My road runs have been going well but I've had only one recent trail run under my belt so this weekend I decided I would scout out some of the Mountain Madness course.
On Friday night I gathered my gear, and highlighted my NY/NJ Trail Map of the area. I had outlined a route that followed the beginning of the course (which starts at Shepherd Lake) heading south for several miles before returning to the Shepherd Lake parking area.
I had never been to this park before, so I was surprised when I got to the lake and there was a $10.00 fee to park. The attendant said I could go back to the NJ Botanical Gardens and park there. Since I had the cash I decided it would be easier to just fork over the $10.00 and follow my hi-lighted route rather than plane anew route starting from the Gardens.
|AM at Shepherd Lake|
Even before 9:00Am the parking lot was filling up with picnickers. Families were claiming tables and BBQ pits while others were busy setting up tents and moving coolers in for the day's festivities.
I gathered my gear and made one last stop at the areas facilities and headed towards the trail-head which was at the the southern corner of the lake (just past the now empty swimming area).
I started my Garmin and proceed along a gentle lake-side trail as I adjusted my backpack and settled into a comfortable stride.
No sooner than the moment I began to feel comfortable, the red trail markers indicated a right-hand turn that began the first climb of the morning.
|Red Trail Climb|
I later learned I was climbing Mount Defiance (which sounds so intimidating).
After successfully cresting the big climb so early in the day, I trotted along gathering my breath and wrestling my heart-rate back to within the limits of my rib-cage.
I soon found gentler terrain that meandered along the crest of the ridge with gentle down hills spotted with inhospitable roots and rocks common in the hills of the Hudson Highlands.
I followed the red trail (part of the Mountain Madness route) south before I decided I would abandon the route I highlighted last night in favor of an alternate route.
They don't know me, but I've seen photos and videos of their accomplishments on mountainpeakfitness.com. We exchanged brief trail pleasantries and continued in opposite directions.
The trail switched back and forth crossing unmarked fire roads before arriving at Gatun Pond. The pond was low on water but a good place for me to take a break. I drank from one of my water bottles and checked the map again to determine where my next trail change was going to be. After a moment of swatting mosquito and map checking I resumed the run.
The white trail wrapped around the perimeter of the pond and climbed an agonizing fire road strewn with loose softball sized rocks and gulleys cut from storm run off.
The grade increased as the road climbed 1.3 miles and through several switch-backs to Pierson Ridge.
|Pierson Ridge Trail|
I planted my feet through shin-high grasses and ferns, that obscured the trail obstacles that lie beneath, just out of sight.
Reaching the the top of the climb (1,095 feet) I again wrestled with my pounding heart and turned left (north) onto the Pierson Ridge Trail (Blue).
The ridge trail was a pleasant straightaway along the crest of Pierson Ridge, often padded with soft pine needles. In addition it offered a gentle downgrade, a much needed opportunity for recovery from the previous ascent.
The next trail change was to the Halifax Trail (green). I turned left and after a very brief upward scramble the trail was a predominantly a downhill run back to the foot of Mount Deffiance.
At the bottom of the Halifax Trail I passed Glasmere Ponds and moved on with little hesitation due to the hungry mosquitos who had found me to be irresistible. One in particular buzzed my left ear repeatedly, even after my repeated swipes and swats.
|The Skylands Trail|
Approaching the summit the trail prematurely intersected with my next trail change. I turned right onto the The Skylands Trail (Blue).
The trail traversed the side of Mount defiance in undulating fashion. I followed the tracks of mountain bike tires and noticed the rocks scrapped by collisions with their undercarriages.
I realized I was nearing the finish because I could now hear seemingly endless rounds being fired at the appropriately named Thunder Mounatin Shooting Range.
After several senselessly frustrating switchbacks designed for mountain bikers the Skyland trail merged with the (red) Ringwood/Ramapo trail which would follow a long descent back to Shepherd Lake.
Surisingly there were very few people on the trail and yet the parking lot was nearing capacity. I trotted along the lakeside path back through the parking lot to my car.
I completed my second trail run since my injury. It's clear I have some training to do before I feel I'm ready for Mountain Madness, but it feels good to have two successful (yet challenging) trail runs in.
I'm looking forward to more weekday road training and pushing the trail envelope a bit further next weekend.
Distance: 7.9 Miles
Time: 2hr 09 min
Elevation Gain: 1,469 ft