Monday, July 02, 2007

A Beautiful Day in Big Bear!

The day started early enough, with a 3:40 am wakeup call so that I could meet Beiyi at her house by 5am. Of course, in my sleep deprived and directionally challenged state, I got lost and drove confusedly around Irvine for a few minutes until B called and put me back on track. I parked in her garage and we loaded up her car, ready to go by 5:15 or so. After driving about a block, the engine light came on in her car. Uh Oh. Not a good sign before a 2 hour drive! So back we went, reloaded my car, and I took off as the driver this time, cranking up James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel to accompany us on the drive up.

We had a few more direction problems once reaching big bear, and a gas light issue (in that the light came on while driving up the mountain, making me worried that we wouldn't find a gas station soon enough) so it took a little longer to finally arrive at the right place. The other OCTR runners (the fast ones) were already there and about ready to go. We realized we didn't have the "wilderness pass", but keira assured us that we'd just have to mail in $5 with the ticket and all would be well. A few last bathroom stops and gear checks and we were all off!

The fast guys immediately split off, leaving B and I in our relaxed pace up Cougar Crest. It was a beautiful morning and relatively cool (considering it would be in the 90s later in the day). I discovered early on that my pace was actually a bit fast than Bs (a completely new experience), so I would often get ahead of her for a bit, then take some pictures or walk until she came into view, so that we wouldn't get separated. We met a very nice hiker in the beginning that we would end up seeing later in the day. The first views out over big bear were just gorgous. It was a perfect day to be on the mountain.

We were initially trying to retrace the 15 miler loop that B and many other OCTR had completed in the Holcolm valley race a few weeks prior, but realized early on that without a map that wouldn't necessarily be possible. After a few miles on Cougar we switched over to the PCT trail, which I absolutely loved! Having just watched "The Runner" about David Horton's PCT adventure, I was excited to experience this trail (well, a few miles of it at least) myself.

Soon we reached our first point of confusion, in terms of figuring out where to go. It seemed the choice was left or right, and most footprints *seemed* to go left, so that's where we headed. B posed so that we could make a 'virtual breadcrumb' of our decision, just in case we had to retrace our steps. Neither of us really paid attention to the trail heading straight back, which seemed to small to consider.

We headed down this road and eventually reached a huge gate and barbed wire. There was an old ribbon tied to the gate, which seemed to hint at perhaps a past race marking? The gate was high enough off the ground to go under, so we did so, and headed up the sandy fireroad. B wasn't sure if this was all that familiar, but it seemed like as good a direction as any.

Before long, we reached the PCT again! We chatted with a biker who told us that this would take us to a firetrail, which B thought sounded right, so we jumped on and headed out. In less than a mile, we arrived back where we started! That little unnoticable pathway a at the intersection that we had discounted as a possible route was the one that we ended up taking, meaning that we just made a big loop. Since we had explored 3 of the 4 directions now, we headed to the right to "Bertha PK". For some reason, I thought PK stood for park. Apparently, it stands for Peak :)

The climb up was somewhat challenging, especially because the sun was out in full force now. But as we climbed, the view just kept getting better. Finally, we reached the radio tower we had seen by below! A hiker we passed earlier told us that the peak topped out at 9200 which made us feel pretty amazing. I learned later that the elevation was actually 8200, so we weren't as awesome as we thought, but it was still pretty cool.

After hanging at the summit for a bit and celebrating in our accomplishment, we headed back down (got to enjoy some nice downhill running!) and once again ran into the PCT (though a different portion than before). As I had enjoyed it so much, I suggested that we go out on it for a while to get some more miles. This section of the trail is incredibly well marked and easy to follow, and was just great.

We mostly ran by ourselves, as I stayed out in front for most of the time, though we'd regroup every mile or so. After going out 2.5 miles, Beiyi was really feeling the heat and was ready to turn around. However, just going out 1/2 a mile more would give a daily total of 15 instead of 14, which I really wanted. So Beiyi opted to rest while I did the 1/2 mile out and back to get the mileage. It felt sort of like being by myself in nature with training wheels. I'm still a little timid when I'm all by myself, so I think it was a good experience. Since I knew it was good to be loud so that you didn't startle wildlife, I starting singing old camp songs (The Circle Game) and really enjoyed myself. I don't have the best singing voice, but I was fairly confident no person was listening, and it was fun to just be enjoying myself out there!
In no time at all, I hit the halfway mark and headed back to where B was waiting. We retraced our steps, taking a food break at a picnic table by an amazing tree, and before long were once again back to the intercestion of the Bertha PK trail and the PCT.

We headed down and hopped back onto what I think was a different part of the PCT and headed back to Cougar Crest. All the trail intersections (and the routes we took) were finally starting to make a bit more sense!

At this point we were less than 3 miles from the end of the the day, and running into lots of hikers out enjoying the hot afternoon. B and I both had our phones and I knew she'd be okay since there were so many people, so I stretched my legs and had a relatively speedy downhill. It was lots of fun, and really epitomized one of my favorite feelings on the trail.

Once again I was greeted with the beautiful lake view, closer now, as I made my descent.

The last section was surprisingly unpopulated, making me fear a wrong turn, but before long I was back at the trail head and onto pavement. I got to the car easily enough, and sent B a message letting her know to meet me there. She ended up having a bit of difficulty finding the car, so I headed back out, completing almost another mile to meet her at the discovery center.
After icy cool beverages and a wash in the bathrooms, we finally got back to the cars and on our way.
16 miles between 7200 and 8200 and lots of scenic beauty.

A great last long run in Southern California :)


e-rod said...

it must've been really late, or your mind is on tahoe, or i'm just too dense i'm not completely getting it :)

looks like you and bee had a great time up in big bear

Addy said...

wow...yeah...I need to fix that!!! I was really tired, and apparently on tahoe. And I'm dense enough that it took me a minute to get your comment :)

Sensationally Red said...

What I'd give to run out there sometime! Doesn't look humid at all. We just never know what we're going to get around here. We've been lucky for our last few trail runs, it hasn't been humid. If its humid on 50k race day--I'll be toast!

Pete Vara said...

Wow Addy- sounds like you are ready for Tahoe. Keep up the training and you will do fine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Addy, good luck in Tahoe and take a lot pictures :) - B

Sarah said...

Nice job getting in some altitude training! Great report as usual. I felt like I was there along with you. : )

Addy said...

Red- It really wasn't that humid, much more of a dry heat. Southern California is much more of a desertish climate. Hope your race day brings good weather!

Pete- Hopefully I am :D

B- Thanks for stopping by! I had a great time together :)

Sarah- Thanks! Hopefully the altitude training will help. The biggest thing I've learned is just to keep ginger chews on hand, since my biggest altitude issue is my stomach

Bob Gentile said...

I like those ginger chews,... great report & pics.... Looks like such a good time:-) well done!

"The Runner" about David Horton's PCT adventure...I still need to check this dvd out.