STOP, that’s not an insult to Pennsylvania, it only reflects that it’s not very far away!), notching a run in the Golden State wasn’t even a question of motivation. It was obvious. Oddly, despite having travelled there extensively in years of yore, I’ve managed to avoid the place entirely since the mid-nineties, so it too was missing from the Obsessive Compulsive list of states within which I have donned shoes and treaded miles.

Besides, when trapped in a cavernous urban hotel, a cavernous urban convention center, and a cavernous company rah-rah meeting (the corporate tradition known as the sales conference) for days, getting out running would be a mental stability necessity. Not that I fault my employer for holding said rah-rah meeting; as rah-rah meetings go it was pretty good, not to mention it meant our whole gang was together to watch the Red Sox win it all (Big Screen, Big Papi, Big Night!). But still, mental stability. Must. Run.

Alas, have you looked at a map of Anaheim, California? It’s been forty-five years since the song came out, but I’ll give you a hint: L.A. is still a great big freeway. In fact, even the “surface roads” as they say in California lingo, are, to my view, nearly freeways. Granted, they have traffic lights, but they’re wider than most freeways back east, and traffic moves, well, faster than it does on most of the clogged freeways. It’s not conducive to gentle, calm, and peaceful outings.

Morning One’s target was a circumnavigation of the spot on the map called Disneyland. Knowing I’d be out in the early morning dark (early morning not being my forte by any means, but doable when still on east coast time), this option offered the advantage of relatively few street crossings. And gee, perhaps a sighting of some tall landmark within the Marketing Empire of Disney?

Not a chance. Far be it for mere mortals to actually see into the empire without having paid a large quanta of wampum. The Imagineers are masters of landscaping. I might as well have been circling a typical California gated community, expertly hidden from prying eyes. So rather than something interesting to behold, it was merely concrete sidewalks and headlights screaming by at close to fifty on the flat boulevards, boulevards of sameness. Amusingly, a club-mate from back home related he’d been in the same convention center trap, had tried the same lap for the same strategic reasons, and experienced the same disappointment. It wasn’t just me. I felt no regret for being limited to only a few miles in my hobbling state, since I knew that adding more miles really wouldn’t have changed the scenery.

Morning Two, accompanied by a couple co-workers, one a local friend, the other a new one in from Germany (a high point of these conferences is the people from all over the world), I targeted a meander through the residential neighborhoods to the south. This wasn’t a simple exercise. They are a maze of twisty passages, all alike (for those of you who remember the original “Adventure” game from the seventies). Even had it been daylight, it would have been easy to get lost; bad enough on my own, but downright embarrassing when dragging along a couple of colleagues. But I used my usual strategy of minimizing turns you have to find, instead leveraging roads that end in a T and force your next move. And so we made it back alive, the experience far better for the presence of friends, the empty streets, and the ability to use of asphalt rather than concrete. But still, rather unsatisfying. I’m sure each homeowner’s estate we passed was a place of pride, but to us, they all looked the same. But I knew that would happen, so I prepared for the experience by planning redemption.

As it turned out, my recent romp in the world of clots had a secret sunny side. Dr. Lady Doctor made it crystal clear: if you’re flying, you’re active on that plane, walking every half hour (which at one point turned into push-ups in the galley, but that was another story…). As a result, I couldn’t take the red-eye home as corpo-directed (sleep and walk around? Incompatible!), which offered up a post-conference afternoon to escape the L.A. basin grid. But where to go? With only a few hours between busting out and dusking out, it had to be close, and after days of urban captivity, it had to be great.

And as it turned out, I knew exactly where to go. No, not physically, but among our blogging world, for advice. There happens to be a lady named Lauren who, to my view, knows every trail in Southern California (and after running the city streets, I know why!). She’d linked onto my blog years back when I’d done some podcasts for my old buddy Chris of Run Run Live, and I’ve wandered over to her blog, On the Run, from time to time. We online literate runner types are nothing if not willing to connect and chatter endlessly via the web, so it was worth a shot to look her up and beg some tips. And tips she did provide. So it is with great thanks to Lauren that I happily report that my urban anesthetization was erased with a delightful, if a bit dusty, amble through some fine California trails. Rescued by the Blogosphere, indeed.

Our target (I say ours, as co-worker Vic tagged along to walk the trails, likewise needing a convention cure) was the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Honestly, the part that I saw, while pleasant and highly enjoyable, didn’t qualify as wilderness by any means, but I’ll also hedge by noting that I certainly didn’t see the whole park. Mattered not, it was wilderness by comparison. Lauren vectored us into an entrance at the park’s northern extent, and suggested a trek to the Top of the World, where vistas of the Pacific awaited. What’s not to love?

Pause for a moment and remember that Dr. Foot Doctor did tell me to run, but cautioned against big hills, especially downhills. And remember that Lady Doctor, besides decreeing my airborne exercise, had warned me of the hazards of bruises, bumps, and sharp objects, owing to my now being on Drano, a.k.a. rat poison, a.k.a. blood anti-coagulants. Thus consider my amusement when after a brief mildly-downhill start, a turn up the Cholla Trail brought not only an immediate sharp climb, but an immediate sharp environment. About five million not-so-little hypodermic needles presented themselves along the trail, attached to a plethora of cacti. I couldn’t help but find the irony in that. One slip and I’d look like a Holiday Inn showerhead crossed with a Hitchcock movie, but not in black and white.

OK, it wasn’t really that dramatic, but it was worth the laugh as I plucked my way carefully up the trail, treading carefully on the healing Achilles, the footing being tenuous from what was obviously a lot of mountain bike abuse.
Reaching the crest at the West Ridge Trail, the hills leading ocean-ward spread out on an absolutely perfect day. West Ridge is more of a broad dusty road than a trail, but side trails offered more confined trail-like experiences, and vistas poked out in all directions, across the vast populated basins to the distant ranges, and with the crest of each successive rise, closer and closer views of the sea. I snapped plenty of shots on the mini-cam, including a couple of amusing attempts of simply aiming the camera behind me while on the run, trying successively to get it straight. These are better left unedited, unrotated, uncropped, the better to show off the fun.

The geography of the place befuddles and deceives. Just before reaching the Top of the World, about a mile from the coast and a thousand feet up, civilization suddenly encroaches unexpectedly with an park entrance from a neighborhood of homes, but not from the direction you expect. Combined with the angle of the coast, it’s hard to figure exactly which way is north, and where the rest of the park, the southern extent I didn’t have time (or a healthy-enough Achilles) to explore, actually is. But it mattered not, the views to the sea, with Catalina Island barely visible in the foggy haze, were sublime. And the company up top, a friendly local couple, Rene and Phil, kept me engaged in chatter so long that Vic, even in his jog/walk (which couldn’t have been all that much slower than my injury-induced tortoise-like pace), caught up and arrived to share the summit.

We strategized our return, I opting for a longer route and he a shorter, with a plan for signaling at our point of convergence with a pile of rocks to know who’d arrived first, and set out. After a stretch back down the
West Ridge, I turned down the Rock-It (not to be confused with Rocket John, though the thought occurred to me; this one was more of a descriptive moniker), which quickly shrunk down to single track and just as quickly turned as rocky as its name promised. True to Dr. Foot Doctor’s orders, the steepest parts called for careful walking rather than running, which also offered the benefit of slowing up and soaking in the scenery of the descent into Wood Canyon. By the time I’d reached rock bottom, so to speak, the sun had already dipped behind West Ridge, and the Wood Canyon Trail proved cool and pleasant with easy footing, surprisingly, even with some water in the stream bed, a surprise for this arid land.

Vic had just finished creating his signal – V marks the spot! – when I arrived at our meeting point at the base of the Lynx Trail, at which point my poor abused Achilles had had enough, so we walked it out from there. It was sore, yes, but also nicely stretched and loosened, and actually working better than when I’d started. Running state number twenty-two was in the bag, and happily, with the memory of a great afternoon on the trails far overshadowing the earlier grid grinds.

Thanks, Lauren!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you got to run Rockit, I really enjoy that trail. Love this post. I run there often, and you do the place more justice than I do in my blog posts. I'm assuming your friend went down Lynx? That's a nice technical downhill too. There are some areas that seem more wilderness in the park, but they are deep within. But overall, it is definitely surrounded by city. I'm happy you were able to get off the Southern California streets and visit Aliso./Woods. :) I hope to be on the east coast some day, and you can advise me. (ps. thanks for the link to my blog)


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