It was another overcast morning, cool and humid. We parked at the marina and headed off onto the trails. Ryan was running with me, hoping to help me find a good loop to run, so we headed out onto the Sugarloaf Trail out along the Cape Fear River. We got a bit confused almost immediately, and Ryan was none too happy. I really didn't care. I knew I was going to be out for a while, so who cared if we took a wrong turn or two? One of our wrong turns took us to the Sugarloaf Dunes, where the trail dead-ended into a salt water marsh. There we saw four egrets and a kingfisher fly over. There were also a fair number of deer tracks in the sand.
The trails were flat (duh!), but pretty sandy, so it was slow going right from the start. However, it was really a nice place to run. Along with the marsh grasses and sand were pitch pine tree and small live oaks, mushrooms coming up through the sand (they must have been confused!) and a few cactus too. Along one stretch, as the trail intersected a marshy area, a number of small chocolate brown crabs ran across our path. I think they must have been wharf crabs. Pretty funny to look down and see little crabs skittering along in front of us!
Leaf littered trail
Nice and flat
We got even more off track a few miles in, taking a turn off the marked state trails into a big sand dune area. We followed some ATV tracks up and over a few hills, and at one point saw a few orange flags that seemed to indicate a route. To where, who knew, but we figured what the heck? In looking at the Garmin data, we were still in the park, but had meandered off into no man's land. We took a few turns out to the water, but turned back inland, and eventually stumbled across the park boundary line, which we followed and which finally dropped us back on a marked trail. We wandered through the campground at the park, following the trail through some neat old woods, the trail lined with big pine needles and twisting and turning with roots underfoot.
Our first "loop" dropped us back at the parking lot at 6.25 miles. Ryan took a look at the map while I had a snack, and devised short "inner" loop. Back off we went, through a wide open pitch pine forest in the sand, and back on a few wide boardwalks through a swamp. When we got back to the car, the Garmin was reading 8.1 miles and Ryan was ready to be done. I really appreciated that he had done those miles with me, as although the park was beautiful and the pace was mellow, my heart and head and legs just weren't into the run. I knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle to get in more miles, but I begrudgingly set out for another loop anyway. Without Ryan's company, I slowed down considerably, but hey, at least I kept going!
I followed the outer Sugarloaf loop once on my own, but carefully stuck to the marked trails this time around :-) I got in another 4 miles before getting back to the car. I came to a stop, wanting to be done, but instead, took off my pack, had a drink of water and set off for the inner loop. I figured I had another 2 miles in me at least. And I'm glad I did head back out, as I saw a box turtle along the way, and through the pitch pine forest came upon a group of bluebirds and yellow-rumped warblers flitting amongst the trees. There was also a flicker on one of the trees! Neat.
Honestly, I had hoped to get in a few more miles, but I just didn't have the energy or the gumption today, so 14 miles in 2:25 it was. Oh well, sometimes that is just how it goes. I went into the river up to my knees to clean off my legs, quickly changed and away we went. We fueled up at Flaming Amy's with some yummy burritos, and made a necessary stop at Boombalatti's for ice cream before making our way back to Wallace. Sam had lots of fun biking and swimming and doing art projects with Neenie and Pippi while we were out running, but sadly decided not to nap, so Ryan and I took her up to the playground for a bit before dinner to keep her occupied and drain her off any possible excess energy so she would sleep well tonight :-)
Higher, Mama, higher!
Tomorrow we're making our journey home. It's been a great visit - we're definitely going to be sad to leave "the resort" and get back to reality! Thanks Neenie and Pippi!