August 7, 2010

Day of Deer

The heat and humidity have really wrecked my running plans this summer - enough that I will most likely be doing only the marathon at North Country at the end of this month. I just haven't been able to log the miles needed to pull off a 50 in three weeks. Seems like any time I went out with the intention of getting 20 or so miles in, I would end up pulling the plug after only 12-13 because I'd be so dehydrated I was cramping. Yesterday finally provided some relief!

I had only one early morning client yesterday, so I did the work thing at the gym and then headed out to Afton with the intention of getting a 20+ mile run in. Success! Two laps of the Africa Loop, Back 40, Northern Hill, and Campground Hill with no other people on the trail and more deer than I could count. Wish I had brought my camera - these photos are from a few years ago.

Saw the first doe and fawn less than a mile into the run while still on the main horse trail just past the ski area. Lots of butterflies in the open prairies up on the Africa Loop and lots of skeeters in the woods, especially the Back 40. Made the mandatory stops at the black berry patches (don't worry, I left some) before heading down to the river and starting the climb up the gravel road. About half way up, a spotted fawn popped out of the woods and stood in the middle of the road just staring my way. After a couple of minutes, there was some commotion in the thick underbrush and at least 3 or 4 other deer started to bolt deeper into the woods. Not the little fawn, he seemed quite content just watching me. A pileated woodpecker briefly joined the party, which seemed to help the fawn decide to go join mom in the woods.

Ran down the Northern Hill (which has become my favorite spot in the park) and then up to the Campground. For some reason, my Garmin went on a lunch break for awhile in this section, so I'm not sure what my actual mileage for the run was - at least 20.88. Refilled the Nathan at the solar powered water pump (which is now working), then visited the black berry patch in the campground before going for another lap.

The second lap was starting to feel hot, especially in the sun up on the Africa Loop. Even so, with the lower humidity I wasn't having any problems with cramping - yay! Paid another visit to the black berry patch and have some scratches to show for it :) Saw some blue birds this time around; they are so striking, just flashes of royal blue when they're flying. Ran back down to the river, back up the gravel road, then past the trail shelter on the way to the Northern Hill. Flushed up a bunch of grouse just past the old homestead, which never seems to happen on a weekend when lots of people are on the trails.

On the way up the Campground Hill, another doe started bounding off the trail and into the woods. A little further up the trail, I looked to the left to see two fawns staring back at me from about 20 feet away. They never did leave, and I just continued on through the campground. Finally got to the bottom of the Campground Hill just as several people were lugging their camping stuff up to the top - I guess the weekend is officially starting! I headed up toward the main horse trail to return to the parking area and just about got run over by three more deer bounding across the trail right in front of me. Pretty cool!

Finally made it back to a still empty parking lot and some how didn't seem to get stuck in too much rush hour traffic. Got home to find a $50 check in the mail from USA Track & Field for the prize money I'd won by finishing second in the old woman division at the Afton Trail Race. Great day for running!

Now I'll have to start pondering the rest of the season after North Country: Moose Mountain? Wild Duluth? Surf the Murph?