2005-02-05 - Magruder Branch and Greenway Trail

~18 miles @ ~15 min/mi

Another delightful jog along the route for Ed Schultze's upcoming trail marathon [1], this time from the starting line in Damascus Regional Park following Magruder Branch to Seneca Creek, and thence downstream to Riffle Ford Road. Temperatures hover around freezing and the ground is 98% covered with snow and ice. A few muddy patches hinder progress on exposed southern slopes.

Experienced ultrarunner Carolyn Gernand sets a perfect pace for me to follow, ~15 minutes/mile, as she runs "sweeper" to ensure that nobody is left behind on the trail. Carolyn strides fearlessly through streams where the trail crosses water; I tiptoe on stepping stones and try to keep my shoes dry, not always with complete success. We chat a little, but mostly crunch along quietly, scanning for blue blazes on trees and following the footprints of those ahead. At one point we startle a cluster of ducks (and they in turn startle me). Icy spots on the trail are slightly scary, particulary when our course skirts the banks of Seneca Creek.

Carolyn keeps me from dawdling at the aid stops, near miles 7 and 11 where Ed Schultze has cached munchies and drinks. We get semi-lost only once, briefly circa mile 16 where the trail takes a detour to avoid a construction area. Carolyn and I retrace our footsteps to the last definitive blazes and discover that most of the previous runners also went astray there. We take the right course and see their footprints merging again with the trail on the other side of a wide clearing.