Yesterday afternoon my car thermometer read 99 degrees when I parked it at Irvine Regional Park and hit the trail at 5:30 pm.
That’s warm, even for Orange County in September, so the shady dirt road that wound below Holy Sepulchre Cemetery seemed like a good place to start.
And oh the lovely air: sunset-still, perfumed with dry hints of sage, acrid with dust and a trace of smoke that hinted at the danger of a fall day like yesterday when the crackling native plants are almost audible in their thirst for winter rain.
So I kept an eye out for anyone who might be up to mischief with matches, since this hot-dry-windy weather phenomenon known as “Santa Ana conditions” has in the past excited far too many arsonists into setting the wildlands on fire.
But it was just me and the shiny darkling beetles leaving our tracks in the champagne dust. (Thanks for this lovely phrase, Gina B.! I’m finally remembering to incorporate it🙂 )
I reveled in the lack of other humans looking askance at my (lack of) footwear, and celebrated by spending even more time than usual creating images in my favorite photo genre: barefoot selfies.
Although I almost always wear a hydration pack (currently I’m using an Ultimate Direction Jenny Vesta), I mainly use the pack to carry my little camera as well as to hold trail-trash until I get back to the trailhead waste bins. (But of course it’s got a knife, and identification and extra food and a whistle and a kitchen sink as well.)
Just a half-liter is all I carry on these shorter-than-90-minute adventures; I don’t need to drink much since I guzzle a liter or so in the hour before I head out (that, and breathing through my nose whilst running, are two more of my late-in-life running experiments that are going well, thank-you-very-much).
On hot days, however, the pack comes in handy as a repository for my cotton t-shirt . . . but only after I have made good use of said shirt by starting the run with it soaking wet and then sliding it over my also-soaked head. Brrr. Yesss.
A wise ranger once remarked during a Grand Canyon hiking presentation: “If you’re hot, you’re stupid.”
Hmmm . . . I think more than a few folks would already question the intelligence of a lone woman running at twilight (mountain lion feeding time, and two local wilderness parks are currently closed due to recent sightings) with nothing on her feet; I certainly don’t want to add fuel to that hater fire, so I hydrate (and eat) like crazy before my run, and wear a wet shirt when it’s still a freakish almost-100 degrees at sunset.
In twenty minutes, I’m dry.
But here are the hills!
Photo-shoot time . . . with my crappy camera that doesn’t like to focus very well on flower close-ups (as I’ve complained many times before), so I don’t mind setting it in the dirt next to the trail so it can capture short video clips.
Part of the fun of the editing process, then, is finding images within the clips where I’m airborne.
Happy dry-hot-no-longer-summer trails! Let the rains commence, soon!
While I miss the satisfaction of stumbling upon a wonderful, previously-unknown-to-me book in an in-the-flesh book store, the internet allows for serendipity as well; a recent tumble down some kind of research rabbit hole led me to an absolute gem of a PDF book titled Trail Quotes : from Advocacy to Wilderness, a mind-boggling (232 pages) collection of wild, wise words (over 1,000 “trail-related” quotes) collected over many years by Jim Schmid, State Trails Coordinator, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and offered to the public in 2001.
Some of the 48 categories Schmid includes . . . Advocacy, Humor, Long Distance Trails, Native American, Outdoor Ethics, Rivers, Safety, Songs, Walkable Communities . . . all the way through the alphabet to Wilderness.
I have had, and continue to have, such fun electronically flipping my way through the pages and getting inspired by so many different aspects of being outside on the trail.
Here’s a teeny sampling of words from the 18th-20th centuries from the 14-page section “Walking”: (interspersed with photos of recent adventures on the trails near Irvine Park outside my hometown of Orange, CA)
I have two doctors, my left leg and my right. When body and mind are out of gear (and those twin parts of me live at such close quarters that the one always catches melancholy from the other) I know that I shall have only to call in my doctors and I shall be well again. —GEORGE MACAULAY TREVELYAN, Walking, essay in The Art of Walking, edited by Edwin Valentine Mitchell, 1934
Never did I think so much, exist so much, be myself so much as in the journeys I have made alone and on foot. Walking has something about it which animates and enlivens my ideas. I can hardly think while I am still; my body must be in motion to move my mind. —JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU, French philosopher & writer, 1712–78
The art of walking is obsolete. It is true that a few still cling to that mode of locomotion, are still admired as fossil specimens of an extinct race of pedestrians, but for the majority of civilized humanity, walking is on its last legs. —SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, January 9, 1869
I find that the three truly great times for thinking thoughts are when I am standing in the shower, sitting on the john, or walking. And the greatest of these, by far, is walking. —COLIN FLETCHER, The New Complete Walker, 1974
It is great art to saunter. —HENRY DAVID THOREAU, American writer and naturalist, 1817–62
There are some good things to say about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and therefore more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated and anyone can transport himself anywhere, instantly. Big deal, Buckminster. To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me. That’s God’s job, not ours. The longest journey begins with a single step, not with a turn of the ignition key. That’s the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn’t matter whether you get where you’re going or not. You’ll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home. Right where you started. Which reminds me of circles. Which reminds me of wheels. Which reminds me my old truck needs another front-end job. Any good mechanics out there wandering through the smog? —EDWARD ABBEY, American environmental advocate, 1927–89
Walking is the exercise that needs no gym. It is the prescription without medicine, the weight control without diet, the cosmetic that is sold in no drugstore. It is the tranquilizer without a pill, the therapy without a psychoanalyst, the fountain of youth that is no legend. A walk is the vacation that does not cost a cent. —AARON SUSSMAN and RUTH GOODE, The Magic of Walking, 1967
It’s about as nice a thing as anybody can do—walking, and it’s cheap, too! —EMMA ‘GRANDMA’ GATEWOOD, at age 67 first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (1955), 1887–1973
Happy Trails! (Preferably barefoot . . .)
It’s unavoidable when you live in a county of three million people: there will be crowding; there will be casualties.
May “We Beetles” be a metaphor for all kinds of vulnerable individuals in our midst . . .
it is our path
not a grind
but we are ground
how we are ground
it is our path
do not look down
just look down
On this, the final day of the 2016 Olympics, I went for an early run near Irvine Park–as I have been doing lately to avoid the midday heat.
In my non-race against no-one but myself, we were all rewarded with Gold, Silver and Bronze prizes in the dusty summer landscape. (Click on the links for more information about traditional uses of these lovely California native plants.)
Bronze: California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum)
Silver: (a three-way tie)
Willow leaves transformed by morning light . . .
Now on to my favorite Olympic events from the past week: (Not to brag or anything, but I rocked them all.)
The new school year begins tomorrow . . . here we go!
I was inspired today by a blog post by “Mildly Extreme” Jane, who lives in Australia and records her local nature adventures with fabulous photos and winsome words (and occasional bursts of alliteration, which I appreciate).
Her most recent post details the natural abundance of a local hike in an “urban wilderness” area–as her blog’s title suggests, nothing extreme, but her attentiveness and attention to details creates such appreciation in me as I wander along the Tarcoola Track with her, courtesy of the internet.
Thinking about her post, I realized that even though I’ve been wandering (and eventually writing about) the same ol’ hills just outside my hometown of Orange, CA, for 20+ years, it’s always rewarding to revisit these familiar, flawed-but-still-fascinating places.
Thousands of miles I’ve traveled over the same ol’ dusty loops up and down and around Barham Ridge; each time proves Heroclitus correct (although I did not know he was the one who came up with this idea until just now when I looked up the source of the quote “You can’t enter the same river twice” ).
Time of year, time of day, time of my life: all these constants of change keep me on my toes out on the trails. (And of course I would never heel-strike since my toes are naked.)
Since summer’s been sizzling lately, my run times have shifted to early morning; today I was laying down tracks in the dirt just after 6 am. A lovely scatter of cirrus clouds transformed the first light:
Summer heat changes our activity patterns; humans head for the beach, local critters head into hiding. One exception is the opportunistic (optimistic?) dung beetle. Crap seems to be a year-round commodity in these parts (especially right now during election season. Ba-dah-bump.)
July’s last day: early morning clouds, slanted light, cool air under the oaks, shadowed dust . . . welcome changes from the heat of mid-day, mid-summer.
And now, in mid-life (sheesh–I think at age 57 I’m actually past mid-life), I continue to change with the seasons. I’ve run three times this week, aiming to put into practice some of the kinesthetic awareness I’ve been learning about by reading “Running with the Whole Body,” a thirty-year-old gem I recently discovered in the county library system that applies Feldenkrais (“awareness through movement” principles to running.
Each run has been more fantastic than the last, with uphills invigorating and downhills downright exhilarating. Last summer at this time I was reduced to walking due to right hip pain; a year later (these things take time), after ongoing extremely fantastic physical therapy work as well as months of Feldenkrais classes, I have reached running bliss.
I’m older than I’ve ever been (duh), but also “younger” — I can float effortlessly, shoelessly, over trails for 90 minutes and feel invigorated, not exhausted, when I arrive back at the car.
Now: to take these lessons learned back to work as it commences tomorrow . . . how to keep from getting lost in my head and letting my body rot motionless in a desk chair as another school year begins . . .
Happy Back-to-school trails!
On my regular trail runs in the hills outside of my hometown of Orange, CA, I usually carry a small pack. It contains only one electronic device as I am an advocate of “naked running” (not clothing-optional adventure, but hitting the trails without so much 21st century gagetry: GPS, Garmin, FitBit, heart rate monitor, cell phone, iPod, microwave oven, etc.).
My one battery-operated luxury? The tiny/crappy camera that I use to record the flora–and if I’m lucky, fauna–of my favorite trails there on the edge of the city, there on the outskirts of encroachment by us bipeds and our technological excess.
My little pack also serves as trash receptacle; it’s amazing how much crap folks let go of on the trail, and it’s also amazing how much of that stuff I can jam in and on and around my pack.
Recent internet search serendipity brought me to a trashy (in the best sense of the word) web site called “Litterati.”
Here’s the intriguing Litterati mission: “Trash is everywhere. Soda cans, plastic bags, and cigarette butts litter the environment, choke wildlife, and threaten our planet. By combining technology, social awareness and data, the Litterati is tackling this ever-escalating problem one piece of litter at a time.
“With geo-tagging, we’re able to provide insight into problem areas and highlight the most active Litterati communities. Keyword tags on the photos help identify those brands and products that generate the most litter. We’ll use this to work with companies and organizations to find environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions.”
While I can’t participate in their project due to my lack of geo-tag-ability (see comment above on what I don’t carry while running), I do applaud their efforts.
Here’s another group working creatively to get folks to be more trash aware: AllOneOcean. Their “Plastic State of Mind” video was both entertaining and sobering (and I’m not even familiar with the song they were parodying).
See the green bag in the photo below? I found it on the trail at the beginning of a run up and around Robber’s Peak last week. (The other cast-offs were collected as I continued to run for ninety minutes up and down and around Barham Ridge.)
So . . . there I was, equipped with a ready-to-go plastic pet-poop bag, when a dog appeared on the trail ahead . . . and as the owner and I watched, it squatted and let loose a load right in the middle of the path.
I offered my newly collected bag to the owner, but he just kicked the dog $h!t over toward the edge of the trail and continued on his oblivious way with his illegally un-leashed dog.
Grrr . . . I came across them again a little later, and it was all I could do to not make some kind of sarcastic remark about his (lack of) reading skills, as the trailheads are all prominently posted. And supplied with plastic bags. Which are also crappy for the environment as the music video above was aiming to point out.
Is life too short to get my running bloomers in a bunch over this kind of knuckle-headed-ness?
Here’s what belongs on the trail: strong and happy feet! (And guess where I was when I took a bit of skin off my left big toe last week: in my own back yard.)
Happy (Trash-free!) Trails . . .
Three years ago a friend forwarded me an email about a singer/songwriter who was looking for poems about birds for a themed concert he was planning.
I sent some lyrics to Mr. Bo Brown of Rogersville, Missouri, and he was kind enough to write and record music to my poem about California thrashers. He even included the song in his bird concert, which was such fun to imagine.
On a whim a year or so ago, I sent Bo another set of lyrics I had written about rivers/water/bare feet (inspired, of course, by time at Grand Canyon where the “big river”–the Colorado–is joined by so many beautiful side creeks).
The man is a song-writing wizard, and within a few days he emailed back a recording of him singing “River Song” . . . which I (finally! It’s been on my list of things to do for a while) paired with images from this past year’s worth of Grand Canyon visits.
I hope it inspires listeners/viewers to take their shoes off and find some summer water.