Wednesday's run started out normal enough. Six mildly deranged runners gathered pre-dawn for our fun in the dark ... and cold ... and fog ... and drizzle. We decided on a typical default loop around Questhaven, but would cut it a little short by cutting back over the mountain on the trails. That would make it about 4 miles on roads, 2 miles on trails.
This morning we were joined by a couple of newbies, one who was visiting from Arkansas on business. He was the one dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. The rest of us SoCal weenies had hats, gloves, long sleeves, but still managed shorts. Poor Ryan from Arkansas ... he thought it was going to be a normal run with normal runners. Oops. Sorry Ryan.
We headed out gradually down Questhaven, a nice 3 miles descent and we were all happy, a little moist, but the sun was beginning to show up in the cloudy sky. By the time we had gotten down the hill and were ready to climb back up toward home, our group had spread a bit. As we approached the trail we were to take back, the one among us ... the ONLY one among us who knew the trails, needed to double back to make sure everyone found their way. He asked me if I knew my way back from here so that I could lead us home, and I clearly said "No." I followed that up with these fatal words, "But I'm sure we can figure it out." Wrong. The one bit of advice we had to go on was, if we get to a barbed wire fence, we should turn around. That's a little vague ...
Yah, so Dax, the trail knowing San Elijo native left Ryan from Arkansas, Paul the barefoot runner, and myself, and went back to collect the others.
So the three of us ran up the obvious trail, following Dax's general philosophy ... "if there's a choice between two trails, take the one that goes up hill." We actually went the right way for a while, but then lo and behold, we came upon that dreaded barbed wire fence. The command, "turn around" crossed all three of our minds, and we did. We turned around, ran about 5 steps and promptly took another trail that went ... up hill. Wrong trail. WRONG trail.
We were going the wrong way, up the wrong hill, but we were disoriented by the fog and couldn't really tell which direction we were running. We figured we could at least get to the top of the mountain and look out to get our bearing. When we got to the top, we looked out and saw ... fog. But we still sort of knew we need to eventually go left.
The trail we chose from there started out going left, but then curled around to the right. But it was the nicest trail we could hope for. Ryan said it reminded him of Arkansas. Paul liked it because it was grass covered and he was running in Vibrams. I liked it because it was downhill. We all figured we would eventually come across a trail that branched to the left. But ... there was no other trail.
The trail we had happened upon, we learned from signs along the way, was called Alpha Trail. Amazingly, even though we were running the totally wrong direction, we found our way to a familiar spot. We found Questhaven road. Yeah!! We're saved. One problem. We were behind a very stable chain link fence and there was no way out. Caged, like Mountain Lions ... and unfortunately we were also in the Mountain Lion cage. No go. Couldn't get over the fence.
We had to run back UP the Alpha Trail. It isn't as nice going back up. And we still had no idea how to get going in the right direction. By this time the comments began about how the others will begin to worry and wondering whether we would make it back on time to get to work. Finding ourselves a little desperate, we decided to blaze a new trail thinking we would or course eventually find the right way. That was another ... mistake. We got into an obscure field of thick brush, found no trail, and then wondered how to get out of the brush back to where we entered it.
Well, this was the way it went, and we wandered thus until we made it back to a mountain top and back tracked down and finally found a very thin, little trail that at least went in the right direction. Holy cow! We found the barbed wire fence again. Hmmm .... we ran from there and found the correct trail. And our way home.
Paul had scrapes from the attempt to climb over the chain link fence, Ryan chaffed from his wet t-shirt (remember it was drizzly) and was now shirt-less and kinda cold. I was just a little muddy.
When we finally hit pavement, Dax was up ahead running toward us. We could tell it was him through the fog because of his fluorescent orange shoes, and he is now affectionately now known as Rudolf. He said to us, "Hmmm. Did you guys get lost?" Duh.
Actually we didn't get lost, we "found." We found a new way to run that loop for those days when we want to increase the mileage by 2 miles, and the climbing by 1000 feet. Excellent. I have a new favorite trail run.
Guess what I'm going to do on Monday. The new trail :)