Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day 2 | Stage 2: Catskill Park

Sunday, July 7, 2013
Location: Elm Ridge Wild Forest, Catskill Park, Greene County, N.Y.
Elevation: ~1,750-2,000 feet
Trails: Red Trails (1, 2, 3, 5)
Surface: Dirt and rock technical singletrack
Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 6
Wildlife spotted: Chipmunks, toads, slug, minnows
Companions: Erin, Justin, Natasha

Day 2 was a mixed bag. (More on this in a second.)

After celebrating my birthday early the night before with our friends Justin and Natasha at their home in Cairo, N.Y., they joined us for this stage on the edge of Catskill Park, a 700,000-acre swath of protected public and private land across parts of four counties.

For this stage, I chose Elm Ridge Wild Forest, state land just off CR-23 between East Windham and Booksburg managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Trudging along a Red Trail in Elm Ridge WF.
This hiking area also has the trail head for the famous Escarpment Trail, but that is too rugged for our purposes. Instead, we hit the multiuse Red Trails, which are a relatively recent addition to the forest. These are basically mountain biking singletrack -- challenging to run but very fun. The trails (1-6) are a network of intersecting loops. Each intersection (they are labeled "junction") a map indicates your location so you can see where each fork leads. You can design a looped run or hike of varying length depending on where you chose to loop back to the trail head.

After signing in at the register, we all agreed on the general route and then we took off. J&N are much faster than us, so we let them go ahead. So here's why this run became a mixed bag: within a few minutes we felt the fatigue from Stage 1. We both felt a bit sluggish, and the technical nature of the trail made things even harder. After about a mile of mostly hiking, we were warmed up enough to run some, but neither of us felt strong. I'd say I felt a bit blah, even though the heat wasn't a problem because the trails are so well-shaded.

But after taking the widest, longest loop possible and even tacking on another small "inner" loop, we still only had only covered just more than 3 miles as we approached the register. We had intended to run 4 to 5 miles.

So we had a choice: Either loop back again for another 2 miles or head back to the trail head parking. By the way, this entire time we hadn't even seen Justin and Natasha because they were so speedy. (We did see a couple of mountain bikers at a distance.) Anyway, we decided 3+ miles was the day's realistic achievement, so we signed out and headed back to Route 23, where we found J+N waiting for us. They held up an extension cord and let me "break" it like a finish tape. Even though I wasn't exactly proud of my run, that wonderful gesture made this stage worth it.

P.S.: Just before emerging from the woods, I realized I had lost my sunglasses! Because of the shade, I had taken them off and tucked them into my visor. I must have lost them when I absentmindedly took off the visor to wipe my head. I briefly retraced my steps but didn't find them. This is the second pair of shades I have lost this year while trail running. Grrr.

STAGE MILES: ~3.4
CUMULATIVE MILES: ~11.3

Final notes:
  • The Red Trails in Elm Ridge are a good place for beginner or intermediate trail runners to get in a few miles of training on somewhat technical trails. But because even the longest loop isn't even 3 miles, be prepared for lots of criss-crossing and re-looping the trails for longer runs. The good thing about that is that you are never very far from your car or CR-23 in case you get tired or sick and need to get the frak out of the forest in a hurry.
  • You will probably encounter mountain bikers and other hikers or runners, but even on a holiday weekend the trail area did not seem that busy.
  • If you like the scenery of a shaded, quiet forest then this is a good place to run or hike. But don't expect any views of the mountains or valleys.
  • More seasoned runners and hikers who want a tougher challenge and scenic views can opt for the Escarpment Trail (blue), a very rugged, rocky and steep trail goes all the way to the North-South Lake camping and trail area. The trail, which summits Windham High Peak and Blackhead Mountain, also connects to several other rugged and steep trails that summit other Catskill peaks. The Escarpment Trail is the route of the famously grueling Escarpment Trail Run, an annual 30K race that humbles some of the best trail runners around.

More views of the multiuse trails.
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