In my previous two posts about the perfect vacation, I wrote about the need for planning and preparation and then followed that up with the need to be flexible. This post will demonstrate the balance of those two factors.
Structure: The Race
As noted in the beginning of this series, the Avenue of the Giants half-marathon was the original inspiration for this special trip with Hudson, our oldest grandson. It is, in fact, the event around which we booked and the location around which we chose our other venues of activity. There was a registration deadline and a starting date and time. Thus, the “structure” factor.
This was my fourth half-marathon. The others have all been near my home in Arkansas. This one was special for obvious reasons:
- It was in the Redwoods
- I ran it with my grandson, Hudson
- It was in the Redwoods!
Steve was photographer, but he was no where to be found prior to the race (he had already stationed himself in the Avenue to catch us when we ran by), so I snapped this poor picture of Hud and me. Such an occasion has to be documented.
Hudson, of course, lined up at the front of the pack. He had a chance of actually placing. As for me, my goal is always just to finish. I may try to beat my own best time, but I never have any illusions/delusions of placing. I took my place in the midst of the herd and waited patiently for the start signal.
Our race started at 8:00 a.m. The weather was perfect—slightly on the cool side, but the sun was bright as if cheering us on. There were well over 1,000 runners in the half-marathon, plus there were 10K and full-marathon races, as well—meaning: lots of people. I am not a fan of crowds, but in a race, even I have to admit that it can be stimulating. As we came to a rise in the road—just before entering The Avenue of the Giants—I had an inspiring view of the multitude of people running towards the forest. I could not restrain myself. I pulled my iPhone from my armband and snapped a picture. At first, in the spirit of a true runner, I tried to do this while running, but that only produced a blur. So I stepped to the side of the road—a testament to the fact that I truly had no dreams of placing—and snapped a couple of pictures of the sight before me.
We had only about a half-mile of running before entering the forest—a surreal experience going from bright sunlight to darkness in an instant. Even though we had seen our first Redwoods the day before, it did not compare to actually being IN the Redwoods…running. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face as I basked in the beauty and privilege of this moment, this event, this dream come true. I ran, looking up frequently to the tops of the trees. I WAS RUNNING IN THE REDWOODS!
It wasn’t easy, but it was the easiest half-marathon I have run. The weather was accommodating, the course was pretty level for the most part, and—did I mention?—IT WAS THE REDWOODS! Still, I was happy to see the finish line. I sped up (a tiny bit) in order to “finish strong.” I found some water and started looking for Hudson and Steve. I ignored the guy on the loud speaker making announcements until I heard Hudson’s name.
“First place in the 14-19 year age division, Hudson Shreve,” he broadcast.
Whaaat? I looked around for Hudson, but he was nowhere in sight. I located the guy who was doing the speaking and claimed Hudson’s medal on his behalf—probably the closest I will ever get to receiving an award in a race! Hudson was in the top 5% overall. In fact, he was so fast, that he was always past Steve by the time Steve realized that he had missed another photo opportunity. I, on the other hand, was quite the photo hog. The picture above was taken the last mile of the run. I’m still smiling because—you already know why—I was running in the Redwoods! And by the way, I ran my personal best half-marathon time! There’s no medal for that, but I was quite pleased with myself.
After the race, we drove back to our room and spent a few hours resting. We went to an early dinner and then drove back to Moonstone Beach. Both Hud and I were sore from the race, but he still managed to do some climbing. We stayed till sunset again and then returned to our room to hit the sack. It was a good day.
Serendipity: Climbing Day
Serendipity – Good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries
In planning the trip, Monday was officially designated “climbing day.” Though we had already been to beautiful Moonstone Beach a couple of times, that was just “gravy.” Hudson’s real climbs were yet to come, as our focus had been on the race up to this point.
I envisioned that ‘climbing day’ would be a good ‘reading/writing day’ for me, as I intended on staying pretty close to Hud while he climbed. To some, that may sound like a boring way to spend a day, but not for me. I thought reading and writing while enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean surf sounded downright romantic! I packed a book and my iPad (for writing), and was all set for a day of total inspiration.
En route to the climbing venue, we stopped at another Redwood state park. You’d think that after seeing one giant tree you’ve seen them all, but that is not the case—at least not for us. Once again, as we entered the forest, a sense of awe enveloped me. We were silent as we trekked deeper into the forest, and when we came to a fork in the trail, I took off by myself on a little hike. I could feel the silence as I walked alone among these giants. I snapped a picture here and there, but mostly, I just walked, taking in the handiwork of God. I walked about a mile down the trail and then decided I best return to my men before they sent out a search party. I found them waiting at the car. They were only a little concerned. 😉
By this time, the sun was well up, and we drove to the climbing area Hudson had located during his research. As before, we had no idea what to expect. We only knew that Hudson deemed this a good place to climb.
The name of the park was Patrick’s Point. Though on the ocean, Patrick’s Point was completely different from Moonstone Beach. Instead of sand, the beach was rocky (at least at the location where we spent the day); it had a rustic feel to it.
We parked the car, gathered up our respective paraphernalia and took the first trail towards the beach that we came to, which had a sign for “Wedding Rock.” Not knowing what was in store, we climbed the steps to the top of Wedding Rock and took in a breathtaking 180-degree view of the ocean with its whitecaps breaking against the boulders that jutted out of the water here and there. It was breezy, but the sun was warm. We basked in the beautiful view together for a few minutes, and then the two guys were off to do their thing. I didn’t see a better place to “set up camp” for my reading, so I stayed put and continued to gaze at the hypnotic view for a few more minutes when…What was that? Was that a waterspout? I literally gasped in surprise. Was I seeing whales?
Yes, I was! You only have to read Capture the Moment to understand that this was no small serendipitous moment for me. I stayed on top of Wedding Rock for the next four hours whale-watching, mixed with occasional Hudson-watching and Steve-watching, as I was positioned ideally to get a birds-eye view of the entire area. (By the way, I never cracked a book or turned on the iPad!)
We left the park in the evening to find a place to eat dinner (fish and chips at a local seaside restaurant, no less!), and then returned to Patrick’s Point to end our day there. This time, I went with Hud to an isolated boulder to “spot him” as he climbed. “Spotting,” I learned, is basically positioning one’s self under the climber so that if he falls, he will fall on the spotter rather than the rocks. I know it doesn’t sound like something a bright person would do, but hey, this was our special trip, so I willingly offered myself. Thankfully, no falling took place, and Hud and I both left that site in one piece. In fact, we ran, as it started to rain.
Steve had stationed himself on the beach for a sunset photo—which turned out to be one of his “masterpieces” (see both masterpieces below). Hudson ran to help him with his equipment, and I sat in the car, wet, but happy. Except for the traveling, our perfect vacation was over. As I sat there, I was thinking how I could possibly prolong the beauty of the past few days. And then it hit me: blog about it, of course!