Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Lucky Day in Marin

Time has been flying by lately, and suddently it's just 3 1/2 months until my wedding! Ed and I have been traveling to Mt Tam increasingly often, to take care of details, which has been wonderful and is solidifying this as an important place for us as a couple. Two weeks ago, we came up with Ed's mom to visit Cataract Falls, taste some food for the rehearsal dinner, check out a park, and try some cake. While it was fun to spend the day together, the trip was a bit of a bust. Our hike took too long, the restaurant wasn't that great (in food or price), the park felt a little off, and the cake was pretty darn bad.

So, this weekend, Ed and I decided to redeem our favorite place and retry that day.

We started out at Old Mill Park, our first idea as a rehearsal dinner spot. Revisiting the park, we both decided that, while it was gorgeous, it just didn't feel quite right. However, it was right for starting a very special run.

That's right - the Dispea trail begins "here". Now, here is in quotation marks because finding this trail is a bit of an insider's game. We had to ask a local to point us in the right direction (she told us to go up, then right, then a u turn, then left, then right, and then cross a road - yeah, good thing we asked!), but did finally find the infamous stairs.

I had forgotten how much I struggle with stairs.
(Ed at the 2nd set of stairs)

We had a slow slog going up set after set of stairs. Towards the top of the 3rd set, we got behind an older woman who was probably in her 70s, going strongly up the stairs. I certainly felt out of shape heaving behind her.

(Engraved step at the top of the last stair, commemorating an infamous Dipsea Runner)

Finally, we reached a road, where we hit our next point of confusion. We knew we were supposed to cross the road, but to which trail? Another runner ran by and we decided to follow her, which turned out to be a smart move. That took us to the next confusing part, where now the trail was gone. Again, 2 new runners ran by and we followed them into a residential area. I'm not sure what we would have done, had we not seen these runners!

The next stretch of trail was more like a real trail, and this stretch took up to Panoramic Highway!

Once we crossed over, we were going to do some "reall" Mt Tam running.

(Heading out down the trail)

We've seen the trail often driving down the highway, and it was so exciting to finally be running on it. It was also exciting to be running as, up until that point, we had be reduced to a hike (darn stairs).

The view from this trail was, simply put, spectacular. It rivaled my best trail experiences, and left me in a state of awe. The sky was a perfect blue, with a delicous sliver of ocean peaking up above the mountains. The sunl.ight was shining off the forest. Pictures can't do it justice, but they can give you an idea of the amazingness of the experience.

We're thinking that this would be a perfect trail to take out of town guests on, not too steep and it leads straight to Mountain Home Inn. We did a fair amount of running (and a bit of walking) as we traveled this spectacular trail.

It poured rain yesterday, so there were waterfalls everwhere, really reinforcing that Mt Tam is a watershed. Every few minutes we were crossing over streams that flowed downward towards the ocean far below.

In not too long, we met up with the Alice Eastwood Trail, one very familiar to me, and run on with Ed on our first Mt Tam run together. I was used to going the opposite way on these trails, and, while I enjoyed the mile downhill to start, I didn't enjoythe uphill that followed. This course was feeling much harder than I had imagined when I planned it!

(My favorite part of Troop 80 Trail)

Troop 80 was next, which I love. It is beautiful redwood groves and cushy singletrack.

Troop 80 took us to Van Wyck meadow, where we took a snack break and then headed off down Boot Jack.

Boot Jack was, well, wet. Slippery, goopy, rocky, rooty, wet. We didn't get to enjoy the downhill we counted on, as we had to watch every step. However, we were rewarded with a constant creek pouring down the rocks beside the trail. It was amazing, but very tough. I think next time, we'll head down TCC to Ben Jonson, which I remember being much more managable.

Soon, we reached the forest floor, where the creek became wider and calmer (after a final fall).

As we continued our now flat run, we began to se an increasing number of hikers, letting us know that Muir Woods wasn't far away.

Once in the Monument, there were a fair number of people walking around, admiring the towering giants. We got a few odd looks, probably because we were running in substantially fewer clothes than they were wearing (most were bundled in winter jackets). The park is paved, which made for some faster distance.

Once we made it through the park to the other side, the fun flat abruptly stopped.

More. Stairs.

The positive here was that I went on the trail on my first ever trip to Mt Tam, with some people from one of my Berkeley classes. It was fun to revisit those memories, but my legs were having substantially less fun - they were still a bit irked about those stairs in the beginning and were not amused by new sets of stairs here.

Ed ran ahead while I stopped to catch my breath (and a few photos).

Luckily, this section wasn't too long, and we soon reached a road. We figured out that we were supposed to follow it, as the real trail was clothed, and so we walked on the side of the trail up, up, and up.

(A side of the road beauty)

 In little time, we we back to Panoramic and, finally, less than a mile from the end. Just a few hundred steps between us and the car :). As soon as we reached the stairs, I "released" Ed to sprit forward, since I am unforgivibly slow going down stairs (and I had little fear of Mountain Lions at this point in the excursion).

Down, and down I went, willing myself not to trip as the continuous downward movement played tricks on my eyes. At the bottom of the first set, another runner was heading up. "See you in 3 months! 3 months from today!" I realized he was talking about the Double dipsea and wondered if Ed and I should try it!

After a long trip downward, I finally reached the park once again. But, Ed was no where to be found! I looked around and in a few minutes saw Ed heading towards me from the trail. Apparently he had gotten lost on the way down.

All in all, 9ish miles :).

The rest of the day was just as wonderful and successful as our run.

We loved our new location for the rehearsal dinner:

Had an amazing lunch at Pasta Pomodoro, and are excited to use their food for the dinner, and had a sublime experience cake tasting at Fat Angel Bakery in Fairfax.

We got to try three different cakes (2 frostings, 3 cake flavors, and 3 fillings) and decided on the unbelievable spectacular white chocolate buttercream (I still cannot believe how delicious it was) with almond flavored cake, and a filling of whipped cream/frosting, pralienes, and raspberries. I can't believe I have to wait over 3 months to take this deliciousness again.

All in all, it was a spectacular day.

I cannot wait to marry this man :).

heading home


runningtwig said...

This was a great post! It left me wanting some miles on those trails and some of that cake!

Golden Trails Dave said...

Next time you're up there you should try going to the Tourist club (on public days - check online). It's close enough to the finish that you can have a beer before you cruise to the car...

Sarah said...

Beautiful pictures of your awesome trail run! But I have to say my favorite is the picture (and your description) of the cake. Yum! :)

Jean said...

You have the most beautiful trails in your part of the world. And wow, flowers blooming! I am totally jealous, and I'm so ready for spring!