Running with the Hayneses

Overnight on the Sunapee-Monadnock Greenway

Peter and I have fallen in love with overnight running trips since we got our ultralight backpacking gear, and this past weekend we did our first 2-day run with significant mileage on both days (30 miles total). The trip was a really good test of our gear and helped us sort out what we like/don’t like and what to do differently in the future.

We started out on Friday afternoon with an 8-mile leg from the base of Sunapee Mountain to the shelter at the Moose Lookout. We parked our car at the base lodge at 5 p.m. and started up the mountain with our headlamps. Unfortunately for us, daylight savings time doesn’t save any of the time that actually matters to working people. :(

The 2.5 mile climb up Sunapee is very easy, but being loaded down more than usual, we hiked probably 3/4 of it. As we neared the top, we could hear the wind whipping! We didn’t stop on the exposed summit, but quickly headed down the access road to pick up the trail and head into the shelter of the woods again. From there we had a pleasant run up to the Solitude Lookout, down to the shores of Lake Solitude and then back up to traverse the length of the Sunapee ridgeline. This is a beautiful section to run in the daylight with lots of scenic vistas, but unfortunately it was all pitch dark for us this time. We enjoyed our run for the most part–along the ridgeline there are long exposed sections of smooth rock slabs and then wooded, non-technical terrain, so it was mostly easy and fun running. We did encounter one extended section that was very leafy with many hidden hazards, and I fell in a hole once, slid down a rock face another time and then soaked both my shoes in a mudpit! That was not fun.

Thankfully we made it to our shelter in one piece after about 2.5 hours. We cooked and ate a couple of delicious Mountain House freeze-dried dinners while trying not to get hypothermia! We were in a somewhat sheltered area, but it was a very windy night, and the temperature was dropping. As soon as we were done eating, we dove into our sleeping bags to stay warm! We’ve discovered that the only downfall to winter backpacking is that it’s too cold to do anything other than run or huddle in your bag.

We spent the night listening to the wind howl, and in the morning we woke up to snow!


It was hard to get out of our warm bags, and we weren’t looking forward to standing around in the cold for breakfast, so we “slept in” until about 7:30!


We enjoyed our hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee!


The Steve Galpin shelter at Moose Lookout

We finally got going a little after 8, and set out for our long run–22 miles to Pitcher Mountain. There were a lot of pretty spots along the way:






As you can see, the scenery is gorgeous, even in November, and the trails are beautifully smooth and well-maintained. 

We were joined by Jaime mid-day (she parked at Pitcher Mtn. and ran the route backwards to meet us), and then the three of us stopped for lunch in the small town of Washington. The trail runs right through the center of town and passes by a general store that serves hot breakfast and lunch items made to order. It’s definitely worth the stop!

This marked our halfway point for the day, and we think the second half is a little easier, but it’s hard to say. The northern section from Sunapee to Washington has the biggest climbs (Sunapee Mountain – 2,743′ and Lovewell Mountain – 2,473′), while the southern section from Washington to Pitcher Mtn. has four smaller summits (Oak Hill – 1,950′, Jackson Hill – 2.061′, Hubbard Hill – 1,896′ and Pitcher Mountain – 2,153′). There’s nothing too substantial, but it’s just enough to make you work. :)


Climbing Oak Hill


View from Oak Hill


View from Jackson Hill


The fire tower on Pitcher Mtn.


Looking back towards where we started: the long, low ridge in the middle is Sunapee


Looking ahead to where the trail ends on Mt. Monadnock

The fire tower is not manned every day, but because the fire danger was high (strong winds), there was a fire warden in the tower, and he invited us up and pointed out the various landmarks for us. I think he would have gladly talked all afternoon, but we were anxious to finish our run and head home. From the tower it’s only about half a mile down to the parking lot, and before we knew it we were done!

* * * * * *

The only time prior to this that we’ve run this trail was 3 years ago, and at that time we had no experience with mountain running. I remember thinking that the terrain was super technical with lots of LONG, tiring climbs. I remember being thoroughly exhausted and beat up at the end. And I wrote a ridiculously dramatic blog post about it afterwards. :) It’s funny how now, with lots of experience running in much more difficult settings, this trail now seems like a piece of cake. I can’t tell you how many times we said, “I remember this being so much harder!!” It just goes to show that the more you run the easier it becomes!

The Long Trail (Rt 4 to Brandon Gap)

Despite living relatively close to the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the country, Peter and I had never even set foot on Vermont’s Long Trail until we used it to climb Mansfield, Abraham and Ellen on my birthday weekend. This barely scratched the surface of what the Long Trail has to offer, so when friends of ours from Massachusetts asked if we wanted to meet up with them for a section hike, we jumped at the chance. We met Russ and Niki at a race a couple of years ago and stayed in touch but have never done anything together, so we were excited to get to know them better and explore a new trail at the same time!

We met up at the Rt. 4 trailhead just west of Killington, left one car there and drove north to Brandon Gap on Rt. 73. The 20-mile section that we chose to do meanders through gaps and along the flanks of several Green Mountain summits, but never quite gains the ridgeline. As a bonus, this section is also relatively free of rocks and roots, so the easy footing and low elevation gain makes this section very runable. At least, it would have been if it weren’t for THE LEAVES!!!


I don’t think I have ever run for such an extended time in leaves this deep! In most places they were piled up above my ankles, completely covering the rocks, roots and mud pits that could have been easily avoided if only we could see them! Instead of running, we found ourselves resorting to a sliding shuffle, which did nothing to prevent stubbed toes, but did somewhat protect against falling in a hole or twisting an ankle. The noise we made scuffing through the dry leaves was so loud that we had to yell at each other to carry on a conversation!

We also had a little difficulty following the trail at a couple of points where the leaves were the deepest and had to backtrack two or three times to where we last saw a blaze. Thankfully the trail is well-marked!


 Is there a trail there????

For the most part our pace was pretty slow since we were trying not to maim ourselves, but we were occasionally treated to leaf-free areas where we could open up our strides a bit.



We didn’t have really any open views along this section, but since the leaves were all on the trail instead of the trees, we could look across the valleys through the bare branches. The Chitten Reservoir was a prominent fixture for most of our run as we ran towards it and then around it.


At one point Niki was quite a ways behind us, and we joked that we could look back across the reservoir and pick her out on the other side. :)


One thing I like about the Long Trail from what we’ve seen is that it’s really well-maintained and has a lot of bridges, ladders, steps and other fun features.


Large rocks make an easy stream crossing

Another cool thing is that there are shelters WITH toilets at regular intervals, and this little bit of “luxury” was much appreciated! :)


Our favorite part of the trail was the very end as we descended off the side of the ridge through a beautiful open forest on a mostly smooth and clear trail.


By the time we finished we had sore ankles and beat-up feet, but we loved our first long run on the Long Trail! Next we want to do an end-to-end thru-hike, but that will have to wait until next summer. :)

Thanks to Niki and Russ for getting us out there and spending the day with us! The only thing better than a new trail is new friends with which to share the trail. :)

Vermont’s Five 4,000 Footers in One Day

Last year on my birthday I did something that I had been wanting to do for a long time–I ran my age in miles. I thought I might make a tradition of that and try to do it every year, but this year it just wasn’t really resonating with me. I definitely wanted to get out in the woods and have a great adventure, but I didn’t really care so much about running a certain number of miles. What I did care about was where I ran those miles. It had to be mountains, preferably BIG mountains. :)

I didn’t have any ideas of where exactly I wanted to go though, so I looked around online for inspiration and stumbled across a blog post someone had written about summiting all five of Vermont’s 4,000 footers in two days. Before this I hadn’t even particularly realized that Vermont had any 4,000 footers, and I certainly hadn’t thought about climbing them. I read the blog and was hooked–I had found my adventure! I would make one slight change though and aim to do them all in one day instead of two. Because CHALLENGE! :)

The difficult part of doing all five in one day is not the mileage, though that is substantial at 29 miles, but the driving time. These mountains are not located within running distance of each other and most of them required an hour of driving between trailheads. As it is we have very limited daylight hours at the end of October, and these long drives would eat up a big chunk of our day.

To make the best use of our time, we decided to drive to our starting location on Friday afternoon and spend the night in the lodge on Mt. Mansfield so that we could get an early start the next morning.


Fastpacks for our evening hike up to the shelter and hydration packs for running the next day.

We made the 3 hour drive north to the base of Mt. Mansfield (4,393′) after we got out of work on Friday and, after some difficulty finding the trailhead in the dark, we set off at 7:30 p.m. on the Long Trail South. From there it was just over 2 miles to the Taft Lodge, where we spent the night. In the morning we would do the remaining 2.6 up to the summit and then back down to our car.


 Our new sleeping bags and mats–we each carried less than two lbs. total for our sleeping gear!

We recently bought some ultralight backpacking gear because we want to get into doing self-supported multi-day trips, and this was our first chance to really test out that gear. Everything worked great (reviews to come!), and we managed to stay warm enough even though the temperature was in the teens on Mt. Mansfield that night!

DSC01464 We cooked our own dinner and breakfast using our new stove and cooking set.

Unfortunately, we had to share the lodge with one other couple, and they both snored all. night. long. Next time, bring earplugs!! In the morning we got up at 5:30 so that we could be on the Mansfield summit in time to watch the sun rise.


Our view from the lodge when we left


On the summit–our timing was perfect!DSC01486

We stayed on the summit for awhile, taking picture and enjoying the sunrise, and then we remembered that we had four more mountains to climb that day, so we kicked ourselves into high gear.


This is my favorite picture, taken on our way back down.

The top of Mt. Mansfield has some pretty rugged terrain, and we had to do some rock climbing over icy ledges near the summit.


In fact, that whole trail basically thought it was a stream, and the water had frozen during the night, so we had to be very careful all the way down.


Early morning sun streaming through the trees on the way down


We stopped at the lodge to get a pic in the daylight. It was a great place to spend the night!


View from the porch


Modeling my new fastpack! I was able to run even while carrying all my overnight gear!

We got back to our car at the base of the mountain around 8:00 a.m., and from there we drove for a little over an hour to get to Camel’s Hump (4,081′). Our trail of choice here was the Burrows Trail (4.8 miles), and we started up it at about 9:15. There were a ton of other hikers at the trailhead getting ready to go, and it turned out to be a very busy day on Camel’s Hump! DSC01502

This trail was much easier and less treacherous than the one on Mansfield, and we pushed hard, running almost all the way to the top. In our haste, Peter tripped and smashed his knee on a rock. :( We had to walk for a bit then, but he was fine after that.


Loved this open ridge section!

DSC01508The summit was cold and windy, but we had a GREAT view!


We only stayed on this summit for a few minutes, and then it was full speed ahead! After a tiny bit of boulder scrambling to get down from the summit dome, we were able to run the entire way down.


Nearing the base of the mountain, looking back at the Hump :)

We finished here at about 11:00 and had another hour-long drive to Lincoln Gap where we would snag two for the price of one. Mt. Abraham (4,006′) & Mt. Ellen (4,083′) are on the same ridgeline, so we could get to them both by taking the Long Trail North from Lincoln Gap. It would be 12.6 miles total, so a longer distance than our other peaks so far, but we would save some elevation gain (3,500 ft. for both combined compared to 2,300-2,800 ft. each for the other three).

When we got to the road up to Lincoln Gap, there was a barrier across half the road with a sign that said ROAD CLOSED. We took this to mean PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK, and we proceeded. :) When we got to the top we found that lots of other people had done the same because the parking lot was full!

The trailhead at Lincoln Gap is at 2,410′, so we didn’t have to do a ton of climbing to get the Mt. Abe summit (4,006′) from here. Peter said he kind of felt like we were cheating, but I told him that you can’t cheat when you’re the one making up the rules! :)


The 2.6 mile stretch to the top of Mt. Abraham was a gradual ascent with relatively easy footing.


The last few tenths of a mile were a vertical scramble. We found this to be typical of these peaks that are just barely above the treeline.


On Mt. Abraham


We would continue along that ridgeline behind us to get to Mt. Ellen.


Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks behind us

The trail to Ellen was the easiest running we’d had all day–gentle, rolling ups and downs as we ran along the ridgeline and the summits of several smaller peaks.


Typical terrain on the way to Mt. Ellen


On the observation deck on Mt. Lincoln looking back at Abraham.


Lincoln JUST missed out on being a 4,000 footer


Fun cliff-side running


An unheard of patch of completely smooth trail!


Beautiful mossy woods


Unfortunately, Ellen’s summit is a huge anticlimax as there is no view and no sign, just this bedraggled pile of rocks to mark the spot. 

We continued just past the summit to the clearing at the top of the ski area where we had a view and were able to confirm that we had indeed hit the summit. :)


From there we turned around and headed back. It had taken us a little under 2 hours to get to Ellen, and we hoped to make it back in the same amount of time.


Found this old sign on the way back

We got back to Lincoln Gap shortly before 4:00, and at this point we were starting to feel the effects of the day. We were tired, our knees were hurting, and we were STARVING!! We spent the next hour, as we drove to Killington, eating every speck of food that we had in the car! :)


Driving down from Lincoln Gap

Our goal had been to get to our last peak, Killington (4,235′) by 5:00 so that we’d hopefully have time to get to the summit by sunset, and we had pushed ourselves just about as fast as we could go all day long in order to make that goal. We arrived at the Bucklin trailhead right at 5:00, and set off on final leg of 7.2 miles.

Our legs were pretty stiff when we got out of the car, but we loosened up quickly. The first couple of miles on the Bucklin Trail follow alongside a stream, and the trail is mostly flat and smooth. The easy terrain allowed us to make really good time even though we were tired and sore.



After two miles, the trail gets down to business, and we started climbing more steeply. It was getting dark around this point, and we had to use our headlamps for the last little bit. As we approached the summit, we could hear the wind howling above us. Again, the last couple of tenths were a vertical scramble, and then we popped out above the treeline on the summit and into the full force of the wind!


We got there just in time to get the very last glimpse of the sunset, and after a quick picture we immediately headed back for the shelter of the trees.

As we were running down the trail again, Peter was surprised by an owl as it took off from it’s perch and flew over his head. He yelled ahead to me, “Watch out!”, and I turned around just in time to see the owl flying right at me! And then, just like that it disappeared into the woods ahead of us without a sound.


We booked it all the way down and made it to our car at 7:20, just barely squeaking in under our goal of 24 hours from start to finish (counting our overnight stay on Mt. Mansfield). My watch died during the day, but according to our maps, the mileage total is 29.2 miles, and the total elevation gain is 11,021 ft. Our time from start to finish breaks down to approximately 11 hours of running, 3.5 hours of driving and 9.5 hours in a shelter with random snoring strangers (which equates to zero hours of uninterrupted sleep). :) What I’m trying to indicate with these statistics (and I realize the message may not be coming through :) ) is that this was the absolute BEST birthday adventure ever!! Thank you to my hubb for celebrating with me in style!

White Mtns Weekend, Day 2: Wildcat Ridge and Carter Dome

For our second day in the Whites, we had originally planned to do the Wildcat-Carter-Moriah traverse, a 20-mile route over 6 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers. This would have been an ambitious undertaking even in good weather, and after being reduced to a snail’s pace in dangerous weather conditions the day before, we weren’t sure we should even attempt to do anything on Sunday. We spent our second night at the campground, after mopping up the inside of our very non-waterproof tent (grrr!), and the next day dawned frosty and cold, but clear and calm. After some debate, we decided to set off on a shorter out-and-back version of our traverse without any expectations and just play it by ear once we got out there. Peter had to return home due to prior commitments, so Jaime and I packed up our campsite and headed over to Wildcat on our own.

At the trailhead we asked another hiker for advice about the best route to hike in the snow, and he said he would avoid the Wildcat Ridge Trail, which has steep, exposed cliffs and ledges that could be icy, and instead hike up one of the ski trails and pick up the Ridge Trail at the top of the lift line. We gratefully set off for the ski area to start our run.


We had a great view of Mount Washington as we hiked up the ski trail!

The snow guns were going full blast all around the summit, but the accumulated snow was hard enough that we didn’t post-hole. At the top of the lift we easily found the ridgeline trail and continued on our way.

Up on the top of the ridge there was about an inch of snow on the ground, but it was a dry snow that gave us traction on the rocks, and we didn’t have any trouble with our footing like we did the day before.


Jaime and I really enjoyed the run along the ridge. It was easy going with fun bog bridges, little ups and downs, and beautiful scenery. The weather was good on the ridge, t00–cold, but not windy, and we were able to stay comfortably warm.



Most of the ridge was very rocky like this, but they were step-like rocks that were mostly runable.


View from the lookout on Wildcat A of Carter Dome with Carter Lake at it’s base.


Jaime and I on Wildcat A


View of the valley from Wildcat A

It was almost 4 miles to the top of Wildcat A, and we hadn’t really expected to even go that far, but we were having such a good time, and the weather and trail conditions were so good that we decided to continue on to the next peak, Carter Dome. We had a steep 1-mile descent to the shores of Carter Lake, and then another steep mile-long climb up to the summit.


Carter Lake, looking up at Wildcat


Climbing Carter Dome

When we got to the top of Carter Dome we were disappointed to find that there isn’t a view from the summit, and I was tempted to push on to the next peak. We were starting to get low on food and water though since we hadn’t really planned to stay out that long, so we did the sensible thing and turned around to head back.


View of the Wildcat ridge from a lookout on Carter Dome

As we were making our way back along the ridgeline, the weather started to shift and the wind picked up. We were sheltered for the most part, but we were glad that we had turned back when we did.

Back on the slopes of the ski area, we made a quick descent into the valley again, enjoying spectacular views the entire way.



We finished our second day in the Whites with 12.5 miles and were glad that we hadn’t given up just because the first day didn’t go according to plan. We learned that you have to be cautious, flexible and always have back-up plans when you run in the White Mountains, especially during the winter. And it is definitely winter in the Whites!

White Mtns Weekend, Day 1: Old Speck and Mahoosuc Notch

Early October is my favorite time to be in the White Mountains because the combination of fall foliage and snowy mountain peaks makes for some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, this time of year also means that it can be a warm, sunny fall day one moment and a cold, snowy, icy, windy  winter day the next. The weather is always changeable and unpredictable in the Whites, but this time of year it can be dangerously so if you are not prepared.

We set out for the Whites on the third weekend of October this year with plans to stay for 2 nights and 2 days, getting in a couple of big traverses. For the first day I had set my sights on the Mahoosuc Traverse, 31 miles on the Mahoosuc Trail from Grafton State Park in Maine to Gorham, New Hampshire. The weather report for the weekend was less than ideal, but we decided that at this point in the season it wasn’t going to get any better if we waited, so we decided to give it a shot.

We camped at Moose Brook State Park in Gorham, NH on Friday night and set out early Saturday morning to drop our second car at the end of the trail and then headed to our start in Maine. It was raining when we got up that morning, but it had tapered off to a faint drizzle by the time we got to our starting point.


View from the trailhead on a damp and foggy morning

The temperature was fairly mild–in the high 30’s–and we had plenty of extra layers with us, so we weren’t worried about being cold. We set off up the Old Speck Trail, enjoying the brightness of the foliage on such a gray day.



This trail is a 3.8 mile climb to the top of Old Speck (4,170 feet), and as we ascended the air got colder and the light rain turned to sleet and then snow. We also quickly discovered that the rocks on this trail are mostly smooth, very unlike the rough granite we are used to seeing in the Whites, and also very slippery when wet!





To get to the summit of Old Speck and the observation tower, we had to go a little out of our way, which we didn’t realize at the time. Long story short, we went to the summit, continued past it on the wrong trail, then realized we had to re-trace our steps about half a mile back to the junction with the Mahoosuc Trail. This was frustrating because we were already moving more slowly than we expected due to the slippery conditions, and we couldn’t really afford any mishaps.


On top of Old Speck and not a speck of a view!

Once we got going in the right direction again, we had a treacherous descent down the exposed ridge of the Mahoosuc Arm to Old Speck Pond. The wind was really whipping here and the rocks were glazed with ice. It wasn’t a very long stretch, but it was exhilarating!


We made it down to the pond, where the air was warmer and the terrain less treacherous, without incident.


After the pond we enjoyed a nice section of easier running over bog bridges and in and out of the stunted pines and scrub brush just below treeline.



Then we started our descent into Mahoosuc Notch. This notch is famous for being the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail, and I would certainly say that it lived up to its reputation! As we got closer to the notch, we gradually transformed from trail runners to hikers to rock climbers to obstacle course racers. :)


The descent into the notch.


The notch itself–yes, that jumbled pile of rocks is the trail.

When we finally got to the notch itself we were stopped in our tracks. Suddenly, in addition to carefully lowering ourselves down boulders, we also found ourselves having to climb up and over them, squeeze in between them, and even crawl under them! All this on rocks slick with moss and rain!


That “x” marks the path through this particular jumble.

We started working our way through and after about 10 minutes we stopped to consult our map. We’d only gone 8 miles in the 4 hours we’d been out there, and it was becoming very clear to us that we were not going to have enough time to complete the entire traverse in one day under these conditions. We looked at our options and decided we could either turn back and return the same way, or continue through the notch and then loop back up the other side of Old Speck. We didn’t like the idea of having to go back through everything we’d just done, so we decided for the longer, but hopefully easier loop option.

So we continued to struggle through the notch.


Half an hour passed and we were still in the obstacle course. We all wished we had turned around when we had our chance! Now there was no going back–the notch was far too difficult and too dangerous to do twice!

By the time we finally made it safely out the other side, I had calculated that it was actually 1.3 miles, and it took us almost an hour to get through it. We will NOT be attempting this route again in wet weather!

From there we headed away from the notch on the Notch Trail which would link us up with the Old Speck Pond Trail and return us to the top of the mountain. At this point the weather was starting to turn nasty, and we were glad we had pulled the plug on our original plan. A cold front was blowing in, and the temperature dropped like a rock. It started snowing at the base of the mountain, and as we made our way up the back side of Old Speck the wind blew harder and harder.


We put on all our layers and climbed as quickly as we could to keep ourselves warm. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my camera warm enough, and the cold drained the battery. By the time we got to the top of the mountain again, the skies had cleared and we had what was possibly the best view I’ve ever seen in my life, but my camera wouldn’t even turn on. I’ll never forgive it.

We had another treacherous trip across the exposed ridge, this time clearly seeing the drop off right next to the trail that we had been blissfully ignorant of that morning. I’m not a danger-seeker or anything, but standing on top of that mountain, looking at that view, in the FREEZING cold with the wind trying to blow us off the cliff was the best part of the entire day. I hope I never forget it!

From there we just had the long, 3.5 mile descent to go and we’d be back to the warmth and safety of our car. My hands and feet were wet and cold so I ran this descent as fast as I could to keep the circulation going. Amazingly I only fell once on the slippery rocks!

In all we ended up with 22 miles under our belts and a new appreciation for winter in the Whites! We will certainly be back to conquer this traverse next summer on a DRY day! :)

Cardigan Mountain State Park Loop

A couple weeks ago I was on the hunt for new trails, as I so often am, and I stumbled across Cardigan Mountain State Park. Peter and I hiked Cardigan Mountain about 12 years ago when we were dating, but we haven’t been back since. I couldn’t find any good maps online, but I gathered enough information to estimate that we could easily run 15-20 miles on the trail network there, so I ordered a map.

When the map came, I planned as big loop as I could, up and over as many peaks as I could. I was pleased when the result netted a total of 7 peaks and 15 miles. Just long enough to make for a substantial run and just do-able enough for my healing knee injury.

We parked at the West Ridge Trailhead and started out by taking the 1.5 mile West Ridge Trail to the summit of Cardigan (3,155′). It’s an easy climb–not too steep or technical–and if you’re accustomed to running in the mountains, the whole trail is definitely runable.


After about a mile, we popped out above the treeline, and from there to the top, the trail heads straight up Cardigan’s giant granite dome.


Limited views on this hazy day


Looking up at the fire tower on the summit


We happened to run into a group of our friends on the summit (totally unplanned!), so we lingered for awhile to chat with them and take some pictures.


Peter, me and Jaime


After 10 minutes or so we headed off down the opposite side of the mountain on the Mowglis Trail. It was hard to find the trail at first because the entire summit is bald, and the only trail markers are white blazes painted on the granite. From there we did some really nice ridge running along the rock slabs, in and out of the trees, all the way to our next peak, Firescrew (3,040′).


First hints of fall colorsDSC01352

It was all downhill to Firescrew, and I didn’t actually realize when we hit the summit because a large group was having a picnic there, and we had to detour around them. We continued on the Mowglis Trail towards Mowglis Mountain (2,370′), still running downhill and then back into the trees to stay, for awhile. The forest here was beautifully mossy and lush!


We took a short side trail out to the lookout from Hanging Rock for a look at the ridge ahead of us.

DSC01355After this it was a short distance to the junction with the Elwell Trail. A little tip: even if you are aiming for the Mowglis summit, you do not want to continue on the Mowglis Trail at this point because for some unfathomable reason the Mowglis Trail does not actually go to Mowglis Mountain, only the Elwell Trail does. Yes, we went the wrong way. :) Thankfully we only went about half a mile out of our way before we realized our mistake.

We backtracked and headed up the Elwell Trail, which does a fair amount of sustained, but not steep, climbing all the way to the Mowglis summit.


From a lookout near the top of Mowglis, looking back at the Firescrew ridge and Hanging Rock


There isn’t a view from the summit itself, but this plaque mountain on a large boulder marks the spot. From there we continued on the Elwell Trail towards Oregon Mountain (2,239′).

I had read reports prior to our trip that the Elwell Trail is unmaintained, and we were concerned that as we got further out it would be overgrown and difficult to follow, but this was not the case. It was clearly a trail that sees very little use, but it was well marked, there were very few blowdowns, and the trail was easily distinguishable.


I absolutely loved this section of the Elwell Trail. The ground was soft and springy, the trail was mostly free of rocks and roots, and the terrain was rolling and easy. We saw moose tracks and scat everywhere (some very fresh!), and it was clear that this trail is used by the local wildlife much more frequently than by hikers.


Moose poop


We also found this chunk of hair stuck on the end of this stick that jabbed me in the shoulder. Apparently the moose impaled itself on it just like I did! :)

I ran that whole section with my camera in my hand hoping that we would see Mr. or Mrs. Moose in person, but we didn’t. :/ It was mostly a ridge run to Oregon with no significant climbing, and we had a limited view from the summit.


From there we had a long descent down the Elwell Trail to where it meets up with Old Dicey Rd. There was an old abandoned truck there that was pretty neat.


Then we got onto the Back 80 Loop to head back towards Cardigan. We crossed a pretty stream where Jaime stopped to refill her hydration pack. DSC01369

We turned off onto the Back 80 Trail (different from the Back 80 LOOP), which took us down to the AMC Cardigan Lodge. Around here we started seeing lots of hikers again, and the trails were well maintained.

After running downhill for quite a ways, it was time to start our final, long ascent. We took the Woodland Trail, Clark Trail and Vistamont Trail to the summit of Orange Mountain (2,684′). This route went straight up the mountain, and it was slow-going on tired legs. DSC01372

From the top we had a good view of the Cardigan summit.


We took the Skyland Trail to Rimrock (2800′), which involved a quick descent and then another fairly significant climb.



Rimrock Summit

It was my original intent at this point to continue on to Cardigan’s South Peak (2,864′), but we were short on time, so we skipped the final summit and headed down South Ridge Trail to West Ridge Trail and back to the trailhead. It took us a little over 5 hours including all our stops, and we ended up with about 16 miles, 6 summits and sore feet. :) It was not quite as spectacular and thrilling as hiking and running in the Whites, but we thoroughly enjoyed the trails and can’t wait to go back and explore further afield. We learned that the Elwell Trail continues all the way to Newfound Lake (approximately 16 miles one way), so I have my sights set on an out-and-back as soon as I feel up to a 30+ mile day. :)

TARC Fall Classic DNF

I wasn’t really expecting to come out of the TransRockies Run unscathed, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I didn’t. And I knew when I set out to run the TARC Fall Classic 50-miler just 4 weeks later that I had very little chance of finishing, so it wasn’t a big deal when (spoiler alert) I didn’t. If I’d had any good sense, I wouldn’t have signed up for any fall races to begin with, but obviously…I didn’t. :)

* * * * *

TransRockies left me with tendonitis in my knee (medial hamstring tendon, for those who care to know :) ), so I took it easy during the 4 weeks between races, but I knew that it takes longer than that for a tendon injury to fully heal. My recovery went smoothly, and I went into the TARC race feeling great, but my knee was untested at long distances, and therefore, a huge wild card.

Because I didn’t want to set back my recovery, my race strategy was essentially to run as long as my knee allowed and drop out the second I felt any hint of pain.

The 50M and 50K races started at 6:00 a.m., just as it was starting to get light. I wore my headlamp, but only used it for the first mile or so and definitely could have gotten away without it.


 It was a super foggy morning, and for the first few hours everything was enshrouded in mist.

As we got underway, I felt good and ran comfortably and conservatively at about 5.5 mph. The trails were mostly flat single-track through fields and forests. The terrain was only slightly technical, so for the most part the entire 10-mile loop consisted of easy running, and I didn’t feel the need to walk at during the first lap. There were a bunch of other people going my pace, and it was easy to just trot along single-file and enjoy the companionship. The course is sort of ridiculously confusing (though well-marked!), so I was glad to have people to follow, too.


Towards the end of my first 10-mile lap my feet were starting to hurt. I had worn a pair of older shoes that leave a little to be desired in the cushioning department, but I figured I’d see if I could get one more race out of them. It was not to be. I stopped at the checkpoint and got my new pair of shoes out of my drop bag–instant relief!


Starting my second lap–still socked in!

For a couple of miles all was well, and then both my achilles started hurting. I stopped at the aid station about 4 miles into the loop and asked if they had a pair of scissors. “I need to do a shoe modification,” I explained. They handed over the scissors, and I sat down and hacked off the stiff, protruding tab on the heels of my Hokas. The volunteers all stared at me, and I felt the need to rationalize my drastic actions: “I’ve done this before. It works wonders.” :)

I continued on feeling much better, but at this point I was starting to think seriously about dropping out of the race once I completed my second lap. Then, Jaime caught up to me around mile 18, and the last couple miles flew by as we talked. As we came within sight of the start/finish, I suddenly  realized that I needed to decide whether or not to go back out for another lap and made a quick assessment of how I was feeling. My knee wasn’t bothering me yet, but I did have lower back pain, which is what triggered the problem in my knee originally. That made me nervous, so I told Jaime that I was going to stretch and rest for a bit to see if it would ease up.

After about 10 minutes or so I did feel better enough to attempt one more lap, so I headed out tentatively to see what would happen. A couple of miles in it became apparent that my body was just not ready for this kind of mileage. Now my hip flexors were hurting, and I knew that having multiple problem areas was a clear sign that it was not in my best interest to continue. I stopped at the aid station and told them I was dropping out. I still needed to get myself back to the finish though, so I hung out waiting for Jaime to come back through the station on her return trip and then ran the last 2-ish miles of the lap with her (essentially I cut out a 4-mile segment from the 10-mile course).


Finishing my third lap with Jaime

The last couple of miles went fine, but I definitely wasn’t tempted to go back out for any more. I ended the day with 26 miles, and no new or worsened injuries, so I considered that a victory. :) In the future this would definitely be a great race for me to aim for a 50K PR given the easy terrain, and I hope to be back next year to give it a shot!