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Bridget Crocker Wednesday, 28 December 2011 07:35 TWEET COMMENTS 1

Pregnant Pause - Page 4

Once we hit the top of the bluff, we have the option to stay with the Ray Miller and make the entire 10.7-mile loop back to the La Jolla canyon mouth, or link up with a fire road to the south and drop into Sycamore Canyon, an ancient Chumash trading route linking the interior valley with the coast.

Both trails are popular running spots; a local trail-running group started by Swartz 20 years ago makes the area a regular destination.

"What about Ray? Or Miller?" Audrey tosses out names as we crest the first lookout. The winter sun slinks down into deep indigo waters just south of the nestled-together Anacapa and Santa Cruz.

I stop to breathe in this moment of perfect balance: earth, water, fire and air join together equally, gently shushing the day to sleep. If only there was a name for this feeling of elemental harmony -- that would be the perfect name for a child of these mountains.

Bridget Crocker's adventure narratives have appeared in many outdoor travel magazines (www.bridgetcrocker.com), and she has worked as a professional guide on rivers, oceans and trails for most of her life. She lives near Malibu, California, where the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean collide.


Trailhead: Santa Monica Mountains, California

Getting There. Take the Pacific Coast Highway (linking the just-north city of Ventura with Los Angeles to the south) to hook up with a multitude of trails from the range's many canyon offshoots. From the interior valley on the eastern slope, several great runs are accessible just off the 101 Freeway.

Seasons. Year-round, although July and August midday temperatures can be sweltering. Check in with the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Runners Club for the inside scoop on the best trails for each season -- they meet rain or shine every Sunday morning in Pacific Palisades (go to www.trailrunnersclub.com for details).

Accommodations. Contact Reserve America (800-444-7275; www.reserveamerica.com) for campground reservations in the State Parks at Leo Carrillo, Sycamore and La Jolla Valley/Thornhill Broome. In Malibu, stay at the reasonable, ocean-view Malibu Country Inn (310-457-9622; www.malibucountryinn.com). The Homewood Suites by Hilton (818-865-1000; www.hwsagourahills.com) in Agoura Hills is a comfortable choice for east-side trail access.

Guidebooks. Pick up 50 Trail Runs in Southern California, by Stan Swartz, for spot-on trail descriptions and maps; Guide to the Backbone Trail, by Milt McAuley, is filled with trail profiles, history and tips.

Recommended trails. The Ray Miller Trail is a must-do; off the PCH, take the trail directly south from the La Jolla Canyon parking lot. Climb 2.7 miles for unbeatable Pacific Ocean views and head back around through La Jolla Canyon to finish the 10-plus-mile loop. At the top of Yerba Buena Road, you'll find the starting point for the Circle X Ranch to Sycamore Canyon run. Linking the highest point in the range, Sandstone Peak, with the beach at Sycamore Cove off the PCH, the 12-mile point-to-point trail offers panoramic views with 1200 feet of elevation gain. Run the trail in the opposite direction and complete the Sand to Sandstone challenge.

At the top of Encinal Canyon off the PCH, the dog-loving Charmlee Wilderness Park has nine miles of wide-open singletrack that can be looped for unlimited mileage and views. Tap the Tapia Park to Century Reservoir run by using Las Virgenes Road south off the 101 Freeway, or Malibu Canyon Road from the PCH. The six-mile, out-and-back run meanders along Malibu Creek and through shaded oak groves, an ideal choice when temperatures soar.

Etc. World-renown surfing, diving and snorkeling opportunities abound for rest-day activities. Check with Surfclass.com (805-648-2662; www.surfclass.com) for surfing lessons; Island Packers (805-642-1393; www.islandpackers.com) ferries you to the Channel Islands and offers whale-watching excursions.

Races. The annual XTERRA Trail Run Series (www.trailrace.com) and other races in the Santa Monica Mountains (like the annual Turkey Trot) are organized throughout the year by well-known locals Brennan and Michelle Lindner at Generic Events (310-821-7898; www.genericevents.com).


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