Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Cross the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains

I've got a backboner just thinking about it!

These are the kinds of jokes a girl must put up with when she's the only one in a sea of backbone-crossing men. Amazingly, despite the high testosterone levels, we didn't get lost or have to ask mountain hobbits for directions.

Crossing the Santa Monica Mountains' Backbone Trail without a hitch is no easy feat. Most people who've tried have inevitably wound up confused, as the trail isn't well marked, and maps have different official names for various Backbone trail sections.

You can count on a few flat tires, and a grand adventure.

And if you have my coachubby, you can count on a flawless Backbone Trail crossing--connections completed, crew properly placed, and camping reserved. Put coachubby in the wilderness with a map, and he's a genius.

The weekend was not only a triumphant connection of the Backbone trail from Point Mugu to Will Rodgers State Park, but it was also a huge validation of coachubby's race coordination skills. It was like planning an Ironman for 7-8 people, accommodations and everything.

All in all, coachubby and I were the only participants to connect the entire trail. Several others came for the different legs, the camping, the beer, and the camaraderie.

It broke down like this:

It was a freezing 7am start on Saturday. Meredith (yes! another female!), coachubby, Folks (coachubby's friend from collegiate triathlon), and I were dropped off by Meredith's husband, Jim. Upon exiting the warmth and luxury of Jim's LR3, my fear of becoming an Erincicle began to materialize.

Luckily, the first 3ish miles of 16 mile run from Pt. Mugu were uphill, and we all warmed up. And if that wasn't enough, the 4ish miles straight up Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3111 feet, did the trick.

So did laughing at this butt crack rock formation. It's official name has since been forgotten.

Then it was on down to Yerba Buena, where Jim, and our other crewman, Eric, were waiting, along with mountain biker extraordinaire, Aaron (pronounced A-ron, so as not to confuse us with each other). I stuffed my face with PB&J&potato chip sandwiches and we were off. Jim, A-ron, coachubby, Folks and I.

The 30 mile mountain bike from Yerba Buena to Malibu Creek State Park was going along smoothly. The first 15 miles were mostly downhill and not too technical.

Then Folks did this to his tire somehow:

He was out of the game for the rest of the day. Luckily, there was a bike shop not too far from the half-way point that put him back into commission for the final descent on Sunday.

Despite what I would call near freezing temps in the low 50s, Jim overheated, and bailed from the ride a good 2/3rds into it. Besides cracking endless backboner jokes, boys sweat buckets out of their heads when they exercise. Jim and coachubby could've easily refilled their water bottles by squeezing on their helmets. Gross.

Then we camped, roughing it a few hundred yards from a major LA canyon road:

And made turkey burgers:

While the boys drank and talked and farted late into the night.

The next morning, daylight savings time robbed us of an hour, making it just as freezing at 8:30am as it was at 7:30 the day before.

But again, the 13.1 mile run from Malibu Creek to Topanga State Park started by bringing us up the second-highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. The burn in my quads and rear quickly made me forget about freezing. It did, however, make me think that I would be a good morning kill for a mountain lion, trailing behind the boys all alone.

Lucky for me, when we hit the downhill, Folks's knee went bezurk, making him more appetizing and me less vulnerable.
(Stunt road goes off to the left in this photo.)

We hobbled 2 more miles uphill to the final transition.

After a few more PBJ&potato chip sandwiches, Jim, Meredith, Folks, A-ron, coachubby and I rode the final 11.5 miles from Topanga State Park up to the Hub, then down to Will Rogers, ending on an epic 6-mile single track, complete with people, loose rock, and more people.
(Jim, Folks, coachubby, Meredith, A-ron, me)

No carnage.
Totally rad.
We finished around 3pm, with plenty of time for an evening celebration.

With the economy massively sucking, there's no better time to plan your own adventure than right now, especially if you live in SoCal. It's gorgeous outside, there are limitless trails, and all you need is some gas money, motivated friends, and food. (Some training wouldn't hurt, either.)

Next up: a one-day backboner!
But not too soon.
We still can't walk.

P.S. Want help planning your very own Backbone Crossing from backbone expert, coachubby? Email triathletediva@gmail.com and I'll hook you up.

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