parked in Azusa canyon... gloves, hat, sunglasses, food, water, map -- check! 7miles in. loose the gloves. refill water in the river before I climb out of the valley. purification tablets? check! almost turn back at the top of dam because of signage "KEEP OUT" "NO TRESPASSING" flashbacks of authority making me feel like an idiot. as if they created the world and expect everyone to abide. fuck it. crossing the dam, feeling brave but nervous. only to realize the road I intended to take was back on the other side. reset. go. I push on and don't see any waterworks employees as I climbed up up and away from my insecurity. startling a deer and unsuspecting squirrels, lots of tracks on the road... mountain lion?
the dam like a tiny toy now fades below and a view of the snow capped mountains beyond appears. as I reach the ridge. I can see now to the other side where I have run on trails from chantry flats just 20 minutes drive from my house. 2 more deer. "OHV - CARRY CHAINS" I am an 'Off Highway Vehicle' that doesn't require chains. but it would make a funny picture. catching Rim Trail which is obviously not maintained. it crawls off the side of a ridge leading up to the peak. A sign dedicating the trail to Herman Kuhn 1937-1985 "He loved mountain running." Keeping the fire alive, Aaron Flynn 1985 - . The leaves have fallen so thick that you can barely tell there is a path beneath the sheer slope that falls off to the right. hoping each time I place my foot down there will be solid ground beneath the debris to keep me from joining the avalanche. if 'single-track' is a trail where only 1 person can pass -- this is 'half-track'. loose the path and end up rock climbing some boulders to rejoin it. Altitude? Slowly steeply upward as the view get's increasingly spectacular. camera! no? THAT'S NOT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT. yea but... I can see from the eastern peaks to the ocean (if it weren't for the clouds blowing in from the sea. yes, those ones down below.) YOU EARN THIS VIEW. YOU HAVE TO DESERVE IT. the sun is shining on the old patches of snow I slosh through. but the wind is icy gloves again. I pass the observatory and it's many giant telescope buildings at the top. Mt. Wilson 5600 ft. 17 miles. Refill water, check map, eat ugali, chia seeds, dried fruit. Hikers with stoves make coffee under a bunker.
Downward, but not the way I came. No turning back now.
A few cars swerve around me winding they're way up to the peak where they will enjoy the fresh air with the backpackers. I'm hurting bad. The pad on my right foot is sending shock signals up my leg. But I don't envy them. Enjoying the summit without the effort. I take a trail/road that is "closed due to fire damage". nothing breaths. trickling stones the only sound that echos. a reminiscence of massive cascading rocks that knocked out sections of the road. climbing over these delicately. a flooded tunnel, eery drops from the roof. no light. no dry socks. no choice. light on the other side is a manifestation of hope dead forest. bare, black skeletons of trees stand like gravestones lining the rocky path. a fog rolling over the peaks below. soon I am too. the mist makes distance imperceptible. dizzying. right ear ringing. voices? pain. blank white everything. jagged rocks. a T in the road. choose wisely. the wrong way can add up miles quickly. miles I can't afford at this point. any uphill will destroy me. I collapse, my foot throbbing. Headphones? BATT LOW. lunge my pack off and check map. shove a bar in my mouth. relic of a time when there was a trolly that went this way hangs above a rocky pass. trees? barely through the fog a forest. but this one alive. tiny flowers in the grass. birds? water? more voices. maybe cars. the ground changes. from rock to clay to dirt to rock. can it be? tarmac? Yes the upper reaches of the mountain road. A biker has stopped here. This is the top of his ride. He confirms route and suggests a shortcut. I tell him where I came from and he double takes. But tries to be cool and suggest other routes I could have used. Happy trails mother f... Dive off onto a trail that drops to campground where begins
Phase 4 - the final 10 miles. I feel relieved. I feel like I can make it. This is the first part of the trail that is a familiar route since I left the reservoir. I stop to refill my water in the river for final time. A couple walking on the trail eyes me suspiciously. As if to say, you know that water might kill you? "Only if it saves me first." The couple smiles. Did I say that out loud? Am I starting to loose it? Beep! My watch battery is dying. 30 miles and 5 hours of tracking. The last mountain to climb now, then drop into JPL, ropes course, rose bowl, big bridge, archers, 2 mile turnaround, 1 mile staircase, the horse stables, sports park - little league tournament, devils tunnel, final climb, home. I can't believe I made it!!! The run I've been dreaming of... Beep! Rushing water. I'm still at the river. I haven't even moved. Beep! Stay focused. Eat something. Don't think about home. Not yet. Just move. mental exhaustion manifests itself physically. Just keep swinging those legs. don't listen to your mind. Wheres the trail? My old funny kenyan accent kicks in. Don't hide from me, you guy. Sawa. Twende tukopamoja. Pole Pole ndio mwendo. An old man hiking confirms my directions. I say confidently that I will make it if I keep coasting downhill. He is breathing heavy. So am I. I collapse, continue, collapse, continue. collapse. my mind is making me stop because it wants to be done. But I'm not there yet. A mexican man cannot pull his 2 boys up onto the horse he is riding so I lift them up to the saddle. No english. I want to show him my watch. that I have already run 35 miles and I am still on my feet. that no language could do that. but... my watch battery has died. it couldn't go any further. it is a blank screen like the fog which is now 2000 feet above keeping the sun away. perfect weather for a run, hahahaha. now I sound drunk. slurring and murmuring to myself. if i s-see a taxi, heehee I'm gonna takeit. weekend fitness fiends in tight polyester with ipods and heart rate monitors circle the rose bowl while I stumble along trails that I usually blaze. why does that guy need a water bottle and a camelback? I bet he could run faster if he just left them at home. did he run here from canada or what?
make it stop. DON'T STOP. I want to walk. IF YOU STOP AGAIN YOU ARE DONE. DON'T STOP, BE BRAVE, JUST TO THAT TREE OVER THERE but I'm tired. I KNOW. it sucks. BUT IT'S GREAT, JUST TO THAT STOP LIGHT. too many miles this week. there's a point when it's just junk. it's doing harm rather than good. MAYBE. SEE THE BRIDGE, JUST GET TO THE BRIDGE. this isn't fun anymore. YOU WILL REGRET STOPPING, LATER WHEN YOU FORGET ABOUT THE PAIN, YOU WILL REGRET STOPPING. NOW, DOWN TO THE STOP SIGN I made the journey. that's the best part. That's all I wanted, to be out here. Isn't that enough? THAT'S TRUE. IT'S GOOD JUST TO BE OUT HERE. IT'S SO GOOD. JUST KEEP ENJOYING IT AND RUN TO THAT TUNNEL. and i still have to go back and get my car tonight. how will I manage? YOU WILL DO IT BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO. BECAUSE THERE'S ONLY ONE WAY TO GET THERE. how? TO KEEP GOING. SLOWLY UP THE SLOPE. why is this part so hard. I DON'T KNOW. MAYBE YOU SHOULD STOP. ok. good. I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO STOP?
i tried to stop and I couldn't. my legs didn't listen to me. they refused to stop. BECAUSE THEY ALREADY KNOW... the last mile is the hardest. It's only 1/40th of the journey, and it's the most difficult thing you can imagine. The devil is loudest in the final hour. "Turtles win. Be a turtle." he says. And my legs just keep moving. Because they know that if I don't run the last mile, I might as well have not run the first. Maybe my gut knows it too. My mind is weak. It's trying to protect me. It doesn't see that even though in a race between a turtle and a hare the turtle wins, in a race between just turtles -- the turtle that jogs beats the turtle that walks. NOW YOUR JUST YAMMERING NONSENSE GARBAGE.
A stupid wooden eagle emblem hangs on the side of a flat roof building. My place. Where I left early this morning. And I've come here by foot. I cry. Because I'm tired. Because I will finally be able to leave this place. Because I'm glad that running is a part of my life even though it hurts so much. Because I'm thankful for the air, and the land. Because I'm sad that so much beauty lies unseen right beyond those hills. Because I've lost so many friends. Because I'm glad you are still a part of my life. And because I really didn't believe i could do it until this moment.