Saturday, July 5, 2008

Trail Running in South Mountain Reservation

Sue and I are in Millburn, New Jersey for the Fourth of July weekend, visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. We always have a great time with them, but my one regret was that I would miss the Lock 29 trail run on Saturday and the last and longest of the BT50k familiarization runs on Sunday. I know I am not ready for the 50k in two weeks, so I wanted to get those runs in. The good news, we are less than a mile from the South Mountain Reservation, which although only 2400 acres, is full of trails.

Within an hour of our arrival on Wednesday, I set off to explore the trails. Armed with a map my sister got from the local running store, I set out. The first thing I learned was that the trails in this part of the world have occasional sections that are almost unrunnable because of the rocks. Not long after that, I learned lessons #2 and #3. Lesson#2: Once you leave the wide primary trails and get on to the narrow foot trails, they are really well marked, except for when they aren't. On the Lenape trail, I believe they left the trail marking to someone with a profound case of ADD. The yellow blazes occur every 100 feet or so in the beginning, then just disappear for a couple of hundred yard, then start up again. I lost the trail a few times, but fortunately I was able to refer to the map, get myself oriented, and eventually pick up the trail again.

Lesson #3: Just when you think you can put the hammer down and run, the roots and rocks jump out and bite you in the ankles. This is actually a variation of Lesson #1, with roots.South Mountain is full of beautiful views. At one point, after following a very narrow section of trail, heavily covered with low-hanging branches, it suddenly opened up to broad, flat area bordered with Rhododendrons.
Although the rocks were mostly a nuisance when trying to run, they do provide handy material for building very sturdy little bridges. I counted four of them, and there are probably more.
Just a quarter mile past this bridge, a waterfall was tucked into a wooded nook.

Despite the name South Mountain, the trails was not overly hilly, at least not in comparison with the Buckeye Trail, but still there were some very scenic overlooks, like the one below. I don't want to give the wrong impression; Many sections of the trails were well groomed and very runnable, as well as beautiful. Look at this trail which ran down to one of the lakes.

So, after doing about 10 miles here on Wednesday, I got a 17 miler in on Friday. My bro-in-law,Phil, ran 2.25 mile out and back, then I ran another 12 miles, taking the Lanape trail as far as it goes. Although I had to slow the pace down due to the footing and my own unfamiliarity with the trails, it was still a good run.


solarsquirrel said...

awesome trail pics!!!

Graham said...

the trail marker person's ADD probably kicked in while looking at the great surroundings and taking it all in...can't blame him/her for that - the pics are great!

and i am sure you are underestimating yourself on not being ready for the 50k...

vibram said...

Oh how I love the pics! A-W-E-S-O-M-E! You did a great job! :)