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  • Writer's pictureShan Riggs

Pacific Coast Expedition - California

Updated: May 20

We made it to California! Only one more state to go. We also were not quite halfway, just about 1,000 miles to Mexico.

Oregon couldn't let us go without one last day of severe rain and wind, but we finally made it to the Golden State.

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

On day 30 of the expedition I was finally moving at nearly a normal pace after my injury in Oregon and we put in almost 44 miles. We had also made it to the redwood forests, something I had been looking forward to since we started planning the trip. As John Steinbeck says, it is not possible to successfully represent in photographs what it is like to be among the redwoods, nor can I put it into words. If you have not visited the Redwoods, I highly recommend you put it at the top of your bucket list.

When I arrived at the main road of Redwoods National Park, I came into some wonderful luck; the road was closed to automobile traffic. For around 12 miles I got to run by myself, not a soul around, through trees over 300 feet tall and some over 2,000 years old. It was truly a magical morning I will not forget.

After that one magical day running through Redwoods National Park, we still had four more days of running through the Redwoods forests before making it back to the coast. It never got old.

After the redwoods, we spent several beautiful and hot (90-degree) days making our way down the Northern California coast. Josh kept having trailer tire issues but our bodies were managing the 40ish mile days well. We witnessed many colorful sunrises and sunsets and then spotted San Francisco in the distance from Sausalito.

That was the last time we saw San Francisco until we finished running through it on October 8 (day 41).

“San Francisco’s climate is nature’s way of saying ‘let’s keep things interesting.'”

— Armistead Maupin, writer

A couple of days after passing through San Francisco we needed to head inland because Highway 1 was closed due to mudslides and road collapse. So, we crossed over the mountains into California's famous farm valley, where a third of the country's vegetables and three-quarters of the country's fruits and nuts are grown.

On day 44 we made it to Salinas, the hometown of Josh's favorite author, John Steinbeck. She was even able to stop by the house he was born in. Appropriately, I was listening to Cannery Row and this quote struck me:

And everywhere people asked him why he was walking through the country.

Because he loved true things, he tried to explain. He said he was nervous and besides he wanted to see the country, smell the ground and look at grass and birds and trees, to savor the country, and there was no other way to do it save on foot. And people didn't like him for telling the truth. They scowled, or shook and tapped their heads, they laughed as though they knew it was a lie and they appreciated a liar. And some, afraid for their daughters or pigs, told him to move on, to get going, just not to stop near their place if he knew what was good for him.

And so he stopped telling the truth. He said he was doing it on a bet - that he stood to win a hundred dollars. Everyone liked him then and believed him.”

Day 47 we had made it through most of valley in the hinterland before the last 350 miles through the major SoCal coastal towns. We got to stay at a remote Hipcamp spot on a farm in the middle of nowhere with just a porta potty and a spigot for water.

By day 52 we were in Santa Barbara well into the fancy sunset and house area of SoCal. I was also finally running mostly pain free! Only took a month and a half.

Closing in on the finish! We passed through Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach on our longest day of the trip; 50 miles into Long Beach. And, we got to stay at a friends house near where I used to live on Naples Island. Best part, they were having a housewarming party when we arrived! After many days of just the two of us on the road it was nice to see many new and old friends for the last few days, we were barely alone with several people coming out to meet us. There are too many to thank here for fear of missing someone, but you were all appreciated! We now had two more days to go and one more major obstacle to cross.

In between the L.A. metro area and San Diego is Camp Pendleton, a major Marine Corps base. The only road that goes through the 10 mile region other than the 405 freeway goes right through the middle of the base. I had read that you could get a pass through the base if you were on a bike passing through, I wasn't sure what would happen if you wanted to pass through on foot.

The kid manning the gate seemed very confused and somewhat suspicious of my story of running nearly 2,000 miles down the coast. He sent me to his supervisor, who sent me to HIS supervisor who told me "no". I was not given permission to pass through.

SO, my only option was to run 10 miles down the 405 freeway. It's not legal to run on the 405 freeway, but I was out of options so there I went.

In addition to the insanity of running down one of the busiest, fastest roads in the country I had some additional excitement when a police car pulled up in front of me with his lights and sirens running. I thought my goose was cooked but it turned out he was pulling over a drunk driver. I scooted right by the cop as he was asking the driver to get out of the car. I then ran into a rest area that was just up ahead and waited until I saw the cop drive by before heading on my way. Phew!

DAY 57. Last day! We made it the last 38 miles through San Diego to the Imperial Beach Pier, just north of the Mexican border.

Some stats:

Total time: 56 days, 9 hours, 2 minutes

Total miles: 1,930

3 states.

2 pairs of Altra Paradigm shoes (Shan)

4 pairs of Xoskin socks (Shan)

10 flat tires (Josh)

10 pounds lost (Shan)

I want to thank everyone that made this trip possible, but especially and obviously Josh, who towed all of our gear over mountains, through woods and deserts, in serious pain and injury. I love you, you are the best companion anyone could have. I can't imagine a better honeymoon!

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