Saturday, December 31, 2011

Playing Hookey

Sometimes having a Friday off is a real treat, even if it does mean I have to work on the weekend.  Everyone else is at work, and you kind of feel like you're playing hookey out on the town.  Or, in my case, since I don't like going into town, it means having the trails all to myself.  

I packed up my awesome hydration pack, the Ultimate Direction Wasp, and headed out toward the Arb with camera in my front pocket and plenty of GU gels to keep me going.  I promised myself that I'd just run to enjoy myself, no specific workout or distance or time required.  I planned on going for anywhere from 10-15 miles, however my legs felt, and snapping some shots of my favorite local trails along the way.  

Started things off in the Arb, where the trails were slick from the snow and rain, but those conditions produced this atmospheric fog that made the place seem alive with magic.



The Arb is chock full of hills, and though they aren't long, after a couple loops your legs begin to feel that incessant pounding of constant ups and downs.  

I finally started listening to the audiobook of Born to Run by McDougall, and though I have some major issues with his writing and a few of his claims in this book, I loved hearing him talk about Ann Trason, the legendary ultrarunner, and her philosophy that distance running is all about getting to know yourself.  That's what this run felt like.

Love that green of the valley floor all year round.

If you click on the Fairy Woods pic, you can see the mini troll and fairy huts that kids have build near the base of these pines.

Eventually I'd run all the best trails at the Arb, so I decided to explore Cedar Bend park, the oldest in Ann Arbor, and I discovered some new trails and some wicked hills.  These trails haven't been maintained much in recent years, so everything feels really raw and old, which it is.  

Not many people want to run or hike on trails along ravines or up washed out trails, so it's also the most empty park I run in.  In essence, it's everything I want in a park: tough, steep trails, near to my house, with no one else out there.

This ravine goes straight down to the Huron River, and in the Winter you get these incredible views of the very bend in the park's name.

Cedar Bend used to have a road through it, but that's been closed for decades, so now it's become a wide loose stone path (not pictured) that meets a dead end road with trails coming off it.  I was up on this road, looking back into history when suddenly I realized I was 10-20 feet from this group of deer.  So, naturally, I took some pictures of them, afterward realizing I'd invaded one deer's privacy as she was relieving herself.  D'oh!


It was a great day, topped off by a stop at Leslie Science Center, where I chatted with this Peregrine falcon in one of the outdoor cages.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Max Joins the Crew

From Thanksgiving to Christmas we had the distinct pleasure of watching our friend's Australian Shepherd, Max, while his owner was hopping though the islands of Indonesia.  She was probably kicking back the equivalent of a Corona while we were freezing our tails off on this run, not that we minded much with these fun pups along for the run.

Stinchfield Woods -- owned by U of M but open to the public -- is where we ran in some of the first snow of the season in early December.  Needless to say, this winter has been weak in terms of snowfall and bone numbing cold, but I'm sure it'll make up for things come February and March.  

Andrea has consulted the local dog whisperer, *ahem* Alaina, many times while raising Max, so he knows the same commands and is as well behaved as our rascal.  Which was awesome because we knew we could have both of them off leash in these deep and rarely used woods.

Stinchfield Woods doesn't allow hunting, which makes it an awesome find for running, but we still put these hi-viz jackets on the dogs so we could see them.  I love Max's playful bounding run, which you can see here with his paw so high off the ground.  He loves life, is far less serious than Cody, and has amazing endurance for a 2 year old.

I always make sure to run through the gravel pit, pictured above, which I think was used for mining at one point in this land's history and now makes for quad crushing hill repeats, as I'm about to test out.

The walls of the gravel pit aren't terrible high, maybe 100 feet at most, but they're steep enough to turn running into hiking toward the top.

This is one of my favorite pictures, with the winter light cascading through the old pines and both dogs tired yet still having the time of their lives.  Oh, and I'm a wee bit happy to be there too.

Those are my trail scouts right there.  Most of Stinchfield looks more like this, with dense woods and trails that are a bit overgrown since the park is both remote and difficult to find parking.  But that leaves it just for those that want to be there the most.  Namely, the Case family.