Monday, January 28, 2013

"The Great Up & Over": My latest long route

This is a hill climbers dream come true. 23 miles up, over and back across the Santa Cruz mountains via Huddart Park and the Purissma Open Space Preserve. The idea for the run should be credited to Trailstompers.com where they call this a "Super Loop". After reading there description of the route I was not at all confident in running it because the site basiclly says pick a Huddart route from this page and a Purissma route from that page and combine the routes at Skyline Dr. I took the general idea and came up with "The Great Up & Over".

The route starts in Woodside. I parked in the public lot just south of Roberts Market and ran west on Woodside Dr. Three quarters of a mile down the road Kings Mountain Rd splits off on the right. This is the road you would take to get up to the main entrance of Huddart Park. Three quarters of a mile up Kings Mountain Rd is Greer Rd on the right. Near the dead end of the road is an entrance to Huddart Park on your left. It's a service entrance for employees vehicles and a gate for pedestrians. A quarter mile down this trail you turn right onto the main park road aptly named Huddart Park Rd. Turn right and another quarter mile down you will turn right again into the Meadow Area and onto the Bay Tree Trail. Just up the trail the  fire road called Richard's Rd. splits off left. Follow it around for another half mile. Do not turn right onto the bridge. Turn left onto the short spur trail that connects you to the Crystal Springs Trail. This is the main trail that will take you nearly to the top of the mountain. Crystal Springs Trail zig zags back & forth up the mountain, across the Campground Service Road and up some more until about the 6 mile mark. You've climbed 1500' ft so far and have one last climb that is fairly short but very steep. Turn left onto Summit Springs Trail and climb up to Skyline Trail and you will be at a trailhead (sort of) just off Skyline Blvd a.k.a. Highway 35. The top is close to 1800' elevation. You cross the road and enter directly into the Purissima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. There is a bathroom at this trail head. Either the Bay Area Ridge Trail starts this leg of the route or the Purissma Creek Trail starts this route, depends on what map your looking at. In any case, about a quarter mile down this trail the Bay Area Ridge Trail splits right and the fire road you are on stays left and is now called the Purissima Creek Trail. Follow this trail all the way to the bottom. A few trails split off here and there but just keep going downhill on Purissima until you come to a spot where the trail opens up to a meadow. Its a total of almost 4 miles of downhill quad pounding to get to this meadow. When I arrived I noticed a couple running into the park from the far side of the meadow who looked to be about my age and in good physical condition, real trail runners as opposed to all of the hikers I normally see. Once you cross the meadow you turn right. Left leads down a spur trail to the parking lot for this trail head. The right hand turn is an uphill turn that quickly presents a right or left choice. Both routes go to the exact same place but for my route I choose the left, Whitmore Gulch Trail. I read this was the most picturesque of all the routes up & down this slope. Its a steep climb that got to me at first. At a really steep section not more than a mile up I had to stop and walk.
I was about 11 miles into my run and most of that had been uphill so I needed to take it easy for a minute and sort of reset myself as I walked up this section. My headphones were blasting a song in my ears when a male voice said something to me from behind me and I nearly fertilized my tights. The man and his wife from the meadow area down below were passing me as I walked up the hill and within a nano second of being shocked I was laughing at the situation as he, the owner of the voice, was apologizing for startling me. We shook that moment off and introduced ourselves to one another. Dan & Lisa from the Quicksilver Running Club turned out to be the friendliest runners I has ever run into. Seriously. We chatted about how far we were running respectively and what races we were training for. 



Lisa & Dan from
the Quicksilver Running Club
I was right about my initial assumption that they were "real runners". Dan is a 100 mile Ultramarathoner and Lisa is just prepping for her first 50 mile marathon, if I understood them correctly. Clearly a step or two ahead of me in the ultra game. After chatting for 100 yds or so they picked up the pace and ran on as I continued to walk. I gleaned quite a bit of information about this couple from our brief chat and realized that in a few years I would be them in many ways. They were capitilizing on a rare opportunity this particular Saturday morning by running in a park they wouldnt normally run in. Soon enough I will have the same time constraints they spoke of and when presented with a good chunk of free time I will plan special adventure runs as well. This relatabilty that I had with these folks and of course our proximty in age and our obvious love of trail running made me feel instantly bonded with them. That bond was possibble because they were by far the most personable and disarming people I have met in quite some time.

I started to run a minute or two after they left and consequently kept seeing them just ahead of me as they rounded the next corner. This happened two or three times before reaching the top of this monster climb. Its about 3.5 miles from the bottom to the top on the Whitmore Gulch Trail. It has really great views of the Pacific and its awesome coast line. The trail head you come to at the top has a restroom in case you need it. I saw Dan & Lisa up at the top and chatted for another few minutes about upcoming races we were signed up for and then we parted ways. I ran down Skyline Blvd while they dove back into the preserve's trails.

It's roughly 2 miles down the shoulder of Skyline Blvd to get back to where I initially exited Huddart Park and entered Purissima. There is a trail on the west side of the road that follows the road fairly well. You know you are getting close to your Huddart entry point when you pass the firestation on your left. There is a hose out back you can fill your water bottle(s) with. 1/2 mile or less down Skyline and you will see the point at which you exited Huddart and entered Purissima.

Turn left (downhill) down the Summit Springs Trail and in a short distance turn onto Crystal Springs Trail. Coming off of Skyline you will be moving downhill most of the time so if by chance you get mixed up just remember to always choose the downhill path and you will be fine. About 1/3rd of the way down you will turn onto Dean Trail and take that all the way to the parking area. The trail name switches back to Crystal Springs Trail after crossing the Campground Rd and a quarter mile later Crystal Springs Trail splits off on your right. Yes, thats weird. This section of the trail is right next to the parking area. Stay on it until you are dumped out on Huddart Park Rd. Stay on this road passing by the amphitheatre area heading down into the Meadows area. Turn left onto the road that leads down to the Meadows. Split right onto the service road you came in on and pop out onto Greer Rd. Two miles until the end from this exit. Left on Kings Mountain and left on Woodside and your done when you reach Roberts Market. The last 2 miles are flat and easy on the legs for the most part which was a welcome relief for me.