Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happiness on the Stillwell trails

Click Replay to watch my route animated

I was bound and determined to break out of my neighborhood for a run this weekend. Yesterday's run was great but I've been missing the trails a lot. This morning I headed over to Stillwell Woods for a change of pace and I figured that a few hills could only help my conditioning. For those not familiar with Stillwell, here is a nice pictorial that I found online. The weather was beautiful, mid-40's with sun and no wind. I set out with only one goal: to go farther north than I'd ever gone before on that course.

Stillwell is a dense collection of tracks with many turnarounds and many technically challenging ascents and descents. There are lots of areas within the preserve that have different surfaces (sand, rocks, dirt/mud). I don't have the greatest sense of direction but I can guess fairly accurately based on the position of the sun and the time of day. At least I thought I could. I consciously focused on my start position in relationship to where I was headed. The trails split often and taking a left fork will often as not wrap around and take you completely in another direction after a few hundred yards. Despite my guess that I was heading northeast, I was on a southeast vector until I recognized a trail and changed direction.

Eventually I headed east and north and achieved my original goal. I chose a number of single track trails that I would have avoided in the summer because of the narrowness and overgrowth. I encountered some steep rocky hills that my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards dispatched with ease. It was quite by accident that I came so close to the northeastern corner because I thought I was heading back to my point of origin (west) as I made my way east. I stopped after about three miles to let a bunch of mountain bikers through a tight area and I checked my compass to discover I was far off from where I expected to be.

After heading back I reached the large open field that sits west of the treed majority of the preserve. After all that dense woods and uncertain navigation it felt like I was on a plane that had broken through heavy cloud cover to reveal the airport below. I felt so strong and energized that I ran past the exit to the athletic field in favor of tearing across the open field for a mini-cross country run. I ended up running around that open field one more time and I used a runner in the distance to pace me until I exited where I'd originally started. In all I covered a little less than 5 miles and still felt like I had more to give. I'm really fortunate to have an amazing place like Stillwell so close to my home.


  1. great feature with the animated map! So cool!

    Check out my latest blog!

  2. Thanks - further illustrates the point about navigational challenge...


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