Alpine Lake Dam start, Alpine-Kent Pump Road
Normally I wouldn't call any run in Marin secret-- Marin is trail runner mecca, and a hub of activity on the weekends. And yet, if I was going to call a run in Marin secret, this would be it. People flock to Tennessee Valley, Phoenix Lake or Deer Park Elementary trailheads on the weekend, but few make the drive to get to Alpine Lake Dam and this out-and-back trail.
This run was suggested to me by a friend, and I'm not sure I would have picked it without his suggestion. Even this morning, while driving to the trailhead, I had a moment of thinking that it was too much driving from Richmond and maybe I should just go from Natalie Coffin Greene. Once I got past the place we started to Alpine Lake a couple of weeks ago on the Bolinas-Fairfax road, I became so enthralled with the scenery that it became worth it--even getting to this trailhead is gorgeous. The trailhead starts right at the Alpine Lake Dam, right off the Bolinas-Fairfax road. There is minimal parking on the roadside, but apparently there is more parking 1/4 mile up the road at the Cataract Road trailhead. At first I was thrown off by the locked gate to the right of the dam, but then I saw the Kent Pump trail sign just past the gate and ducked under it.
I was saying to my brother tonight that writing about trails has made me pay more attention to the microclimates I pass through as I run. Today's run put me in mind of the Sierra foothills (Oakhurst? Maybe a little higher?) rather than Marin. Even from the start, pine trees mix with redwoods--the smell says Sierras rather than coastal climes. I did not have the impression of being in Marin today, and Sierra foothill-like running for 20 minutes more of driving is
The trail was easy, too. This is probably the only trail in Marin where one can run a relatively flat trail for 9 miles, but it was nice to run a continuous pace. The trail runs along the old Kent pump (hence the name) and it occasionally pops out into view, furthering the comparison to the Sierra foothills--I thought the wooden structure supporting it looked like an old mining track (minus the pump, of course). On second thought (and some minimal research) I do not know if it's out of use, as the lake is a current water source. I should make a list of all the questions my runs have inspired and go find answers to them...
Finally, this trail begins and ends at Alpine Lake Dam, worth seeing in its own right. I would bet that far more roadies see this dam than most--it seemed to be a regular snack stop, which is understandable, considering the view. From one side, Alpine Lake sparkles, surrounded by trees, and to the other, the dam drops down steeply. Apparently in the winter and early spring, watching the dam spill warrants a visit.
This trail is also dog friendly. You can have your dog on a leash without a problem, and based on the small number of people I saw on a Sunday morning, I wonder how many people would actually be around during the week to see if the dog was on or off the leash...
Today's run felt pretty easy, which I am taking as a good sign for next week's run. I think I'm probably in good shape to run a solid half-marathon. Too bad it's a 50K.