Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trail Running and.... er... Bears!!!!!

When I turned 40 I took up running again, after not running since my late teens. In the 13 years since then I have run a number of 5K races, a few 10Ks a Ten Miler and a couple of Half Marathons. However I must admit that I haven't been a consistent runner by any means. For many of those years I had a dog, a Weimaraner, which kept me running at least semi-regularily. Our run of choice was the trails along the Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines, where I lived at the time. Since then I have been partial to trail running. As much as I enjoy it I still don't run exclusively on trails for a number of reasons. The number one reason is that I don't have to drive anywhere to go for a run on the roads/sidewalks in my neighbourhood. If I lived at the trailhead I might never run on the roads again or even if I lived a klik away. However the nearest nice trail run to my house is about 6 km away. So when things are right and I have the time I will jump in the car and go for a run in the forest. If you are a runner and have done any trail running you really don't need me to explain why you should try it. If however you haven't here are some reasons:

1. The Scenery

This is the scenery on my regular out the front door road run!!

Here is some of the scenery on the trail I ran this morning! Much nicer!

Solomon's Seal berries

2. The Lack of Cars: enough said!!!

3. The Surface: It is well documented that running on trails is better for your knees and ankles than pounding concrete. Furthermore the topography of most trails are such that there is far more up and down. Roads and sidewalks by definition are as flat as possible!

4. The Psyche: Maybe it is me, I really don't know but running in the woods or meadows, rejuvenates me in a way that beats a road run any day. Sure you feel good after any run but a run in the forest is better! Also, I don't seem to get tired on a trail run. Maybe it is the concentration on your footing, or the scenery, or the surface but 5K in the woods seems easier than 5K on the road any day.

Anyways to make a long ..less long, my running magazine came in the mail yesterday and there were a bunch of articles on trail running. It inspired me to make my run today a trail run. Stephen's Gulch Conservation Area is not far from our house in Bowmanville, about 5.8 km according to Google. The trail here is not long, about 3 and a half K. but it has a fair amount of vertical and it isn't totally gnarly like some trails. You have a good chance of finishing it without breaking an ankle, unlike a few of the trails that I have run. I left the house with the sky threatening rain, and the wind blowing like mad but I thought I would try to get in a run between the raindrops. What's a little rain anyways?? I got to the trailhead and it wasn't raining so off I went. Fifty yards up the trail I passed a man out walking his dog, a Weimaraner! I told him how I had had a Weimaraner as a running companion for 11 years, and he thought I might have another one for a while as his dog followed along with me for a few yards. A little bit of nostalgia for me!
The trail climbs out of the Soper Creek valley and follows the valley south before dropping back down toward the creek and heading north back to the parking area. Along the way it winds up and down and around as all good trails do, with a few wooden footbridges over some small creeks. It's route goes through sandy areas dominated by sumac, deep forest with a deciduous canopy, and, as we near the end, the dark cedar forests typical of the stream valleys in this area. It was a real satisfying run! If you are a runner you know what I mean! Trail runs are like that more often than not.
As I walked from the trailhead to the parking area I noticed a new sign attached to one of the posts!!

Bears!!!Yikes!! 5.8 km from my house!!
Seriously, I was not all that surprised. There was one in Courtice, the next town over, just last month, and there have been all kinds of other sightings in southern Ontario in the last few years. There was even one in London, ON, this summer. Apparently there have been two unconfirmed sightings recently, one in Stephen's Gulch CA, and one in Long Sault CA, a few kilometers north, near Mosport. For info about bears and bear safety check out the MNRs webpage BEARWISE

Oh Yeah! As I drove out of the parking area it started to rain!!

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