This morning Irvine Park was chilly—low 50′s—and my toes went numb pretty fast, until I decided to get out of the Santiago Creek lowland where the cold air had settled.
A short steep trail leads up to the top edge or ridge overlooking the wide floodplain… probably a half mile across at this point, with the Willows spread out below in the morning shadow. Brrr. I wanted sunshine, not shade, today.
I’d just been over this trail a week ago, but the “same old trail” is never the same— golden stars (Bloomeria crocea) are now blooming, like little bursts of yellow fireworks.
Last week on this section of trail: mariposa lilies.
The morning light made for some fun shadowy photo-ops.
This stuff is never fun to find (but it’s not going to go away on its own).
Injury update (stop reading here if you are allergic to whining).
As I slowly work to rehab my latest running injury (the ankle/achilles residue of last summer’s exuberant-barefoot-trail-running overdose) I am trying not to get discouraged. (Still . . . in three weeks it will be the nine-year anniversary of The Left Patella Incident at the Bishop High Sierra trail race. That’s a lot of phy$ical therapy . . . )
After my most recent set-back when I “overdid it” and brought the heel pain back with a little too much, too soon (five sets of two minutes running was one set too much, I guess) the physical therapist gave me somewhat surprising advice: don’s stop running!
He said to just cut back and keep pushing against the pain/no pain threshold. He said his job would be to listen to my feedback about what/where/how the pain re-appeared, and that’s how we would work through this until I am ready to run a hundred miles (He is also a runner, understands crazy, and was polite enough not to laugh in my face when I told him my goal.)
So today I hiked for about an hour, then, when almost back to the car, did one minute of slow running, walked a few more minutes, and ran about two minutes, and walked the rest of the way.
Yesterday’s wander from Irvine Regional Park into The Willows (my new favorite trail!) was classic Southern California springtime: cool gray morning cloud-cover and shy wildflowers–if you were careful to notice them.
Since this was not an especially wet winter (only about 7 inches of rain since October), this spring’s “wildflower show” is more muted than years like 2004-05, when 35+ inches of rain germinated a riot of color all over the hills.
But still–if you slow down and look (and since I’m still rehabbing to recover from last fall’s ankle and achilles twinges, I do go slowly), there are beauties to behold, like these:
Hmmm . . . an interesting trend. No barefoot photos again yesterday . . . just plants. Gotta honor this blog’s title, though, so here’s a favorite photo from last weekend’s Easter fun with the grandkids:
Barefoot running update: last month I was referred to an amazing doctor of physical therapy who in three visits has diagnosed and treated some old-old-old injuries/pain sites. For the first time in a long while, I feel hopeful about getting back to running shoelessly in my beloved dusty hills (not that I don’t enjoy hiking there . . . but running barefoot is even more fun).
I’ve just started alternating short intervals of running with walking during my hour-long trail outings; while it’s frustrating to feel so strange getting used to running again, the doctor (his name is Derrick Sueki, if you’re looking for a miracle in treating your chronic injuries) assures me it’s because my body needs this time to learn new, healthy patterns of movement. Between his wonderful care/instruction, and that of my superhero Pilates instructor Kristine Ngo, running seems like something I might. Just. Do. Soon!
The days are getting longer, and I’m getting crankier: spring fever, big-time, but lots of work to keep me too busy to think about what I’m missing. Or maybe not:
22 to the 55 to the 405*
Trapped in my commute,
I envy the spring-
ing color that flames
from the flesh-wound
horizon, all pink and ragged.
Trapped in my car
(the eastern ridges simmering
with promise of trails)
I pine for white sage,
scrub oak sparkle,
Trapped in a pocket
of spring morning fog,
the hills go gray,
them and me.
(*The numbers under the title refer to the freeways that comprise my morning commute . . . )
In other news: last weekend’s wander (after all these years, I found a “new” trail through The Willows at Irvine Park, and loved it) yielded my first snake encounter in a long time. Too long . . . I’ve missed seeing my slender friends along the trail. Here’s a gopher snake, sprawled out and sunning like he owned the road.
Other signs of spring on/near The Willows trails:
Here’s a first: all photos of wandering, but no bare feet. They were there, though, helping me enjoy the sights, sounds, scents and sensations of an almost-spring morning in our beautiful Orange County foothills.
Two weekends in a row, camping at Anza Borrego Desert State Park—what a privilege—and this time with a group of intrepid hikers and writers who trekked barefoot with me up Palm Canyon, and with me enjoyed all the stream crossings where we did not have to worry about getting our shoes wet (unlike the many other booted hikers out last Saturday). It was a stellar late spring day in the desert, warm enough but still with a hint of the recent winter storm . . . a few rock puddles reminded us of the rainfall we missed by 24 hours.
Then, in the half-light of Sunday morning, we threaded our way up the sketchy Panoramic Overlook Trail, arriving at the top just in time to settle in and experience a Font’s Point sunrise. Plenty of desert morning silence, and then Katherine’s soprano solo filled the air and our souls with an old melody: “Children of the Heavenly Father.” I was transported to tear-land, a place I haven’t visited lately, but it was worth it. What a voice, setting, song, memory . . .
On top of the desert world as we were, it was fun to try out a “new” writing exercise using the idea of “opposites.” It worked, sort of, but had a major flaw: for a writing prompt meant to help us experience and appreciate the moment, it worked in the opposite fashion as well, introducing all sorts of non-desert thoughts into our shining morning. Duly noted, and next time I’ll adjust it.
This is what we did, so you can avoid making the same mistake: we all thought of word pairs that had opposite meanings: near/far, movement/stillness, light/shadow, etc. For some reason, I had Sesame Street on my mind, and I thought we should try the near/far pair first. So . . . we each made lists of near and far things that we could experience through our senses; then we made lists of near/far thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, as we discovered and later discussed, our “far” thoughts and feelings were all the reasons we had escaped to the desert: worry, stress, deadlines . . . my “clever” writing exercise to help us notice and appreciate the desert had done just the opposite. Sigh.
But these resourceful writers made lemonade out of my lemony idea, and two of them agreed to share their jottings. My work follows. What I found interesting was that, when I went to actually write a poem/paragraph after composing the lists, I was able to ignore the thoughts/feelings and just went with what I saw, heard, and felt. Selective obtuseness at its best . . .
Scattered Thoughts—Near and Far
The shadows disappear into the rocky crags beyond
the rocks that glow with the rising sun,
dissipating drowsiness and sleep from my mind.
Professor Gavin’s feet and the sound of pens scratching the page
brings my focus back to the compact land of Concordia.
Thoughts of home are brought near with the wind,
my blur of memories as fuzzy as the distant palm trees.
I rest on the cold rock, content—
anticipating the breakfast I have yet to eat.
The sun. The reminder we’ve kept on. It sits so far away from us, but touches the valley at my feet. It grazes my face, dry lips and dry cheeks, its hand not warm and not cold. Thousands of bushes, cacti, and desert trees stand at early attention and face their great commander, our great God that’s kept their life, and my life, marching on, as shadows slowly fade into us, as light wins again.
Everything is dry. Dry wind, dry sun, dry bark on dry dirt. Dry lips on my face that speak few words as I face the rising sun imitating my position on the other side of this plane. I sit on this rock scraped jagged by eons of wind and–at least as I’ve been told–of water. Jagged edges I sit on, and if you could describe the pain in my feet and back, it’d be dry pain, open to the sun.
The desert is like sitting in an inside out sphere. The mountain and dry dirt go on for miles until they reach the sun or escape the sun. At my feet is the jagged rock upon which I sit that turns into rocks upon rocks that cascade down the mountains and spill onto the desert floor. It’s like time has frozen these rocks and the plants that try to pick them up. They are an army of desert cavalry, standing at ease, shadows, just blurs, leaning away from the sun.
Near and Far
Panoramic Overlook Trail
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
There are glints in the rock at my feet
matched by startling sparkles of houses
in the desert below. There are shadows
of creosote stretching for ever
in the first rays of sun rising way
to the east off Font’s Point while the tiniest
of hardy and hairy silver-leafed plants
cast miniature silhouette fountains
on the sparkly cold rock that is numbing
my bum to the tune of an urgent
morning dove just over there
just over here and I catch every note
echoed by sister birds also nearby
but below us.
Everything glistens below our rock roost
except for the sunburning mountains
piled high at our backs; we all bask
in the cold wash of wind
rushing from here to forever
or at least to our far-away neighbor—
a ridge just like this, but without us.
No shoes were necessary on the sandy roads, but a reflective umbrella offered relief from the relentless early March sun. Hubby on the left favors shoes and hiking poles. To each ‘is own, as my folks liked to say when we were growing up. Speaking of family–my retired brother joined us on our overnight trek to Sheep Canyon . . . he drove us up rough Coyote Canyon in his 2-wheel-drive truck until the road turned into a rock pile; then we parked and hiked the last four miles to the palm/oak/cottonwood oasis.
I brought my new Unshoes running sandals, and ended up wearing them for about half the hike–three miles on the way in, one mile on the way out. They provided stellar grip and ground feel–felt super stable on all the rocks–and allowed 90% less grit under my feet as compared to my other hiking sandals, my Merrell Pipidaes.
Hooray for our California State Parks! Let’s keep them funded and open. . . for our grandchildren and beyond . . .
Southern California was the center of attention two days ago because of the Oscars; I would contend that the millions of people from around the globe who watched that spectacle of good looks missed the true beauty of our area: as part of the California Floristic Province, it’s one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with thousands of species of plants (as well as many creatures) found no-where else on the planet.
And in my corner of it all, northeastern Orange County, there are miles of trails to enjoy the native grandeur, with or without shoes. (Disclaimer: of course the habitats have been impacted by centuries of “progress”, but still . . . much remains to be appreciated and preserved.)
Since our last rain a week or so ago, the days have been steadily warming, with 80-degree+ temperatures forecast for the weekend. But yesterday was already brilliant, in many ways, which inspired this poem and the photos that follow:
February Heat Wave in the Foothills
Eighty degrees of separation
from our mid-west friends
with all their stuff to shovel
out from under
means we cannot speak
our winter secret:
how lupine swing their violet hips
to the golden tune of fiddlenecks
while a California thrasher courts us all
from his perch atop the glistening laurel sumac.
My favorite (since they’re the easiest to drive to) trails are those in Santiago Oaks and Irvine Regional Parks, and the Barham Ridge trails that connect the two parks. There’s a trap door spider nest hidden in plain sight along one trail; I check on it after every rain, thinking that one of these days it will erode away. Not yet . . .
After the last rain, we had some significant wind, which scoured the trails of any dust padding and left lots of rocks to test my soles:
Hooray for Hollywood? How about hooray for the native plant that Hollywood was named after?
While other parts of the US suffer under buckets of snow, here in So Cal it’s nothing but sun: perfect barefoot hiking/trail running weather. Since the nights have still been in the low 40s, and I needed a fairly early start to my trail time yesterday, I figured it would be a good time to try out my new “minimalist sport sandals”: the Pah Tempe by Unshoes.
Even though I got the thinnest sole they had (6 mm) it still felt like way too much stuff between my feet and the ground. When I wore them around the house the night before, the front flapped under once or twice–a price I happily pay in order to NOT have a strap between my toes.
As I had read in other blog reviews, these sandals do have a weird flap-strap action, but it only took a few minutes to figure out how to tuck it under so it wouldn’t wave in the breeze.
No under-flappage occurred out of the trail, but I could only stand to wear them for the first 15 minutes; even though the air was 50 degrees, the ground had been warmed up enough by the sun and I. Needed. Dirt.
Plus–walking by puddles without being able to muck my toes around was a bummer.
So off with the sandals and into the mud:
And now, my much more fun version of those “other” toe/minimalist shoes:
Such a blue sky morning! Blue flowers, too:
Although only five mule deer are visible in this photo, this herd was the biggest I’d ever seen in the Irvine Park/Santiago Oaks area I’ve been wandering in for 15+ years: seven of these lovely creatures were slowly grazing downslope from me. Little-known fact: even male mule deer squat to do their biz-ness. (Note the one caught on camera, second from the left, is a female.)
I did not see this, my favorite blue flower, on the trail yesterday, but they are starting to bloom in my yard, and the wild ones should be popping soon.
Also in my yard today:
In Orange County, February is springing!