I thought this would be a post about my first long-to-me trail run. But apparently I’m not ready to run up a mountain.
I had planned to do the Tanbark Trail in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It is 6.4 miles long as an out-and-back trail but the same distance looped with the Fire Road Trail. The only catch is that I had to walk along Hwy 1 for 0.9 miles. I decided to get the two trails done since it took me a little over an hour to drive down there.
I was nervous about running along Hwy 1 but only one car passed me and I survived it. It would probably be more dangerous later in the day when more cars are out. I was 8:40 am.
The start of the Fire Road Trail is here at this gate…
As soon as the trail started, it went up. With really no break until I reached the top, 1,600 feet later.
The sun was glaring so you can’t see the rest of the trail that goes up, up, up. I think that’s what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like.
I quickly realized that this was going to be a hike, not a trail run. The elevation gain was dramatic. I think I was feeling a little overconfident after just watching Unbreakable: the Western States 100. I didn’t have any illusions of running the entire way up. But I didn’t expect to have to walk the entire way up (except for about 30 seconds of running) and even have to stop once to rest.
But that’s okay. The more out of shape I am, the more room for improvement there is!
This was the view after just a few minutes of hiking…
A little higher up…
And higher still…
It’s a little hard to see, but there are homes on that mountain. How would you like to wake up to that view every morning?
The two trails meet at the Tin House. An abandoned home made out of tin.
This is the view standing on the porch of the Tin House. I had planned to do a quick stop just to grab some snacks out of my pack. But when I saw the view from this meadow, I had to sit and enjoy it.
I wanted the satisfaction of saying I finished the trail loop in less than 2 hours, but not at the sacrifice of enjoying life. And this. This is the life. I just wish you could have been there with me. Pictures just don’t capture the awesomeness.
After my break, I got onto the second trail, the Tanbark Trail.
The Fire Road Trail was entirely a dirt road. Nice and wide. But the Tanbark Trail is single-track and not maintained well at all. This picture is actually not bad compared to what I later saw.
There were so many fallen trees. I lost count after 12. At one point, I wondered if they did this on purpose. But after talking with my neighbor, we think the trail must not have been maintained for several years due to budget cuts.
As you can imagine, it was getting difficult to keep a steady running pace. I had planned to run down the entire trail since I had to walk up the Fire Road Trail.
My personal favorite. The trail is in front of me and curves to the left at the tree roots. I had to climb over the roots. I was starting to think I’d be hiking this entire trail. But actually, it was a lot of fun and I laughed out loud every time I saw what crazy thing the trail was throwing at me.
We’ve already seen the tree roots, so now we see a tree top…
The trail started to clear out of the obstacles but then came running along the mountain face. I tried to run some of it, but I walked in some parts. The idea of a misstep and tumbling down got to me.
Once I got down to the creek I was able to run with abandon for about 0.25 of a mile. Man, that was fun!!
I was glad to see there was actually water in the creek.
I’m really glad I did both trails. It was really interesting to see how different they are. I’d definitely recommend doing the loop rather than doing just one as an out-and-back. But I think I’d do the loop in reverse, starting with the Tanbark Trail since it’s not runnable and you could run down the Fire Road Trail.
Since the Tanbark Trail is in a valley the views aren’t anything special (at least compared to the views from the Fire Road Trail) but the trail itself is beautiful and it’s really a fun hike with all the obstacles and death drops. The other trail itself isn’t exciting or interesting but has absolutely gorgeous views.
I plan to take Caleb on this hike when he is more fit. I think he’d love it.
When the hike was done and I walked back out to my car, I was greeted by the fog…
These are hikes #118 and #119 from my Monterey Hikes list.
Hiking distance: 6.4 according to the book, 6.51 according to the Garmin
Hiking time: 2 hours 3 mins (that includes 20 min break at the Tin House)
Elevation gain: 2,032 ft. overall (lowest point 249ft, highest point 2,281ft); 3,471 ft. according to Garmin which includes all elevation rises along the trails.
Exposure: Shaded forest
Hiking buddies: Alone
Would you do it again? Yes, but with someone.
Best for… hiking without young kids.
What would you do differently? I would do the loop in the opposite direction and wear long pants. My legs got a little scraped up.