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2010-04-24 - Catoctin Trail with Gayatri

~16.5 miles @ ~22 min/mi

"This is beautful, but it's tough!" Gayatri Datta says, halfway through our trek on the southern end of the Catoctin Trail. She's doing hillwork in preparation for her October stage race in the Himalayas [1]. Our wrist GPS units estimate that today we've done 7700 feet of total climb (and an equal descent). My 200-300 feet/mile GPS noise correction factor suggests that the actual elevation change is 3000-4000 feet.

We start early: Gayatri picks me up at my home a bit after 5am and refuses to let me pay for her gas or buy her breakfast. From the Gambrill State Park lot we start running at 0630 as the sun rises through the trees. Woodpeckers drum and water splashes down the streams as we progress through the first several miles. There are at least half a dozen creek crossings. As we tiptoe across on rocks we both think of friend Caren Jew, who has family duties this morning and can't join us on her favorite trail. (She would have run through the water!)

We chat about upcoming races. Gayatri names three out of the four mountains visible from northern India where she has signed up to do 100 miles in five days: Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu. (She misses Kanchenjunga.) Today's terrain is probably rockier than the dirt and gravel roads in their foothills, but of course we're far below 10,000 feet elevation. We take our time on the climbs and walk a lot. My right knee is twingy but tolerable. I wear a black neoprene brace that Mary Ewell has lent me, and perhaps it helps a bit.

At Hamburg Rd, about 5.5 miles out, we begin to see other people: mountain bikers park their cars there and mostly go north, the way we're proceeding. We get confused when blue Catoctin Trail blazes are scarce and backtrack a quarter mile or so at one point along a wide rutted downhill segment. But there's no place else for the trail to go, and after casting about near a pond in the Frederick Municipal Watershed we try the same way again and eventually discover where the blazes recommence. After roughly three hours we turn around on a hillside and head back.

Now a few more people are out, and a couple walking a big black labrador dog greets us. A noisy goose scolds them as they pass its domain. About 11:30am a light rain starts, drops pattering on the brown leaves that cover the forest floor. We have ~3 miles still to go. I set a record today for pausing to leave the trail and water the bushes. Perhaps I'm drinking enough water, but am low on salt? We stay on course for the final climb back to Gayatri's car and give advice to a couple of lost mountain bikers who should have turned earlier in the maze of yellow, green, black, and blue blazes.

^z - 2010-05-01