After running the Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur Station up into the mountains two days ago, a run along the ocean. Andrew Molera State Park, just a few miles north of Big Sur looked like a fit. I’d get to run along the ocean, which well, as you might know, I don’t get to do very often in Colorado.
Starting out, just 50ft from the trailhead, the run got fun as there’s a mandatory creek crossing of the chilly and clear Big Sur River. Time to get the shoes wet. Ok, I gotta admit that I’m not a super hardened trail runner and I was perturbed at having to run the next 10 miles in sopping wet dirt ridden shoes. The upside about this however is the flipside: it’s a perfect spot for a post run dip. After the creek crossing it’s a bit over a mile running on the flat trail down to the ocean. Right when I hit the beach, I took a left onto the Bluff Trail and here’s where the trail really got scenic. The trail meandered along the bluff, beautiful rolling terrain with lots of plant life and flowers. Despite the Big Sur area hosting many bumbling tourists (like yours truly) while we were there midweek in June, I was completely on my own all along the Bluff Trail.
A few miles of that and there was a mildly hidden well-this-isn’t-on-the-map trail down alongside a creek to a beach. It felt like the Goonies beach, wide open without a person in sight and lots of big black rocks poking up into the sky. I ran along the water (may as well resoak the shoes right?) for about a mile in search of One-Eyed Willie’s elusive pirate ship before flipping back to go up the ravine to complete my loop. “Maybe Chunk will at least be waiting for me at the finish with his ice cream” I thought.
I smell ice cream … They’ve got pralines and cream, they’ve got Mississippi mud, and they got chocolate eruption, and they got apple, and they got grape. They got grape, and super duper chocolate eruption, and… Holy hell. They also have a dead person.
Chunk in The Goonies
Once back on the trail and off the beach, the big climb of the day came. It was fairly steep and long to get up to the Ridge Trail that traverses above the Bluff Trail. Not big mountain climbing but a steep extended I-thought-this wasn’t-going-to-be-hard-but-it’s-actually-getting-really-hard climb. Once up top, it’s a little microclimate along the Ridge Trail. It was sunny and clear near the ocean yet foggy and drizzly up on the ridge. Excellent. The trail widened from single track into more of a jeep track. It rolled along for a bit, passing through some deep forest that felt mildly jungly compared to where I had been just 20 minutes earlier in the run.
Next up I got to enjoy to fruits of my earlier climb with big long descents along the ridge where I could open it up and get some good pace in. Descending, it got drier and drier and the endless ocean came back into view. I came across other people for the first time, a couple from England who were suited up for a day hike on the loop. The bloke was aghast that running the trail was possible. The trail then came to a T and voila, I was back at the trail I had started the run on. Take a right to go back tot he trailhead or take a left to get to the beach in a few hundred meters.
Maybe it’s just that the more popular Pine Ridge Trail felt mildly similar to the runs I’m used to in Colorado, but I actually liked this loop quite a bit more. It’s everchanging, with the ocean views, a hidden beach run, imagined pirate ships, the lush forest, a nice cool river to sit in at the finish and I pretty much had all of it to myself. Well done Andrew Molera. Well done fine sir.
Here’s the Strava view of the run, I got off track a touch at the end so it’d be more like 10 even miles