Stinson Beach + The Coastal Trail

August 28, 2011

If there is one thing to be loved about the San Francisco Bay area, it is that there are thousands of mini adventures to be had within an hours’ drive of your front door. Most especially if you enjoy exploring, eating, riding, and running. This past weekend, we took the opportunity to hit the trail and explore our big backyard.

Oh and how big and grand it is!

This December, Derek and I are looking forward to running a 50 mile trail race on some of these same switchbacked, single-tracked trails. The Coastal Trail will be a primary route as we weave loops over the Marin Headlands and, by winter, we expect that indian summer will have paved the way for a constant clear view as we trot along the ridgeline high above the sea.

After a leisurely breakfast, we hit the road, weaving our way along Highway 1, past Muir Beach, into the tiny village of Stinson. We easily found our way to the Matt Davis Trail and, headed up and out, into the fog. As we began to climb, heart thumping and brain working to jump and navigate the muddy singletrack, I had nostalgic flashes of running in the Pacific Northwest; fog so thick you could eat it with a spoon, patches of mud and impressive displays of moss, green as far as the eye can see. But, soon, California’s reality took over, varying our landscape by throwing in dry, windswept hillsides with thistles, dust, and gold overwhelming. In fact, for most of our 2+ hour run, popping in and out of lush green forests, leaping over mossy branches and fallen tree trunks, and between golden rolling fields speckled with the occasional wildflower high above the Pacific Coast. The marine layer didn’t manage to burn off completely and so we felt literally as if we were running through the clouds, amidst the quiet some 2500ft above the beach. It was absolutely, completely spectacular. I suppose that the sheer volume of trails available here means that there aren’t many people around, but it seemed such a treat to have this surreal landscape all to ourselves. Running into the wild can be wild, but its made even more so when you feel you are the first and last person that has a chance to enjoy the beauty you encounter.

As we descended back down into little Stinson Beach, with her adorable beach shacks, laid back surf culture, wildflowers and feisty, hilly neighborhoods, and very loveable main drag, we couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with the accomplishment of the day, and taken over with the serenity of the view – this small place served as a tremendous gateway unto the great yonder – literally hundreds of miles of coastline to be explored with the proper shoes, and a bit of time.

With dirty ankles, satisfied legs, hungry bellies and big smiles, we leashed up little Gunner and trotted to the closest cafe where fresh oysters were on the lunch menu, a live jazz band was playing, and the seabreeze could still be caught on the patio. We dined, completely elated and vowing that this would be the first of many more trail running excursions on our calendar this fall.

If you two are headed into the Headlands for some challenging, dirty fun download the trail map by clicking here.

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