"Hey!" Ninjaboy (Paul) shouted and jogged over to greet us. It was 10:40 am, we'd made it to Balboa park in much better time than I'd planned, and were just reaching the meeting spot. I'd left home at 7:45 to grab Taylor and Jacob, and then Brian#2 and Rick in West LA, and traffic to San Diego had been blessedly light.
We had quite a group of people that showed up early for Paul, a good 13 or so (Paul had to leave at 1 for a wedding). We trained a little around the meeting point before people got antsy and moved over to the rose gardens across the bridge. That was mostly an area for precisions and gaps, made extra precise from the sprawling bushes of thorns ;) At five to 12 I jogged back to the meeting spot to direct any more people that might arrive. Instead the entire group followed me back shortly after and wanted to move to the butterfly gardens after only 2 more people came. I was reluctant to move because we weren't giving the other people any time to arrive, but the herd seemed like it wasn't turning around. I at least called Brian and Mark who I knew were on their way from LA and told them where we were going.
The butterfly gardens was an incredible spot, probably one of the best I've ever seen for flow training. My favorite part was a walkway that zigzagged down and had a series of walls with rails on top in cascade. You could do 3 vaults in a row dropping down the levels until you reached the bottom. So cool. I enjoyed doing lazy, side vault, reverse. Or bear, reverse. It also offered some advanced kong to cats and rail drop or jump precisions. I'm really going to have to post pictures here when they get put up on pkcali. There was also a tree on the upper level that had large exposed roots which were great for natural training and balance, with a wall right next to it so I could cat to the wall and then leap back onto the roots. Paul showed me a better way to kick off the wall so I'd get more height and distance: he took and extra step up the wall before he pushed. I'm happy to say it definitely worked and got me farther. I love being able to learn in group jams from many different people.
More folks joined us while we were there, including Albert :) (yup, lethalbeef). It was great seeing him again, and unfortunately this may be the only time I see him this summer before I return to SF. It made me feel better to have someone else there who knew what kind of gathering, the sort of spirit, I was attempting to replicate down here from the ones in SF- but not replicate entirely, of course ;) I totally love and respect this community so if they did some things differently, that was cool. For example not much tricking went on, at least not that I noticed. It was mostly technique and flow and people practicing and trying moves.
Just as we were about to leave the gardens, I got a call from Brian saying they'd arrived, and I said I come over and get them. I hugged Mark hello and tackled Brian - he knew how excited I was to see him, we hadn't hung out since my first session back at UCLA. The bastard. I lead them back over to the gardens, where fortunately the group had gotten caught up by the tree and the wall, so Brian and Mark got to check out the area a little before we left.
"Anyone want water?" Lonnie (Liquid) called to the group before we moved on. The vote was unanimous and he directed us into a nearby museum. I always find it funny how most people go to the places we as traceurs go to to spend almost all their time inside the buildings, and for us it's just a pit stop. There could only be a water fountain and a bathroom inside that building for all we care.
Here the group somehow got split in half. Some people went straight to the big wall while the people I was with went to Paul's rail precision and the window with the bird spikes (I love the way we name locations). After a bit of training and watching Paul jump the rails a few times, we hooked back up with the rest of the people at the wall. It was kind of weird seeing it in person, I was so familiar with it from all the SD photos and videos. The wall was nearly always featured. The SD guys said it was a strange day because a bunch of people who'd never made this wall climb before got it today, as did many of our out-of-towners. Everyone cheered as each person made it over, it was great :] Brian#2 made a bunch of attempts at it, and just as Lonnie said, "Ok, let's hit the next spot," he ran and caught the edge of the wall, and scrambled over! "Wow, perfect timing," Lonnie remarked. Brian#2 had a big grin as he came down the stairs to walk with us to the pond gap. I wish I could have joined the ranks that made it over, but none of my attempts were strong enough. To be fair to myself it was a foot higher than the med center wall, but that only made me resolve to get this wall the next time I jammed at SD (which I'm assuming would be at least a few months from now).
Paul had to go when we left the wall, and everyone waved good-bye. I look forward to training with that guy again, though I was disappointed he and Taylor aren't nearly as gay with each other in real life as they are online lol. You could tell they're tight though, it was cool watching them try each other's stunts.
Lonnie and a couple other guys did the running jump over the pond, but since only a few people were even going to attempt it, we didn't stay long. The Organ Amphitheater was next, and on the walk over we saw more kids and adults dressed up for some wedding or another. We'd seen like 4 different bride/groom couples since we got here. Then we saw Cliff.
"What are you doing here??"
"I was actually down here visiting my brother this weekend, and I managed to steal away for a couple of hours. Couldn't miss this big a turnout."
It's funny cause earlier one of the guys had been talking about a jam in SD where they randomly ran into Cliff and his girlfriend. Good times, this jam just kept getting cooler. If only King and Andrew could have shown up, then it'd have been perfect. My favorite part of the amphitheater was when we did a ledge crawl around the back of it, where at points it was only an inch wide with no hand holds. You had to press your body as flat against the wall as you could and carefully shift your weight on your toes. Otherwise it was a good five foot drop into a stiff bush :/ I was way too nervous to do that part without a spotter, but Albert held his hand by my back from behind me and Brian held his arm out from in front. It was only a couple steps but the fear of falling was incredibly strong, the slightest shift backwards and I would lose my balance. In fact here I have to give Brian a lot of credit; he climbed up to spot me. Originally he wasn't doing the ledge crawl, he was doing a hanging traverse of it from below. I had completely forgotten that Brian was afraid of heights.
"You didn't need a spot," Brian chided me as I made it across.
"Yes I did," I assured him, "I needed you for moral support."
"Ah well yeah, I can spot you morally," he grinned and jumped back down. The group walked the rest of the ledge without much incident, and I even made it across the identical hand-holdless gap on the other side, but that one's drop was a couple feet shorter.
"Group picture!" people yelled and we gathered on the Amphitheater stage. Josh set the timer on the camera so he could run into the photo too.
"Why don't you just ask one of those nice people over there to take the picture for us?" someone suggested.
"Because they're all thieves," another replied.
"Could you imagine if someone tried to take something from this group?"
"Holy shit that would be scary."
"15 guys chasing him down. Vaulting over stuff... You picked the wrong group to steal from, buddy."
"Or going ahead of him, saying, 'Keep going! Come on, you're doing great!!'"
The entire group laughed and we started to move on to the next place, when yet another guy came running over. He had a shaved head and a piercing on each of his upper ears, sporting a bright blue evolv shirt. He looked like he could have been from Team Tempest. "Who is that guy?" I asked Brian as Cliff and evolv dude hugged. "Dunno. Taylor? ... Taylor says he's one of the guys that trains at UCLA sometimes." Weird, never seen him before in my life, but then again there were still a lot of regulars in this community I hadn't met.
'YESSSS,' my mind roared as I bounded down the loose hillside. It was made of leaves and dirt and bark, and somehow the faster you went the more control you had, to my utter delight. It got trickier midway down when the mulch gave way to hard, slippery dirt, but it was poxed in such a way that you could aim your feet for foot holds stable enough to catch your weight without sliding. That then gave way to a hard trail that you would sprint over with the rest of your momentum to an asphalt road. It was better than an amusement park ride. "Ok, back up!" a guy yelled and we charged the slope. Assent was much more difficult than descent, but I was able to use the same footholds in the hard dirt I'd spotted before, and the loose mulch was at an angle of the hill where you could use your hand to push off if you needed. I felt the degree of the incline working my thighs. "AGAIN," someone shouted and we leapt back down and ran back up. The second time wasn't nearly as graceful as the first (I'm sorry to say), but it was an excellent workout. Some guys did it three times in the time the rest of us did it two, and Taylor did it four. I kind of wanted to just keep doing it until I couldn't crawl any more, but of course everyone else was moving on :P I need to find a hill like that somewhere around my house. We have some mountains so it shouldn't be that hard.
"Um, there are more spots out that way, but they aren't very big. Just a couple little things," Lonnie said a bit apologetically. "You guys want to work our way back to spots we've already been?"
"Let's go back to the butterfly gardens!"
"Yeah, not everyone's been there," I agreed since we'd had a good amount of people join us after that spot. And it was such a gem, there was so much more to do at it, it could easily occupy our 25+ head count. Sadly Lonnie and a couple guys had to take off before we got there. I think it was about 3 or so at that time. I'd been hoping to hang with people until around 8 o'clock, going out to dinner and just chilling. I started to worry when Albert and others took off around 4 and Brain hinted he and Mark might get going as well. I wanted our time spent here to AT LEAST equal the driving time.
I noticed Cliff doing alligator qm over the rocks of this dry "river bed" that went up a slope under a small bridge to the other side. One side under the bridge was open, but the back side was mostly closed up by the slope. Cliff stopped at the bridge and worked backwards, but standing there I judged I could squeeze through the hole...
"Whoa!" Tim startled as I poked through the other side. I turned my face up to look at him standing over me on the bridge. "Hey," I smiled.
"It's just that looks like a really tight squeeze. You're crazy," he added.
"It is, but I can manage to fit myself through, so..." I trailed off, working on shifting my weight so I could pull free my lower body. I did qm for as far under as I could, but at the end I had to drop down and slide myself over the rocks.
"Now backwards!" Cliff joked. I chuckled and stared at the hole I'd just come through. My chest and thighs were brushed with dirt. Well......
"What is Haley doing?" Mark asked, stressing the last word. I craned my head under my arm to see him bent down watching me under the bridge. "Watch your head," Cliff directed, "There's a pointy rock at the center." I turned my head back to spot it with the corner of my eye and carefully pulled myself around it. The backwards qm on the rocks was fun because you had to pay attention each time you placed a hand or a foot; the holds weren't all the same. At the end I stood up and grinned, it was pretty easy. All in all it was just a matter of being able to fit.
"Alright, I'm taking off," Cliff announced and went around to shake everyone's hand. "You can't leave until you shake my hand!" Evolv guy said, who's name I'd now learned was Greg. "Alright.." Cliff agreed and made his way over to him. Greg hopped down to the second tier of the walk way. Cliff vaulted over after him and Greg hopped down to the ground and started running. I wish someone had filmed this, Greg was like a rabbit dancing out of Cliff's grasp. Either he had a lot of energy, or he really didn't want Cliff to leave. After a very entertaining chase all over the garden and its pathways and walls, they shook hands and Cliff took off, and some of the guys were like YES let's play some pk tag!! Thing is only a few of us were confident enough in our skills to play, so it was more like a few one on one sessions. When they tried a game with one tagger and two runners, they said it got too challenging for the tagger. I thought otherwise - if the person who was it just focused on one of the people, the game would be the same as the one on one, except they'd happen to have another chance running by every once in a while. But the tagger tended to get distracted by the choice of prey, and was therefore easily tired out and tripped up by indecision. But I'm one to talk, I haven't even played yet :D Imma work on flow so I can, cause I think that could be my favorite game ever.
"Dude, let's go get snow cones," I suggested to Brian as Jacob walked down with one. It was hot and we were hungry, but weren't going to dinner yet, it was only 4:30. Even though it was short, the line took forever, but the snow cone was worth it. Yes Andrea, I was thinking of you when I got it, and I told Brian the story about you. The cone was frosty and delicious (got watermelon/papaya).
When we got back, Greg and Mark were grappling in the giant wood chip circle in the garden, completely sprawled in intense combat all over one another. Brian and I laughed. "Now this is what we should have in the recap video," I joked. Taylor was leading the rest of the group in conditioning exercises, which Brian and I joined. There were eight of us left. As I watched Greg and Mark grapple, I realized I had an opportunity here. "Hey Greg.." I walked over and asked him, "Could you show me how to do some of those moves? King and Cliff sometimes take me down in the gym," I told him, thinking of last Thursday when King had me down in a hold I couldn’t escape, "and I'd like to be able to counter." Without going into much detail (in case Cliff reads this :P), Greg demonstrated some of the moves on Mark before he let me try them on himself. He also taught me defenses for moves that were much more aggressive than anything we did in the gym, just in case I would need them in a dangerous situation.
I forget when this happened, but all of a sudden Taylor, Rick, Brian#2, Tim, and Jacob were missing. We found Tim up getting a snow cone, but the rest were gone. However, we met Greg's friend, Andy, who'd been hanging at the SD zoo. Apparently he would have "jumped around" with us, but he was injured. Didn't blame him at all for checking out the zoo, that one is fantastic. "Ummmm, let's go back to the big wall!" Tim suggested, maybe thinking that's where the others had gone, mostly just wanting to continue training. As I'd thought, Greg made it over easy on his second try. "You do it!" he called to me. "Nahhh," I shook my head, explaining I'd already tried and wasn't gonna make it today. "Climb the shorter one then," he suggested, "Go!" I shrugged, that was easy; it was only eight feet. I quickly ran and came to stand atop it.
"Man, you shot up that thing," Greg told me. I chuckled and thanked him. "Now cat that wall," he pointed. I turned to eye it; it wasn't a far leap, but the drop down to the stairs would definitely hurt. As I stood there weighing it, Greg came around the staircase. "Wait, wait, wait, I want to spot you." 'Oh good,' I thought, 'I was about to ask for one anyway.' With Greg there that was the last bit of confidence my mind needed to have enough courage to jump. After I made it, I wanted to pull myself over without touching the railing on the side of the wall, but my foot slipped down anyway and I instinctually used it to boost myself. "Dammit," I muttered, but I was still glad to have made the jump. I leapt off the wall and walked back down the staircase.
"Now do it all in one," Greg grinned.
"Wait, what?" I asked him.
"Do it in a run, without stopping. That would be hot."
I laughed and thought about it. The wall run was fine, and the leap was okay, it was only the transition between the two I thought I might lose my balance on the wall and fall if I were rushed. Brian went to go spot me on the stairs. "Uhh okay," I agreed.
"Hold on, hold on," Andy said, "I want to get you on video."
I ran, hesitating only a second on the wall before I did the cat. "Do the last one!" Greg yelled as I was looking at the third wall.
Too late, I'd already been thinking about it. But this one had vertical rail bars to hold onto if I leapt, which was different from the other cat, so once again because I wasn't sure I could make it, the drop to the stairs made my shoulders droop a little. "Briannnnnn...." "Saw that one coming," he said, already jogging up the steps. I straightened my posture and looked back at the wall. With Brian spotting I jumped and caught the rail and pulled myself over it. "Yeah!!" Greg cheered and I grinned at the top of the castle. Wasn't as cool as some of the other guys did it, but I was up there and I hadn't used the stairs.
We also walked back over to a stone sign Greg wanted to do a wallspin on and went back to the Organ Amphitheater where I did the ledge walk without a spotter. It was good because Greg had missed a lot of this stuff and the rest of us got to have a round two with the obstacles.
"THERE they are!" Taylor, Jacob, Rick, and Brian#2 were at the first place, stretching. "What were you guys doing all this time?" I asked Taylor. "Just training around this area..." he said. I was surprised, we'd been gone for a while. I'd tried all their cell phones but none of them had picked up. The rest of us started stretching with them, until Greg and Mark started this game of rolling fetch. One of them would throw a piece of wood and the other would pick it up with their hand as they rolled, and then throw it back. Greg threw it at me and I joined in; it was a fun simple game, like frisbee. I also tried rolling on cement with Greg for the first time in a long time. It didn't hurt as long as I went slow and controlled, and it was a major confidence boost to practice to go faster, since I'd been nervous about rolling on cement at all.
"Let's go get dinner," Brian suggested for the 50th time. We'd all been saying it, but no one had moved. We kept stretching or playing. It was 6:30, finally we made a move to go. We decided on Chipotle at Greg's urging, and caravanned over with Tim directing the first car.
"I always forget why I stay," Brian told me as we sat joking around the table, "This is why." After we finished with dinner we walked to Whole Foods across the street so Greg could show us this drink he'd been talking about. Next to the drinks there were these weird plastic things that were supposed to be drink bottles, and Brian started seeing if he could give me a back massage with one. It sucked, so instead he started giving me a real massage, and Greg stepped in front of me so I could give him one. And then we walked around the store like that for the entire time we were there. Pkcali owns.
We ended up chilling and talking in the Chipotle parking lot for a couple hours after that. We all knew we were supposed to take off earlier, but no one really wanted to leave. Andy, Greg, and I got into a great discussion after they found out I was into death metal, and I think we hugged good-bye three times, but like I said, no one wanted to leave :D I said if it weren't for father's day, I would have suggested everyone crash at Tim's place (he was the only SD local left, Greg and Andy were from the OC). We finally split up at 9:45 and drove home, everyone looking forward to our next session together.
Jam 1 = success