Gayatri Datta is scheduled to do the North Face 50k endurance run in a couple of weeks, so to help her preview the course I pick her up at ~5am and we cruise into Virginia, park on Georgetown Pike at Difficult Run, and at 0545 set off downstream on the trail. I'm carrying a turn sheet for the race. We immediately begin to go astray on the branching paths, the first major confusion coming when we miss the connection to the Ridge Trail and dead-end near the Potomac River. Oops! We find our way then to the old Carriage Road and then River Trail, and perch on the same dizzying heights above Mather Gorge that various friends and I surveyed in years past. (cf. AwesomeAdonis, MatherGorge, 2007-09-29 - Overlook, ...)
Backtracking is our bane today; we do it again and again near the dam on the river just above the Great Falls Park visitor center. After retreating and advancing over a jumble of rocks we finally discover the little dirt pathway up a steep hillside and take it. (After MMT the climb seems easy.) At the top of the ridge more confusion ensues, but eventually we make our way to River Bend Park where Barry Smith, Ken Swab, and Sara Crum meet us. The crew runs together half a dozen or so miles, upstream and back, uneventfully except when suddenly I have a stinging/burning on my lower left leg: nettles? insect sting? snakebite? Ken is chased by a frog (or toad?) at one point along the trail—perhaps it gets its revenge on me during the second half of our trek? It lasts several hours.
Regardless, Gayatri and I continue to cruise along, goint off course again a couple of times. When we're back at the car after ~5.5 hours GPS says 19.8 and hers reads 19.2 miles. Close enough!
^z - 2010-05-29