Tuesday, July 20, 2010

By Dunnfield Creek

It's usually not a good idea to wake up my sister early in the morning. It's never a good idea to wake up my sister early in the morning and ask her to be active. So what was I thinking when I woke her up and dragged her out hiking with me to the Delaware Water Gap this weekend?

The answer can be summed up with this photo:

Or this one:
And of course, there are the trails that lead to that vista and creek.

For months I've been wanting to run some hills and technical trails, but I've been reluctant to drive my car off the beaten path just to get to a trail and afraid of being alone in remote places with no cell service.

Luckily the Delaware Water Gap is close, has an easily-accessible (and paved) parking lot, and it's a huge tourist attraction, with many other people around. I did some research about the trails there, and I became determined to try out one of the two trails that leads to the top of Mount Tammany, which is the mountain on the NJ side of the gap. Our hike this weekend was to scope it out and see if my idea was even possible.

We got to the park and started up the trail. There was only one color blaze, but the paths branched off in a number of directions, and I felt like a complete amateur as I looked around helplessly while backpackers strode confidently by. We followed another hiker who was being directed to the Appalachian Trail, because the trail I was looking for followed the AT for a little before looping around the other side of the mountain to approach it less steeply.

We passed a map stand and picked up a trail map and started on the AT. It was a little rocky and uneven, but it was definitely runnable. I imagined myself running smoothly over the terrain, taking quick, light steps. We were walking along Dunnfield Creek, and I looked down into the gorge and took in the fact that I was only 15 minutes from home but felt like I was in another world.

I love rivers and streams, and some kind of gravitational pull must have drawn me to Dunnfield Creek. I had no idea how beautiful it would be, and now I can't wait to go back and see it when the water level is higher. Even though the cascades were trickles, I wished that I could take off my shoes and wade in the clear pools beneath them or to climb on a large dark boulder deep in the gorge.

After leaving the AT and walking the Dunnfield Creek trail, we turned off onto the blue trail heading toward the top of Mount Tammany. This trail was steeper and rockier, with a lot of loose dirt and rocks to slip on. Many portions of this trail were not runnable.

The blue trail climbed through green forests, and although it was a hot, humid day, it felt cool and comfortable under the leaves. At some points, the footing was firm, and I was tempted to bound up the hill. My sister reminded me that she's not a runner and couldn't keep up a fast pace, though, so we walked slowly and took frequent breaks. I envisioned myself running the firm parts of this trail and walking the dangerous parts to recover. I can't imagine the feeling of accomplishment to reach the summit and know that I had run up a mountain.

I don't know how close we were to the top when my sister asked if we could turn around. I didn't want to push her further than she was able, so we turned around and headed back down the mountain. I was disappointed, but I am positive that there will be other opportunities to see the view. That gravitational pull has me planning my next visit.

I enjoyed the way back as much I enjoyed the way up. I felt at home in the green forests on the mountain side and noticed more places where people could climb out onto the rocks in the middle of the creek. I wish that my camera had been working so that I could have taken some pictures to share.

When we reached the AT again, I felt that I was just warmed up and ready for a big workout. I think that's a positive sign that I'm ready to try out these trails for more than walking.

I feel so drawn to this kind of natural environment and want very much to explore different places and bring my running there. I am still concerned, though, that it may not be entirely safe. There is the possibility of getting injured, encountering an animal, or even being confronted by a creepy person and having no help. I have some running buddies, but they are not fans of trail running, especially rocky and hilly trails. In the event that I do venture out alone, I ordered an iFitness belt to wear while running to keep keys, cell phone, ID, extra fuel, pepper spray, etc in. I've read a little about that brand (in particular, the Chic Runner and lots of her blog followers love it), and supposedly it is very comfortable and doesn't bounce while you run.

I'm looking forward to trying it out and going for a trail run by Dunnfield Creek soon.

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