After a last-minute trip to Yosemite was cancelled just as quickly as it had been planned, the friend who had invited me mentioned he might like to spend the day in Point Reyes instead. I quickly jumped on board, as I knew of a great spot near Bolinas that was a little out of the way. I was able to plan an 11 mile loop for myself and a more relaxed 8 mile out-and-back for my friends that would take them past a lake and to some gorgeous waterfalls into the pacific ocean. We left a little later than planned, but thanks to a nice cozy fog, traffic into the headlands wasn't bad and when we finally arrived the parking lot at the trail head was full but not packed. We planned to meet back at the car at a specific time and parted ways. The same overcast weather that helped us over the bridge made for a perfect-temperature day. The first 2 miles in are on a busy coastal trail and I had to pass through some large hiking groups, I greeted a group of three gals as I passed and overheard one of them saying "oh my god, did you see her legs?" and that felt pretty darn good. As I turned off of the main trail, it became instantly apparent that I was going to have to battle some serious plant growth, they may have been maintained once in the spring, but definitely not since then. Most of the plants in the trail were harmless grasses, but I hit a bit of stinging nettle with my left palm and right thumb. The pain took a few strides to set in and was pretty terrible. I was concerned that it might get worse as the toxins absorbed, but the trail was finally clearing up and I didn't want to venture back through the overgrowth that I had just battled through. Luckily the pain subsided a bit as I kept moving. I hit a bit more nettle on both the front and back of my right calf but it wasn't nearly as bad. I saw a few large banana slugs (of which I have an extreme pathological fear) and did my best to keep moving without having a nervous breakdown, while laughing at myself for having possibly the silliest mental illness on the planet. I almost lost a shoe in some mud and gave the puddle a pretty stern talking to. One of the pleasures of being in the woods alone is that you can let out all your frustrations and fears into the air freely. Well about ten paces later I was spit out into an intersection and there was a hiker who had clearly heard my entire tirade against the "filthy, shoe stealing mud". Although I smiled through my chagrin, I was happy to have brought a smile to his face. I turned and headed down the ridge trail, which was not near or on a ridge at all, but through some beautiful, mossy firs that were surrounded by a thick mist. As the elevation declined the trail became more and more overgrown again and I was concerned that I might have lost it at a few points, but hollered with joy when I made it back to the road for a short mile back to where we had parked. At the car I realized I still had at least half an hour to wait for the boys and figured it would probably be longer, because they would have a hard time tearing themselves away from the stellar beach. So, I decided to ditch my fanny pack and just carry a water bottle and jog in to meet them. My run quickly turned from 11 to 14 miles, but I felt great. I ran into the guys and we hiked back to the car together and stopped at the lake to sit down for a bit, if it were a bit warmer we would've swam as well and taken advantage of a kick-ass rope swing. We kicked off our shoes and hiked the last third of a mile barefoot. At the car we noshed on fruit, bread and cheese and decided to venture a little further north to poke around a bit and ended up at a small beach on Tomales bay. The shallows were full of dead jellyfish that were pretty cool to poke at. A local swimmer splashed ashore and told us that he occasionally runs into large swarms of the milky-colored moon jellies, but they don't sting. We slowly made it back down to the city, singing along to some Brazilian tunes that we didn't all quite understand. We had nachos and 'ritos in the mission and shared a pot of tea before they headed back down to the valley.
I was surprised at how easily I covered 17 miles and am not experiencing much soreness. The stinging nettle welts are slightly irritated but hardly noticeable and I think if I make it back to those untamed "ridge" trails I'll just wear long tights next time.