,Backbone is a 68 mile trail that spans the Santa Monica Mountains from Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades to Point Mugu near Malibu. Backbone is a stunning trail with a ocean views, tree canopies, dramatic boulders, creeks, and wildlife. It is well-maintained trails with mostly good trail signage (some areas not so much) and a few bathrooms/water fountains along the way. It is accessible from several canyon roads like Topanga, Kanan, and Latigo so an out and back hike can be an excellent option for someone wanting to explore just a few miles at at time.
Over the past few years, I've run and hiked much of the trail in these small bite-sized sections but have had my heart set on traversing the entire trail in a more methodical way. While I'd LOVE to do it all in one shot, a more realistic approach for me is breaking it up into 3-4 sections. That journey started yesterday, November 8, with the first 23 miles from Will Rogers to Piuma Road.
RESEARCH: Setting off on a 23 mile hike that would take a projected 9 hours and involve over 4000 ft of climbing, meant doing some research first. There are multiple resources for learning about this trail system including the National Park Service and the County of LA websites. I personally stopped by the Santa Monica Mountains Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch to buy the 3 Tom Harrison maps that I have pinned up on my wall, guide books, and to speak to a Park Ranger (as of 11/9 though they are still closed due to the pandemic). There are also multiple online blogs like Hikespeak and AllTrails.
In this post, I'm not going to recount the details of the trails, the views, or the terrain. As you can see above, there are plenty of resources for that and honestly, until you actually get out there, it's all a bit of an enigma. Instead I'm going to focus on what I packed and how I fueled my 9 hour hike following SCD principles - i.e. real food, no grains, no processed sugar.
The #GettingHigh tour continued this weekend on Santa Catalina, one of California's Channel Islands. Catalina Island is only about 76 square miles and is home to spectacular trails, including the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT), and 52 miles of coastline. It is a short boat ride from Los Angeles and an amazing getaway for those who seek nature with a few modern conveniences.
WHERE TO STAY IN CATALINA
Catalina Island has two main boat docks that are serviced by the Catalina Express. On the east side of the island is the well-developed city of Avalon with restaurants, hotels, shops, a botanical garden, and even concerts and festivals (during non-COVID times). It's
(please note that this trip took place pre-COVID when masks and social distancing were not a consideration. I wrote it back then but thought it had some good tips for travel during pandemic times, since many of us are sticking to our cars and not eating in restaurants along the road).
Whether you are considering participating in a Ragnar Relay (or other multi-day sport event) or have a long road trip with minimal stops in your future and want some ideas on how to stick to your special diet, this post is for you. You may need to read between the Ragnar-specific lines, but I hope anyone who is about to spend over 36 hours on the road will benefit from my experience.
WHAT IS A RAGNAR RELAY?
Imagine 12 people spread across 2 vans, taking turns running a total of 200 miles. The course is broken down into 36 “legs” that are typically 3-10 miles long. Each person takes a turn running every 12 hours or so, a total of 3 times. That means someone is running at all times, even during the night and early morning hours - until all 12 people have reached the finish line about 30-36 hours later. The two vans leapfrog for a period of 4-6 hours each. When Van One is “on” the team of 6 on board is shuttling and cheering for each other; meanwhile Van Two is “off” meaning the other 6 runners have stopped to have a meal, rest, restock supplies, etc. Then they switch, a total of three times. Sleep is never a given because 4-6 hours goes really really quickly when you have to commute to the next location. The rule seems to be sleep, eat, get clean – pick 2.
EXTREME ROAD TRIP ON SCD
Being on a restricted diet – Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) for my ulcerative colitis -
Sunshine has many benefits - increased Vitamin D production and mood enhancement, plus it may even prevent certain diseases like IBD. But too much of a good thing is never a good thing (yes, even when it comes to chocolate and money!). Overexposure to sun without proper protections can lead to skin damage and possibly cancer. This risk may be enhanced for people with IBD who have underlying immune disfunction and/or are on immunosuppressive medications.
I live and run in Los Angeles. Perpetual sun, air pollution, dust and pollen, poison oak lined trails, and IBD means skin protection is an essential part of my running health. Am I overly cautious? Maybe, but in the end I don't want to look 80 when I'm 50.
HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE SKIN SAVERS:
MY SILLY HAT! When I opened the Amazon package and revealed my wide brimmed, neck-caped hat, my teen daughter just about had a heart attack, and so did I as it was my first step in looking seriously uncool on the trails.
I am so incredibly lucky to have a place like Griffith Park within a 15 minute drive from my home. It's a gem of greenery in the middle of my crazy city, Los Angeles, that truly has something for everyone within it's 4200 acres and 50+ miles of trails. You want flat road to run on, trails to hike, historic sites, or picnic areas? Check! check! check!
The 11 peaks of Griffith Park create a recognizable ridgeline from several vantage points around LA, with the Hollywood Sign as the crowning exclamation point! Burbank Peak (home of the Wisdom Tree), Cahuenga Peak, Mt Lee (with the Hollywood Sign), Mt Chapel, Mt Bell, Baby Bell, Taco Peak, Mt Hollywood, Hogback Peak, Glendale Peak, and Beacon Hill.
At the time of this writing Burbank Peak and Cahuenga Peak are closed to avoid crowding
High above sea level, the clouds, the hustle-bustle and noise of every day. Onto the intoxicating trails where the colors are deeper and the contrasts more dramatic, the silence is like music, a simple sip of water is like drinking nectar. It was like I fell *up* Alice’s rabbit hole.
Today kicked off a year of getting high, partying on the trails, and heart pounding ecstasy.
You see, my 50th is awfully close and instead of dreading it and hiding from it, I’ve decided to run head on into it. Celebrating life, the strength of my legs and heart, and all the beauty of this amazing planet by trekking into new trails every month – lifting my spirits and my vantage point.
It’s been a challenging few years since 2015 when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an auto immune disease that effects the colon), followed by a blood clot, then a
About the Gutsy Runner!
Lucie is a runner, hiker, and fitness coach who follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) for her ulcerative colitis. She is currently on a year long birthday celebration that includes covering 2021 miles on foot and exploring some of the areas most iconic and beautiful trails. Read more