Pedal and Foot: Two Offbeat NorCal Races

The Tour of the Unknown Coast is ready to roll, spectacularly.

Jeannine Sibley

VAST OCEAN, EPIC TREES: When you visualize people enjoying nature in and around Humboldt County, how do you see them? Laden with backpacks and gear, out among ferns and streams? Wading deep into the typically chilly ocean waves? Maybe on the search for Bigfoot? Those are some common portraits of travelers in the northwest part of California, but two more involve cycles and running shoes.

THE CYCLES... roll during the Tour of the Unknown Coast, which has a billing as "California's Toughest Century." Yep, you'll pedal 100 miles around the North Coast, calling both on towns -- hellooooo, Victorian-sweet Ferndale -- and that wide, wildflower-y, bluff-beautiful ocean front that the mysterious land is known for. We know, we know, it isn't so mysterious these days, given the maps and guidebooks and such, but consider that finding peace and away-from-it-all-ness is still a real possibility in the area. The date? Saturday, May 10. The scenery? Dairy-country-to-Pacific spectacular. Do you have to ride a full hundred miles? Nope, there are shorter spurts.

THE RUNNING SHOES... shall be pavement-pounding on Sunday, May 4. That's the date for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. Should we save internet ink and simply not type anything else after that? Because the name says it all. The Avenue of the Giants is a redwood-loaded paradise full of tall tree wonders, and a marathon? You got that: 26.2 miles of sweat, muscle usage, and blissing out. Now imagine blissing out under some of the most cosmic trees in the solar system, and you're set for a stunner of a run. Who says the only way to be outdoors in Humboldt is hiking, swimming, or on the trail of Bigfoot?

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