Just like the cats in the Santa Cruz mountains and the coyotes of SoCal, I keep a territory. A route. I travel its familiar paths often taking three or four days to refamiliarize myself with the lay of and reinforce my connection to the land.
My southernmost stop this turn was Fallbrook, CA. It’s a comfortably sized town. A couple hotels, a few restaurants, and a quaint historic downtown area in which I very much like taking my coffee and breakfast. Reminds me of the downtown wake forest rd area of Raleigh. I don’t know much of the history of this town, and honestly don’t have any business there any longer. I just like the town and where it’s situated relative to some business interests of mine. From my hotel, there are a handful of convenient trailheads to pick from. I like yo use an app called All Trails. It’s great for dropping into a town and finding a list of rated trails with all sorts of information available and on-point accurate locally-sourced trail-beta. This day, I chose Monserate Mountain. The trail is a 3.9 mile loop that eastward switchbacks right up to the summit of the mount, north around its high ridge, and south the west circling around to join with the trail i followed up to the peak.
There were tons of people. Maybe a dozen cars in the lot when I arrived. Seemed busier than it really was. As soon as I got a few hundred vert. feet up the trail, there was no one to be found and I only saw a few more hikers.
The trail was covered in dust and rocks and every bit as steep as I could hope for. I spent the better part of last year injured, and I am unwilling to make that same mistakes. I am easing back into my run training. I was terribly stiff starting off and decided not to force it. I took my time ascending, but unwilling to compromise an opportunity to build fitness I completed lunges all the way up the big hill. I was totally surprised that even though I was sinking to one knee every step, I was still passing people going up the switchbacks. Guess I’ve still got it. It was all smiles and friendly words of encouragement to and from everyone I made contact with. I love the outdoor rec community.
At the summit of the rock pile I had just crushed, I took a bunch of photos and signed the geocache log. I wanted to push my limits and in the scorching sun (air temp was only 75 or so, but the sun felt so hot!) and fierce wind I dropped and cranked out a few sets of push-ups. I could judge from my high vantage that the peak was only about 1/3 of the trail I was going to cover. After around 175-200 press-ups and taking a little water, I continued back down to the mount to pick up the trail and rounded the massive cone to find man-made stairs down the back of the mountain and a gravel road to access a ginormous water tank. The stairs reminded me of my malaligned knees and in an effort to flex and loosen my stiff joints I decided to “high-knees” to the bottom of the hill. 2/3 done, I was finally feeling as limber as ever and without thinking, I began a steady trot along the dusty gravel road back to the base parking lot. Reaching the car, I stretched for about 30minutes before changing to drier clothes and heading back to my hotel to begin my work day.
It’s funny what we ponder while exerting ourselves . Ideas that I don’t think I’d ever conceive pop into my brain when I’m at the far reaches of comfort. Feelings that I hadn’t considered previously seem to bubble up to the surface. For better or worse. Sometimes fear, often self-doubt, at times elation indescribable. Something deep within me begs for uninterrupted reflection. I can’t put a finger on it. I am called by and to the river. The wilderness. Man not versus, but WITH himself. Man not versus, but WITH nature. I don’t know what there is left to discover out there, but I damn well intend to find out.