Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grapevine Lake North Shore Trail

We continued our trail running adventures in preparation for Isle du Bois out a Grapevine Lake and the North Shore trail Friday afternoon. We thought we'd avoid a good bit of bike traffic by going out on a weekday, and given that we still saw a fair bit, I think it was a good move.

We started from Rockledge Park, which costs $5 to enter. It's the parking closest to the freeway and a pretty obvious out and back  path, so it's a good place to start. But as you can see on this map, there are some other options if you want to drive the back roads a bit. And assuming you're not running all 18 miles of the trail (9 out and back), you can explore the trail from a few different directions and never see the same things twice.

I did my first trail run out here and only managed 2 miles before I had to turn around and head back. It was tough and felt very technical. But after Cedar Ridge Preserve, this felt pretty tame and we were able to run a lot of it.

I realized yesterday that the first time I ran it, at some point I got going the wrong way. The trail runs counterclockwise with clear (once you know to look for the clues) western and eastern one-way trails that run fairly close to each other. I think where I screwed up the first time was when you get near a fairly long wooden bridge early in the trail. The bridge is just a few yards ahead of you but the path actually turns down into a rocky ravine.

My guess is, I looked down there and thought, "Surely nobody in their right mind would be expected to run or bike down into that." Obviously my estimation of what looks difficult has changed in the last few weeks. We got it right this time and were taken on a lovely adventure through the woods.

Our plan was to run to Murrell Park, about 3.5 miles out and then head back. It ended up being more like 8 miles even though we never quite got to Murrell Park (it was just through some woods, one of the mountain bikers told us, but we were at 4 miles then, so we headed back). I guess you factor in a little GPS fudging on these things.

I did run out of water, despite a full 4 bottles on my belt, so maybe next time, I'd get to Murrell and refill, as there's supposedly running water there (seasonally available). Good to know for summer, anyway. It's either that or a Camelbak, I guess. Luckily, Rosie brought a couple of bottles of water and I guzzled one without stopping for air as soon as we got to the car. Phew!

Anyway, this is a really lovely trail with moderate challenge and plenty of interest throughout. Unlike Rowlett, which is a mix of quite challenging areas with areas where you could actually look up and enjoy the surroundings and trust your footing, this one only had a few "whoa" spots (including a few water crossings that might be a little intense after a heavy rain) but little opportunity to just take in the surroundings without actually stopping.

Part of the challenge was fallen leaves hiding some footing issues (roots, rocks, lumpy ground), so you had to be ready for a surprise, uneven footfall for 95% of the trail. In that respect, it's a good practice maintaining focus for a long stretch of time.

In the end, we did 7.91 miles in 2:22, averaging about 17 minute miles. This included a bit of walking, particularly at road crossings (there are a few maintenance type roads you cross), and moving out of the way of cyclists, and then chatting up some cyclists to make sure we were headed back on the correct path at the turnaround.

Meanwhile, my foolish error of not putting my calf compression sleeves on after this run bit me at 2 a.m. when I woke up with my calves and feet throbbing. That doesn't happen when I wear those or put them on after long runs (it was too warm to wear them today). Wish I could get full-body compression gear! Just make me into a giant sausage after long runs....

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