November 2, 2010
I had been avoiding today’s run for weeks, and the reason – I knew – was because of the way it presented itself. With other runs that I had done in August and September, I had covered loops of trail in the same general area quite efficiently. But the consequence of those efficiencies was to leave a three-pronged “Y” section of trail remaining, kind of out in the middle of it all, that could in no way be run as any kind of a loop. To be sure, the only way to cover these adjoining segments of trail was by way of three individual out-and-backs. And complicating matters even further for me was the fact that there was no available parking near the start of any of these sections. I would have to run across a large section of previously-run trail in order to get to the “start.” 😦
So it was from this perspective that I would run into the woods today, viewing it as a chore that I would simply need to suck up and get done. And with a sense of minor dread, I drove to the parking area on Tiorati Brook Rd alongside the Red Cross Trail. Step 1 would be to re-cover ground that I had already run on in order to get to the junction of the Beech Trail.
I began by crossing a small stream, and noted that the water level was decidedly much different than it had been back in the dry month of August when I had last been here. Late October had certainly been wet. Anyway, I quickly reached the trail junction, and thus, the unofficial “start” of today’s run.
This was a particularly wooded and pretty section of the Red Cross, and the general direction I was headed was downward, so this was all well and good. But the trail itself was quite rocky, and I had observed this about other sections of the Red Cross Trail as well. Although a fairly wide trail in many places, on the whole, it was certainly no woods road, so I needed to proceed with a fair measure of caution.
After skirting along the banks of an especially picturesque stream, and crossing it twice in the process, I finally (and somewhat abruptly) came to the trail head of the Menomine Trail. I had run the majority of this trail on a fairly long run I had done in late August, but had left one small section undone at that time. Today I would be able to put a check mark next to the Menomine Trail as “completed”, but to be sure, I would have to earn it!
The trail began at the base of Letterrock Mountain, and scaled the mountain’s southeastern face. Up, and up, and up again I went. At the top, I visited – for the second time – the William Brien Memorial Shelter, which is nestled at the bottom of an especially large rock formation. I had had to climb these rocks on that day back in August, but today I would be spared, as from this point all I needed to do was turn around and head back down the mountain, following the Menomine’s yellow blazes all the way to the bottom.
The footing going down, mainly due to the fallen leaves, was tricky, and so just as it had been running downhill on the Red Cross, discretion was the better part of valor here. In reaching the Red Cross Trail once again, I now had one out-and-back completed. 🙂 Next up was to make a left and follow the trail east toward Big Bog Mountain and the Palisades Parkway. The terminus of this section would be at the junction of the 1779 Trail, which, as it turns out, I also ran part of back on that same run in late August when I had run on the Menomine. And so, crossing another stream (my 4th of this run, already!), I followed the trail’s hard right-hand turn and began the run out toward Big Bog.
Fortunately, this section of the trail was quite easy underfoot, and for the first time since I had started today, I was able to open up a little bit and actually run. It felt good! With speed as my vehicle, I quickly reached the bog at the base of Big Bog Mountain, and as bogs go here in these mountains, yes, it was pretty big. 😉 I caught myself smiling as I ran along the twisting path that the trail took along bog’s edge, and I sure didn’t have to wonder why. I realized immediately that it was because I felt a serenity here in the ecosystem that makes this bog its home. Simple as this scene was, it was – to me – an example of one of nature’s grandest moments.
Running past the bog and then along the base of Big Bog Mountain, I was presented with a stark dose of civilization – automobiles traveling at speeds of 65 mph+ on the Palisades Interstate Parkway! The Palisades is the main north-south highway in Harriman State Park, and there are at least six (6) trail crossings of it here in the park’s northern half. Today I would make the same crossing twice. First to get to the Red Cross Trail’s junction with the 1779 Trail, and then – only minutes later – a return trip. The constant “swooshing” sound of cars on this highway is almost unnerving after having spent time in the complete silence of the forests. Needless to say, I was happy to wave goodbye to these afternoon commuters and return to the beauty of the woods once again.
The return trip took me back past Big Bog Mountain and the bog, which was the easy part. Upon reaching again the Red Cross Trail’s junction with the Menomine Trail, the going got tough. Not only was the trail rough underfoot as I had noted earlier, but it was a long, slow uphill. I grimaced as I struggled to scale each small rise, looking for flat spots, but not seeing very many. When I returned to the Beech Trail junction again, I knew that I was close, and the struggle would be over soon. Over the small creek that I had crossed in the beginning, I emerged onto a small baseball field at the base of Flaggy Meadow Mountain, only 100 yards from the car now.
When I reached Maxine, the first thing I did was take off my Hydrapak and toss it onto the ground. As if I was trying to say “Take that, you son of a b……..! ” It was a foolish thing to do, as my camera was in the Hydrapak’s storage compartment! But as it turned out, no harm came to the camera, which brought me a small sigh of relief. 🙂
And now it was. 🙂
And so I treated myself to a delicious malted beverage at one of my favorite watering holes, the Captains Table in Monroe. The beer tasted as sweet as ever, probably because I had gone to great lengths (8.5 miles in the late-afternoon light of early November) to earn this one. I decided that I should make this form of post-run celebration a habit. You know, carbo-loading for the next run? Yeah, right….. 🙂