Saturday, February 23, 2008

10 miles on Mt Tam :)

Okay, so this is the final part to the Mt Tam Saga. The weekend is here and I can finally write what is arguably the most interesting post of the four, since this one includes really trail running :D

After much debate over breakfast while looking at the trail map, we decided to do a familiar but good route, running down troop 80 to bootjack, to something else to Pan Toll. Then we took coastal to Matt Davis down to Stinson beach. We planned to have lunch down there, then head back up Dipsea to Steep Ravine to Pan Toll, and then back the way we came :)

However, before we could start any of this, we needed to find parking. Now, we could have been smart and moved the car to the free lot across the way when we woke up, but we didn't think about it. By the time we were ready to go around 11, (we left late both to enjoy our room right up until check out time, and because the weather was cold and cloudy when we got up and had burned off by 11). So, it took a bit, be we got the last spot down on an off shoot of the road. Next was finding the trail. I hadn't ever started a run here without more experienced companions, so this was a bit of challenge. We found a trail and saw a road below, so I forged ahead, only to realize it wasn't an official trail but more of a homemade one.

Not too bad though, and then we were on the paved road that would take us to the trails. It was fun to be on familiar trails that I hadn't seen in probably 10 months or so! Troop 80 was lots of fun, and I remembered how nice that trail was to run the other direction, with the soft dirt and the switchbacks.

Our first 'stop' was at Van Wyck meadow, with this great sign:

Ed, being the manly man he is, had to go conquor the boulder

With the conquoring finished, we headed on our way to Pan Toll (after spending a few minutes with the map to confirm our direction :D). At one point, I stated with confident that "I remember this spot! Some great downhill will be starting soon"...yeah.....definitely not true. What we got was some good uphill. I had forgotten that it is somewhat uphill getting from Mt. Home to Pan Toll. That was great on the way back, but on the way out, it was making my lame leg sore and worrying me about our full loop.

We were doing more hiking than running, and Ed was a little tired of that, but being a good sport. Finally we were at Pan Toll!

We headed towards Coastal Trail/Matt Davis, but I stopped to really think about doing this. My leg was feeling pretty sore and those Dipsea and Steep Ravine stairs were magnifying in my mind. Feeling frustrated, I told Ed that maybe this look would have to wait. I was just worried about getting down to stinson and not being able to get back up!

But, we really did want to get lunch at some point, and we were going to get to rest down there, so we decided to go for it.

Coming out in to this view, I knew we made the right choice. This stretch of coastal is probably my favorite trail to run anywhere! It is amazing. Slightly downhill for the most part, so it's a place you can really run, and it's spectacularly gorgeous to boot. Looking down it looked cold at Stinson, but it was still sunny and beautiful up here :)

Soon we got to the junction turn off for Matt Davis, and here was where Ed really fell in love with Mt. Tam. This was his favorite trail out of the whole loop. Running through the trees with a great downhill and lots of switchbacks, you have to be on your toes through here, but it's lots of fun.

Soon, Stinson came into view and we knew we were almost down.

Finally, we popped out onto a street and set out to find some food! We decided to go to, I think, the Sand Dollar. It was a burger and fish and chips kind of a place. I got a chicken burger while ed got a normal burger, with lots of fries. Not exactly mid run food, but I told Ed this was good ultra training, eating substantial food and then going and running :D. We got a bit chilly while we were eating, and layered up best we could when we headed back out.

I was a little worried about finding the Dipsea trail, but it wasn't too hard, and soon we were on our way.
Ed wanted to take off running right away, but I didn't want to push it too much, so I kept it a nice hike. Ed would run ahead, but then hang back and wait :)

Coming up the Dipsea and looking back at the ocean is always one of the best views in this section

Soon, we were onto Steep Ravine, with its stairs, bridges, and fallen trees :) Luckily, it really wasn't as bad as I had built it up to be. We also weren't breaking any speed records here, but that just gave us more time to enjoy its beauty :)
You have to be careful going under these trees. The last time I was here I misjudged the width of a tree and cracked my head on it! Ouch. I was much more careful this time :)Finally, we reached the famed ladder. Apparently, a very fast runner a while ago was coming down Steep Ravine from pantoll for the first time and didn't know about the ladder. He was running fast and by the time he realized there was a 10 foot drop, it was too late to stop, so he just flew over the top and remarkably landed unscathed. Pretty crazy! We took our time and were able to get a hiker to take our photo:)

Once we got to pantoll, it was a very quick journey, it seemed, back to Moutain Home. Running the trails this direction, there was lots of easy running and great slight downhills. Before we knew it, we were back to mountain home and back to the cars.

We were back out of the clouds and able to soak in some lovely afternoon sun during the last section.

Once we were back to the car, it was time to change into some drier (i.e. not sweaty) clothes and make the 2 hour drive home back to reality.

All in all, the best valentines a girl could ask for!

(and....finally....this mult-parted posting is finished :D)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Valentines- Part III

(I wanted to make a brief apology here for such a broken up account of the weekend :) Having taken over 200 photos, it makes sense to split things up. Plus, with my program, it's good to limit myself on the amount of time I'm spending on here!)

So, we left off at Inn relaxation and fabulous dinner. As I mentioned earlier, one of the great features about this inn is its no TV policy. It was very nice to just not even have that as an option. I brought a few book options including The Girl and the Unicorn (by the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring that I really liked) which I thought I hadn't read, but upon beginning it, found out that I had. I also brought the complete works of John Muir, which I'm working through, and seemed appropriate in case we were coming to Mt Tam (and we did :)) and I think a couple of others. One can never have too many books. Ed just brought tried and true harry potter :)

Even though I was on vacation, however, I still needed to do my promised PT exercises. So, the foam roller came along with us on our trip :) This is one of my favorite ones to do, since it's definitely a new thing!

I lay on the foam roller (and keep my balance!) while making snow angel type motions with my arms. It was beautiful doing it outside, too, with such a gorgeous sunset and moon overhead.

Since we had had such a large and late lunch (that lobster roll was filling!) We hung around the room reading and relaxing until around 8pm. We had decided to take advantage of the hopefully amazing and dinner that was being served upstairs instead of driving into town for a meal, and we weren't dissapointed.
Our pretty table water served in a wine bottle, with the chardonney bottle in the background

When we arrived in the restaurant, we were one of three groups dining there. By the time we left, there might have been seven. It was lovely. We sat at a table right next to the fireplace. Since we had had a little champagne before dinner (and were planning on having more afterwards) we decided to go ahead and just get a half bottle of wine (a savingnon blanc- forgive my spelling). However, when they served the wine to Ed to taste, he made a bit of a funny face. He okayed it though, and the glasses were poured. However, when the waiter left, Ed told me that he didn't think this was what we ordered. We looked at the bottle and realized it was the chardonney with the "heavy butterscotch aroma" and hints of "pear and peach". This was the one we had specifically not ordered since I'm not big on those fruits, and it sounded like a heavy wine. We called the waiter over and explained the mix up. They brought us the new bottle, and let us keep the old for new measure. And, since wine is wine, after all, we found it in ourselves to enjoy both (though the one we wanted was definitely better :) )

The meal itself at the restaurant was simply wonderful. It was a prix fix menu (with a definite prix attached!) but all the choices were superb. We both started with a goat cheese tort that had goat cheese and onions I think in a pie crust served with a salad with grapes and pecans. Next, I had blackened pork chops with fries that had a lovely sauce and flavor. Ed had some fabulous sea bass. For dessert, I had a molton chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream (generally, all desserts must have ice cream) and ed had cheese cake. It was definitely a meal of decadance!

Happy and well fed we headed back to the room to have a bit more champagne and, as we are somewhat lame 2o somethings, get to sleep so that we could enjoy a nice morning. There were talks of a pre-sunrise walk to greet the new day from a good view point, but we were too tired and the morning too foggy to do anything so active.

Sunday promised to be great with our plans of doing 10 or so miles on some of the best Mt Tamalpais trails that the mountain had to offer :)

And with that...I'm leaving the rest to part four so that I get some school work done today!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Valentines- Part II

So...when we left off, we were headed out to some trails :D

Now, since my leg is still doing its weird thing (I've started PT, but that'll probably be another post) I've been cautioned to take it easy, so our first exploration was strickly hiking. We wore jeans and everything to resist the temptation to run (though I did run down a couple sort of have to...)

Our welcome letter from the inn recommended a hike that began very close to the end up, I believe, gravity car grade. It's just a fireroad, but it promised bay views in less than a mile, so it sounded like a good deal, especially since it was already getting into the afternoon and we were planning a longer run the next day.

The weather was just perfect for us, and before long we reached the promised views. It was a little smoggy, so visibility wasn't great, but it was still beautiful

The trails had others out enjoying the afternoon sun, including some bikers and plenty of hikers. There were even a few runners, making me feel self conscious about being out on the trails decked out in jewelry, jeans, and makeup :)

The fire road had pretty sites, but, as trails go, fireroads often don't seem all that far from real roads. Still, we were out in nature. We did find a nice spot to the side of the trail with some tree stumps that was a nice place to soak in the views, but the bees in the surrounding bushes made me a little too nervous to hang out for long.

The moon was up in the beautiful blue sky (can you spot it in picture above?) and we enjoyed our walk to the end of the firetrail. Towards the end we came upon a barbed wire fence with some kind of compound of houses below it. It seemed very odd and mysterious (and, with watching lots of lost lately, a little suspicious), but once we came upon the real road, it made a little more sense. We had spotted a single track going off from the fire road around the houses, and decided to head back there to go exploring. The nice thing about hiking versus running (for me) is that I'm less likely to feel committed to a route. So, off the beaten track we went!

The trail was obviously well worn, though not officially marked from where we could see. We were carrying our hotel mt tam map, and though we figured out where we were, but we weren't sure. The trail ran alongside a creek the entire way up.

Of course, I was stopping every few feet for photos, which kept the progress nice and slow :)

Eventually the trail popped out onto a new fire road, which was exciting. We figured that we were on the fire road directly above the last one we were on, but apparently our map skills were less than amazing. We eventually came to a signpost and found out we were on hoo-koo-e-koo road. We continued on it for a while, but then found a great singletrack heading off again. I was certain I had been on this trail with Mike Palmer on one of our Mt Tam circumnavigations, but with no sign post I wasn't sure.

The bridge crossing was definitely familiar and I was sure I had been here before. "It's Matt Davis" I proclaimed. "I'm sure of it!" Well...maybe not, but it seemed like it might fit. It was lovely to be on single track (and a narrow single track it was!) and from this trail, since we were up higher than before, we got some new great views.

This trails had everything I loved about Mt. Tam trails: the open views, exposed areas, and redwood forests, all in short spans from one another

The soft dirt was great and was Ed's first introduction to so nice of trails.

Eventually we popped onto another fireroad and a trail post, and at that moment (seeing the sign helped) I knew exactly where we were
Hoo koo e koo it was! I was able to point to Ed where I usually came from when going onto this trail and was excited to feel like I was gaining a bit of familiarity with this area :)

At this point it was starting to get closer to evening, so we following the sign home to Mountain Home to relax with a good book, some champagne, and to get ready for dinner!

Continued in Pt. III

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Best Valentine's Weekend Ever!- part one

A month or so ago, Ed told me that I should make sure to leave the weekend after Valentine's day open. He refused to tell me much more than that. The day before we were going to leave, he gave me a hint of what to pack: something for walking around, comfy shoes, something for going out, running gear, and trail shoes. That last item let me know that this was going to be a great weekend.

We left around 11:30 so that we could hit the first stop in time for lunch. We headed up highway one for some spectacular sights that reassured both of us that we wanted to continue living in Calfornia and near the coast for as long as humanely possible.
Having grown up around the relatively calm waters of southern california, the rough surf up here constantly amazes and awes me.

Around 1pm we made our way into Half Moon Bay. So far, my predictions were correct. We went to a great, casual seafood place for lunch called Sam's Chowder House where I got what has been touted by the Today show as "one of the five best sandwhiches in america": The lobster roll. It was wonderful!
I hadn't ever been to Half Moon Bay, so it was great to go to a new place, especially one so beautiful.
This, however, was not our final destination. My inkling was that we were headed to San Francisco, as we had talked about visiting there before. As we continued north on the one, things seemed to be falling into place, though those trail shoes were making me think that perhaps it was not a city we were going to after all.

Our continued drive up the coast took us by the famed "Devil's Slide" area, which has pretty spectactular cliffs and drop offs. The are in the middle of building a tunnel to go through devil's slide, so that the highway would no longer go on this apparently treacherous section!

On we went, until Daly City came into view, with its very familiar look
At this point there were two options for where we were going, in mind mind. San Francisco was just feeling less likely, in part because we hadn't left until relatively late. If were were going to go to the city, we wouldn't have been able to do anything that first day. There was, of course, lots of traffic going through the city on this gorgeous day. As we came close to a key part of highway one, Ed tried to trick me a few times. Soon, however, we crossed over the famous bridge and there was no doubt that San Francisco was not the final destination.
As we made our way up north of San Francisco, I was fairly positive I knew where we were going. I had to bite my tongue to not give him directions, since I knew this area a lot better than him, but I kept playing along :) Soon we were off on the Stinson Beach exit and heading up toward Panoramic Highway. I was now certain and incredibly excited. Once we pulled up, I knew this was going to be a great weekend.

Ed had taken me to the beautiful and amazing Mountain Home Inn, a small (there are only 10 rooms in the place!) but amazing Inn smack dab in the midst of Mt Tamalpais, my favorite place to run in the word. I had told Ed a lot about Mt Tam and how much I wanted to take him there someday, and was so thrilled that we were going to get a day and a half of amazing beauty.

Our room was perfect, small and cozy (no tv!) but with gorgeous views of Marin, including the bay (essentially ocean and forest views from the room...amazing!)
Of course, we hadn't come to Mt. Tam to just sit around the room (especially with the increasingly daylight that we're getting now that its going into Spring again), so, after browsing the books and map that were in the hotel room, we decided to go on a few mile jaunt to seek out San Francisco views....

to be continued...

(promise, part two will include actual trails :D)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Putting back the Pieces

Whew....I made it!

Not that I've made it through any of the huge obstacles of the program yet, or really even made it through this week, but I did make it through my 3 day mini solo (three days of just me teaching in the classroom) and finally feel like I can take a few moment for myself so that I can breathe. Today I cleaned my room finally, sent some emails that I should have sent weeks ago, and vegged out for a bit. It was wonderful. I still have a big group presentation tomorrow, but I'm not feeling overly concerned. I'm just happy to have made it through.

The biggest push was all the lesson designing that I've been doing. I created an entire unit on the California Missions where the class became researchers for a secret government organization to find an unknown mission. Unfortunately the lesson crossed over from simulation to reality in their minds, and now I somehow need to figure out how to break it to them that they were never real government spies. Alternatively, I might just contact the CHS (which is the 'secret government organization' that I used) and see if they can send my class an official letter of thanks or something. We'll see. The most important thing is that they are all so excited about history and writing, and that's wonderful!

On the running front things overall have been quite lovely. My run friday was 12.5 miles along the Santa Cruz Half Marathon route, which is one of routine medium routes that I hadn't done in a while. Ed joined me in the run, even though the longest he had done since the week after Dick Collins was 7 or 8. Being the guy he is, he was itching to go fast, but kept it slowish for me (after commenting when we started "do we really go this slow? I can walk this pace!"). He did agree upon finishing that it was a good pace for that distance. 10:58 average pace including slow downs for picture opps :). We started around 4pm so got the full effect of sunset and a beautiful evening sky.

The run began on West Cliff, where surfers were out full force, enjoying the amazing weather we've been having lately. Hundreds, probably, were in the water along this few mile stretch, catching all number of sized waves. The sidewalk was crowded as well, with many out walking dogs, or with friends, enjoying the friendly rays of the sun's light.

As we turned off westcliff and along surface streets for a bit, we finally reached the bike path that was to take us to our next destination. This pathway is sandwhiched between agricultural fields and the 1 highway, but is quite peaceful. As we neared our turn off at Wilder ranch, we came upon some happy California cows, enjoying the good life with their ocean views.

Around this point in the run, I began remembering the importance of careful food choices before afternoon runs. In a famished state, I had prepared a very delicious (if I do say so myself) spicy pasta dish with marinara sauce and lots of parmesean cheese (and some red wine for flavor). Now, this would have been much better after the run, but not before. My tummy was not super happy with with for most of the run. I stopped for a bathroom break at Wilder ranch (with their lovely (seriously!) public restrooms, and felt a bit better.

On our way back out we came upon a very cute critter. Of course, Ed couldn't agree in his cuteness, but since the little guy seemed unconcerned with us, I wasn't too worried. I snapped a photo and we were off.

Once we got out on the bluffs, life seemed great. It was just so beautiful out there. We stopped for a bit to take some photos at the first great view point, and then continued onward. This route provides about 2 miles of trails, which was lovely.

The sun was definitely setting by this point, casting a pink glow over everything. As we got back on the bike path on our return to the fuller streets of West Cliff, a glance backward towards the west was a lovely goodbye to the sun.

Looking down the barely used railroad tracks provided a similar beautiful image as the sun faded away.

Soon we were back on westcliff as the stars began to appear and the moon rose. The streets and sidewalks were less crowded now, and we basked in the semi-solitude. Our strength (or at least mine) seemed to be picking up and I was wishing we had started just a bit earlier so that the run could last a little longer. Unfortunately, there was lots of work to be done. A man juggling fire caught our eye as we headed back that last 1/2 mile to the car (Santa Cruz earns its reputation as a weird place every day...). I pleaded another 1/2 mile out of Ed (who had a bit of trouble understanding why stopping at 12.12 wouldn't cut it) but who humoured me.

The run finished and I was left with the desire for more, but the knowledge that this was just right. How nice to be running 'long' once again.