This morning I decided to FINALLY explore the dirt side trails that dart off the Blackwater Creek bike trail. I’ve been meaning to run them in hopes that they might provide a close-to-home day hike or two when I feel travel-weary. So I slipped on my Merrell All Out Peak trail runners and started down the post-rain wet asphalt to the first bounce-off point.
A few hundred feet down that first side trail I caught a deja vu Maine Appalachian Trail feeling (translation: rocks and roots. And more rocks). My run quickly became a brisk hike on the 50-degree angle of descent over the mixed, slippery terrain. I trust the sticky Vibram outsoles on my Merrells implicitly. I just don’t trust myself. Well, this version of me, anyway. Younger me would have charged down the hill and taken the bruises as they came, if they came.
Fortunately, older me is smarter (not to mention less agile) than younger me.
So I tiptoed until I hit the bottom of the hill, where it smoothed/leveled out for an easy cruise the rest of the three or four tenths of a mile. I determined to try that tricky spot on the way back to see if ascending might feel safer, and forged ahead, regaining the main bike path after a steep uphill featuring a quick switchback.
I ran just off the edge of the bike path; my All Out Peaks click and rumble like studded snow tires on anything other than dirt. Mercifully, the majority of the right-of-way beside the trail is mowed/maintained, so staying on grass is almost always possible.
A brief distance away another side trail beckoned, and I veered to the right to join it. This one was pure gold. Crossing two small bridges and running along the ridge above and eventually along the creek, it was smooth, fast and quiet. I did pass two women running with a dog, and a solo guy out for a morning cruise, but they didn’t take away from the experience. This section made the “keeper” list.
I bounded back up to the main trail and headed towards home. I broke off on the way and ran the first trail again, in reverse this time. The section I walked down on the way out I was able to run up on the way back. Of course, when ascending such a steep grade littered with rocks and roots, running becomes a relative term, at least for me. I was breathing pretty heavily when I regained the pancake flat asphalt of the bike trail, but I was well pleased with my effort.
An easy final quarter mile brought me to the trailhead and the end of my short four-plus mile run. It was misty and cool, my feet were muddy, and I was happy. Even better, there are miles of dirt side trails left for me to explore. Sadly, it’s a bit too pedestrian (if you’ll pardon the pun) to fit my definition of day hike material, but I do enjoy a good trail run, and definitely look forward to more of the same here.
Especially since this miles-long maze of dirt and asphalt is only a dozen minutes from home…