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Young man on the run
Jim Dunn
August 12, 1974
He had strong legs, a poet's eye, and he was 16 years old—what more did he need to cover the 1,750 miles between Mexico and Canada?
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August 12, 1974

Young Man On The Run

He had strong legs, a poet's eye, and he was 16 years old—what more did he need to cover the 1,750 miles between Mexico and Canada?

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I ran the next day but not far. The heat was stifling and the air was tinted a musty brown. I headed off toward Sausalito. That afternoon I would have to run over the mountain range between the ocean and the bay, which any other day would have been simple. But the heat turned the modest incline into Mount Everest. When I reached the top of the hills it was a joy to run down the other side, zigzagging with the road as I went. I went fast enough to create a cooling breeze across my hot body.

I met Mom in Stinson Beach, where we decided to call it a day. We had gone less than 20 miles, but it felt like 40. When I saw the ocean and the beaches from the hillside six miles away, a swim seemed inviting. But I chickened out when I got to Stinson Beach. I guess I didn't want to catch cold. Instead, I read the manual that came with a new camera I bought a couple of days before. I experimented with a few shots in the room we had rented for the night. We had wanted to camp, but everyplace was packed, and we didn't want to risk sleeping on the side of a road because we knew the area had a high crime rate.


It is a romantic land. Trees are everywhere—and water. I was getting away from the cities and moving into the woods along the sea. I had looked forward to this section of the coast. By now I had covered more than 600 miles. For the remaining 1,150 miles I would be running through this sort of landscape and happy about it.

I went through groves of many sorts of trees. The road was mine with only a rare car using it. I was overjoyed by the road, which went up and down like a roller coaster. The road continued for another 10 miles before coming to the town of Point Reyes Station. I visited the ranger station, as I was interested in knowing about the national seashore. Sir Francis Drake landed near here in 1579 on his around-the-world voyage. He was so impressed that he claimed the area for England and named it New Albion. It was beautiful, what I could see of it. I would have loved to investigate further, but I had to move on. Mom was somewhere to the north. I followed the coast highway and imagined Sir Francis Drake floating softly along in his seaworthy craft.

Because I had messed around all day discovering the land, I covered only 32 miles. I found Mom in the town of To-males. If I had stayed on schedule I would have reached Bodega Bay. But I remained a tourist at heart.

To find facilities we had to drive two miles south of Bodega Bay. When we arrived at the county campgrounds it was too dark to tell what the area was like. In the morning I really didn't like what I saw. What I saw may make other people feel great, so I am not one to pass judgment, but I still didn't like it. The place seemed ugly. I felt as if it were dishonoring the surrounding land by being there. The bay is what set me off. People were running boats back and forth, leaving gas slicks on the water. But then, I am not the one to say this is bad, only to say it is bad for me.

That night we stayed in Jenner at a private camp by the side of the Russian River. The smell of tourists cooking breakfast over camp stoves woke us the following morning. People were busy trying to get on the road—and to bigger and better sights. So were we. But I had a clear advantage over the others. I did not eat foods that required cooking, save an occasional bowl of instant oatmeal or chocolate. I didn't need to stand over a fire until a piece of meat was cooked. Being a vegetarian has its advantages. Some people didn't think I could run from border to border without touching a piece of meat but I would show them.

The land I passed through looked like a foreign country, like Scotland, maybe. Lambs grazed on the side of a meadow by the edge of a cliff. Gentle fog rolled in slowly. There were thin winding roads, wooden fences. One of these July nights as I lay in my sleeping bag watching the fire burn, I found a pleasant diversion. Another camper had a harmonica, as I did. We got involved in a playing competition. He would play a song, then I. This went on till I realized I was the only one playing. Still, I kept playing. I was very happy.

The last days in the month were foggy and wet. July 31 was no exception. This was fine weather for running. My goal this day was Fort Bragg, a 40-mile journey. The first town on the way there was Elk, a little place but worth reading about. I had a pamphlet describing the towns and cities of this region, giving their history. I remember reading about how the founder of Elk had a lumber company or something like that. But the rest is a daze.

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