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Run Oregon Road Trip to Explore Trinidad, CA

Run Oregon loves running – that’s no surprise. But we also love the Pacific Northwest and all that it has to offer. Running is a part of us, but it does not fully define  us. In our “Make a Day of It” feature, we aim to showcase where to run and how to make the most of a travel experience! We recently spent a weekend on the coast in Trinidad, California.

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I had never heard of Trinidad (as in, California) until this race and I had definitely been missing out! Of course, taking Highway 101 along the coast is beautiful (albeit the slower route), and once you’re in Trinidad, it is an incredibly cute little town with so much to do and see. It’s located just under 2 hours south of Brookings, OR on 101 or 3 hours from Grants Pass if you’re driving from I-5. It’s actually one of California’s smallest incorporated cities with a population of about 325.

So when the Trinidad to Clam Beach race day rolls around…and there are more than 600 runners…the town is buzzing! Packet pickup was efficient and chatter from seasoned racers reminiscing about the water crossing being neck deep in their race shirts from a decade ago to young runners, barely out of grade school, their running shoes still fresh out of the box.

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Race morning arrived, and nothing is too far away. Take the main road, take the back road, take a side street, park on the other side of town – it’s all too easy. My accomodation, at the beautiful Secret Beach Retreat, was just a 4 minute drive. Right behind the gas station, hundreds of runners spread out in anticipation of the return of this hometown race. The start time of the race is based on that day’s tides given the water crossing, so we had a 12:30pm send off (yes, I slept in, went out to breakfast, walked around town, went back to my AirBnB to get ready and had a generally pleasant and leisurely morning). We left town on a paved road with gorgeous views of the ocean and coastline. Some sections turned into gravel, there were some tiny stinker hills to get over, and just after the 5K mark, we descended a steep residential road that spilled us out into the “Little River” at Moonstone Beach.

Trinidad to Clam Beach Race

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There were volunteers and a rope ready to lend a hand if needed, but most people just plowed right in. This year’s depth was about shin high and refreshingly cool as I had been warming up under the afternoon sun. Another option is to completely take your shoes off and have them transported to the finish line so you can enjoy the last 2 miles of beach running properly barefoot, which a fair number of people did.

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Ending at Clam Beach is an absolute party – the finish line (the race is chip-timed, so you get the big clock at the end!), bonfires, food tables, the infamous chili tent, and the ever-festive marching band! Families picnicking on the beach, runners crossing the finish line, dogs, kite-flying, I’ve never finished a race in quite this fashion and couldn’t help but love this little 5.75 miler a little bit more.

On the Beach

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Given that the race was a point-to-point, we eventually made our way to the road to hop on a school bus for the short drive back to town. Absolutely everyone in the town and involved in the race were friendly and delightful, including our shuttle driver – when we arrived she offered to do a drop on either side of town: a true gem of a human.

This event normally has 3 distances to pick from: an 8.75, 5.75, or 3 mile, but given that it was the first event out of the pandemic it was just the one distance this year. Not quite a 10K was just right for this distance runner – long enough to get some scenery but short enough to push the effort and I was admittedly sore the next day from doing exactly that! On the drive home on Sunday, I was already hearing the phrase “So when we come back next year…”.

I mentioned the Secret Beach Retreat just briefly above but want to take a few paragraphs to give it the attention it deserves. Everything about this place was easy and beautiful. AirBnB is ubiquitous by now so checking dates, booking a stay, and communicating with the host, John, is seamless in that regard. I arrived after dark and had a bit of a confusing moment with Google Maps but since there is just one road in and out, I could get myself oriented pretty easily and arrived to a stunning property overlooking the ocean with a private guest suite on the bottom floor.

Secret Beach Retreat

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John’s property is many acres and the house itself is completely idyllic. The wraparound porch is dreamy enough but inside is lovely as well. The queen bed was in the center of the studio suite and was wonderfully comfortable. There was a little table with two chairs inside with a window to the ocean, which made for a delightful first-night-enjoying-take-out meal. The next in the light of day was coffee on the porch, of course.

The room had dishes, filtered water, a microwave, a mini fridge, kettle, and a few other amenities like luggage rack, hangers, and TV tray tables for some extra “counter” space. The bathroom was spacious and, as is every runner’s dream, the shower was nice and hot.

While the room was perfect for two people and beautifully made and updated, my favorite part of the accommodation is right in the name: Secret Beach. Just down the road is a trail leading down the beach, but from the property, John has built out a nice adjoining trail. Once joined with the public trail, a steep descent (legitimately steep and certainly muddy in January) is a great, tiny adventure to get down to the water. Even if you don’t want to go all the way down, the view from just atop the last 50 feet or so is so stunning and incredibly cathartic to watch the waves crash on the rocks.

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John’s guest book lists numerous dining recommendations and given my birthday weekend, we checked out The Larrupin’ Cafe for an upscale feast and it was easily the best dinner I’ve eaten in years.

Trinidad itself was a treat to visit, running the race was a great little adventure, and our stay at the Secret Beach AirBnB sweetened the whole weekend. It’s small-town, but mighty fun.

About Author

Bobi Jo has lived all over the midwest but moved to Portland in 2007 and now calls it home. She started casually running in 2012 and trained up for the "Run Like A Mother" 5k as her first proper event. She got a taste of the runner's high and is now a veteran ultrarunner. While running is her favorite sport, she is a "Jill of all trades, master of none" - her other hobbies include rock climbing, hiking, skiing, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and traveling the world. On her elusive rest days, she is an avid bookworm and a Green Bay Packers fan.

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