Saturday, January 30, 2010
Revisiting an Old Trail
Ed and I were looking for a good trail to do 6 or so miles on, that would have held up decently after all the rain we're continuing to have. I had the fun idea of going back to the trail that we ran on for our first date in Nisene Marks State Park, south of Santa Cruz. It would only be about 40 minutes away, and full of those rain resistant redwoods. I'm sure I've shared this story before, but Ed and my first date was a 7 mile, somewhat challenging trail run. We met when I had just come home from a 20 mile trail run (and he was moving into my apartment building, into the apartment just below mine), so Ed knew me from the first moment of our meeting as a runner. It's great because when he sees me with my hair in a ponytail all sweaty, it reminds him of the first time we met :). Anyways, since he knew I was a runner from my outfit, he asked me if we could go for a run. I wanted to impress him (and was at the tail end of my 50 miler training) so I suggested this 7 mile loop. Ed did admirably well and it was a very meaningful and enjoyable 1st date, where we got to talk a lot and get to know one another.
Fast forward 2 1/2 years, and we were looking forward to retracing our steps. Of course, the problem was that we hadn't done that loop in about 2 years, and didn't exactly remember it. We had also never run it in winter, so things looked a bit different. We had to park in a different spot because part of the fireroad was closed to cars. This threw us off a bit. We started off going up the West Ridge Trail, which I knew best from my worst 20 mile run ever, where I almost maced a squirrel, I was so freaked out about running into a mountain lion.
With company it was better, but still steep and challenging uphill. It seemed to just keep going and going, I tried to run when I could, but I was just feeling tired. I had been unusually tired all week, perhaps from all the running last weekend. It was gorgeous though, and I was soon warmed up. I took off the long sleeved and felt great wearing a tank top!
After ages, we finally reached what we thought was the turn off, and I was wishing we had brought the map. We got a bit of downhill which was fun, but introduced a new element - slippery mud! I shrieked a few times as my feet came close to slipping out from under me. When we reached another sign we got a bit confused, as it didn't have the names of any of the trails that we thought we were going to see. We took a guess and kept going, on some beautiful singletrack. Parts of it had the narrow trail just cut into the side of the hill, with a drop off of hundreds of feet off to the side.
What was really special was that we could see the tops of the redwoods that started hundreds of feet down in the bottom of the gorge. It was such a unique experience, to be running in the "Canopy" of a redwood forest :). There were some very narrow sections, made a bit perilous by the mud, but we took them slowly. There was a very neat section with an old plank of redwood that crossed over a section - just very beautiful.
We kept having moments during this whole section where it felt familiar, but we weren't certain we had done it on that run together. When we reached the redwood switchback section that I distinctly remembered, it was much, much steeper than I had recalled. At the bottom of it, we faced a sizable stream crossing. With Ed's help, I made it across dry, but on the other side was a trail posting that made us really feel that we had done something wrong. At this point we were pretty positive we had made a mistake, but we weren't sure what it was.
In any event, the sign reassured us that we were heading back to the main fire road of the park, so at least we were heading back to our car, eventually. For the next mile or so, the trail winded next to the creek, and was just gorgeous. However, with being so close to the creek, it was only a matter of time before we had to cross over again. This time, it was much wider, and I would have had to use 3 or 4 slippery stepping stones to make it. While Ed had no trouble, I was doubtful of my ability to keep from slipping. I had images of twisting my ankle as I stumbled fully into the full creek. Since I figured I'd just wet anyways, I decided to run through.
Wow! That water was cold! It felt nice, though, to just go through. It's just water, after all. And, in about 4 minutes or so, my feet warmed up and I was fine. A bit later, we got to see a beautiful waterfall that actually ran over the trail. It was small, but just magical. Then, we got to run over these platforms, which I think were there to keep the trail from slipping down the hillside. Next up, was a bridge over yet another stream. At around this point, Ed commented that this was definitely up there as the most beautiful run he had ever been on.
Finally, we got to a somewhat flat section that I did remember from our first date run, and then, we were back to the fire road. We still had about a mile to get to the car and I was hurting. Still, it reminded me of all the times I ran down that fireroad at the end of a long run, so I was enjoying it, even through the pain.
Once we got to our original trail head, I knew we were almost finished. We made our last bridge crossing, and then we were at the car. My legs were in quite a bit of pain, but I felt accomplished. We were sure we had gone more than 7, but we'd had to wait until we got home to find out by how much.
We made a quick stop for lunch, since we were not going to be able to make it home for food, and then finally got back home.
Actual mileage total? 9.3 :). A hard 9.3.
So much for taking it easy....
A week from today I'll be tackling my first "big" race, a 17k (10.6) in Woodside :D.
I am so ready!