Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Crush on Big Cedar Wilderness Trail

I love me some brand spanking new trail. Well, new to me, anyway.  But I wasn't too sure about Big Cedar, which is just north of Cedar Hill and Cedar Ridge Preserve down by Joe Pool Lake. I just hadn't heard much about it compared to the other two, and assumed it was a lesser trail system.

AU CONTRAIRE, my friends! Big Cedar had all the things I long for in a trail, plus some bonus candy that I wasn't expecting.

But first, let me set the scene: Rosie and I met Debbie at 7. There are a bunch of other runners also meeting, but they're faster than us, so we plan to just do our thing bringing up the rear. Also, for mid-July in Dallas, the weather was absolutely perfect. Low humidity, nice breezes, sunny (but the trails we ran were 90% shady). Just a beautiful day!

We were running the Ranger (white) loop, and then would add on if we felt like it. We started out on Ranger, then the group tucked over on the Dragonfly loop, which was an extra easy mile. Most of the main trail is shady, but you do cross through some utility easements that, while sunny (boo) must just be bursting with wildflowers in the spring and early summer (yay) and offer up some really lovely views out across the hills and valleys around there (more yay). So, that little bit of exposed running is worth it, even in the summer.

Near the exit to the trail head is this brick-paved hill. I've since come to learn it's called the Brick Climb, but I have named it Beyoncé hill. Thankfully, the bricks (set sideways so the holes are exposed) offer fantastic traction on this steep but fairly short climb, but it is just shy of requiring you to bear-crawl up the darn thing. We walked up it, huffing and puffing and begging for mercy (as I semi-joked that I wanted to do it again), got to the top and had a choice of either going back to the car or taking a intermediate/advanced trail called Man Bites Dog.

We quickly found the "advanced" portion of the loop... a long gravel slope that you really have to fight your way down to avoid losing your footing in the loose gravel. From there it was smooth sailing back to a bypass that took us... right to the bottom of Beyoncé Hill! I surprised myself by doing a little fist pump in my head, and charged up that sucker, running this time, like a wild horse. Well, a wild horse with two tired legs and asthma.

WOO! Man, I felt so good after that climb, despite my big time wind sucking! I dunno what it is, but a tough climb just fires me up like nothing else. Especially to have done it running the second time. I guess any time you discover a well spring of "Fuck yeah, I got this!" that you didn't know you had, it gets you jacked up.

From there, however, we started following the (many) Exit to Trail Head signs back to the parking lot and called it a day, but it was clearly one of those euphoric trail runs that left us all craving more.

I can't quit thinking about Beyoncé Hill and Big Cedar, even with my sore quads reminding me of how tough it was. I thought CRP was my favorite trail in Dallas, but it's relatively short at only about 6 miles. Meanwhile, Big Cedar has many of the same features (rocky slopes, nice views, shade), but much more area to explore. There's comfort in knowing a trail (and still loving it for its difficulty and complexity), but there's also that sense of adventure running a new trail that I think I'll get to enjoy for a long time out at Big Cedar. Ranger is certainly the longest trail, as all the other trails loop off of it, but we barely scratched the surface of the rest of the trail system.

The only downside to it is that it's a DORBA trail, which is good because they do a phenomenal job maintaining the trails and building new trails. But it's bad because mountain bikers often do not realize they scare the shit out of us by not announcing themselves as soon as they see us rather than 5 seconds before they're slamming the brakes to avoid hitting us.
Dear mountain bikers,
Love you guys, really and truly. But please understand that as noisy as you THINK you may be, we absolutely do not hear you unless you announce yourself. One quick, "Bike back!" as soon as you see us gives us time to find a safe place (no poison ivy or snakes) to step off the trail and get out of your way. And believe me, we do NOT want to be in your way. 
Your friends,
Trail Runners
I feel better getting that off my chest.

Anyway, other notables from the run were seeing my first BIG snake. I'd seen a little one out at Rowlett a while back, but this one was "shriek and run the other way" worthy... unless you're Debbie, who walked right up to it and said hello. She said it was a rat snake, which is still too close to "rattle snake" for my taste. Luckily the big guy (and I mean big) was charging across the trail rather than curled up sunning himself or something crazy. So we let him on by and then zipped by so he didn't get a chance to change his mind and come kill us.

The other notable was that Rosie brought me a salted caramel Gu to try. Oh man, was that thing sweet, but so delicious and given my energy level at the end of the run, I'd have to say it was successful. I think for our 2 hours of running, I ate only half a Payday, that packet of Gu, and a Probar Bolt gel. And I still had at least half a liter of water left in my hydration pack and could have gone another 3 miles. So maybe I'll welcome some of those packages runner gu/gummies back into my life.

More experimenting ahead! Happy trails!

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