Highway 1 – Beauty and the Beast

All the way down the coast everyone has been telling me just how amazing Highway 1 is. While tight and twisty, the views were going to be breath-taking.
After my “rest” at Soul Camp, I set off once again. My first mission was to buy supplies as my father had kindly researched the route (something I should probably do) and informed me that there were no shops for the first 28 miles. It actually transpired that there were no real shops all the way to Fort Bragg 44 miles away. Highway 1 starts at Leggett and this is where the last shop was. On arrival I was pivved to find that the shop was closed and I would need to take a 2 mile round trip to reach the next shop. After this was all taken care of I set about tackling Highway 1.

I am now at the Manchester Beach KOA and rather than give a step by step account of the 3 day trip here I am going to categorise it into two headings – BEAUTY and BEAST. Let’s start with the positive.

It is undeniable that this highway is gorgeous. The road starts by winding through beautiful forests with smalls mixing between pines and eucalyptus. Squirrels, chipmunks and birds flutter around and while there is traffic the road is a lot quieter than the 101. After about 20 odd miles you arrive at the Pacific Ocean. I have planned this trip so I can be next to the ocean for a long as possible and am always elated when it comes back into view. On this particular occasion I was greeted by a pod of dolphins springing along the surface. On my first night I camped on a sea cliff with the waves crashing on the beach below me. The road then follows the coast all the way down and you pass some pretty striking scenery – arches, stumps, beaches and craggy cliffs. The road meanders through creeks and small villages and hugs the ocean. After passing through Fort Bragg I found my second camp site – Russian Gulch. This little bay is set off the highway and is snuggled in the forest. There is access to an amazing beach where the sun sets perfectly between the cliffs. It was here that I braved my first swim in the ocean – and refreshing it was. The next day the stunning scenery continues.

However, all this beauty comes at a cost to a runner and hence “The Beast” heading. The first 5 miles of Highway 1 is up mile. It is relentless, winding up and up in a never ending fashion. After one hour of climbing the legs are burning and with each step you are cursing each and every kilo in your 30kg stroller, “do I really need all this equipment?” You finally reach the top and this is when elation should set in but that’s is not the case. With a 30kg running stroller with no breaks down hills are just as bad as up as you attempt to keep control. In this instance it is a 12 mile downhill… By the time you reach the bottom your arms, back and knees are screaming. But this is Highway 1 and there is not rest for the adventure runner, as soon as reach the bottom you are mentally preparing yourself for the next climb. When the hills finally spit you out on the coast line there is a sense of relief that the hills might just be over (in this case I shout “I love and miss you Pacific Ocean” luckily no one was around”. What a laughable thought. When you are on the coast you are not running along a flat road but you are tackling a road that rises and falls with every headland and creek. While in most cases these are not big, long hills they are vicious! I have tried to include a picture but it doesn’t do it justice. You try to keep up the same pace despite the extra exertions on your body and soon it starts to take its toll. After 3 days and 150km a break is very much in order and when the KOA offers a swimming pool, a hot tub, beers and a great crowd of similar minded people then a rest day is taken.

There are just 130 miles to San Francisco…

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