Friday, June 10, 2016

Trail Running Across America Blog 1

Wow. That is all I can say so far.

So, to back up a little, a few days before I left I was feeling a lot of anxiety about this trip. I mean, single female crossing the country with just her rickety car, old garmin, and labrador. I had borrowed most of the camping supplies I needed, so I had the material things I needed...but still. Then on top of that I had to be a stubborn ass and carry my ac up 3 flights of stairs by myself and then go cut trails, which led to a series of back spasms that had me in bad shape. Like couldn't stand up straight, bad shape. But, C'est la Vie. I was going. I saw my chiro who was able to help get me in decent shape, and who loaned me a tens unit which has been a life saver!

Day 1: I had driven to Indiana Dunes State Park, There I found the state campground, grabbed a spot right across from a trail head,set up camp and laid down to go to sleep. It had been a long day of a half day at work and 8 hours of driving. Then my neighbors showed up. They sat and yelled at their kid to not wake up the campground, yet they sat and yelled at had a great time. Needless to say around 11 pm, I very "kindly" asked them to shut-up. haha

 I had ever intention of being up at 5 am to see the sunrise over the dunes. Alarm goes off, Nope ,Nuh-hu. My body needed rest. So I slept until 6:30. It was nice. I got up, didn't even bother with the coffee (a small miracle), got Waylon wired up to run and headed out. It. Was. Beautiful. They have a 3 dune challenge, where you take a trail that runs up and down 3 very large sand dunes. If you have never run up a sand dune, it's not easy!
First of all, you are talking a 38% grade, then add in running in nothing but sand. But it was fun!

Then we looped around to Lake Michigan where I let Waylon play in the lake. He has never dealt with waves before, so it was really funny when he was coming in to shore and a big wave over took him. I have never seen that look of bewilderment on his face before. It was great.

Then we packed up and started driving north. And we drove, and drove, and drove. I might have accidently missed an important turn at one point and ended up driving down back highways through farmlands that my GPS couldn't even name. It would say " Turn left in 2 miles on Road". Oy vey. However, I picked up a great radio station that had a survivor of the Holocaust talking which was neat to listen to and it was pretty country.  FINALLY we got to Hinckley MN, where a woman had kindly given me access to her land. We had a huge field with a fire pit, and we set up. Waylon loved being able to run through the field and I finally got to set up a fire and put my campfire cooking skills to work. There is some sort of creature making noises in the fields, it was calming. To bed we go. Slept like a rock.

Day 2: Get up around 7, this whole sleeping thing is awesome. Pack up and head out. First stop, Jay Cooke State Park, I stopped into the visitor center and asked a ranger to give me some advice on a 10 mile loop that had water access for Waylon. He showed me a loop to do, and we set off. The first section wasn't overly technical (actually it was down right easy), but it had some pretty views.The 2nd section was much more technical, at one point I had to lift Waylon up a rock (82 pound dog, I was pretty proud of myself).

I fell twice on this run, but not badly. Luckily the first time I fell into a mud bog, which of course everyone knows how much I loooooove mud. :-/  Waylon thoroughly enjoyed swimming and was pretty tired by time we were done. I made both of us some lunch (he gets chicken on run days) and we set off again.

Then we start driving north. I need to find a campsite. I find one north of Duluth in a small (itty bitty tiny) town called Knife River. It is privately owned and the guy who owns it, Randy, has two dogs, instantly falls in love with Waylon and discounts my stay, making it cheaper than the full state park grounds. We set up in a tucked away corner by the river and head out to a trail that Randy had told me about. We do 4 miles, just hiking, through a pretty little forested area by Knife River. I also stop by this tiny chocolate shop that has some of the best chocolate caramels I have ever had!

 When we get back I am pretty sure I am starving to death so I start dinner as I set up a campfire. Waylon passed out, not even bothering to get up as I went back and forth to the car.

There was a huge thunder and lightning storm that night. It woke me up a 5 am. I hurried out to get my trail shoes which I had left out to dry so they weren't soaked and went back to bed. I had an appointment to drop Waylon off as his dog sitter at 7:30.

Day 3: Get up, grab my gear and head south to Duluth. I drop Waylon off at his dog care house which he was happily exploring the home and playing with their dog when I left. I drive back north to Split Rock Loop and Gooseberry State Park. I get up there and find the trail head pretty easily. I gear up and head out. This trail is spectacular and very technical.

      It is rocky and rooty and there are sections that there is nothing by rocks. And mud, OMG  the mud. so much of it. But there are also a ton of waterfalls, literally every quarter mile there is a new one. I have probably 30 photos of waterfalls, they were so pretty!  This is part of a 5 mile loop and I finish up a loop I run into a photographer trying to get action shots of a bald eagle family. We start chatting about how much time he spends out there every day and then he mentions he is from Cecil, PA. Well no shit, I work there. ha. Small friggin world. We chat for a few minutes then I head back out.

I am now going towards Gooseberry State Park. At  one point in time on this foray I thought I was lost. Because the trail was not real apparent. Like, at all. It was over huge rocks and occasionally what could possibly be a trail would show up. However, it had spectacular views of Lake Superior.  I was starting to get a little concerned that I was making my own trail  when it ducked back into the woods and I saw a blue blaze. Phew Ok. I cross a logging road and notice that the trail seems to be freshly cut. About a mile in I run into people working on the trails, and one guy says to me " Didn't you see the sign that this section is closed, we are re-routing and you will have no trail in about a tenth of a mile".
Well shit, no I didn't. I thank him, turn around go down the logging road, across the highway and onto the biking trail. Which, I am glad I did as I got to go right by the Lake Superior shore and it is Gorgeous! I get back to my car and still need 3 more miles, so I head back into the trail and do a little out and back. 

On the way back to get showered and pick up Waylon, I find a little cafe' called Betty's Pies. It is in the middle of nowhere, but the parking lot is packed. The minute I show up a massive storm rolls through, thunder, lightning, torrential rain. Thank God I was done already.  Supposedly they have the best pie around. I order some lunch and some strawberry rhubarb pie (one of the few I actually like). As I wait for my food I chat with a couple of couples waiting to be seated. One "couple" (they live in different places but vacation together... mmmhmmm) is probably in their 80's and have had some grand adventures themselves. The other couple is from ND and are traveling the coast of Lake Superior since they haven't been. My food is finally done, I wish safe travels to the couples and I eat as I drive. The food is "meh". But I am excited for the strawberry rhubarb pie, it's really the only kind of pie I really like. When I get back to the camnpground I get showered and chat with Randy, who informs me that Betty's USED to be the best pie, but I need to go to Rustic because they beat Betty's in every pie contest. lol

So now I need to go pick up Waylon and get some sleep. I am meeting some local runners tomorrow to do some miles from Duluth. Happy Running!

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