The weather has finally gotten hot enough for the annual Sunset Through the Trees running series. The collection of eight races in seven weeks kicks off Tuesday, July 27, at Lake Redding Park.
The series of 4- to 6-mile races continues every Tuesday evening through September 7. It also includes the Saturday, August 28 Moonlight Madness two-miler that crosses Shasta Dam at dusk.
I’ve participated in Sunset Through the Trees off and on for years, and I always look forward to it. Although the series has continued to grow, a few misconceptions seem to have arisen. Let me try to clear those up.
• Misconception number 1: “It’s only for fast people.”
HA! Let me say this again: I have participated in Sunset Through the Trees for years. I’m a middle-of-the-pack hacker at best. Yes, there are some really fast guys and gals at the front of the pack. Yes, some high school and college runners with speed to burn will leave you in the dust. But every event has plenty of people running miles at a 9- or 10-minute pace. Plus, every week there is a short course and a long course, and the short course (2 to 3 miles) always draws some walkers. And no matter how slowly you go, there will still be a popsicle waiting for you at the finish.
• Misconception number 2: “It’s a club event.”
Nope. Race director John Luaces has heard this puzzling myth several times. The series is affiliated with the SWEAT running club, but practically every race or fun run has some sort of club or organization providing support or insurance. Sunset Through the Trees “is open to anybody and everybody,” Luaces assured me.
• Misconception number 3: “The courses are too hard.”
Not really. Two of the races use the Sacramento River bike path and arboretum loop – all paved and with only a few very gentle rolls. The Midnight Madness route at Shasta Dam is pancake flat. Other courses have some hills or follow narrow trails, but nothing is all that difficult. The one exception might be the special Mark Swanson course behind Mountain View School. That one has some steep hills and rough footing, but that course is also the most fun.
• Misconception number 4: “It’s too hot.”
Maybe this isn’t a misconception. We’re talking about the middle of summer in Redding. But by late July, we’re all acclimated to the toasty conditions, right? Even if you really struggle in the hot weather, consider the August 17 event on Whiskeytown’s Oak Bottom Water Ditch Trail and the August 24 race at Lake Shasta’s Bailey Cove Trail. It’s always cooler on those well-shaded dirt trails than it is in town.
This year’s schedule of eight races is exactly the same as last year. Luaces isn’t complaining, but the series’ popularity is limiting the places he can organize races. Last year, every event but one drew at least 100 participants, and several events approached 140 runners and walkers.
“There are some places that I’d think about going that I just can’t because they can’t handle 50 or 60 cars,” Luaces said. “I’d love to use the Hornbeck Trail, but there isn’t enough parking at either the Quartz Hill Road or Walker Mine Road trailhead.”
The Sunset Through the Trees weekly entry fee is $2, and no advance registration is necessary. Moonlight Madness costs $15 if you sign up in advance and don’t want a T-shirt. Long course points are awarded based on your time and the race distance, and competitors who accumulate the most points over seven of the eight races (you may skip one race or drop your worst finish) win gift certificates.
The first five races – on Tuesday evenings from July 27 through August 24 – start at 7 p.m. The August 28 Moonlight Madness race goes at 8 p.m. The final two Tuesday events – August 31 and September 7 – start at 6:30 because daylight fades earlier by then.
For an exact schedule and more details, consult the event website.
• The Rich Gulch Trail – known to mountain bikers as The Chimney – is a very hilly, approximately two-mile track at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area near Brandy Creek Falls. Unfortunately, parts of the trail have eroded badly during the last few years. The trail is now undergoing a much-needed overhaul. Redding Mountain Biking Club President Bob Boecking, who also works on trail maintenance and trail building at Whiskeytown, has posted photos of the improved track. Work is ongoing, but the trail remains open.
• The Mystic Garden Party, originally scheduled for a 100-acre field near Flournoy in Tehama County, has relocated to Waterwheel Park, located in Shasta County between Shingletown and Manton. Tehama County declined to give organizers the necessary permit, and it’s not clear that Shasta County authorities will be any more accommodating to the alternative lifestyle festival, which features some major music acts. Guess we’ll find out soon, as the event begins today, July 22. I’m thinking one of the fairgrounds around here – in Anderson, Red Bluff or even McArthur or Hayfork – might be better suited to this event in the future.
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and a Sunset Through the Trees straggler. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.