Monday, August 28, 2000

Burning Man Or Ring Of Fire?

The Surly Bighorn is your friend.

Trespassing Spies In The House of Ultra-Love

37 miless in the San Gorgonio Wilderness
Some climbing, a few rocks. Big trees.
Minimal sensory overload from trail-betties.
9-1/2 hrs, more or less, whatever.


Yes, my ultra-List love monkeys, you've been waiting for this all week. Another istallment of Boldly Glowing Where None Others Have Disregarded Posted Warnings Before. Not mere signs and barbed wire, but pushing out beyond ordinary frontiers of brain-deaded consciousness. You too can shuffle in the footsteps of another high-mileage narrative.

Our mandate from the Mountin' Gawdz was a mere, self-imposed 37mile lollipop of mountain fun. This particular installment was in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. This group consisted of Dr Casino Bingo, Balto the Wonder Dog, Tara Lipinsky, and yours truly Draw Poker. In the words of Don Henley, we four were the New Squids In Town.

San Gorgonio raises its indifferent grey bulk 11,200' above the fleshpots and pleasure domes of Cabazon, gateway to Palm Springs. From the peak you can see it's rival Mt San Jacinto to the south. It too tops 11,000ft. All that separates the two is a yawning gulf, a busy interstate, and the vanishing dreams of the Morongo Casino patrons. But San Jacinto has a tram which makes for more abundant humor references than Gorgonio. Here, we had to make do with a handful who'd found their way to the top with the latest that REI has to offer. I felt nearly naked.

All this was still several hours in the future. Our day began with a multi-switchback warm up out of Forsee Creek for several hours, then followed by some vigorous ridge running. A descent into Dollar Saddle was mere foreplay for the counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Gorgonio, which entailed some climbing. The trails at this point were nearly paved, the switchbacks insignificant, and there were passing lanes for rickshaws as well.

Gorgonio was reached. A taste-test on a 2-week old half-eaten Clif Bar was conducted. Good mouth feel, savory, with flavor bursts alternating with crunchiness. Onward. The circumnavigation continued. Rocky switchbacks, but once again, these were pallid and insignificant, probably not up to spec for other correspondents. We passed the 'must-see' DC-3 wreck, but missed it. It is more for the upwardly damned on this trail, craning to see when will it all end.

Our water bottles were nearly empty. This made for a 22mile interval between car-cooler and first water, as the previously passed springs were whiz-trickles over green rocks. However, because we were lucky Cali squirrels, there was a prevailing cool with periodic cloud cover. We didn't fry our narrow asses. At South Fork we pumped water, I using my special pump that closely resembled a dead squirrel. My companions shot sidelong glances at the evident disproportion of my right arm to my left. When all bottles were filled, I rearranged the squirrel on my head, as it was also my sun hat.

We started climbing...again! Another hour brought us back to Dollar Saddle. Balto had stretched out on a log. He was sleeping, perchance dreaming of a life where he was dancing on MTV. Britney Spears was cooing in his ear, luring him with shallow and transient carnalities. Tara was staring off into space. Our japeries woke him. He shook his head and said "Who's Britney Spears?"

Now it was only a mere 14 Cali miles back to the trailhead.

The last seven miles had all the rocks and roots we had coming up, but were now alert for our passage. Squirrels in trees hurled pinecones at us. Big horn sheep smoked cigarettes, drank beer and popped off rounds just to watch us dance. This was Livin' Large in the Food Chain.


Experts have estimated that if this particular run were unkinked and laid out in a flat place, northern Ohio perhaps, it would probably equal 100 miles. But the effort and expense of doing this have stifled this line of empirical enquiry.

At the end of the day it was Just Us, a bucket of teamwork, and nary a naughty thought to distract us from our Higher Purpose. That alone is enough to make a grown man cry. Or a dead man come [thank you, Mick and Keith] depending on your perspective.

yours truly From the VisionKwest [Un]Divided Highway,
--Draw Poker

Sunday, August 13, 2000

Sunday School Cantina Of The Damned

or : The Baldy Peaks Course Preview

A training run. Baldy Peaks, 2 times over the 10,067 summit. Heat, dust and dreemz. Lots of elevation gain, rocks, switchbacks of both Eastern and Western proportions. The JogBra team on site. Nose rocks to suit the owner. Bonking. This could be you on race day, Oct 21, 2000. Delete now.


Saturday morning found our Tres Amigos desperately searching for reasons why we couldn't be down in Montclair picking up girls. The clock was ticking, the mighty mountain awaited our feeble efforts with yawning indifference...

A wave start out of Ice House Canyon clustered Team 3A in a competitive profile. We are Balto the Wonder Dawg, Casino Bingo, and your humble scrivener, Draw Poker.

Christina Aguilera was calling splits at the mile mark. A brass band announced our modest intentions of conquering the wilderness. PR flacks quoted us promiscuously. There was no fact-checking, and it was good.

The itinerary, ladies and gents, was two full loops on the Baldy Peaks 50k course. This is the canonical course, as dreamed and actualized by John Davis of Claremont. It is a course that will cause you to take inventory of your meager 50k possesions. There are scenic distractions, some elevation gain, a few rocks but not enough to dissuade most of the gathered readership.

There is also a hidden element on the course, the one that inspires those of the "Ultras as Sunday School" devotional sect.

You will be gathered to the mountain-top not once, but twice! Sa-tan will show you the great subdivisions of the known Western World, and you will be temp-ted. You will have a descent into the lush pleasure grotto known as Manker Flats, where you will be refreshed and humoured, then Expelled.

On your Exile from Manker you will take the torturous path past the Sierra Club Hut. You imagine your earthly woes behind you. You dream that your splits, so earnestly discussed on days like this and again at work, will improve. But no. The trail, in its ineffable wisdom takes the direct and thorough path to your redemption up over boulders, with nary a candy-ass shopping-kart switchback in sight. It goes straight up. There are places you reach out and touch the face of Gawd®™, and it is granitic with a grinning lizard staring back at you.

But enough!--that is Ultra Sunday School! You, however-- are throbbing, sweating, dusty avatars and demiurges of the Meat-Space Coordinates! This is the pumping disco-beat of What's Happening Now, Baby! And once you get all of your legs under you and heading back down to the Notch, it's a different world---yeah!

Team JogBra? You thought I'd forgotten! No way!

The Troll once asked the Knight "What is your favourite colour?" If you answered Heather Gray- into the abyss! White? Maybe you passed. Fire Engine Red? The troll is hurled into the crevasse. On with the VisionKwest.

And thus we were. We three, we raggeddy-assed three made it back to the Notch. Balto and Casino Bingo elected to do the Extra Credit Continuation up Thunder Mtn, and then go "off-course" to Ice-House via the 3-T's Trail.

I, humble peg-legged nephew of the Little People of Stonehenge, elected to depart from this Dynamic Duo and make my solitary way down to Manker Flat. My dharma had taken me on the Non-Mandatory Path, away from the Toolshed of the Mountain Godz. My car awaited me there, from the morning.

I then drove down to Ice House, lolled in narcoleptic twilight and awaited the arrival of Balto and Dr C. Bingo. In time, they emerged from the still lengthening shadows. They too sat inert and pondered the Tao of Duh.

Before We were Heroes We Were Grinders. The Mysteries of Baldy had been revealed, but are inadequately conveyed, and are as transient as a baton-twirling trophy at a garage-sale.

Baldy Peaks awaits you and your efforts. You will get your money's worth. You can buy that for a dollar and still get change back.

NEXT WEEK: "Coyote Ugly-- & You"

yours truly From the VisionKwest [Un]Divided Highway,
--Draw Poker

Sunday, August 06, 2000

Heat Dust & Dreamz in the Angeles Crest

Heat Dust & Dreamz in the Angeles Crest
[a continuing narrative of the Training Effect]

Summer as we know and love it here in SoCal was waiting for us this weekend. It was omnipresent behind every bush, around every corner, and shrivelling every shade spot within the feeble 33.3333 mile thread of our Saturday run.

Of course, the "Imperialist We" is none other than Dr. Casino Bingo, and yours truly, his infernal helper and trail-dwarf Draw Poker. We were there to time Dr. Bingo on a stretch of trail, perhaps not rocky enough to some standards, but adequate for the enjoyment of most; this time between Islip Saddle and Short Cut [25.91-59.3mi].

We calibrated the colo-rectal odometers [CRO], and were off. The sun had been flexing its chi for several hours. With the rising heat, I detected the smell of bat urine, but realized it was my hat, unwashed from a month ago.

Cooper Cyn was strangely quiet. We had expected to see stoner maidens creek side, but were treated to silence. Pulling away from the cool water, we could rest assured that we would now get our moneys worth.

Our first water drop at Pajarito was a welcome opportunity to fill bottles, push and shove to secure a shady spot. When that played out, we headed onward to Three Points. Every mile brought us further away from character-debilitating shade, and into the Flaming Furnace of the True Faith.

Three Points is a fairly short leg from Pajarito, but the theory here is that 2 closely spaced water-stops before a long bleak stretch of sun-blasted hell might be nice. A mitigating factor is that the trails are too rocky to push shopping karts, so this will have to do.

We sat in a semi-shady hole and swilled fairly cold Cokes, watched the sweat explode out of our pores, the salt rime on our faces, and feel the adobe nose-rockets form in our nostrils. The last was a purely private experience. With all liquids exhausted, and the car still 16 miles away, we decided to get moving again.

Being the observant squirrels we are, we noticed, strangely, that we had the trail entirely to ourselves. It must be "Old Cigarette Days" down in Palmdale. The rising mercury was an afterthought. Barking ducks stalked our every move through this landscape, taunting our fragile eggshell minds.

Aficianodos of the AC100 course are unanimous in their high regard for the stretch between Three Points and Mt Hillyer. It has everything you could possibly want: sun, scrubby bushes, minimal shade, sand, decomposing granite, indifferent lizards, the works. And thus we savored the full effect.

Summitting Mt Hillyer, the casual runner passes through the Fred Flintstone Stoner Wilderness. It is the boulder-coda to a Roman Wilderness of Pain. Wending your way through the rocks, and downward into the ever-compounding heat, we crossed into Bandido Campground.

The low pulse of a poorly played tom-tom greeted us. A quick glance revealed double-wide New Agers, who were there to commune with Beelzebub, or Barney. That deity is tolerant of mediocre musicianship. We left them in the sultry heat for the delights of Chilao.

Now we are 6.5 miles from Short Cut. All our bottles are dry. This is heat-training with an attitude. I seem to remember it being about 2 hours. My dick is not the same one I started with. Where did all these waffle-prints come from?

The sun is merciless. It's had all day to cook the various bowls we are staggering through. There is periodic shade. That ends in the final drop down into Short Cut Canyon. I know that the car is parked on the highway. I feel my blood thickening and my brain starting to backpedal. Eventually we make the shade, which corresponds to a strolling climb up and out.

I've had too much fun. I'm walking. I'm having recovered memories on what really training for this sport is like. Dr. Bingo has long since vanished up the trail. I arrive at the car. He is downloading trail-porn with a glassy stare, cold Coke in hand. I fall into the front seat. I stare at my feet and think of nothing at all.

He's the lucky one. On Sunday he gets to frolic on the slopes of Mt. Baldy, something to the effect of 24 miles. Meanwhile, I sandbag and do a JoggerzWhirld®� 11-mile outing on the Sam Merrill Trail. But then he's in training...and I'm not!

yours truly From the VisionKwest [Un]Divided Highway,
--Draw Poker