Friendship, Perspective, and the Shell Ridge Trails

Image of the sun setting behind Shell Ridge Train in the hills.

The following piece is from our former General Manager of San Ramon and now Head of Training, John Courtney! Learn more about one of his favorite places to go for a nice (and adventure-filled) trail run.

The Shell Ridge Open Space is an incredible local resource (only about a mile from Sports Basement Walnut Creek), in part because of its varied terrain: simple fire roads, steep climbs (the kind that makes a mockery of the term 'run'), single track, small canyons, creek crossings, and of course, the eponymous ridge trail with plenty of 'grammable vistas. It's this variety that lends itself to creating fun, interesting, or, in the case of a particular run, challenging days on the trail.

The trail system practically begs users to link the best parts together in what I call a "Super Loop of Awesome:" Indian Creek single track, Twin Ponds Loop Trail, Deer Lake Trail–it's hard to pick just one. But if you do, just know that it's surprisingly easy to turn a 4-5 mile casual run into a 10-mile Type-2 (3?) kick to the teeth challenge.

Let me pause here real quick: people who know me, recognize the potential problem with a run like this: Number 1, I was leading it. Which means everyone should prepare for the unexpected. What was supposed to be a short, estimated timeline and the promise of some tame flow trails turned into a wild ride. We followed trails that lead to yet more trails, that then lead to deer trails heading in the exact opposite direction we wanted to go. Uh, well, It’s fine. We're fine. Then a broken shoelace and a very unclear idea of when we were going to reach "the end." Now coyote encounters that were too close for comfort? Oops. Suffice it to say that I've become well known for these kinds of "adventures."

It was at the 2 hour mark of this "45 minute run" when my friends and I reached the top and the end (for reals this time) of the run. The normally pervasive chatter between good friends was replaced by piercing silence. Just as I was coming up with an excuse for the failure of the run that involved coyotes and a broken shoelace, one of my friends broke the silent stalemate. "Man. I love this ridge!" 

My friends had been on that ridge dozens of times, under much better circumstances. But their sincerity and positive perspective on what we just went through was actually pretty awesome. It instantly brought me back to enjoying this local treasure rather than worrying about our plans turned upside down. We didn't just go through a slightly terrifying run, we conquered a challenge that we didn't expect to face.

So, give Shell Ridge Open Space a shot if you want to discover somewhere new in the Bay Area... or if you're just in need of a new perspective. And with "social distancing" orders, you won't even need to test the bonds of friendship!

To get there, park at Sports Basement Walnut Creek, head toward the green hills, get to the top of the ridge and take in the views over the valley, the views of San Francisco to the west and Mt. Diablo to the east. And let yourself think, even for a few minutes, "Man. I love this ridge!"


More Information:

Sports Basement Stafflete and Recent Super-Dad, Andrew Bauer, made these trails look goooooood. 

Shell Ridge-Twin Ponds Loop on All Trails has a different starting point, but you can opt to start at SB Walnut Creek which would add about 2 miles to this route.

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1 comment

  • Linley says...

    I know this article is talking about great places for a trail run but the picture is of someone with a bike on a single track trail which is generally not permitted in the WC open space. Maybe you could find another photo that celebrates the trails without misleading people about the rules of the space we all are trying to enjoy right now. Thanks!

    On March 20, 2020

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