Sunday, April 10, 2016

California Spring Break Running Round-Up

Spring break ended two weeks ago. I got some great runs in:

Sat 3/19:
Claremont Wilderness Trailhead/Potato Mountain
After arriving in SoCal and finding the higher mountains still had a fair amount of snow, I looked for lower elevation trailheads close to the IE and Claremont Wilderness looked like a good choice. The morning I pulled up to the trailhead I realized how fortunate I am to live in Boise, where a busy trail means you see a few people. This was ridiculous! There was PAID parking at the trailhead that was completely full; people were circling the lots waiting for others to leave. I eventually parked in a nearby neighborhood (like a lot of other people). The trail was just as packed and the single track was wide enough to drive a car on, but that didn't stop people from walking side-by-side, blocking the entire trail. Aside from those annoyances, the trail was fun and the views were great as the smog had blown out of the IE.

Mon 3/21:
Skyline Drive Trailhead/Pleasants Peak
Another arbitrary find on the map, this was close but to the South from where we were staying. I found the "Skinsuit Trail" on the map and decided to take that up, which was a mistake. It was a motorcycle trail that was excessively steep and overall crappy. Once I connected to Skyline Drive, it was more runable. At that point I had a 2nd act experience with some Mexican food and was glad I brought the proper amenities (I've been unprepared enough times to never make that mistake again). Pleasants Peak was nice, but cloud cover prevented what would have been a great view of the ocean. The run down was more terrible motorcycle trails and me trying to stay on my feet. I got off course near the bottom and ended up in an old orchard where I came across a pack of large dogs that looked like possibly guard dogs for the property. Fortunately, they didn't see me, but I had a big stick ready if I needed to go down swinging. I eventually found my way out unscathed and hopped a fence to freedom.

Tues 3/22:
San Clemente
Strava was helpful in finding some routes to run in a city I've never spent any significant amount of time in. I got up early and climbed up and over into a valley that had a view of a great looking ridge that went down to the ocean. I started across the valley and ran into the boundary of Camp Pendleton, which was heavily marked as "no trespassing." Bummed, but still graced with great views, I ran down to the beach and then back to our motel.

Wed 3/23:
Pacific Gateway Park
The afternoon before this run, we hiked as a family out to International Friendship Park along the Mexico/US border. We ended at the beach, which was interesting to see where the border fence juts out into the ocean. The Mexican side is fairly busy and the US side is almost abandoned, marked with signs warning about raw sewage in the water, I presume from the Tijuana River that crosses the border and empties on the US side. Border Patrol was heavily patrolling the area, in multiple SUVs and six or seven helicopters that circled overhead. The kids wanted to get close to the fence, but the fuzz weren't having it and turned on the sirens once we got within about 20 yards, prompting us to change our course northward.

With that experience under our belts, I decided I needed to do some more border exploration the next morning. I did some quick internet research on the ACLU website to determine what I could expect from BP if I got stopped. It looked like they couldn't really do all that much, so I decided to press my luck. My original plan was to run up Otay Mountain. It had some Strava tracks on it, so I figured it was a safe bet. The spot I chose to get on the trail was heavily marked no trespassing, however and the official trailhead was far out of the way, so I went to plan B, Pacific Gateway Park. This did not have any Strava tracks, so I didn't know what to expect other than it was shown as a park on the map. I found an entrance through a warehouse park and got out of the car, promptly dropping my phone and shattering the glass right across my camera, making everything look like a cheesy soap opera. I could see the border fence from where I parked and headed out on what were clearly jeep trails used by the BP. I came over a little hill that opened up to a nice panorama of Tijuana with a hillside residential neighborhood a stone's throw away. In fact, the first thing I noticed when I crested the hill was the sound of all the roosters going crazy. I followed the trails, which were not next to the fence, but close to it. I wanted to stay away from the fence if I could, so as not to provoke BP, who were cruising up and down the road on the US side and in no-man's-land every few minutes. Ultimately, the trails led to the fence and I snapped some picks and ran along the fence for a few hundred yards, noticing many signs that would indicate this might be a sub-optimal choice. Eventually, a trail took off away from the fence up a hill and I took it. A few hundred yards up, I heard an SUV tearing down the road and up the hill and he turned on his siren. I made it a point to stop running and walk back toward the SUV and have a chat with Mr. BP. The agent got out and walked toward me asking how/what I was doing. Tempted to answer in Spanish, but deciding against it, I responded and struck up a convo. He informed me that I had set off motion detectors and they had me on camera running along the fence and that normally when they see people running in this area it is for non-recreational purposes (who knew?). He asked where I was from and if I was a US Citizen and despite my dark-chocolate complexion and heavy accent, left me on my merry way. I asked if it was OK to keep running along the fence, to which he replied I could expect to get stopped every few minutes if I did. So I didn't.

Thurs 3/24:
Mt. Jurupa
Back to the IE with my payload of international contraband, I hit up a section of the Jurupa Hills that I've never tread in previous visits. This was not particularly noteworthy, but a good hill workout and a decent view even with some smog moving back in. Mount Jurupa was flat as a pancake on top and I found what looked like a collapsed mine near the top. I shot for some course records, but had a GPS fail, apparently pausing my watch unintentionally. I was nowhere near setting any time records however, so this was frustrating, but not losing any sleep over it.

Fri 3/25:
Mt. Baldy
The only run I had planned for spring break was this one and I wasn't sure it was going to happen with all the snow when we pulled into town. Fortunately, it was a warm week and by Thursday, I knew it would work so I tracked down a NF adventure pass (surprisingly hard to find a daily version) so I could park at the trailhead and headed up at sunrise. As a side-note, the first time I hiked Baldy a few years back, I didn't know you needed an adventure pass to park in non-fee areas of the Angeles NF. Everything is a hassle and/or costs money in SoCal. I decided to do the same loop I'd done before since it was great last time. I took Baldy Bowl up and passed a few other hikers/runners on the way up, all of us questioning what the snow was like toward the top. It turned out that Baldy Bowl had a few sections of snow hiding the trail, but enough people had been up that there were tracks to follow. After getting up on the ridge, the snow was sparse. The summit sneaks up on you after some very steep hiking and you nearly get blown off the mountain. It was bitterly cold this AM, so I snapped some pics and started down Devil's Backbone, where some winter climbers had died a few months prior. There are certainly some high-consequence sections on Devil's Backbone, but with no snow, the risk was negligible when walking carefully. Overall, a great hike up/run down loop that I plan on doing whenever we make it down to SoCal. It's close and easy to do over the course of a morning. Although at some point I would like to take the longer Bear Canyon Trail up and spend more time exploring around the area.

I used my Nathan HPL 020 for most of these runs w/ a 70oz bladder and never got close to running out of water. This pack is great for runs up to 3 or 4 hours, but could use more up-front storage space so you don't have to take the pack off to get at food/supplies during longer runs.

I also used an Ultimate Direction handheld for the Mt. Jurupa run. I like the UD bottles with the kicker valve caps. The handheld is nothing to shake a stick at, it does its job, will hold a key or a gel, that's about it.

Altra Superior 2.0 (2nd pair) the upper problems continue with this replacement pair Altra sent me. Apparently they've fixed this now, which is great because I really like this shoe. It's softer than most shoes I run in, which I've found more and more important for long technical runs where feet get bruised in other shoes.

New Balance MT101-these are relatively new in my line-up and I like them so far for shorter runs. they are light and a lot tougher than the Altras, but don't provide much protection on long runs despite the rock plate.

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