A week ago I woke up at ~6:15 in Big Basin to @LaurBreu shouting “Time to get up for morning run!”. It was significantly colder than any recent morning in San Francisco. I put on three layers and joined about a half dozen other fellow #NPSF campers; I think we finally got going about 6:45. When I returned to camp I had completed my longest trail run to date, most of it solo.
We ran down to the park headquarters, checked out the trail options, and quickly decided on Berry Creek Falls, whick seemed about another 4.5 miles away. There was a brief debate about whether to do a full 9 mile loop or run back after a halfway point.
Everyone started down the trail at a fast clip. In less than half a mile I had lost sight of them. After about a mile, I saw one friend come back, she'd noted beforehand that she had to cut short for another engagement. Not long after I saw another friend walking back, apparently having twisted her ankle running. After that I didn’t see anyone else on the trail.
I kept running, stopping a few times to take photos. After making it about 3/4 of the way to Berry Creek Falls, I kept expecting to see the rest of the group running back. With just 1 mile to go I decided to keep going all the way to the falls. Made it to a bench with a beautiful view of the falls, yet it looked like I could get closer.
The trail meandered downhill closer to the creek eventually to a large fallen tree. To my right was a large boulder embedded in the ground that looked too slippery to descend down to the flowing water.
I crossed the creek with the fallen tree as bridge. On the other side I had to jump down to another fallen tree, then down to the creekbank where the path continued back towards the falls. Hiking up I finally got close enough for a better view.
At this point I had no idea where everyone else had gone. Last I had heard the plan was to run to the falls and run back. Since I was on my own, and after all the wandering about 5 miles away from the park headquarters, I decided the best option was to run back the way I came.
I ran back to the fallen tree. But this time I crossed the rocks in the stream to the large boulder on the other side. At about a 60 degree incline, with plenty of ridges to grab, and chips to dig my feet into, I climbed up the boulder without difficulty.
On the run back the layers came off until I was running in a tshirt and sweatpants, the rest tied around my waist.
I’d never run this far by myself, in a new place, miles away from help or other resources. No headphones, no network contact. A lot of time to just think, run, and focus. Focus on running, on keeping a good pace, and regular breathing.
It was good to see landmarks that I had passed on the way in. I’d counted three trail markers, and as I passed each one on the way back I sipped just that much from the remaining water bottle strapped to my waist.
About halfway back I finally started to see people coming the other way. Hikers. With jackets, backpacks, and hats.
As we exchanged good mornings and they stopped to stand back as I ran by, I couldn't help but think, I used to be you, now I'm this.
I reached the trail head at park headquarters, checked a map for the road back to the camp, and ran uphill the rest of the way.
The trail was estimated to take ~6 hours. I ran ~11 miles from camp to the waterfall and back in under 2.5 hours.
At some point in the last few months apparently I changed from a hiker to a trail runner. It felt more comfortable, and was more fun, to run the trail than walk it.