So my friend Stephanie and I are running a trail half marathon in mid-June so we wanted to get some serious hills under out belts. We are lucky to live in a place that has plenty of trails to choose from so we decided to hit the Marinwood trails and go out for a 90 minute run yesterday morning.
Well, I’ll ruin the punchline and share that we got totally mis-directed (lost is such a negative word) and added about an hour onto our run. Here’s how our mis-adventure started.
We decided on a run that starts at the end of Heatherstone Drive. It’s an immediate and long climb to the ridge. At the top is a Y. You can take a left to run along the ridge and then connect with some other trails leading you back down in a big loop or out west towards a place called Big Rock. Or you can hang a right and head northeast down towards another residential area and loop around that way. Choices, choices.
We chose to head to Big Rock so at the Y we went left. After a few rolling hills we climbed up a sweeping incline and popped out onto the main ridge. Looking out we saw Mt. Diablo to the east, Mt. Tam to the southwest, San Francisco to the south and the marsh and SF Bay. It was a beautiful morning and worth the climb.
We ran for another 20 minutes or so and realized we were on the path leading down to Queenstone and had missed the turn to the trail leading to Big Rock. So we decided to double back to see if we could find it and if not we would just go down where we came up. Easy peasy.
A bit of climbing to get back to the top of the ridge but not so bad. We turned down what we thought was the right trail back down and ran for a bit thinking we were on the right trail. I mean, the trails look alike up there! I guess when we took that right turn and saw 2 hearts drawn in the dirt we should have paid a bit more attention to the fact that we’d not seen them on the way up. But it was getting closer to the time we had to be home so we shrugged it off and ran downhill.
So we descended at a good clip. Running downhill on a trail is fun. And after about 10 minutes or so we came to a fork in the trails and saw some signs. One was a metal sign with the trail name Big Rock cut into it. The second said Little.
Blink. Blink. Not familiar at all. Where. Were. We?
So out came the smartphone and sure enough, the little red dot indicating the cell signal showed we were not where we should have been. After looking around and down into the valley we found out we were on a another ridge altogether and I could see the freeway and the houses below were ones you can get to from the next exit north on the freeway. Crap. We had 2 options. Neither one horrible or life threatening, I mean we knew where we were, it wasn’t far from civilization and we could get home we just had to figure out how.
Option 1. We could continue to go down and we’d pop out behind an office complex. We’d have to run up and over the freeway on a side frontage road but we’d get home. The downside to this plan was that I didn’t know how long it would take to get down and back over. Could be 20 minutes could be more.
Option 2. Backtrack. Once I realized where we were I could see across the valley to where we should be. It looked far but I wasn’t sure how far. And we missed the trail the first time so I was worried we’d miss it again. If that happened we’d have to go all the way around and down Queenstone and I knew that would take another hour.
Have I mentioned that none of these trails were marked? I remember that there were some signs a few years’ ago but nothing now. Except for the metal signs we’d seen. Grrr…
Anyway, I digress. We took the chance to backtrack and hoped to find the right trail. Remember how fun that downhill was a few minutes ago. Not so much fun going up. We were out on the trail about 2 hours by that time and we were a smidge tired. We ran into a set of hikers and we asked for directions. Simple, we thought.
“Hi, we made a wrong turn. Can you tell us if you know where the trail is to get back down to Marinwood?”
“Sure, keep on this trail and it will take you down Queenstone”
“We’re actually looking one that drops you into Marinwood near the water tower”
“That’s the first, no second, maybe third trail”.
He looked equally confused so further conversation would be futile. Onward.
Or rather upward. No joke, it was a big hill. Finally we were closer to the ridge and saw another person walking their dog who gave us very clear instructions. “Go half a mile up, then another half mile and turn left before a rock” Simple enough.
A little lighter in the step we continued until we saw the path. We stopped and had a brief discussion on whether it was “the” right path. We trusted our gut (because hadn’t that worked out splendidly so far??) and headed down. At one point we decided even if we were in the wrong place we’d just keep going down and figure it out.
Luckily we made the correct turn and popped out at the bottom of the hill. Success. Our run was close to 10 miles and make no mistake, we were tired from not only the climbing but the descending. Our initial ascent was almost 1300 feet. Needless to say, after that run I’m confident that we are even more prepared for our half marathon than I’d expected!
And I learned some valuable lessons that I thought I’d share.
- It’s a great idea to bring a cell phone on a trail run.
- If in doubt of a direction, don’t continue down the path. (Not only a good policy on a trail run, but also an excellent metaphor for life in general).
- Hills are awesome.
- Trails should be marked. Hello Mr. Park Ranger.
- Going with a buddy is a great idea on the trails.
- Trail maps are a good idea to carry. If for no other reason than you have an idea of how far things are and if lost or misdirected you can get a better read on your position.
I can’t wait to get back out there and explore some more but I may have to find a new running partner. Stephanie isn’t returning my calls or texts…
If you are local and interested in the Marinwood or Terra Linda trail system, click here to see a map.
Now go run!