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Route information for the 4th annual 50-mile march, from Carmel to Santa Cruz.
On Monday, a small group of us did a test ride of the proposed 50-mile march route, by bike. Two of us departed from Monterey, and two from Santa Cruz. We met halfway, traded car keys, and saw the full route from both directions. It was beautiful, invigorating, and difficult—even by bike—but it seems to be eminently doable on foot.
Based on our experience, and the prevailing southerly winds, we’ve decided to start in Monterey and march north.
The march will take place on Sunday, May 28 – Memorial Day weekend – to give us a day on either end to prep and recover.
The majority of the route is beachside trails, farm roads, with a bit of city in the mix when you arrive in Santa Cruz. There are a few more hills than previous years’ routes, but nothing unmanageable. In my experience, hills provide welcome variety of movement when certain muscles and joints are flaring up.
The route has also one brief segment along the exposed shoulder of Highway 1, past strawberry and artichoke farms, right around the halfway mark. A bit harrowing, but nothing dangerous in broad daylight.
This post is meant as a reference for the timing and route we plan to take. It may change at the margins, but if you’re planning to join or depart mid-way, you can use it for logistics.
I am determined to finish before it gets too late, which means no stopping and waiting at the waypoints, or slowing down for stragglers. The mantra for this year’s march is “Siempre Adelante!” – keep moving forward! – which was Fr. Junipero Serra’s slogan when he established the California Mission network. The missions were designed to be a day’s journey from each other, which is why I chose Mission Carmel and Mission Santa Cruz as the starting and ending point respectively. They happen to be exactly 50 miles apart on the shortest route.
The timing below is based on a 3.5 mph pace, which is a brisk march — not a leisurely stroll, nor a jog. This means just under 16 hours for completion, with just one 30-minute break for lunch in the middle. The iron law of long-distance marching is this:
Marchers who are set in motion will remain in motion.
Stopping and starting is the enemy—providing an entry point for pain to set in.
If you’re unsure of how well you will keep up, set out for a 3.5 mile hike with a heavy backpack and see if you can do it in under an hour. If that’s easy, you should be able to do at least 25 miles without the pack.
The best place to meet up if you want to do either the first or second half will be The Power Plant cafe in Moss Landing. We should be able to arrange carpools so that you won’t need to strand your car. Text or email me if you want to get plugged into a logistics thread.
Start: Mission Carmel, Carmel, CA. 5:30 AM
The first leg starts with a gradual scenic climb overlooking Carmel Beach, before beginning a steeper climb along 17 Mile Road, up and over the ridge dividing Carmel and Monterey. It will be a good warmup, and should take us a little over 2 hours to get to Monterey.
Waypoint #1 - Monterey’s Fish House - 7:40 AM
In downtown Monterey, without stopping, we’ll follow the Monterey Peninsula Recreational trail for another 7.9 miles, peeking in and out of sand dunes to see the vast Monterey Bay and look ahead to our final destination some 40 miles away.
Waypoint #2 - Marina, California - 10 AM
In Marina, we’ll begin a long, mostly flat stretch of farm roads all the way to Moss Landing, via Nashua and then Molera Rd. We should arrive at the Power Plant cafe by 1pm to refill our water bottles, scarf down some lunch, and drink some excellent coffee. This will be a good place to start or stop, and we will likely have a pick-up/drop-off point here.
However, we will leave promptly so that the soreness doesn’t set in.
Waypoint #3 - The Power Plant Coffee, Moss Landing, - 12:45 - 1:15 PM
After walking the second part of a 5-mile stretch along Highway 1, getting back on dusty farm roads will feel like a relief. We will turn off at Jensen Rd., and meander our way past more strawberry fields to San Andreas Rd., which will take us almost all the way to Santa Cruz. This will be a slog, but it’s blooming right now with beautiful flowers, and the fields overlooking the ocean are like something out of a storybook. This is quintessential California. Don’t skip this leg! This is also a bike-friendly route, if you decide to retire early and peddle it out the rest of the way.
Waypoint #4 - Manresa Main State Beach, Watsonville, CA 95076 - 5:15 PM
The home stretch will take us along the beach for a time before we head up into Santa Cruz and make the final push through city streets.
Destination: - Mission Santa Cruz - 9:15 PM
If all goes according to plan, we should arrive at Mission Santa Cruz just after Sunset, with a bit of gloaming still lighting our path.
Again: We will try to stick with the plan as much as possible. Anyone that wishes to join up part-way is responsible for confirming our location. If we arrive at a benchmark before we planned, we might not wait until the pre-determined time. In my experience, frequent stops are the killer, which is why this year there are fewer waypoints.
If you wish to join, text or email me. The march is open to all—feel free to recruit your friends as well.
I’ll see you on the road.