Wednesday, May 19, 2010

To be in Point Reyes

I can’t recall if I’ve always been one of those people who enjoys doing things by herself. There may have been a time when showing up alone, with no friends for security, was a bit daunting, but if that was ever true, it’s a time that has long passed. So when a number of opportunities coalesced—a beautiful location, some favorite music, and a chance for a long trail run in new territory—I knew it was time for a little solo road trip to the coast.

Actually, if I’m being honest, this trip was anything but a solo venture. First off, I took the dogs with me. That may not sound like much, but there’s something very reassuring about having two adoring and sometimes even obedient companions with you. Secondly, there were friends with whom to meet up at every turn. But, the fact remains, I was under no obligations to anyone but myself. That’s the beauty of going it alone. The path was mine to choose.

So, Mother’s Day weekend, I packed a bag full of running gear, a cooler full of picnic fixings, and two crazy dogs into the car and drove out to Pt. Reyes. There, I would stay with my good friend Heidi (who was unfortunately working all weekend), go for a long run, and meet up with some friends for music and food.

Saturday morning I woke up early and hit the trails. My chosen route had me running 32 miles along the Bolinas Ridge trail from Sir Francis Drake Blvd., almost all the way to Bolinas Fairfax Rd., where I cut west along a series of trails to hook up with the Coastal Trail, and return to my start at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center.

Along Bolinas Ridge, the fog gave way to an expanse of rolling green hillsides. Although devoid of people, I did share the trail with a number of other companions.

I think of cows as such peaceful creatures, happily munching away on grass here in this heavenly setting. But when you get right up close to them, they're rather ... well, large. Apparently mountain girl doesn't translate well to cowgirl because it made me distinctly nervous that I had to shoo them from the trail. They only put up a few moos of protest before moving along though.

Soon the open ridge gave way to forested trail with an iris-coated floor.

Connecting Bolinas Ridge to the Coastal Trail was a beautiful stretch of little-used corridors. Unfortunately, much of the overgrowth was poison oak and stinging nettle, but that just added to the adventure.

Eventually I found my way out to the coast, and breathlessly beautiful singletrack. I couldn't figure out where all the people were on this sunshine-y day in May, but it felt as though I had it all to myself. And people say California is crowded!

I don’t know when it happened, but sometime during this training season I became one of those people for whom anything less than 30 miles isn’t long enough to actually constitute a long run. It’s unfathomable, really. I always thought 24 was my limit for a solo venture of this sort. And in the past, it was; but no longer. This particular 32 was so beautiful, filled with both peace and sublime adventure. It was almost over too fast.

I made it back to Heidi’s early in the day, and spent the afternoon playing with the dogs and appreciating the utter absence of my To-Do List.

Then, I promise I iced my ankle. I was being good, right? But then I was bad. Remember that little girl? The one with the curl? Just think how horrid she would have been if she’d had not one little curl, but a whole mop full. Because that was me. Instead of doing something responsible after my long run like taking an ice bath, I got in the hot tub on Heidi’s back deck and had a glass of wine. I watched the chickens cluck in the garden, and the cows grazing on the hillside, and I felt quite guiltless about sipping my drink and slinking down into the steaming water.

To top the day off, I joined some friends, who’d made even longer journeys than I, to see some of our favorite musicians perform at the Pt. Reyes Community Center. My friend Chris once told me that the best recovery from an ultra was to dance late into the night, shaking the kinks out and preventing the soreness. I found out he was exactly right.

Sunday, Mother’s Day, held a peaceful recovery run/walk with just me and the dogs on Limintour Beach. I haven’t seen Gus, the 9-year-old husky mix, act like such a puppy in years. The dogs’ sheer joy at chasing each other through the powdery-soft sand kept me smiling all morning.

A community picnic and kickball game is an excellent way to spend an afternoon at the coast. These friends have some kicks, and I got mine just being a part of it. Talk about good fun! When was the last time you walked up to home plate with your kickball shoes on?

And of course, the afternoon and evening met over another parade of songs. Live music soothes the soul. It reaches out with a caress and makes you feel like everything is as it should be. Like it’s going to be okay.

I got to chat with one of my favorite Bay Area musicians, Nicki Bluhm. It’s a bit thrilling to meet someone whom you’ve always seen as a rock star, and then somehow reassuring when she turns out to be kind, friendly and quite down to Earth.

A short nap on the lawn was in order before a final installment of music.

I made my departure early to tackle the long drive home before the drowsiness crept in. Cap and Gus curled up in the back, proving themselves once again to be perfect traveling companions.

Some days I find myself exhausted just trying to calm my restless heart. Running is many things to me, and among the most valued lately, it is something to gather and quiet the fragments of my mind. Weekends such as these—with their varying layers of movement and sound, peace and beauty, independence and community—do much to gladden the heart.


  1. 30 miles an easy distance? I can only dream of getting there. First I need to get my Achilles tendon to work.
    Point Reyes is one of the most peaceful places I know. Great pictures.
    It seems you (and your dogs) had a marvelous time.

  2. Why hello trails of Point Reyes. So good to see you again! I do recall you've been wanting to do this one for a long time! I'm itching to get back myself, it's a good thing I have the trails of my backyard melting for a welcome change of scenery. I'm a solo creature as well - need it, thrive on it, love it. For some reason I can live more in the now in the moments by myself, with no distractions - just the pure guiltless pleasure of self indulgence. Sometimes I sneak a day or two, but usually an hour or two is enough to tide me over until the next adventure...

  3. Delightful! Sounds like my kind of weekend :)

  4. You look so relaxed in the lawn nap. Thanks for sharing your journey, both physical and emotional. :)

  5. Beautiful. I relate to so much of what you wrote here: the solo thing; the distance thing; the gathering my thoughts thing; and of course, the cow thing.

    You're really a tremendous writer. Have you ever thought about starting a book sometime?

  6. Gretchen, I am absolutely DROOLING over these pictures! I have been so overwhelmed at work and home lately that I have been dreaming of just this kind of escape. Solitude. Pure bliss. I have only been able to visit my trail twice this month~ You are a lucky lucky girl. :)

  7. Ewa - Well, it took me many years of running for 30 miles to feel easy, and it was never really the goal; it just happened. Good luck with your achilles!

    Leslie - Yes, and you may recall that your own trip here was totally the impetus to get me thinking about this one. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

    Paige - Thanks! Great weekend, indeed.

    Meghan - You're welcome. :) Maybe that lawn picture kind of sums up the whole weekend, eh?

    Donald - Yay cows! And thank you for the compliment. I could totally start a book. Probably many. Finish? Not so sure. Biggest ultra event yet begun.

    Amber - Thanks. I feel pretty lucky! Now get out on that trail and go say hi to your rock!

  8. Wow! Lovely, lovely weekend. It's the very thing I dream of and hope to have an abundance of in the years to come. Long run on a beautiful trail, solitude, music. Perfect.

  9. Pam - Yep, totally lovely. I know, you probably don't have much, if any, opportunity for this kind of thing with all those kids, but you have other awesome experiences with them. I sort of have the same thoughts about you and your days when I read your blog. And as you said, ... in the years to come!

  10. Beautiful pictures...sounds like a wonderful weekend getaway.

  11. Every review I've read of Pt. Reyes has been so peaceful and so inspiring, but only you took the photos to prove it. I need to put this on my To-Do List.