Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, CA, USA

HIKING DISTANCE: 26 Miles
VERTICAL: +5,100′ / -2,800′
TIME: 8 Hours 47 Minutes

Hiked 26.2 miles. Cycled 39.3 miles. Altogether, that's 65.5 miles. Dual sport, a biathlon. Officially, it’s the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. I hiked it from the Pacific Ocean at Waddell Beach to the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains at Saratoga Gap. Reverse order to its namesake. Sea-to-Skyline Trail, if you will. We’ll call this little endeavor the “Skyline-to-the-Sea Dual Reverse.”

I staged my bike at Saratoga Gap late last night for the return trip today. Finally made it to the trailhead at 1a. Crawled into the back for a short nap before the alarm screamed me awake at 430a. No rest for the weary. Packing in way too much adventure, per usual. But then, is there really such a thing? I’ll sleep next week. Probably. Maybe. Ok, probably not.

I was on the beautifully maintained, well traveled tread 45 minutes later. It’s like a super highway, this trail. No wonder they limit traffic via user permits. Too accessible, too easy. And this trail is stunning. (Not what I was expecting when a friend told me it parallels a road for most of its 25 mile length. Though to be fair, I saw about as many people as cars.) It starts out among thick vegetation and big trees. As it approaches Big Basin State Park, the old growth forests give way to full-on coastal Redwoods. And Lady Luck graced me yet again with gorgeous morning light cutting through the thick canopies. I snapped some lovely photos during my walk- over, under and among Giants.

Despite its breathtaking beauty, the trail showed signs of wear. The theme of the hike seemed to be: trees, trash, and TP. There was used toilet paper almost at every turn. So disappointing how we use and abuse the world around us, a reflection of how we treat each other. It’s hard to hope for the future when I see how much we take for granted. I feel tremendous pressure to see as much as I can before we ruin our world. I guess I’ll finally sleep once we’ve trampled all the wild places. (Although to be fair, I thought it was pretty cool when I came across a sofa someone had dumped on the trail. Couldn’t have been there more than a week or two. I was totally stoked to lay down for a little break. Guess it’s all about perspective.)

Finished the hike at Saratoga Gap after about 9 hours. The parking area was familiar. Turns out, it was our lunch stop on the last day of my cross country cycling trip back in 2013. It was surreal to be standing there again, this time alone with only the memories of my trip and the wonderful people with whom I shared it. I took a moment there to honor my feelings of love and gratitude. It’s really cool how a place, or a photo, or a song can be so loaded, can bring up so much emotion. I almost expected to open my eyes and see my team there waiting for me. Instead, all that was waiting for me was the ride back to my car. While much of it was either a screaming descent or a mellow flat, there was one 3.8 mile wicked climb. Took me about an hour to do it, and I had to walk my bike twice. I was pretty shredded after the hike, so that climb really kicked my butt. Dunno what the grade on Alba Road is, but it was one of the steepest climbs I’ve ever biked.

The rain started to fall intermittently as I prepared for the first descent, a winding 15-mile drop to Alba Road. I hate descending in the rain, so I reluctantly rode my brakes most of the way. By the time I finally conquered the Alba climb, the rain had stopped, and I was able to descend with abandon for 8 miles until I hit Hwy 101. I finished the last 10 miles on pretty mellow grades. Stoked to finally get back to my car after 13 hours of crushing. And to think, that’s just the warm up for the Lowest-to-Highest Route in a couple days. Psyched.

I’ve got some gnarly shin splints, which I’m feeling a little anxious about, but I’m sure they’ll clear up by Wednesday. Mostly driving and public transit until then, so plenty of rest.