I know , I know… I have a potty mouth when it comes to the written word. I will blame Heather regardless. I have been on this weird run schedule that has me running twice a week one of them being a longer run than I should be running. So, to make sure I keep up with bad habits I decided to go run around in a volcano today. The weekend weather turned out to be great and I wanted to take advantage of it so this morning I thought it would be a really good idea to try and tackle the Vulcan race course. You know…13 miles in the middle of Pawtuckaway park that also includes a crazy climb. I haven’t been there since December so I figured I could get over there and do some exploring. Plus , I really wanted to make my running partner jealous. She hasn’t been able to run and I thought what better way to make it more unbearable than to go to one of her favorite running places. I am a jerk. I do know this.
I finally get my ass out the door around 10:45am I spent about 20 min trying to pack as much stuff into my UD pack. I really should have taken a picture of what I got into this thing. It was worth every single penny I paid. There were a lot of pennies. I plan on doing a lot of unsupported training runs this summer and this pack won’t even break a sweat, I can tell already.
I arrived at the park and found the parking lot full of snowmobiles and four wheelers. I had forgotten that they were allowed in the park after the snow falls and also that I would have to start from here. No biggie…just meant that I would be doing Katie’s mile first. (The trail is called the Wonnoco and is about three miles but I am calling it Katie’s Mile from now on…inside joke). I saw a few hikers also. They were all dressed up in big packs, snowshoes, and climbing gear. I looked down at my running tights..big clown sized blue shoes and weird tiny pack with a butt load of stuff strapped to it and thought “nice job blending in” . Oh and my awesome bossom bottles. (Check out the ultimate direction Scott Jurek vest and that will make more sense)
I paid my donation to the park and jumped out into the road that was basically packed down snow from all the snowmobiles and headed in. I got to the head of the trail and noticed there had been foot traffic so I started off. A few minutes in I realized I needed my Yaks so I put them on and proceeded along the trail. This section is usually the last leg of the loop and I figured it would be easier starting on it. No chance. It was just as hard at mile one as it is mile ten. I made it through the trail in about 50 min and got to another main trail and came across a few snomobiles. I ran that for a bit and then took a left into the shaw trail. There was lots of foot traffic on the trail so I figured I would be ok up to round pond.
Now let’s talk about the Oh shit scale. I have hiked for many many years and over that time I have developed what can best be described as an ‘Oh Shit’ scale. It usually runs from 1-10. The white mountains can be very dangerous during the winter and a good hiker knows their capability and when they should be turning around. If you find yourself saying Oh shit! to yourself while on the trail you better stop and re-evaluate how big of a problem you may be in. The last thing you want to do is panic and start making irrational decisions. If your oh shit scaled get’s tickled in the slightest you better take a minute to fully understand your situation. That being said..anytime you are out on a run or hike you should always be at a one or a two on the scale. The minute you stop paying attention or take things for granted , that is the minute you get hurt or worse. A little scare goes a long way towards staying alive.
About forty minutes after heading towards round pond I found my self post holing in two feet of snow, feet were soaked and cold. I was mad, the footprints had dried up and I was breaking trail with nothing but yak traks. I took my phone out and tried to get an idea of where I was from the GPS. I couldn’t believe how far I was from round pond still. What made it worse was I knew that I had blown all my energy. I kept trudging on. About ten minutes later I was starting to worry. The scale started to climb….I had not brought a map and I was making such slow progress. I kept turning back and staring at the trail. Should I go back? It meant another hour of slogging through deep snow. Did I have the energy? Was I closer to the road if I kept going on the trail? Once I made the road what was I going to do? I had no map and I am very unfamiliar with where the park roads go. I started talking out loud to myself trying to rationalize any decision I was making. I was actually scared for the first time in a long time. I was also angry, I couldn’t believe no one had been on this trail. It was marked well but it was so deep. The hills kept getting steeper and as I trudged on I just kept thinking I was making the wrong decision. I would have to say at that moment I was at about a four or five on the oh shit scale. I was getting cold, only had one bottle of water left. As I trudged along I found myself descending a ravine. GPS showed me closing in on round pond but I knew I had to climb again to get to round pond. I was demoralized at this point. I got to the bottom and notice the trail junction up ahead. As I got closer I saw foot prints and lucky me, broken trail. The prints went in both directions but I knew the smarter move was to head towards south mtn ASAP. I sucked down another energy packet and took off. I felt re-energized , amazing that only five minutes ago I was ready to call Lise for help in guiding me out. Thank you to whoever decided to stomp down the northern ascent of South Mtn.
I was able to summit, change out my wet socks and eat some more and had a really nice run down the south side. The trail was well worn and packed with hikers so I made great time getting back to the car. In retrospect I had everything I needed and eventually I would have made it out of the park but when you are in a bad mood, cold and a bit scared, things get weird. I can start to understand what happens to some hikers when they get lost in much more remote and dangerous places. People on the outside can easily judge the decisions of those people but it’s amazing how quickly your judgment gets skewed when you start to worry. So in summary, if you don’t have an oh shit scale..I suggest you make one…oh and bring a friggin map.
While running today I found the perfect place to put my used gel packets. Most of my running pants and shorts have a zip pocket in the back right above your butt. I giggled as I put away my ‘ass trash’….
pictures and stats can be found over at my blogger site….