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On the Trail on New Year’s Day 2012: Warm and Wild in Orange County

January 1, 2012

While the lack of recent rain does not bode well for the spring wildflower show, over a week of warm days is starting to spoil me and all the other happy local trail users. This New Year’s Day afternoon I found lots of company on the trails at Santiago Oaks Regional Park–both human and other.

The biped bikers and hikers all had smiles and “Happy New Year’s” greetings. The plants had more colorful things to say:

Wishbone flower (Mirabilis californica) at Santiago Oaks 1.1.12

California aster along the Mountain Goat trail

To soar over the ridges of Orange County’s foothills . . .

While I may not get airborn, running barefoot along the trails sure feels like flying to me. Today I lasted over and hour and a half–I’m starting to think I might be able to enjoy a half-marathon this year. The only drawback lately has been landing a bit too often on rock chunks. Either my “radar” is down, or I’m just getting cocky and careless as I flit ecstatically along with no knee pain. Or maybe the odds just aren’t in my favor–the ratio of rocks on the trail is . . .  lots and lots.

Soaring over Barham Ridge

This next photo might not do the air temperature justice–high 70s . . . the best kind of weather for barefoot running (as opposed to the worst: chilly enough to make my toes go numb, below 50).

A warm winter afternoon

It’s been almost too warm, if there is such a thing in the middle of winter. Little December rain means the hopeful annuals sprouting along the trail–both non-native grass and native wildflowers–are already fading.

Fading early grass; waiting for rain

Running the Deer Trail at Santiago Oaks in the late afternoon made me think of the phrase “crepuscular gully.”  I’ve often seen deer here as the day fades, but not today.

Looking southeast toward the mouth of Weir Canyon

A year ago on New Year’s Day I had a long encounter with a bobcat on the trail . . . I was hoping for the same again today, but I had such a great run it was OK I didn’t.

Last week, though, I was pleased to “run into” a roadrunner and coyote one afternoon–both fairly rare sightings in the Irvine Park/Santiago Oaks trail network where I spend so many miles a week.  And, of course, my “bucket list” animal encounter is a mountain lion . . . although if I do come across one, it might be the end of my bucket list . . .

Happy Trails 2012–I’m hoping for many painfree barefoot miles.

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