Friday, August 7, 2015

Camden State Park Wander

As part of my plan for running different places and new races this year, I put together a short list of place I was hoping to run, including Camden, Pleasant Mountain and Mt. A down in York. Well, I have run some new places this season but not any of those, so I decided earlier this week that I wanted to head up to Camden today for a run. The schedule told me it was "down" week, if you can count 50 miles as a down week (aside: not sure I'm going to get to 50 but I'll get close), which meant the long run was only supposed to be 16 miles. This seemed reasonable for Camden, and I figured the reality was I would have to go off total time anyway - running in the Camden hills was not the same as running 16 around here, so I'd go for somewhere between 3 and 4 hours and be happy.

This morning dawned clear and crisp. Ryan was nice enough to take Sam to camp so that I could get an early start on the day. I sped up Rt. 1 at 6:00 am, arriving at the Maiden Cliff trailhead around 7:30 after a gas and coffee stop, followed by a later bathroom stop. There was only one car in the lot. The air felt chilly. Perfect. I quickly got myself organized and headed out.

I had my pack filled to the gills with a full bladder, an extra small flask of water plus one of coke, a lot of snacks, a few first aid items, my phone, a map and my Golite packable windbreaker. What else could I possibly need? My run turned into a hike a short ways from the trailhead. The trail was wide and seriously eroded and over-loved. I was able to run in a few spots but mostly it was a brisk hike due as much to the steep nature of the trail as the condition of the trail. I turned off at the side trail and took a photo to send to Ryan and Sam out at Maiden Cliff. Bluebird skies and a wonderful view of the lake and beyond - what a great morning to be out!

Beautiful day in Camden

From there, I ran along the Ridge Trail, enjoying the rock ledges and the cool shade in the woods, past the summit of Mt. Megunticook out to Ocean Lookout. Another great view, and once again, all to myself.

Early morning light, Ridge Trail

Megunticook... not much of a view...

Ocean Outlook

I had thought about retracing my steps all the way along the Ridge Trail to run the Sky Blue Trail, but in the end, decided to take the Slope Trail down from Megunticook to the Multi-use Trail. At the bottom of the Slope Trail was the ski lodge and a lovely nicely graded, graveled "road" which I took out to Bald Mountain. Perfect for running! The pace, which had been hovering around 18-20 minute pace due to the hiking involved, dropped down to below 10 minute miles for a bit there ;)

Slope Trail

Ahh.... multi-use trail.

Bald Mountain was a steep climb but with a glorious view, and a few cedar waxwings flitting amongst the trees too. I stopped to have a snack and take in the view. It was too darn pretty to hurry away from.

Cedar Waxwing atop Bald Mountain

FastBreak with a view :)

Bald Mountain vista

Back at the multi-use trail, I took a right onto the Cameron Mountain Trail, surprised to find that this too was essentially a nice wide old graded road, once again good for a quicker pace despite the ascent. I turned off to the Cameron Mountain spur, running up through the blueberry fields to the top of the bald, with views out in every direction. Of course, I had to stop to sample a few berries along the way :) What a pretty summit!

Trail up Cameron Mountain

Picturesque trail to the summit

Pearly Everlasting and blueberries (maybe huckleberries too?)

After the quick trip to Cameron summit, I headed back out to the Cameron Mountain Trail. It remained wide old road for a ways longer than took an abrupt left and became what looked like a much less used thinner ribbon of trail within a wider track, the majority grown over with grass. The trail ascended to Zeke's Trail,which was similar in style, but runnable for the most part.

Bunchberry along the Cameron Mountain Trail

I saw the sign for Zeke's Lookout - 0.1 miles, and figured why not? It was a short steep scramble to the rock ledges, with a nice, if slightly treed-in, view. 

Zeke's Lookout


From there it was back to the Ridge Trail. I took the Ridge Trail down, bypassing the Scenic Trail out to Maiden Cliff. I only saw three people for the first 3:15 of the run (1 going down Maiden Cliff while I was running up and 2 near Bald Mountain), but in the final 0.8 miles/15 minutes, I must have seen at least 20 people. Wow. The lot was jam packed when I got back, and I was even happier to have been able to get in my run early and have the trails to myself for the majority of the run. It really worked out well. 

I ended up with 12.6 miles in 3:30 (3:01 moving time), and had a great run. When I posted photos after the fact, John posted that he would have loved to have joined me. I felt badly I hadn't put out the option to anyone, but really, the fact is that, although I love my running friends and do enjoy company on the trails, I have always been one who likes to run alone. Part of the allure of running for me is that it gives me downtime out in the woods, time for my body to wind down and my mind to calm down, time for me to take note of my surroundings and enjoy the beauty of the red bunchberries, the smell of the ferns, the taste of the blueberries, time to appreciate that I have this ability, this time, this inclination, to feel the joy that being on the trails brings me. Yes, when running with others, there is comeraderie and someone to push you, pull you, encourage you. But there is often also distraction, so to speak, and and sometimes I need it to just be me, to run without feeling like I have to keep pace, or keep up, or do a certain distance or route, to simply go when I want to and stop when I feel like it. And this 100 miler training, while totally self-imposed, sometimes comes to feel like a bit of a chore. And I don't want my running to be that. So today, today was about me and the quiet trails, about enjoying the run and getting out someplace different, about smiling and feeling free, about simply being out there, about remembering why I do this and why it makes me so happy. And it was perfect. But maybe next time I'll invite some friends along so they can enjoy it too ;)

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