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Meghan M. Hicks Wednesday, 28 December 2011 07:34 TWEET COMMENTS 1

From Sea to Summit - Page 3

After perhaps four miles, the grass gives way to a fern-floored forest of redwood trees. Impossibly tall and close growing, they create complete shade and natural air conditioning on this warm, humid day. Though the thick canopy makes it difficult to discern, I am certain that the trail has changed its orientation, turning away from the ocean and into a canyon.

We are breathing heavily with the climbing and thick air, so we stop for a moment of standstill quiet. Silence reigns, save for a trickle of water from something, somewhere. We both break into smiles over discovering this wild place just an hour up the trail.

Where the Wild Stuff Is

Ultrarunner Whit Rambach, 44, of Carmel, grew up exploring the Big Sur backcountry and still enjoys long runs there. "It has awe-inspiring views, fresh coastal air, an incredible variety of flora and fauna, few humans and unforgiving terrain," he says. "It is true wilderness."

Perhaps the icing on Big Sur's cake, though, is its biodiversity. Land-lubbing trail runners fast recognize terra firma as a place where the wild stuff is. That Big Sur hosts an annual monarch butterfly migration, possesses resplendent hillsides of spring wildflowers, provides one of the California condor's few homes and sports a dense mountain-lion population are just a few examples of the region's land-based biotic abundance.

The Pacific Ocean is as much a wilderness as Big Sur's mountains and canyons. Blubbery elephant seals lounge awkwardly on rocky points. Three whale species either migrate through or call the waters of Big Sur their home. Tidal pools reveal smaller sea creatures, including spindly sea urchins and snappy clams.

Fold this land and ocean-based biodiversity together with Big Sur's rugged landscape and robust trail system and it becomes clear that this is also a place where trail runners should be. "Running in Big Sur is absolutely wild. Even experienced trail runners can sometimes feel overmatched," says Donald Buraglio, a long-time Carmel-area resident, ultrarunner and blogger. "I always have a heightened sense of awareness out there, which makes the trail-running experience more profound."


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