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Happy New Year: My First Barefoot Adventure of 2013

January 3, 2013

Holiday busy-ness for weeks (but what a great time to count blessings) + some chilly/wet weather = no trail fun for a while.

Yesterday morning dawned clear and windy; then the wind died down, the sun warmed things up to almost 70 degrees, and it was off to my favorite close-by hiking-and-trail-running playground, Santiago Oaks Regional Park. I’ve been coming here for a loooong time (since the late 1990s), but rarely get bored by revisiting the same trails–because they are never “the same.”

Since I’m still battling ankle stiffness/pain, I didn’t run a whole lot. While I could have dwelt on the fact that I was not able to get a very intense workout, I instead chose to just enjoy the hills–especially the ups–and try to notice as  much as I could. The season is changing here in SoCal, with much welcome rain in the last month.

Leaves that had withered down to weather the long dry season (usually April through November) are plumping up, and sproutlings are beginning to paint the hills brilliant green.

Speaking of change . . .  of course the calendar changed this week  . . . so it must be time to spout some profound thoughts, blog-wise.

Hmmm. I guess what’s been on my mind, since last month when I was doing some running-blog-grazing, is:  the conflict of flow vs. place.

Many runners (myself included) enjoy a good “runner’s high” or flow state;  much has been written on how to make it happen. Two of my favorite running blogs have this to say about it:

Jason Robillard of Barefoot Running University: “Most of us have probably heard of ‘flow states.’ It’s a state of consciousness where we get lost in the activity we’re doing. Our focus is so intense, we lose awareness of the outside (and inside) world. We don’t notice the passing of time and feelings of hunger, thirst, or fatigue. Our inner monologue ceases. We become completely engrossed in whatever we’re doing.’

And Alan Thwaits, a guest blogger on Vanessa Runs (he provided an interesting 4-part piece on meditation-running), had this to say: “Then, all of a sudden, I realized that I was only 2K from my home. I’d run about 8K (almost an hour) without being aware of the passage of time or distance. I’d obviously been paying attention to intersections, traffic lights, and so on – but I’d done so in an altered state. I finished the run feeling renewed, refreshed, and happy. I’d achieved optimal.”

The problem with this, I’ve been thinking, is that by disassociating ourselves from WHERE we are, we disrespect that place. These might be the rantings of a bitter injured runner who has been unable to run enough to get to flow–but–on an excursion like this one, since I was going so slow, I was able to notice all kinds of cool things that would have escaped my attention had I been floating along in a flow state.

Another flow bone to pick: Jason also writes in his post that for him, achieving flow state requires novelty of terrain, which makes it difficult for him to to run the same trails over and over.

My life circumstances have shaped my paths, which remain local.  (Yikes . . . I live just a block from the hospital I was born in; I guess you could say I haven’t gotten too far in life . . . )

So I still remember my excitement at coming across this quote a few years ago: “Better to know one mountain than to climb many.” Hey (I said to myself) it’s OK to be stuck here–I mean, it’s OK to be OK with traversing the same trails over and over and over again.

Because they’re not the same trails. Each day, season, year changes them. Drippy May fog or October’s dry winds (and sometimes the fires they push). December rain; January green. Summer’s slithering red diamondbacks; today’s congregation of painted lady butterflies sunning themselves on Barham Ridge. All the native plants that remain–that remind me of how they were Life to the native peoples who had uses for them all.

Some of my enjoyment, then, comes from knowing it will take me the rest of my life to learn just a bit about the rocks, plants, creatures, sun-and-shade patterns, wind dynamics of my nearby Lomas de Santiago and Santa Ana Mountains.

As I’ve noted before, the California Floristic Province is one of the designated 33 biodiversity hotspots of our lovely planet; besides just wandering around barefoot, I hope to encourage others to get to know our “wild backyard” here in Orange County.

If greater knowledge leads people to fall in love, and love fires a desire to help protect what’s here–I guess that might make up a little for the fact that I ain’t gonna achieve flow until my ankle is better.

In the mean time, I’ll keep wandering and writing (and making images with my trusty pocket camera).

Happy Trails 2013!

Oh yes . . . here’s some of yesterday’s bounty:

The adventure begins: the Santiago Creek Trail is a tunnel of oak loveliness on a winter afternoon after rain.

The adventure begins: the Santiago Creek Trail is a tunnel of oak loveliness on a winter afternoon after rain.

My latest favorite trail: Hawk. It's one of the steepest at Santiago Oaks, with lots of step-style rocks for me to practice for my next Grand Canyon adventure (six days of backpacking with the Grand Canyon Field Institute in May).

My latest favorite trail: Hawk. It’s one of the steepest at Santiago Oaks, with lots of step-style rocks for me to practice for my next Grand Canyon adventure (six days of backpacking with the Grand Canyon Field Institute in May).

Flying up Hawk Trail on a sunny So Cal January day.

Flying up Hawk Trail on a sunny So Cal January day.

Not a haw, but a Turkey Vulture soars near the trail marker at the top of the ridge.

Not a hawk, but a turkey vulture soars near the trail marker at the top of the ridge.

One ridge over is Barham Ridge--where I managed to find mud. Spa-time for my toes...

One ridge over is Barham Ridge–where I managed to find mud. Spa-time for my toes…

Painted lady butterfly

One of the many painted lady butterflies enjoying the warm winter day with me.

The sun's reflection off the Pacific Ocean was intense . . . Catalina Island is barely visible above the metallic sheen.

The sun’s reflection off the Pacific Ocean was intense . . . Catalina Island is barely visible above the metallic sheen.

The sun was making all kinds of magic -- here it's illuminating headstones at the nearby cemetery. I've never seen this effect before . . . bittersweet beauty . . .

The sun was making all kinds of magic — here it’s illuminating headstones at the nearby cemetery. I’ve never seen this effect before . . . bittersweet beauty . . .

I think this is a tiny print from a tiny deer hoof. Is it baby season already?

I think this is a tiny print from a tiny deer hoof. Is it baby season already?

My new flexible 20 oz. water bottle, purchased this morning at Staples in the clearance rack for fifty cents. I added a hand-holder from another bottle--and the combination was perfectly comfortable.

My new flexible 20 oz. water bottle, purchased at Staples in the clearance rack for fifty cents. I added a hand-holder from another bottle–and the combination was perfectly comfortable.

The clay trail was cracking into pieces already . . . this one was loose. May all of 2013's puzzle pieces fit together eventually.

The clay trail was cracking into pieces already . . . this one was loose. May all of 2013’s puzzle pieces fit together eventually.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 7, 2013 1:57 pm

    As another frequent, OC trail hiker, I always enjoy your perspective. Here’s to many frequent wanderings over (never the) same trails in the new year.

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