A marathon stride among giants
Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world. Who: Trish Donnally (the author) and her husband, Robert Donnally, of the District. Where, when, why: In early May, Robert and I flew to Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California for four days to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary by walking the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. Highlights and high points: It felt mystical to walk 26.2 miles of the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic drive among the coast redwoods. (They are the oldest living things on Earth.) To have these oldgrowth trees — many more than 300 feet tall and often 20 feet in diameter, with some more than 2,000 years old — towering over us made me feel like we were in a great natural cathedral, among the pillars of the Earth.
Unlike most marathons, with cheering crowds that line the sides of the road, it was serenely peaceful with just the rustle of the wind through the redwood canopies and the lush ferns on the forest floor. Even the sound of the runners’ feet striking the asphalt was hushed. The freshness of the air as it swept through the majestic sentinels lining the road helped us complete our journey. Cultural connection or disconnect: Robert and I were among the few who signed up to walk “the Ave” rather than run. We were delighted by how much encouragement we received from runners who would pass us on the other side of the road and volunteer: “Good job!” As we covered more miles, the crowd thinned, and we found ourselves bringing up the rear, two lone walkers searching for the finish line. Eventually, Robert Leiterman, a friendly California State Park ranger, pulled alongside and offered us a ride to the end. “Thanks, but we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary, and we’ve come this far, so we’d like to finish it together,” Robert told him. “How about some water?” the ranger asked, handing us two cold bottles. Water had never tasted better to me, even though I had sipped some at every aid station along the marathon route. Leiterman said that he would be back.
Later, he drove up again. “Want a ride now?” he asked. “No, we’re going to make it!” I said. He took our empty bottles and gave us two more. Again, the water tasted like nectar and restored us. Unbelievably, the ranger checked on us a third time with these encouraging words. “You’re really close,” he said, “only one more mile to go!” With his encouragement, we completed the marathon. Biggest laugh or cry: After enjoying our long weekend at the Benbow Historic Inn in Garberville, Calif., we went down to the lobby the night before we were going to check out and were startled to see — seated next to the concierge — a gentlemanly, 6-foot-5, tawny toned bear wearing a vest. Seeing the expression on our faces, the concierge introduced us to “Benson,” who apparently shows up in spots around the inn wearing various clothes depending on the occasion. How unexpected: The day after the marathon, we took a side trip. After driving a scenic and windy road with hairpin curves — and no guardrails — for about 22 miles, we reached Shelter Cove, on the aptly named Lost Coast. The sight of the deep-blue Pacific Ocean, with waves crashing on black beaches, brilliantly colored ice plants hugging the boulders and 600pound pinnipeds sunning themselves on rocks just offshore, was breathtaking. The pristine white lighthouse, which was moved from Cape Mendocino in the late 1990s, anchors this enchanting seaside community. Its firehouse, perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific, provides one of the best coastal views of any in the world. Favorite memento or memory: Robert and I trained for this marathon, my first, by taking long walks around the District for months. We walked from our home in the Palisades to the Capitol, to the National Zoo, to Theodore Roosevelt Island and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac, along the C&O Canal, then to the Beltway and back — and more. For each walk, we’d search for a heartshaped stone to mark the occasion. Now, we have our Avenue of the Giants Marathon medals to add to our collection of beautiful stones. To tell us about your own trip, go to washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.
The author and her husband, Robert Donnally, at Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California.