Spring in California, I'm quickly realizing, means hills that look like Ireland-in-the-movies. Rich green fields of grass only knee high, soft soil, and cows. Lots and lots of cows. But cows can be cool - they make trails.
Cow trails, I'm discovering, follow all the terrain features a trail runner would want. Along creeks and fence lines. Through passes. On top of ridges. Avoiding pointless elevation gains by side-hilling and following contours.
I learned this lesson last Thursday when I ran from American to Jameson Canyon via Lynch Canyon, a run I'm going to call (unimaginatively but poetically) The Three Canyons Run. This is going to be the next section of my Vallejo to the Golden Gate Bridge Trail Run.
The run was surprisingly short and fun. I followed a dirt road up a valley, through a eucalyptus grove to a cow trail that followed the hillside, contouring it perfectly, until directed by a fence line to a second grove of tall grey trees. Once past this second grove the trail continued to the end of the valley before turning to the right and crossing into the pass. Just before reaching that pass I was surprised to find...trail signs! Not signs of a trail, and not tracks of some wild animal, but actual signage. "Kestrel Trail," and "Ridge Trail". I crossed through the pass and entered a four way saddle, which was littered with more trails signs. "Canyon Trail", "North Ridge Trail", and "South Ridge Trail", and "Bay Ridge Trail System." I thought I'd be running through a bunch of farmer's fields. Where the hell am I?
Running a little further, I had my "ah-hah" moment: A sign saying this was the boundary of the Lynch Canyon Open Space, maintained by the Solano Land Trust. As I finished reading the words and realizing what I was running on, a man approached me on an four-wheeler. It turned out to be a member of the family that donated Lynch Canyon! Fantastic. We talked about how Vallejo has been growing, and what my running was all about, and as I ran away from my first encounter with a landowner I felt a lot better about my plans.
I know that some of my running crosses private property, but I make a special effort to keep a low profile and not damage property or stir up livestock too much. I explained as much to the gentleman I met, who said it was no problem, and offered to let his neighbors know I may be around. I think I'm going to start carrying a name card to give in these encounters too.
After the farmer my run followed a long series of ridges, traced by - again - a cow trail that made for easy route-finding. The trail finally vanished at the final slopes leading into Jameson Canyon, and a quick cell phone call had my girlfriend coming to pick me up on Highway 12. Perfect.
Statistics: Three Canyons Run, from American Canyon to Jameson Canyon via Lynch Canyon. 5.25 miles on dirt road, trail and unimproved trail, 590 feel of elevation gained, 770 of elevation descended. 53 minutes.
Disclaimer again: You should always get a landowner's permission to cross private property.
Check out www.solanolandtrust.org for information about Open Space lands in Solano County. I only wish that there was one site for all the public open space in the North Bay!