November 10, 2010
Before I ran into the woods today, I realized that I was starting to get a sense of completion being near at hand. As I pored over the map that I have so diligently and laboriously kept updated after each day’s run, it occurred to me that there was really very little planning left to be done. I could almost count the remaining runs on one hand now, and the route for each one was rather clear cut. Yes, I was going to finish this quest, and soon. 🙂
But as close as I was to completion, there was still work left to be done (a situation not unlike when you reach the 20-mile mark in a marathon). And so today, I would undertake a route that would knock out a huge remaining chunk of the 1779 Trail, and would complete the deceivingly difficult Red Cross Trail.
With all of the moaning I had done recently about the Red Cross Trail, I would be as happy as a pig in slop to ‘red cross’ this one off of my list! Not that I wouldn’t run many of the sections of this trail again in the future, but for whatever reason, the challenges that it had put out to me during the project all seemed to be ill-timed. I had grown sick of it.
But the first issue would be to find a place to park Maxine so I could begin the run with peace of mind. Although there was a road alongside the trail head, my map did not show a “P” for parking anywhere in the vicinity. Sometimes there is significance in this lack of information, and in today’s case, that turned out to be the truth. When I arrived on Queensboro Rd, near the head of the 1779 Trail, there were signs everywhere that said “no parking.” Lovely. 😦 OK, so I would look around in the vicinity, and it wasn’t too much trouble finding a pullover spot on the roadside of Mott Farm Rd. But now I was almost a half mile from the trail, and it was uphill all the way. Not the most helpful way to get this run started, but I was happy nonetheless. 🙂
Shortly after passing through the gate at the trail head, I was “welcomed” to the 1779 Trail with a beautiful and informative sign. After a quick and semi-disinterested read, I began the “march” up the trail, just as the colonialists had done 231 years ago, starting with a 300-ft vertical ascent up The Pines. The trail itself was very broad at this point, probably in part due to its historic nature and popularity. But with 90% of the leaves on the ground now, seeing the trail itself was….well, not happening. 😉 Thankfully, it had a wide girth as I said, and was well marked with blazes, so was not difficult to follow.
The trail eventually brought junctions to both the Red Cross Trail and the Suffern Bear Mountain Trail. The area here is very swampy, and the November dampness coupled with a plethora of mountain laurel rimming the trail made for an oddly eerie feeling, as if someone was out here watching me. 😦 But the strange feeling passed, and shortly thereafter, I came upon the first of what would be two crossings today of the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
I had crossed the parkway nearby here in a run I did last week, so the territory looked familiar. I paused for a moment and reflected fondly on the feeling of familiarity that is becoming more and more common as I progress in this project. Yes, I was clearly forming a relationship with this park, and to be sure, it felt good!
On the other side of the highway was a small bridge that spans a creek that, according to the map, is part of the Owl Lake water/swamp system that lies north of Big Bog Mountain. I eventually reached the swamp (but saw no lake), and then began a short climb which would culminate near the next trail junction. As I climbed, the trail narrowed, and the brush that lined its path began gnawing at my exposed legs. Crap! It occurred to me that running in shorts may not be such a good idea now, as the low-lying brush was dried out from the change of season, and had become extremely scratchy. It was like I was being attacked by a barrage of kitchen scrubber pads. Yikes!
Well, despite the discomfort, I survived the “Scratchfest” and reached the next junction, that of the combined Appalachian / Ramapo-Dunderberg Trails. I remembered this junction from a run I had done back in late August, and my how different it looked now, 10 weeks later! Pine cones and tender pine needles had been replaced with scads of fallen leaves. A picture in contrast for sure!
Hanging a right here, I began a quick and short descent down to the Palisades Parkway, and then tackled my second highway crossing in swift fashion. Just beyond the highway, the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Appalachian Trails split, and I followed the right-hand fork of the R-D. After crossing a babbling stream (another one that is part of the Owl Lake system), I made one crossing, and then another, of a mountain bike trail.
In most places in the park, mountain bikes are not permitted, but these two trails are part of a mountain bike loop system that is centered around the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area. It would have been cool to meet up with a mountain biker, but I realized that being mid-November and the cold weather really beginning to kick in, the odds were against it.
From here began my most serious climb of the day, as the trail scaled the southern end of the West Mountain ridge into the area known to local hikers as Cat’s Elbow. The first portion of the mountain was a steady but even-footed climb. But after passing over a minor crest, the going got rough. The footing was terrible, and it was fairly steep too, so I found myself in hand-over-first mode. As I kept on the lookout for snakes beneath each large rock, the trail took a turn in what seemed like the wrong direction. I kept on, but with each time that I failed to see a trail blaze on the next rock face, I scratched my head saying “Am I going in the right direction?”
Sure enough, the trail turned again as it continued up the rock face, creating the “elbow” that gives this location its name. I realized at the point that I was panting furiously despite the cool temperatures, so knew that it was time to take a short break. Only moments after I resumed running, I came upon a viewpoint that looked all too familiar. Yes indeed, this was the location that Todd Van Sickle and I had stopped at during our epic run on the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail in early September. It had been a crystal clear morning back then, and although it was a bit overcast on this Fall afternoon today, the views were magnificent, and I took in a dramatic view of the New York City skyline before heading further up the trail.
But with a lot of work still left to do, I made some haste, scampering over and then down the ridge for the next mile or so until finally reaching the Timp Pass. Speaking of the “dramatic,” as I had been in referring to the views from West Mountain, the Timp Pass is dramatic in its own right. It comprises a huge chasm that lies between the southern end of West Mountain and the western face of The Timp, one of the most classic, sheer-faced mountain formations in this part of the park.
Upon bottoming out in the pass, I came upon my next (and next-to-last) trail junction. Here was the eastern terminus of the Red Cross Trail, one that had been both taunting and haunting me for weeks. As I turned right onto this trail, I began what would be my last segment of this son of a b**** !
Now why would I make such an emotional comment as this? The reason is because, like so many other sections of this trail that I’d run on, it was strewn with softball-sized rocks. And despite its double-wide breadth, it was essentially unrunnable in most places. So now I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, why they called it the Red Cross Trail. It was because this trail was so damn rocky that it was a disaster just waiting to happen!
Well, if I had made haste running across the top of the West Mountain ridge, then I made double haste now, as I was in a major hurry to finish the Red Cross and put it to bed once and for all. The going at this point was all downhill, so despite what would have been better judgment, I went into an open run down from the pass and all the way to Camp Addisone Boyce, a small girl scout camp located here in the town of Tompkins Cove.
As I passed the camp, I noted that they had their own trail system, albeit a short one, that was marked with very unique trail blazes. I don’t know if these blazes were custom-created in a local workshop or purchased over the counter at a local camp store, but either way, it made for a unique sight. 🙂
Beyond the camp, I launched myself mentally into ‘homestretch mode’, and was running so fast that I lost the Red Cross trail markings not once, but twice! But in due time (and after a long, slow climb that did not present itself in sufficient fashion on my trail map), I reached the junction of the 1779 Trail once again, and made the last turn toward the car.
As so many of my runs have been, this one was deceiving in length – 1 hour and 56 mins of hard-nosed running. But also as so many of my runs have been, this one was worth every bit of the toil and sweat. And as I ran back down the road toward Maxine, I kissed the Red Cross goodbye….for now. No doubt I would be back to bitch about it another day. ;p