September 13, 2010
I was riding up from New York City on the Metro North train as I contemplated today’s run. And as I entered the Ramapo Valley near Suffern, I was spying the mountains off to my right and beginning to get excited about this short and unique afternoon run on the trails. The weather was a little overcast, but the skies were dry and the temps were cool, so the stage was nicely set for an easy run, which would be a welcome change after last Monday’s odyssey!
The run today would be unique in a couple of different capacities. Firstly, it would be in two parts, meaning that I would park in one place, run, and then drive to another location, park, and run again. And the other thing different about today’s run was that it was my first endeavor at cleaning up a loose end without covering any new or additional ground. Oh, and one other thing that would be different about today’s run – it would be my first significant run on an orange trail. And there’s a story behind that.
When I had first seen the orange trails on the maps and realized that I didn’t have orange map pins in my pin box, I knew I had a minor dilemma on my hands. I went and made a special trip to a different art store to find orange pins, but upon arriving home and comparing them to my other pins, I realized that the new orange ones were way too short to be able to put on the map and retain any kind of continuity. And so, to solve this problem, I decided to make my own orange pins! One color that I had plenty of extras of in my box was black, so I went out and bought some pumpkin orange spray paint, and I proceeded to create orange pins from the surplus of black ones. Those who know me would not be the slightest bit surprised by this anal-retentive-induced stroke of creative genius. With some care and attention to detail, the orange pins came out perfect, like rows of school children, sitting at their desks waiting for their next assignment. 😉
I got off the train in Harriman and made my way south to Sloatsburg for the first part of the run, in Dater Mountain County Park. The run up and around Dater Mountain was essentially a loop run on two separately identified trails. First there was a short climb up the mountain on the Orange (Dater Mountain) Trail. Passing the junction with the Blue (Dater Mountain) Trail on my left, I continued to climb, eventually ascending about 200 feet in total before running down into a 30-foot deep hollow on the mountaintop. A six-point buck was a bit surprised to see me as I shot down the hill, and he was long gone by the time I veered right and followed the orange trail all the way to the junction of the Kakiat Trail.
I had done a bit more climbing on the way to the trail junction, so I knew that the going would be fairly easy after the turnaround. Actually, it turned out to be quite easy all the way back to the blue trail junction and beyond. As I connected with the blue trail, I followed a very runnable loop all the way around the top of the mountain. It eventually brought me back down the steep slope I had climbed at the outset, and back down to where my car was parked. As I took a short break to towel off, I said hello to a nice local man walking his two beautiful pit bull terriers down this quiet mountain road. These animals were about as friendly as it gets, and following a reluctant but loving kiss from the one that was named Rosie, I had a short chat with her owner, telling him about my project. He was impressed, although he did confess that when he saw me running down the hill out of the woods, he thought I might have been running from a bear. LOL!
After I felt dry enough to get back in the car, I drove out Johnsontown Rd and up Route 17 to the Southfields area. From here, I would run an out and back on another orange trail, this one being the Parker Cabin Hollow Trail, today’s “loose end.” I had remembered passing the far junction of this trail several weeks ago while running along the White Bar Trail, and thinking to myself “Orange, huh? I’ve never seen orange blazes before.” And so when I had initially bought my map pins, and didn’t see orange, I knew I would have to improvise.
Anyway, the trailhead was along County Route 106, and as I found the parking area nearby the trail, I realized that I had driven past it many times without even knowing it was there. And so, this trail was already a gem. Little did I know that it would be more than a gem, but rather, a diamond in the rough. But before I could even get started on the trail, the skies began to pour their own brand of joy down on me – it was raining. 😦 As much as I welcomed a bit of rain (it helps us to stay cool, after all), when the thunder began, it gave me pause.
But my apprehension didn’t last long, the reason being that this trail was probably the most beautiful trail I had run so far in the project. Tall pine trees rimmed the trail’s edge, and much of what was underfoot was the soft pine needle bed that these majestic trees tend to create. And to make the atmosphere complete, a soft fog had laid itself in amid these trees. So despite the rain and accompanying thunder, this run was becoming a joy of joys! As I ran out toward the hollow, the trail climbed gently along the way. Eventually, I reached a swamp, and the trail meandered around the swamp edge with a grace that made me forget that it was even raining. I thought about my friend Micah, who had recently run his first 50-miler, and how, like he had done, I might be able to run like this for 50 miles if I had to. 🙂
Before I knew it I had reached the far end of the swamp and finally hit the junction of the White Bar Trail. After stopping for a moment to reflect on the familiarity of this intersection (it had been, by contrast, a hot sunny day when I had been here in July), I did an about face, and headed back toward the car. It was a carefree and uneventful return trip. I gladly recounted many of the steps I had taken on the way out to the trail junction, and as I neared the car, the running became more downhill, and even more enjoyable as I revisited the tall pines a second time.
By the time I came out of the woods and got back to my car, the rain had stopped. I wasn’t as wet as I thought I’d be, which was probably a consequence of the marvelous tree cover I had had during this segment. Taking a sip from my handheld (which I had opted for today instead of the Camelbak due to the short nature of the runs), I sighed, and headed for home with a great big smile on my face. Today, I had painted the trail map orange and blue, the colors of my beloved college team from my home town of Syracuse. Jim Boeheim would have been proud of me. 🙂