Friday, June 1, 2012

A Run in the Woods

The trail up the mountain.
Last week, I lay in bed, or rather tossed and turned in bed. I tried to quiet my head and convince myself that I didn’t really have to get up and go to the bathroom again, but to no avail. I’d made the mistake of watching a documentary called “The Real Maine” just before committing (or trying) to sleep for the night. The 41 minute movie chronicles the summer of four collegiate and post-collegiate runners who decide to move up to a cabin in Maine for the summer and live and train Quentin Cassidy-style in a small cottage in the mountains.

I. Could. Not. Sleep. I wanted to chuck it all, call up some running buddies and steal away in the night to go train for the summer. And with Marine Corps base building then just a little more than a week away, it’s all I could think about.

I then compounded this fantasy over Memorial Day weekend when Mrs. Onthebusrunning and I headed up to the New Hampshire ski-town of Waterville Valley. This charming hamlet sits at the basin of a string of rolling, green mountains. When we arrived, a river of fog flowed up and over each of the peaks, increasing the hobbit, "shire" feeling of New Hampshire’s name.

But the next morning, not a cloud lingered in the sky. I laced up and met my cousin-in-law at the bike rental shop and we set off to go explore: me, turning my head from side-to-side to take in the scenery, and he pedaling along beside me.

The T Crossing
After an initial mile of road running, we spotted the “WVAIA Hiking Trails” sign, hooked a right and set off into the woods. The beauty of being in a ski town, I quickly found out, is that several of the trails double as snow shoe or cross country skiing trails in the winter, so they are well-groomed throughout the year, i.e. some peace of mind in the ankle sprain department.

A stream burbled over rocks to our right, clear enough to want to drink out of and potentially cold enough to wade into for an ice bath. The path rarely ran flat and we climbed and descended sharply.

We made it roughly 2K before coming to a T and a map laying out the trail network around us complete with distances and checkpoints along the way.  We devised a plan and a meet up point then went our separate ways.

I began a steady two mile climb up the mountain dodging bikers screaming down in the opposite direction. Though the route up was relentless, I kept a smile on my face the whole time, relishing the packed dirt trails and the charming river crossings.

The view from the road
When I reached the top, I ducked under the “trail closed” sign on the Cascade Trail and picked my way over the “intermediate” hiking trail that sent me splashing through puddles, skidding through mud, and rock hopping across trickling creeks.

I checked my progress at each sign post and emerged faster than I would have liked onto a paved road that twisted and turned back down the mountain and offered spectacular views of the White Mountains off in the distance.

We met up again at the bottom of the chair lift, each of us soaked and exhausted but wearing grins. We hit the main road and looped back around to our respective hotel rooms. I walked through the door fresh off the glimpse of what “The Real Maine” was like.

“How’d it go?” my wife asked.
“I could move here.” I said. 

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