When all night long a chap remains
On sentry-go, to chase monotony,
He exercises of his brains,
That is, assuming that he’s got any.
Though never nurtured in the lap
Of luxury, yet I admonish you,
I am an intellectual chap
And think of things that would astonish you.
Iolanthe Act II, W. S. Gilbert
Two hours on the trails said Rusty, so off I went just before dawn. And it was before dawn I realized. Summer is essentially over and the sun seems to rise about 7. Still it was a beautiful sunrise with little patchy clouds lit by a neon glow from below.
There were no cars parked at the trailhead to Jesusita, as I plunged into the canyon. Once past the avocado orchard this trail always reminds me of home. Home being several places depending on the part of trail I’m on. At first I trot through oak forest. Live oaks. Just like the oaks in the Charleston low country. Weird gnarled trees skulking low with an aversion to growing upright.
Down to the picnic table. When I first started taking this trail the table was half buried in dirt, and every year sank deeper as winter floods deposited debris around it. Then, magically, one year the old table completely vanished and was replaced by a new table. It always amazes me to see that it is above ground.
My mind wanders over to the economy — hard to avoid this week — every morning’s paper bringing us news of fresh disasters. I am concerned that no one seems even to be mentioning what I consider to be fundamental problems in our economy (And dismayed that McCain can claim that the economy is fundementally strong).
I choose not to run across the creek to the Arroyo Burro trail, and head up into the meadows to Inspiration Pt. instead. Two open fields of grass in the middle of a trail almost completely wooded. They always seem a strange interlude.
When I was a child the US had the highest per capita income of any nation. We were the greatest creditor nation. Other nations started surpassing us in GDP/capita — that was ok, I guess, it’s nice to have rich tradng partners. Far more worrying was that we started running a foreign trade deficit. And that has kept growing until we became the greatest debtor nation.
As a nation, as a government, as individuals we are deeply in debt. The morgage crisis seems to me merely the tip of an iceberg. Yet the media are amazed with each new disaster. I rather expect disaster and am surprised the crisis is not worse already. The longer it takes to address our indebtedness the more difficult it will be. The morgage crisis is hardly new now, yet the “solutions” I see are merely tackling the symptoms (if that), and far too late. No one is willing to even admit that there are deeper problems that cause those symptoms.
And then, I pop out of the woods onto the road and run up the olive grove (steep!), through the gate, and then back into the woods again.
And the really frightening thing is that this economic problem is distracting us from the true crisis which threatens us as a species rather than as a nation. If the US has chosen to destroy its economy over the last 30 years that doesn’t harm anyone but ourselves (much). But if the US choses not to address climate change we are endangering the whole world. Which doesn’t seem fair.
This part of the trail reminds me more of the Appalachains. Still some oak, but sycamores too, and bay laurel. The bays don’t have as interesting flowers as the mountain laurels I grew up with, but they smell much nicer.
How can anyone think that the way to deal with all the oil running out is to reduce taxes on it? That’s just going to make people buy slightly more of it (not much since that tax is almost non-existent). I get frustrated with the stupidity of the world.
There’s a grey squirrel off the trail ahead. He seems frightened of me as I run towards him. First he runs toward me, beside the trail, then deciding that was a bad idea he turns round and runs about 2 feet up a nearby sapling, pauses, then turns again and runs back to where he started from. From which vantage he calmly watches as I run past. He seems a wonderful metaphor — frantic motion, achieving nothing.
We are so unwilling to deal with any of the issues related to over-population — and by that I mean that our species has outstripped the carrying capacity of the environment. Lack of food, lack of essential supplies, or excess of waste, all are signs of over-population. And all are problems staring us in the face. And all are being ignored while we wonder how to help those of us who borrowed too much money. It seems a strange priority.
The forest is quite dense here, and the trail seems to climb almost vertically. It can get very dark on cloudy days.
Why isn’t everyone riding a bike? It’s cheaper, and surely by now it is obvious that driving cars just makes our current problems worse?
Up a series of switch backs climbing slowly out of oak woodland into chaparal, leaving the stream far behind. Finally there are some views looking out to the ocean. The last few weeks it has been foggy and all I’ve been able to see are the clouds lapping at the lower slopes of the mountains, but today it is clear and the ocean is visible.
A month or so ago the wild plums, or cherries, or whatever they are called were fruiting wildly. Now there aren’t many left. I tried eating one once. They are edible, but not worth the effort. The fruit is very small, about cherry size, and the stone inside is almost as big as the fruit. The layer of flesh is very thin and practically tasteless.
Out on the fire-road and then up to Inspiration Pt. itself. A nice view across the city to the sea. And then I plunge back into chaparal to run down the other side.
Years ago two friends pointed out to me a rare native orchid growing on a bank just off the trail here. I’ve never seen them since, just that one year, but I always think about them as I come along here.
It’s been very quiet today, I still haven’t seen anyone. Usually there are a few others on the trail on the way up and there’s always been someone coming up from the other side. But today, no one. Perhaps the end of summer, the start of school, darker mornings have combined to discourage people.
Down to Mission creek. Dry as a bone here. Then across and over. Should I take tunnel trail or powerline road? I opt for the fire road. I’ve got about 10 more minutes before I have to turn. Much more open on the road. And now I finally see someone else. A mountain biker struggling up the hill. I pass him. Neither of us is moving very fast. I’m always surprised to pass a bike, but it seems easier to run up-hill than to bike it. Of course there would be no contest what-so-ever if we were going downhill. Time to turn myself. And there’s the bike again.
This makes me think of Pier to Peak (where I also passed a cyclist). Still trying to figure out why I didn’t do better than 2 years ago. Two years ago I’d just had knee surgery, I’d only been running for 2 months, I wasn’t nearly in as good shape for running a normal road race as I am today, surely I should have done better this time? But P2P isn’t a normal race. Raw speed isn’t that relevant. Because I couldn’t run, two years ago I trained really hard on the bike to do two 200 mile rides. P2P was right between. I bet I was in excellent cardio shape even if not able to run as fast.
I wonder if I should throw in a long bike ride once a week for marathon training. Just to get used to being exercising for 3 hours…
The wild orchids still aren’t visible as I climb back up to the point.
I am running through a tunnel of chaparal when I come out onto the fire road at the top of Inspiration. On the other side of the road Rusty pops out of the other end of the trail, like a very cheerful rabbit. We stop and chat. Rusty claims this is only his second trail run since he raced 9-trails — two years ago now.
As I start down the switchbacks I hear voices ahead of me. Two women, and two dogs coming down the hill ahead of me. Finally I’m seeing people. Then I come upon two others running up. Then a couple who ask me “Is this the right way?”. I have to stop and ponder this. “The right way to where?” is the best answer I can give. They’ve just past the turn-off to Arroyo Burro. But they want Inspiration, and yes this is the right way.
I wish all problems had such a simple solution.