November 19, 2010
Another glorious-weather Friday presented itself up for today’s run into the woods. For the second time in three weeks, I would be running again with my friend Rich D’Ambrosio, giving him the distinction of being the only one to have run twice with me so far me during this project.
As much as I was excited to do the run today, a bit of sadness was washing over me at the same time. It was getting very close to the end of the project now, and I could feel a growing apprehension about what I would do when it was all over. For sure, the sense of purpose this quest had given me would be a memory soon, and I would have to stare straight-on into the face of my (un)employment situation. “OK, OK…” I thought. “Let’s not worry about that right now. Just run, and have fun.” This would be my last “easy” run before completion day, so I really wanted to enjoy it.
Rich arrived a few minutes after I did at the parking lot of the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area. It was a bit cold, but we both wore shorts. Knowing Rich’s “28 Degree Rule” I expected nothing less from him. 😉 But the sun was out, and I knew we would warm up quickly once we got going.
And so, we began the run along the rec area’s entrance road, travelling officially on the Anthony Wayne Trail as we did. Just after crossing over the Palisades Interstate Parkway, we darted right into the woods and began a very small ascent. Rich let me know right away that his ankle was bothering him (he had injured it on our run on the Long Path last month), so I told him “No worries, man. We’re not in any rush today. We’ll take this according to your pace.” After a short time, we reached the road; in this case, Seven Lakes Drive. We found the trail on the other side, but after running 100 yards or so, I realized that this was familiar trail to me. Too familiar, in fact. And so I stopped, telling Rich that we must have missed a turn. A quick check of the map comfirmed this, and so we back-tracked across the road and to the junction of the 1779 Trail.
We made a quick left, noting the trail blazes that we had overlooked when we passed thru here a few minutes before, and then followed the trail into Long Mountain Circle. This traffic circle is a high-volume location, connecting commuters to the Palisades Parkway heading south to Rockland County and New Jersey on weekdays, and bringing tourists and hikers into the park from the south and west on weekends. This being a weekday morning, Rich and I encountered a fair amount of traffic here as we attempted to cross through to the north side of U.S. Route 6. We overshot the trail (our 2nd time going off course in a mere 15 minutes), but eventually managed to right the ship and find the markers for the 1779 Trail once again.
The first part of the next trail segment took us through a park maintenance lot, and then to a woods road that we followed the majority of the way out to the junction of the Popolopen Gorge Trail. It was a nice, gentle climb along the western side of Summer Hill, with a view through the trees of Queensboro Lake on our right. As Rich and I trotted along, we chatted about the beauty of the trail, and the leaves, and the virtues of being in the moment.
Because we were both so awash in the joy of it all, the half-mile run to the trail junction went by in a flash. After a quick creek crossing, we turned left and headed toward Turkey Hill Lake. I had a small section of the PG Trail to cover here (in out-and-back fashion), so Rich and I made our way past a small dam, and then traversed the southern shoreline of the lake. Much like my experience had been at Green Pond on the Dunning Trail, the trail here was rugged, and it rolled up and down in such a way that calling it a ‘shoreline’ would be a bastardization of the term. 😉 With Rich’s tender ankle, he proceeded deliberately, while I ran ahead, anxious to find the end of this segment of trail.
Upon reaching the junction of the Anthony Wayne Trail, I stopped briefly for a break and to allow Rich to catch up. This was one end of the Anthony Wayne here where we stood, and a little bit later in the run we would greet the other end. Standing here, I recounted for Rich the run I had done in late August through this area, and how the next section of the Popolopen Gorge Trail was an annoyingly steep one. I was truly glad that we didn’t have to run it today, as it would have felt like work, and I was having too much fun to have the word ‘work’ to enter into my thoughts. 🙂
So after our short break, and a quick chat about I-can’t-remember-what, we turned and headed back toward the 1779 Trail. We passed the dam again, no doubt the one that was used to create Turkey Hill Lake in the first place. The majority of the lakes here in Harriman State Park (23, in fact) are man-made, and thanks go to engineer and environmentalist Major William A. Welch for the creative efforts in designing and building them during its developmental period in the 1910s.
I hadn’t realized quite how much we had descended and climbed in going out to the lake, and we were both huffing and puffing a little bit. But we were headed back now, so it helped that at least the ground was familiar. We quickly reached the 1779 trail junction, and continued through it (now on the combined Popolopen Gorge-1779 Trail) on our way toward Queensboro Lake. The trail here was a bit muddy in places, but was quite flat, so with the going being easy as it was, Rich and I chatted some more about the philosophies of life, the Universe and everything.
Our next turn was at the junction of the Timp-Torne Trail. I had but a very small section of this trail left to complete, and the next half mile would allow me to cross it off of my list, always a cause for celebration! But before we made the right-hand turn onto the Timp-Torne, we stopped and looked at another of the many historical signs devoted to the 1777 and 1779 Trails. It’s always interesting to read the story of these two trails, and especially in knowing that the Continental Army’s march down the 1779 Trail – led by General Anthony Wayne – to capture the British at Stony Point was perhaps the major turning point in the Revolutionary War. 🙂
We followed the Timp-Torne Trail (now combined with the 1777W Trail) south, over the Palisades Parkway and then up a small climb at the north end of the West Mountain ridge. West Mountain dominates the landscape in this area of the park, creating a hard dividing line between Bear Mountain State Park and all the rest. There were a few technical spots here, but being that we were on the lower reaches of the mountain, there was nothing too steep, or of what I like to call the “white knuckle” variety.
One or two conversation topics later, we reached the Fawn Trail junction, turned right, and pursued the Fawn four or five hundred yards to its end. The last 100 yards or so was downhill, and although the trail was wide and fairly smooth, I lost my concentration for just long enough to catch my toe on a rock, and I went into a full frontal tumble roll! When I looked up, Rich was right behind me, with arm extended to help me and a gentle smile on his face. He knew that I wasn’t hurt badly. 😉
After I got back on my feet, we completed the brief descent and reconnected with the Anthony Wayne Trail again. We were only about 200 yards from the car now and could see the parking lot from where we were standing, but having one last bit of unfinished business on the Anthony Wayne (how many times can I write those two words in one blog entry? LOL!), we turned right and knocked out a half mile out-and-back segment of this trail. I managed not to fall again – although it was on my mind – and we picked up the pace considerably as we neared the parking lot of the Anthony Wayne (there, I said it again!) Recreation Area.
It always feels fulfilling to finish a run, and to be able to finish strong like we did today is something I am always grateful for. But with the end of each run there’s frequently a melancholy that accompanies it, a melancholy that is no doubt rooted in the desire to run more.
Today I would not run more, but some day I know that I may not stop at my pre-determined finish line. I may simply keep running, although how far I really don’t know. But what I do know is that as long as there is a joyous path to follow, the run will be nothing short of beautiful. 🙂