Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Back to the Trail!! Castle Rock to the China Wall and Back

So I have finally been able to get back on the trails!  After over a month absence due to a calf injury and being limited to the very flat Embarcadero, my wife finally took me up to see some of the trails she had been running. 

To say the precaution was necessary is an understatement.  She has come up with a awesome 7.25 mile loop that starts out the gate with a 500 foot elevation gain, nice enough to burn out any calf.  It is a beautiful run though, with sweeping vistas of Mt. Diablo, the pinnacles of Castle Rock, breathtaking views of the Diablo Valley, past The China Wall (which looks like what the Great Wall of China would look like in Ireland this time of year), and back down through Pine Valley.  Overall, it is 1,400 feet of elevation gain.

I love running with my wife.  We started this running journey together and know how to have fun on the trails.  I really feel we push one another and complement each other on the trail, just like we do elsewhere in our life.

So the details of the run:

So you leave directly from the lower parking lot (closest to the gate).  This is a nice climb up, with a very steep grade.  Beth and I had seen the trail from Burma a few months back and had wondered how to get to it.  The last 25 yards is pretty intense; however, you are rewarded with some awesome views.  We were also rewarded with a jackrabbit on our climb that look like it was the size of a wallaby.  

At the top of the hill you run a couple hundred yards to a single track that is hidden amongst the oaks.  This is one roller coaster of a trail with wonderful twists and turns. This eventually loops back onto the trail that you were previously on.  You follow this trail downhill and back to the Stage Rd. /Briones Mt. Diablo Trail cut-over.  

Running up the cut-over, we saw on the hillside a coyote.  The cattle had been grazing on the field nearby and we think he was curious.  There is no way a coyote could bring down one of the behemoths, in fact there was a cow facing the coyote ready to chase him off.

Once we got to the Briones Mt. Diablo trail, we hung a left towards the China Wall.  This is about a 1.5 run to the rock formation, with a beautiful view of Walnut Creek and Shell Ridge.  This area is well exposed, but being in the 50's it was nice to feel the sun.

While this route has become a normal path for Beth,  this was the first time on this trail.  It is a wonderful fire road.  Once we got to China Wall, the hills were a lovely emerald green.  The rock formations  there are pretty impressive and it is understandable, if you didn't know better, that this looks more like a man made wall than the awesome force of plate tectonics at work.

We carried on past the Little Yosemite Valley trail to Wall Rd then to Dusty Trail.  We took Dusty trail down to Stage Rd.  The creeks are flowing nicely, so it is really fun splashing through the creeks.  In fact, within the first quarter mile, the trail becomes the creek for 50 or so feet.  It was really funny to watch folks who where watching us run through the water.  They looked at us like we were insane.

I came to to point were I strained my calf a month a go without any problems.  I did have a little trepidation running the creek but no problems.  Beth barreled through.

We finally made it back to the parking lot very happy for the run.  All in all, this was the first week I actually ran a total 30 miles in quite a while.  I also managed to 45 miles on the bike.  No pain!  I think I can now begin the 50K training!

For the map of our run on Sunday (with an extra challenge thrown in), see below:

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