“The Pacific Coast. The closer I get, the further away I feel.” Michael Stipe
These words often echo around my head. The pacific coast has always featured heavily in my life from the wonder of travelling down Route 1 in the back of a too big car with my family all the time my Mum shouting that dad was getting too close to the edge of the road. Through the riotous and sometime odd silence of dusky LA beaches right through the flotsam and jetsam of the Pacific Northwest beaches filled with white bone tree trunks on dark sand beaches.
And here I am again in Monterey. Arriving after Yosemite’s fierce sunlight and awe inspiring vertical faces to gloomy beach and misty skies. But the next morning the sun is out and Clewis and I hit the beach for a 10km run as the surf pounds and the sand shifts underfoot…..at 2pm (lets say a slow start to the day) it’s in the 80s and we’re both sweating and struggling through the sand. Eventually I take my shoes off and run light and relatively free as the cold surf flows around my feet….There’s an Edward Hopper inspired mural in Bank restaurant in London depicting this Cali beach scene and right now I feel like i’m living it. Blue sky with no cloud, haze of the water crashing on the yellow sand and blinding white gulls arcing on the sky as loud kids run this way and that. Here I am running. It always comes back to running no matter where or when….
The next morning we’re up early and head south to get to Pismo to be ready to springboard back to LAX the following day… but en route we get the delight of running in Big Sur. I’ve wanted to run in Big Sur for ages having seen the marathon online and heard about the back country and so after a quick stop in surreal Carmel (too clean? too sterile?) we drive south down the 1.
I’d checked out where the Big Sur trail marathon goes and find it runs up the Old Coast Road out from Andrew Molera State Park so we head there. The coastline is breath taking – it’s a perfect day for driving down one of the most spectacular roads in the world. We get to the park and a chirpy ranger checks us into the car park and we’re suddenly across the road and running up the trail.
And it’s gnarly!!! We agree on a 5mile run and it’s pretty much 2.5 miles straight up. It’s a dirt road much like any you’d find in the back country of NZ. Dusty and hot in amongst the paddocks. We struggle up the hills stopping to get a gulp of water of just get the heart rate down. It’s a tough old hike with 80 degree heat and a full on head wind. We see only one car heading up the road and so I don’t think anything of stopping for a pee – which of course leads to us meeting the 2nd car of the day. Typical! At least i give them a 1 handed wave. Gotta be polite.
Reaching the ridge we get to our allotted distance and then it’s time to return and I revel in the chance to get the legs churning and so it’s a crazy fast descent all the way back to the 1. Wait about in the sun for Chris to get back and then we’re in the car to head south. Feeling pretty good we got to see some of the back country and also see the condors rising on the thermals. The road trip is coming to a close but it’s been excellent to have had a bit of a roadie and get some interesting new trails under the feet. Gotta come back to Yosemite and spend some more time…maybe next year a family trip and an RV could be calling. For now it’s catch up on email and hope that I can get a cold wet muddy run in the Waitaks this weekend.
One thing that’s great leaving this crazy place is that I live in the best country in the world for trail running! Home here I come!!
Photos: Courtesy of Clewis