Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Bittersweet Trail Run - Beauty and Injury

For my last training run before the 50k next weekend I had decided I would run a different part of Harriman. I described it as a modest route of what I guessed to between 8 and 11 miles.

On Thursday night I mapped out the route to include several destinations I had wanted to visit.

I parked my car and started the run at about 8:15 AM. I trotted my way across a small field and entered the woods on the Appalachian Trail (white) and the climb started immediately. The trail switched back and forth through the hardwoods as it made it's way up Green Pond Mountain.

Climbing the Appalachian Trail
I have to admit it was a tough start. Without an opportunity to really warm up my heart was pounding, my breath was labored and my calves were burning. I power walked some of it and shuffled along when and where I could. Eventually cresting the grassy peak.

Moments after crossing the crest I started a descent that switched back and forth along a trail soft with forest decomposition. Through the trees I could see the shimmering waters of Island Pond.

I followed the white blazes of the AT up and down the small ridges around the Island Pond. I crossed a small bridge and headed away from the waters and into the woods of Island Pond Mountain.

After a brief ascent a massive boulder structure appeared before me. I followed the AT down to the foot and entered The Lemon Squeezer.

The Lemon Squeezer
The Lemon Squeezer is where the AT goes through an opening created by rocks, then tightens until you need to squeeze through, my hydration pack scraping against the rock walls.

After the Squeezer, there's scramble up a rock face that's harder than it appears, I had to spend a few minutes figuring out my ascent (there is an easier option). Once at the top, I took  a brief look down through the squeezer and turned to finish the climb.
Scramble after The Squeezer

I passed over the summit and headed downward to the shadows of an evergreen forest. Entering the woods the temperature dropped and the morning sun beamed in like spotlights. The path meandered through the soft pine floor to a junction of trails that I had often seen in photos.

Trail Markers
I took a moment to check my map and adjust my hydration pack before switching trails  to follow the southbound Long Path (aqua).

The Long Path transverses the border of two ecosystems a swampy marshland on my left and the evergreen forest on my right. The path rises and falls like a motocross course as it wraps its way around the marsh.

The Long Path and Wetlands
As I emerge from the shadowy forest the path starts heading up the vastly different terrain of Surebridge Mountain. Patches of pines groves and boulder outcroppings intersperse with the sun-bleached skeletons of trees that have been dead for years.

Surebridge Mountain
At "Times Square" I missed the turnoff but quickly sensed my mistake and doubled back to catch the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail (red dot on white) heading west.

The Ramapo-Dunderberg climbs Black Rock Mountain across large stretches of barren rocks with sparsely populated evergreens. Blueberry bushes and seemingly misplaced boulders color the exposed landscape.

Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail
The trail continues for what seems like several miles of similar terrain with the blazes often painted on rocks due to the shortage of trees, I often found myself searching the ground for the swatches of red and white paint.

At about two-thirds of the way through my trek and at the southern most point of the route, I stopped on the top of Black Rock Mountain to check my map and to have a bite to eat.

After a quick rest I switched from the Ramapo-Dunderberg to The Nurian Trail (white) and headed north. I followed the white blazes mostly downhill and returning to the hardwood forest.

Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail
I felt a modest tightness in my calves which I attributed to dehydration but as I started a short steep climb I felt a sudden stabbing pain in my left calf. I yelped in pain as I realized the pain was more serious than a dehydration issue and that I may have just removed myself from the event that I've been training for since February.

Descending to the Valley of Boulders
I came up lame just as I was about to descend into The Valley of the Boulders, a challenging rock strewn descent that did nothing to help my situation. Virtually every step (or every other one) was accompanied with a stabbing pain in my calf. The uneven terrain making it difficult to balance as I favored my leg trying to prevent further injury.

Valley of Boulders
I picked my route carefully, trying to avoid obstacles and pain. Stream crossings were especially challenging as I attempted to balance on rocks and avoid sudden lunges. Quite difficult when attempting to cross a wide stream.

The one mile trek through The Valley of the Boulders and across Stahahe Brook took over 40 minutes.

Now with the technical terrain and water crossings behind me, there's only one more mile between me and the parking lot.
Crossing at Stahahe Brook

Fortunately the path turns to a relatively level and grassy fire road that I'm able to hobble along with moderate success. Moving as best as I could I angled my way across the final stretch of path and reached the parking lot just as my Garmin chirped out 10 miles.

Who knew that I would only have 8 in me today?

Arden Valley
As for the injury I'm being cautiously optimistic. I had initially thought there would be no way I could recover well enough for a challenging 50k just one week away, but some progress has given me some hope that it may not be as bad as i had initially thought.

I'm hoping hydration and rest will do the trick, but all I can say is we'll have to see how it goes.

Distance: 10 Miles
Time: 3hr 46min
Elevation Gain: 3,042 ft

The Route

Elevation Profile

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Long Path: US Route 6 to Woodbury

Back in February I did a point to point run from Monroe across the Schunemunk Ridge and to Salisbury Mills. That run started started just below the Metro North tracks where The Long Path intersects with Route 94 in Woodbury.

The Long Path Trail-head
Since that run I had been curious about The Long Path connection from Harriman State Park to the Schunemunk Ridge.

By doing a little research I  found there was an 11 mile stretch from a parking area/trail-head on US Route 6 to Route 94 in Woodbury.

The Long Path
I had my friend follow me to the Route 94 parking area, where I left my car before we headed off to the Route 6.

Just off Route 6 there's a short and well marked access road with parking just a few feet from the trail-head.

I was somewhat surprised to see there were already several cars here. As I was planning this run I noticed that the areas north of Route 6 appeared to the more remote portions of Harriman and would likely be less populated than other areas of the park.

View from Long Mountain
I left my friend and without hesitation I ventured into the woods following the familiar aqua blazes for the day.

I was pleased with the quality of the trail. It was wide and grassy with some scattered stones winding it's way through oaks and low scrub-brush.

After a small descent the red trail appeared on the right and The Long Path started the first climb to the top of Long Mountain.

Turkey Hill Lake
The climb isn't exceptionally difficult and at the summit are spectacular 360 degree views of the Highlands with Turkey Hill Lake below.

In addition to the wonderful views the Torrey Memorial is engraved into the summit.

As I continue along the path, it finishes it's crest of the summit and descends deeper into the woods through a series of downhill switchbacks.

The Torrey Memorial
At the bottom the trail crosses Hollow Brook before reaching the West Point Boundary.

The Boundary is a 25 foot cleared path  through the woods ascending for about half a mile. Eventually heading inward through oak and blueberry bushes and cresting Howell Mountain.

Again another descent down the northern-side of Hollow Mountain leaves me on the floor of another glacial flat strewn with massive boulders and a series of small brooks.

Cresting Howell Mountain
And as you would expect, yet another climb awaited my approach. This one was basically two long switchbacks, the first steeper than the second allowing me to continue my slow shuffle  to the top of Brooks Mountain.

At the top of Brooks Mountain I follow the trail along an undulating ridge strewn with rock face, green grasses and blueberry shrubs before descending past distant views of Lake Massawippa and eventually dropping down to cross Route 293.

The Long Path borders West Point
After crossing Route 293 and reentering the woods, I found myself slipping in deep drifts of brown dead leaves left over from last fall. After negotiating the surprisingly slippery foliage The path began another climb that once again borders the West Point Boundary as it climbs Blackcap Mountain.

Arriving at the top of Blackcap the trail turns left and wanders along stone ridge, mountain laurel and underbrush as it heads towards Route 6.

The trail stays in the woods longer than expected following a chain-link fence about 30 feet in from the forest line and the highway. Again the leaves from last fall have accumulated beside the fence and have left the footing slippery and unstable.

Old Route 6
Eventually, at about 5 miles into the run the trail forces me from the woods and for about 300 yards I'm running in the long grasses alongside Route 6, but before it could get too annoying the aqua blazes visibly head down the grassy embankment and down to a an abandoned roadway.

The roadway is obviously the old Route 6 as the oddly out of place double yellow lines on the abandoned road are still visible.

For the next several miles The Long Path follows paved roads.

Now that I was out in the direct sunlight, heat management had become an issue.

The day was slightly humid and in the 70s but while I was in the woods where it was reasonably shaded and the pleasantly cool breezes from the mountain top exposures provided a comfort that was no longer available.

I trotted my way down the old route 6 and rounded a gentle bend and was presented with a view of the backside of the Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets. Continuing past the view of the shoppers mecca (that I have no interest in), the road continues to descend and passes over a wire barrier to an active road through a very cute little neighborhood.

Still continuing on a slight downhill just before crossing Route 84 I turn right and follow a long straight road with a 1% downgrade.

I can see Schunemunk off in the distance as I wished for the rain the weather reports had said were a possibility. Unfortunately the possibility of a storm was as far away as the mountain. The humidity was higher than it had been all spring and there was no shade for the next few miles as I began to suffer.

At the end of the road I took a right onto Smith Clove Road. I quickly realized this road was very different from the previous 8 miles. The road possessed the narrowest of shoulders and the cars were recklessly speeding along the windy road. On several occasions coming too close for comfort.

I passed the scenic Smith Clove Golf Club nestled under the wooded mountains that I had just emerged.

Before too long I took a left and meandered over a Pine Hill and eventually over the Route 84o overpass, and finally wrapping my way down the curvy road to Woodbury Creek.

At the creek the path merges right and crosses the road and runs the last couple of miles along a gas pipeline between the creek and the Metro-North tracks.

Metro North Trestle
On reasonably flat terrain and in a somewhat shaded environment, I was on my way to finishing today's run.

There were a few difficult graveled areas that I suspect were washed out during hurricane Irene and repaired with large ankle twisting grey gravel.

I made my way to the the creek as it runs parallel to route 32 and under the train trestle. The trail frustratingly runs down to the creek and loops back up the hill to route 84 and back down to route 32.

I probably could have crossed at the first encounter with the creek, but I wanted to run this portion of The Long Path in it's entirety. So I blindly followed the blazes eventually reaching Route 32.

I climbed over the guardrail and I know I have but a few hundred yards up the winding road to reach the car I dropped off earlier.

I drove home with a cherry red face, air-conditioning on full blast.

Distance: 11.10 miles
Time: 3hrs 23min
Elevation Gain: 1,780 ft
  1. Long Mountain (1,143 ft)
  2. Hollow Mountain (1,154 ft)
  3. Brooks Mountain (1,078 ft)
  4. Blackcap Mountain (1,194 ft)

The Route
Elevation Profile

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Levon Helm & Friends - "The Weight" - Mountain Jam VI - 6/6/10

Remembering Levon... 
You touched so many
You left this world a better place
Peace be with you Levon

Levon Helm & Friends - "The Weight" - Mountain Jam VI - 6/6/10 (Levon's 70th Birthday Celebration)
Featuring: Warren Haynes, Ray LaMontagne, Sam Bush, Jackie Greene, Patterson Hood, Donald Fagan

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Harriman/Bear Mountain Reconnaissance Run: Round 2

I was getting nervous.. The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain is a mere 3 weeks away. Sure, it's still only April and I've put in a a lot more miles than I have at this time in previous years and I have already completed my first 50k. But a 50k at Bear Mountain is something completely different, and yes I've already run the course, but it took two different training runs to do it.

So with 3 weeks to go I decided I would run the Harriman portion of the 50k course again. I anticipated a 20 mile run with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

On Friday night I did my preparations. I laid out my gear, charged my phone, camera and GPS. I put my drinks in the fridge and made a couple of almond butter and jelly wraps.

On Saturday morning I arrived at the Anthony Wayne parking area at just before 8:30 AM and was on the white trail soon after. As I set out I was worried about today's run... I was feeling somewhat bloated (not sure I can explain) and kind of transparent or vacant, somewhat weak in the legs.

Silvermine Lake
First thing I can say about the this run is that the second time through is SO much faster. I realized just how much time I spent looking at the map and verifying my decision making process.

After negotiating a steady upgrade, the trail levels out as I arrived at Silvermine Lake. A beautiful lake with a brief view through the trees. The trail meanders along the lake and heads into the woods, once again heading upward.

Just as I saw group of about 16-20 young hikers with their adult chaperons I turned to my right and proceeded to climb up the red trail. The trail climbs and levels for a moment... this cycle repeats itself 3 or 4 times before reaching a particularly enjoyable portion of the route.

The trail enters a tunnel of Mountain Laurel with interesting ups and downs. The downs providing enough momentum to easily climb the stair steps created by the roots of the flora.

The path winds to the left and wraps around a boulder giving the 1st views of the shelter below. After rounding the boulder and negotiating a boulder strewn descent I turn right onto the yellow trail and pass the front of the shelter.

Yellow Trail
The yellow trail is pleasing in that it's a downhill, but the number of rocks make it impossible to be a relaxing descent.

At the bottom, the trail crosses some strategically placed rocks for when the conditions are wetter than they were today. In the distance Silvermine Lake shimmers in the morning sunlight.

As I approach the waters edge I see a couple of boats casting lines in anticipation of today's catch.

As I proceed along the waterline admiring the tranquil beauty of the lake I pass what must have been a group of 50 hikers of all ages out enjoying the day. We respectfully negotiate the shared trail and I emerge at the Silvermine Lake parking lot.

Last time through here I had a little trouble negotiating the instructions. Today I benefited from the previous experience and passed through without delay.

Nawhunta Lake
I crossed Seven Lakes Road and passed the scenic Nawhunta Lake on my left and veered to the right, leaving the yellow trail for the unmarked Nawhunta fire road.

The fire road climbs some more but with frequent breaks in the climbing where I can get my heart rate back in control. After a brief downhill the Long Path intersects sharply from the left.

This portion of the Long Path negotiates some terrain that is significantly drier than the last time I passed. The trail and I gently negotiate a rhythmic swerving around isolated trees and random boulders before we start the climb.

It's completely quiet except for the sound of my labored breath as I follow the teal blazes. There are frequent breaks in the grade but the climbing is tough and my heart rate is soaring. Just as I anticipate the one true scramble before I reach the crest of the ridge, it emerges before me.

I had to do a double take. I saw a face. Completely unexpected but as I focused I realized there was a man beside a smouldering fire beneath the boulders. We waved to each other in silence and I continued to approach the scramble. As I approach the rock formation I noticed there were two other tents and a hammock.

I quietly climbed the rock structure trying not to disturb the peaceful campground. I reached the top the scramble and quickly looked back to see the campsite was still at rest.

Taking a moment to gather my self I pulled on the mouth piece of my Camelbak as it sputtered the last fluids into the back of my throat, making me cough. I was surprised that I had emptied the bladder but then I finally acknowledged how much warmer it was than the last time I ran this route.

When I regained my composure, I rolled up my sleeves and proceed along the ridge of Stockbridge Mountain. In about another mile I came upon the Stockbridge Shelter. I had been planning on stopping here for a bite to eat, but as I approached I could see that here were at least two groups of hikers occupying the shelter. I chose to continue on to a quieter location to replenish.

Hippo Rock
At the shelter the trail dives down to a small valley and then climbs again. On the other side of the small ravine I pass the precariously perched Hippo Rock and continue my procession along the ridge-line.

At last the Long Path begins its decent from Stockbridge, the downhill difficult on my legs as my footfalls are translated into jarring impacts sent shivering through the now tired muscles in my legs.

Soon enough the path intersects with a fire road. I turn left and continue on a softer grassy downgrade. On my previous reconnaissance run I missed a right hand turn and continued all the way to Seven Lakes Road. This time around I corrected my error and made the right at intersection of The Adirondack Trail.

The AT wasn't anything easy. More of the Highlands with up and downs peppered with root and boulder strewn trail. Eventually emerging onto the paved Arden Valley Road which leads down to Lake Tioratti.

At the Tiorati traffic circle there's Lake Tiorati beach, a small ranger station and a set of comfort stations. At the time I was most pleased by the sight of the comfort stations. I went in and filled the bladder to my Camelbak, tucked it back into my pack.

Lake Tiorati
I paused at a patch of grass outside to eat one of my sandwiches. I couldn't finish it all and some of the jelly had made my hands sticky so I returned to the restroom to wash my hands when I noticed a sign above the sink. "Non Potable Water - Not for Drinking Unless Boiled".

Damn.. there goes that!

 I walked across the street to the ranger station to ask if there was any other water sources available. The ranger at the desk said I could buy some bottled water out of the machine by the beach, but since I hadn't any money with me I would have to conserve the remaining fluids in my two water bottles.

Oh and by the way... I spied a water cooler behind the counter... I wasn't offered any.

Seven miles to go to return to Anthony Wayne. I headed up the hill of Tioroti Brook Road and briefly bushwhacked my way back to the familiar red blazes of the Ramapo Dunderberg Trail. I was tired that was for sure. I continued along the red trail to an unmarked trail to the yellow and onto the red-cross trail without incident.

The Red-Cross Trail
My feet were tired and my fluids were dangerously low. I was concerned because the next intersection was another one I had missed on my previous adventure leaving me alone on the side of The Palisades Parkway as cars rushed past.

I kept my eyes peeled watching, I scanned the left side of the trail for anything that resembled a trail or a road... anything that went left.

As I approached a small brook I saw a pile of stone that marked the start of an almost nonexistent Owl Lake Rd. Apparently on my previous run I had focused on crossing the brook and not the turn that proceeded.

Owl Lake
Since I had so little fluids remaining, I scooped up some water in an empty bottle, briefly examined the quality and took a refreshing swig. Ahhhh, that was refreshing, cool and crisp. I decided to do with what I had and not push my luck by taking anymore than what I think I needed to finish the run.

For a bit Owl Lake Road was little more than ill-marked trail winding it's way through fallen trees and boulder fields, eventually opening up to a bonafied grassy county farm road wrapping around the marshy Owl Lake.

Owl Lake Road
A left turn and a brutal short steep climb and I was on the last leg of the journey, following the blue 1779 trail back to where I started.

The 1779 is a gradual downhill that seems to go for miles. The roots that crossed the path seemed to be jumping up to make me trip over them. On two occasions I hit my toe so hard that I yelped in pain as my arms flailed to keep from crashing face first into the rutted culvert path.

On my final approach I could here the traffic on the Palisades. As much as I didn't want to hear the traffic I was glad to hear it because I was nearly finished. I turned right onto the white trail and finished my time in the woods and emerged onto the access ramp to Anthony Wayne. I crossed the road and jogged across the field to my car, stopped my watch and peeled the hydration pack off my sweaty back.

With only one wrong turn (that I suspect added about .4 miles) the circuit is about 18 miles

Distance: 18.4 miles
Time: 5hrs 23min
Elevation Gain: 2,889 ft


The Route
Elevation Profile

Monday, April 09, 2012

Unexpected Pleasures of an Easter Morning Run

Easter Morning
It was Easter morning and later in the day we would be hosting a brunch for my parents and and our best friends. I was still feeling the stiffness from Saturday's spring chores so I poured a cup of coffee to  help the motivation and retreated to the closet to get dressed.

Yesterday I did a trail run in Black Rock and since the time today for a run would be limited, a short road run would have to suffice.

I downed most of my coffee as I decided on the appropriate gear for a short road run.

Moodna Creek
A few moments later I was dressed and ready to go.

I was, however, flip-flopping on what route to take. Should I go down the out and back that can extend to as much as a 7.5 mile run or should I run a more scenic 4.25 loop?

Given the beauty of the morning I decided I would sacrifice the extra miles for the warm glow of the Easter morning and enjoy some local scenery.

I left the house at just after 8:00 Am and already the spring morning was highlighting the splendor of the Hudson Valley.

Hope Chapel
I hit the road and started my Garmin.

Before sufficient warm up, the road begins an early climb. It's not extraordinarily steep nor is it excessively long but the early encounter is always challenging.

I crest the hill and turn left on Clove Road crossing over the Moodna Creek and passing the Hope Chapel.

Continuing on Clove Road I climb another hill and find myself bathed in sunlight as the morning sun climbs above Schunemunk Mountain.

Otterkill Road
The vigor of the run and the clear morning air provides a jubilant energy as my watch acknowledges the passing of the first mile as I pass an open field broadcasting the fresh bouquet of Spring.

I turn left on to Otterkill Road and faced the glowing glory of the morning's rising sun.

With the first downhill the loop offers I descended into the cool shadows of Schunemunk, the depression of the Moodna Watershed contributing to the drop in both terrain and temperature.

Otterkill Trail Head
The grade levels and I wind my way through the remaining flat before emerging from the shadows at the base of Schunemunk at the Otterkill Trail Head, the Moodna Viaduct as a backdrop.

I pass the trail head as my watch chirps at the passing of the 2nd mile and I begin a small climb that crests directly under the viaduct.

Also under the viaduct is a small parking lot that's often used for trail head overflow. I noticed a guy moving away from his car wearing a trail running vest.

As I passed him I said hello and I instinctively asked if he was training for The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain. He said he was and so I stopped for a chat.

Moodna Creek
We talked about both the Bear Mountain race coming up in May and that we had both participated in the NJ Ultra Fest the weekend before. In both cases I was registered for the 50k and he for the 50 miles.

So as not to delay him any longer we reintroduced ourselves, shook hands and departed, he into the woods and me down the road.

Schunnemunk Mountain
As inspiring as it was to have coincidentally met another area local Ultra/Trail Runner I still felt somewhat shameful for having been running such a short route and on the road of all things!

Continuing my paltry road run I crossed the Moodna again and turned up Jackson Avenue to a two-tiered climb that peaks out at the most photographed vista in Orange County.

Under the Moodna Viaduct
The view from the intersection of Orrs Mills Road and Jackson Avenue is always worth admiring, it's especially breathtaking after running up the Jackson Avenue hill.

I made my final left hand turn of the morning and began a well earned descent that bottoms out under the viaduct just a half mile from home.

I push the effort up the final climb. I break up the climb by eying landmarks and driving past.

The road levels out and I lengthen my stride and push on to the finish. I cross the street at full gate and as I swerve into my driveway chest heaving.

I raise my hand to turn off the watch that I never paused when I stopped for the earlier chat. But it's OK. This morning's run wasn't about time or mileage but an unexpected meeting and the beauty of an Easter morning.

The Route
Elevation Profile