Colinas Bluff Trail Hike

Climbing those hills are beastly, but the ocean views are worth it!

Climbing those hills are beastly, but the ocean views are worth it!

This hike is perfect for getting ready to backpack a hundred miles.  Why?  The HILLS.  It is  a thigh burner, for sure.  Take a friend with you if you go.  That way the hills won’t seem so bad if you’re too busy talking about where you’re going to eat afterward.

Rex and I only hiked about three miles on this day, but the trail goes on further.  Colinas Bluff Trail follows the ridge line between San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel starting on the corner of Marina Hills and Golden Lantern.  This is a suburban hike, but take a few steps onto the trail and you’re surrounded by open space.

Scare tactics to keep me on the couch??

Scare tactics to keep me on the couch??

You’ll see signs like this at the beginning of all trails in Orange County, but you’re more in danger of skin cancer than any wild animal.  There is no shade and no water here.  This is the kind of place where you need a hat and sunscreen year round.  I have never seen a mountain lion or poison oak on this trail.  However, I have seen several rattlesnakes on Colinas Bluff.  Late spring through summer is their season.  They’re not threatening if you give them their space.  I only mention it because it can be dangerous for dogs or children who may come upon them accidentally.  I have been fooled a few times by what appeared to be a stick on the trail which has turned out to be a rattlesnake as I got closer.  On this day, Rex and I saw only roadrunners and a horse. That’s the nice thing about hiking in November!  Too chilly for snakes.

5 Freeway in Orange County.  Ten lanes of metropolis.

5 Freeway in Orange County. Ten lanes of metropolis.

Remember this is a suburban hike.  You’re never too far off from other people and red-tiled roofs.  As an out-and-back trail, It’s almost impossible to get lost on Colinas Bluff.  Hike about 3 miles in and you end up along the very tony neighborhood of Bear Brand Estates.  The trail is a great way to get a thigh burning workout and still be close enough to civilization all around.

The important thing about getting ready for a one hundred mile backpack trip is to get out, and get walking.  And the views of the ocean?  Worth every step of thigh-burning madness.


A Month Later. What’s Up?

What’s Up?

Sunrise in Dana Point

Sunrise in Dana Point

It’s been a little over a month. What have I been doing to prepare for my 100-mile backpack trip?

Well, I got serious and hired a trainer. Best decision I’ve made in a long time. We’re not at a fancy gym or using fancy equipment. We’re working out at a couple of local parks, and mostly in the dark—which is how I happened to accidentally roll in a smidge of dog poo. Story of my life…

I’m in the midst of being reacquainted with planks, push-ups, burpees, squats, and the jumprope. If there are stairs—you can be sure we’re running them. Max, my coach, is training a small group of fitness enthusiasts, and me, his challenged student who tries to keep up. I don’t mind because I’m okay with making fun of myself. I’m the one doubled over laughing when I hear him say, “Today we’re going to do pull-ups at the monkey bars.”

What? Bahahaha!

And there goes one of my heroes, Paloma—she can do pull-ups like nobody’s business. She is so dang fierce! I want to be like that. So I try to be fierce, too, when Max gives me the super-modified version of a pull-up. I have no shame. They cheer me on like I’m in the Olympics going for the Gold Medal of modified chin-ups. How can this not be the best motivating tool ever? I’m starting to think one day—Max says in about six months—I’ll be able to do a real one. Baby steps to a chin-up. One day at a time. It’s totally something to look forward to.

We’re in our 3rd week of training at the park, and I’m already noticing a change in my body. Don’t freak out. It’s not anything anybody else would notice. The changes are subtle. For instance, I sort of jogged with the dog the other day, and I was able to hold my torso with a new strength. My posture is better, and I have more endurance. This even though I haven’t been running much—beyond the mailbox—and all. The dog even noticed! Usually he’s able to drag me down the street. Not so much anymore. I have new muscle in my core and arms. One of the best changes I’ve noticed is if I’ve forgotten my reading glasses upstairs I don’t mind going up to retrieve them. My legs take those stairs with gusto.

It’s the little things. Things we take for granted when we’re twenty or thirty or even forty. It takes more effort to be fit at forty-five and beyond.  But trust me, I’ve only been doing this for about a month, and it’s coming back.  There is some muscle memory!  For now, for the Newfoundland backpack trip, I’m working on basic strengthening and conditioning.

I’m also working on commitment to the training program. I’m super-flaky. I won’t lie. I don’t like waking up early to work out. I don’t like going later either. I’m not a lover of sit-ups and push-ups. Deep down, I’m an Elvis. I want to sit in the sun with a glazed donut and coffee, and a good book.

I have my role model heroes like Paloma and Allie with their healthy, hard little bodies. Stopped me in my tracks when I wanted to share my craving for a deep fried jelly donut as Allie talked about eating a banana at work for snack. See? Craving immediately diverted. There’s no way I’m gong to eat a donut! Call it good role modeling and peer pressure.  Hey, whatever works.

And there’s Max. Always constant, always keeping me accountable. If there is one thing I can count on it’s that he will be there for the workout. On the days I want to cancel all I have to do is remember there is someone doing his best to help me achieve my goals. He’s there on time with a smile, waiting by his truck with those dreaded kettlebells and the stinkin’ jumpropes. All I have to do is show up.

Then we get the workout party started when he says, “Let’s begin our warm-up with thirty seconds of jumping jacks. Go!”

What are you doing to get in shape?

Getting Started

I am about to embark on the craziest journey ever.  Oh, but not just one!  I’ve committed to two journeys in the next year.  The first is an epic backpack trip of 100 miles in Newfoundland.  The second is another epic backpack trip along the Lost Coast of California.  They are epic and crazy because I don’t like backpacking.  I’m a nervous woman, and my feet…are finicky.  They bruise and blister.  They don’t like shoes.  I absolutely hate the pack!  I hate the sweat, the tears.  Hills.  I hate hills.  Walking with 30 lbs. on my back.  Hate that.  And the food.  Dehydrated powdered meals.  Baggies of nuts.  Bleh.  Sleeping in the dirt?  Not a fan.  There are so many, many reasons.  But the main issue is the bathroom.  There are no toilets on a backpack trip.  Just let that one sit with you for a moment.  I’m not complaining about lack of flush toilets.  I’m talking about no toilets. Once you fully digest the lack of toilet, then not having a shower will seem like a breeze.

Collapsed after an 8-mile backpack trip on Catalina Island. 100-Mile backpack trip? Easy-peasy. Not!

Collapsed after an 8-mile day backpacking on Catalina Island. 100 miles should be easy-peasy.

So why go at all?  If I’m going to whine about everything and hate everything.  Why go?

Because.  Backpacking is also exhilarating in a way that can’t be expressed until I’ve finished a trip.  I get to see places beautiful beyond words.  Backpacking is about making goals and reaching them. There is no choice.  Once I’m out there, I gotta get back to the car!  I’m always amazed at what I am able to accomplish when it’s all over.  I may be tired and stinky, but as I walk back to my ride, I’m celebrating, cheering on the inside.  And, did you know?  Weight loss and fitness are natural byproducts of backpacking.  Bonus!  Overcoming the minor discomforts of backpacking allows me to put everyday life into perspective.  It’s an emotional cleanse.  I feel like I can do anything.  That’s the thing about backpacking.  It teaches me how to go through difficult times and come out of the woods with grace and dignity.

And that’s why I love backpacking.

Follow me as I chronicle the training and preparation for these journeys, and a few others I take along the way.  You can laugh with me as I attempt to appreciate the beauty of being in nature while wearing a backpack.  And laugh with me some more as I attempt to push harder, go longer in a training session.  Maybe you’ll see me as goofy.  Maybe you’ll see the courage it takes to get up and go try something new, something difficult I’d never imagined doing before.  Either way, let’s laugh.  The Universe is a jokester.  Let’s see what She has in store for me.  Because the truth is I am a slightly overweight, moderately unfit, forty-something year old woman who enjoys clean sheets and hot showers, loves red wine and chocolate cake, and quietly reading in a comfy chair, a stream of sunshine lighting the page, with modern-day bathroom facilities nearby.  This whole 100-mile journey thing ought to be good.

The hardest part of anything is getting started.  Here we go!

After hiking all the way up here, you know I’m going to drink some wine later!