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The Trail Companion

Winter 2002

Fleet Feet on Redwood and Coastside Trails

by Lenore Studt

When I first began trail running on area trails twelve years ago I rarely encountered any other runners. Hikers gave surprised glances and made startled exclamations when I came upon them. Now our open space preserves and county parks are heavily used, not only by hikers, but also by cyclists; nonetheless, I still seldom see other runners on the trails.

Purisima view - click for larger version
Purisima view (click for larger version)
Photo by Geoffrey Skinner
      Why do I choose to run (rather than hike or bike) our local trails? I do it because it allows me to travel our varied and beautiful natural areas at a pace that lets me see the landscape and its inhabitants. I do it because I can cover a lot of distance without combating auto traffic and fumes. I do it because the trails, although more heavily used than they were a decade ago, are still a place of relative solitude where I can clear my mind of day-to-day cares. And as a runner, I believe there is no better place to train (for endurance, strength, and agility) than on the hilly trails through our parks and preserves.
      If you are tempted to try trail running as a way to see new areas or as a way to improve your fitness, I have outlined two of my favorite nearby courses that you may enjoy. There are many other possibilities, of course, but I have chosen these examples because they are entirely with preserve boundaries so you need not run along any roadways to complete them.

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve

Purisima Creek Redwood OSP has a small parking area on Higgins Purisima Road, which intersects Hwy 1 about one mile south of Half Moon Bay. These days I begin my runs from the trailhead at this parking lot. From here, on the lowest edge of the preserve, all the trails go uphill towards Skyline Boulevard. First I cross the bridge over Purisima Creek and follow the Whittemore Gulch Trail, which winds steeply up through the redwoods. It is always cool and damp through this area, so watch for banana slugs and slippery muddy patches, especially in the winter months.

Harkins Fire Road - click for larger version
Harkins Fire Road (click for larger version)
Photo by Geoffrey Skinner
      After about two miles the trail rises out of the redwoods and switchbacks up the grassy hillside. Along this open stretch, if the weather is clear, I have gorgeous views of the tree-covered mountain ridges and grassy valleys that reach toward the sea. In this area, I have often seen flocks of quail and once or twice a bobcat. Soon the trail ends at its intersection with the North Ridge Trail. I run along the North Ridge Trail, once again under the cover of trees and in approximately half mile I come to the junction with the Harkins Ridge Trail. I head south on this trail, which descends briefly before climbing back to about 1500 feet. At this beautiful vista point, I like to pause and enjoy the spectacular views of the valley and coastline below. This stop also gives me an opportunity to decide how to complete my run.

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