Mary Ewell and I meet at 7am near the visitor center of Riverbend Park, then drive to Great Falls to pick up Caren Jew and Ken Swab. Besides my birthday it's National Public Land Day, the officer at the gate tells us, so entering Great Falls National Park is free. With her car full of soon-to-be-sweaty runners Mary drives us to Colvin Run Mill, where we last jogged on 23 June 2007 (cf. AwesomeAdonis). We trot along the Fairfax Cross-County Trail (aka Faux-CCT) toward the Potomac, with Ken setting a too-fast pace, Mary sticking to him, and Caren hanging back with me as we chat about mountain biking, our families, and various injuries that we've known.
Once we enter Great Falls Park the Carriage Road Trail takes us to the River Trail, a steep and at times scary route near the edge of rocky Mather Gorge. I take photos of the gang and the scenery and then we continue onward to visit the remnants of the Patomack Canal and the town of Matildaville. At Great Falls, ~1.5 hours and ~6-7 miles into the journey, Ken and Caren have to head for their respective homes while Mary and I continue along the trail. Riverbend Park greets us in another few miles, not enough to suit Mary's training plan, so we drop some gear at my car and then continue upriver. I find a dirty pair of underwear abandoned in the woods and carry it gingerly for a while, then drop it in the middle of a small wooden footbridge. When we decide to turn around we find ourselves beside a big hill, so I challenge Mary to race up it; both of us manage the deed, if barely. During the return trip we essay a side trail and find ourselves at Riverbend Park Nature Center, from which a short jog and a final sprint gets us back to my car, 11.7 miles according to my GPS's possibly-generous trackfile. During our cooldown, limber Mary shows me some scary stretches of which I dare attempt a few.