Running According to a Trail’s ‘Original Instructions’

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This article originally appeared on Trail Runner

Running wild places brings out the wild in us--the desire, freedom, and willpower to be self-willed, to be who we are, so easily lost to compounding expectations and compromises we call choices. No run has proven this to me more than my running of the eastern Limuw traverse (also known as the eastern Santa Cruz Island traverse), a 15-mile point-to-point route off the central California coast.

The trail starts at the wetlands of Prisoners Harbor, combining coastal lagoon and riparian woodland habitats, a wondrous community of shorebirds and waterfowl. It travels across hills of fragrant chaparral with bright blue scrub jays flitting from branch to branch, and through valleys of marine layer, the perfect cover for miniature island foxes to swipe snacks from running vests unattended.

The path proceeds up a rugged quasi-alpine mountain range to El Montanon Peak and down through Bishop and Island Pines and surrounding white sedimentary rock to a potato-shaped cove called Potato Harbor, where California sea lions bask and bark.

Finally, the trail skirts a grassland plateau where you can look down steep, volcanic cliffs to the sea cave chambers below, and it ends at Scorpion Anchorage with its ever-swaying kelp forests just offshore. One of the fastest sprawling plants on Earth, the kelp grows on average two feet per day and teems with over 800 different species.

The sheer and utter diversity of terrestrial and marine life here--and the raw, dramatic, and captivating exposure to it on this run--is truly wild.

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