Sometimes, I have to remind myself why I love trail running, this weekend was not one of those occasions as I got to experience the joy and fun of trail running. I made wrong turns, enjoyed hills that were too steep to run and hills that scared me to run down, ran on rocks and roots, and up and down stairs, took in scenic views, slipped and slid, got a few strange looks, even had someone call me superman, I just had a blast.
First, I need to back up a bit. My family decided to return to Whitewater State Park in south eastern Minnesota. The weather was perfect, mid 70's during the day and lower 50's overnight and no rain whatsoever. We had stayed there back in 2001 on the exact same campsite (#75) and it was at Whitewater that my eyes were open to what trail running was all about. Before that I had run in Lebanon Hills and Nerstrand, both are very runnable with a mixture of service roads and single track with a couple of hills thrown in. But Whitewater had hills that hurt to run, be it up or down and it had some turns that made me a bit nervous as a misstep could have meant a nasty fall. It was like I was moving up to the real deal.
Whitewater state park is named for the river (more of a creek) that runs through the park, it looks fairly tame and I gather it has some nice trout fishing based on all of the folks I saw fishing it.
Although, I viewed it back in 2001 as a nice little creek check out this video from the floods of 2007 where this area of Minnesota received 15 inches of rain and this little creek completely flooded the valley and 7 people lost their lives. The damage to the park was devastating and the park was closed for a long time, the video is about 15 minutes long but it has a lot of information concerning the flood and the park in general, so give it a look.
I was able to run both on Saturday and Sunday, I am not exactly sure of my mileage as my Garmin and I had some issues but I ran for about 2 1/2 hours on Saturday and for 4 hours on Sunday. If you ever get a chance stay at Whitewater do so, plan to run the trails as it's the best way to see the park. The DNR lists 10 miles of hiking trails and that is probably about right but they are a very enjoyable 10 miles. On Sunday I decided to take our camera and capture a few pictures, hopefully you can get a sense of the park from them.
This is the trail leading up from the campground
More of the trail
A nice runnable sectionAnother uphill
And just a bit more.
Nice views from a variety of spots along the trailStairs, they have lots of stairs
I ended up going up and down this set twice or was it three times as I couldn't figure out where the trail had gone. So much for my sense of direction and reading trail maps.
The infamous bluff, back in 2001 when my family saw this section, it was nearing the end of a short cut that I took them on from Coyote Point back to the campground. It took a long time, I think I told them it was a mile or so, as it turns out it is a couple of miles and I am pretty sure I took a wrong turn back then to add just a bit more to my already miscalculated distance. I remember thinking it took us about an hour, they might say more like two.
On Sunday, a bald eagle flew right by our campsite along the river, it caught my attention as it's wing span was huge. It ended up stopping in this tree and was scouting out the river, probably looking for lunch. One last thing, as I was making my way over from Inspiration Point to Chimney Rock (about halfway through my 4 hour run) I passed a handful of folks who were headed to Inspiration Point(I went by a group of young adults, a young family and a young couple - notice how everyone seemed young to me, this happens when you get old). There are two ways to get to Inspiration Point, you can take the trail from the valley below up to Chimney Rock and then continue on to Inspiration Point or climb up the approximately 300 steps and just a bit of trail from the Trout Trail (one young camper told me she had counted 291 steps and then she said or was it 296, I just know there were more than a few).
After I reached my turn around time, I was heading back from Chimney rock to the stairs as I neared Inspiration point, the young couple who I had previously passed stepped off the trail, I said you didn't need to do that but thanked them and the young women said it's always good to let Superman pass, needless to say my weekend was made. I must've actually been running along the trail when they saw me, just think if they had seen any fast trail runners what they would have thought.
So it ended up being a great weekend even though I got a good dose of reality as to my conditioning as I ran and walked (ok, the right phrase would be struggled) my way through the park. Regardless of my running reality, it was fun.