Friday, April 18, 2008

Alpine Lake Beauty

Alpine Lake-Cataract-Rocky Ridge
(12.5 miles)

This run has tempted me for some time. Shady and Sunny Sides of Bon Tempe Lake are two of my favorite trails ever, but the lake on the other side of Bon Tempe Dam is a large amount of running from Nathalie Coffin Greene, where I usually start in Marin. Sunday it was sunny, warm and Alex and I were in the mood for a new adventure. Finally! The chance to enter into hitherto unchartered (by me) running territory.

We started at the dirt on the side of the Bolinas-Fairfax road a mile or so past the golf course where the road crests the hill and takes a sharp turn to the right. It is also possible to start this run from the Bon Tempe Dam, but we were too cheap to pay for parking. I'm not convinced this was the best idea ever. 

(New information: I was informed that you can park just past the Meadows golf course on the side of the road and then run until you turn off to go to Bon Tempe and avoid paying for parking-- thanks, Ken!)

The trail led up over Azalea Peak, dropping down steeply to Bon Tempe Dam. Great chance to practice some technical running, though. In less than a mile, the trail wound past fields full of lupine to Bon Tempe Dam. For those who want to avoid super steep downhill (and uphill at the end of the run!), it's possible to park at Bon Tempe Dam. 

Once over the dam, the trail skirted the lake for four miles (Kent Trail to Helen Markt), coming in and out of redwoods. 
This is where I fell in love with Alpine Lake. The lake was created with the building of the Bon Tempe Dam in 1919, and named by one of the architects who worked on the dam. The lake is surrounded by redwoods and I really did feel like we were in the Sierras-- Alex said you could forget you were in Marin. I don't know if I would run the Azalea Peak section again, but I can't wait to get back to Alpine Lake.
Just before the Alpine Lake dam, we took the Cataract trail. I have read several descriptions since about its beauty, but all from the point of view of people running down the trail. There are no pictures of the scenery because going uphill, this trail is painful. I lost track of the stairs we climbed--this was not my fastest running (or walking) ever.
We had to check the map a couple of times, but eventually we ended up on High Marsh trail. Despite its name, this trail wound through redwoods and a manzanita grove that stretched over both sides of the trail. Just before Serpentine Point, at the junction of High Marsh and Lagoon, a very tiny marsh lingered, but Hidden Lake seems more like a marsh. 
Finally on Rocky Ridge, a fire road that demanded careful footwork, we began to descend back to Bon Tempe Dam. The only factor marring an otherwise gorgeous stretch of downhill was the mile lurking on the other side of the dam, leading back over Azalea Hill to the car. Even hills blanketed by lupine did not impress us as we dragged ourselves up the hill, finally getting to the car.
Note to selves: any run longer than 2 hours should involve more solid food than Shot Bloks. Otherwise we might have to return here to eat.

Also, you can bring dogs on this run, but you have to keep them on a leash, so Neko stayed home. (13 miles of a border collie on leash is not my idea of a good time!)

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