Saturday, September 14, 2013

Enjoying the Journey

7+ hours in a car is a long time. I've done it a few times. Usually I hurry to get from point A to point B. When I found out I would be driving from Indiana to Georgia, I had an idea. What if I stopped in each state and ran a 1 mile along the way?

I pulled up the map and noticed that there were a number of state parks near the interstate. What a great country! Well, why not? I looked for the biggest patches of green on the map. In Indiana, I saw Clark State Forest. In Kentucky, I saw Knob State Forest. Tennessee gave me a few choices, but Chattanooga happens to be a beautiful place so I knew that was going to be one of my stops. I picked Point Park as I had never been there before. In Georgia, I planned to run a mile on the sidewalks of Atlanta to recon the route from my hotel to my work spot the next day.

After about an hour into my journey, I was at my first stop. That first hour flew by because I was more interested in where I would be running than getting to Atlanta. As I was driving down some back roads after leaving the interstate, I saw a little parking area and a sign. It was so little that I almost missed it. The thing about parks on Google maps is that you never really know where the entrances are, where the trail heads are, or what you are getting yourself into. Since I didn't want to spend a lot of time driving in circles, I stopped.

The first small section of the trail was on grass along the road, but that soon turned into some single track going up a hill. The trail was narrowing as I continued to run, and as the different plants were slapping my legs, I was praying that last plant that just got me wasn't poison ivy. It was just me, a trail I had never run on before, and an uphill. My little heart was pounding, and I felt great.

Before I knew it, I was half a mile out, and it was time to turn around. I headed back to the car, took some time to stretch, and continued on my journey.

The next stop was another hour or so that went by like it was nothing. I found myself on some gravel back roads in Kentucky. This time I saw signs for Knob Forest State Park so I was hopeful. I saw a small parking area that had no real trails from what I could tell so I kept driving. After a few miles, I turned around to head back to the parking area because I felt like I was going to circle the forest. On my way back, a couple of dogs started chasing the car. Ugh. I checked my mileage to make sure if I had to run along that gravel road, it would be far enough away from them. Over a mile later, I was back to the parking area.

I saw a small opening to what might have been a trail at one point. I decided to head that way to see what I could find. A short time later, I realized there wasn't enough of a trail to make it work. Still, it had pretty yellow flowers.

I ran back toward the car and opted to head down the dirt road. It was shaded, and there were no cars.

A short time later, I rounded a corner, and I'll be darned if I didn't see those same two dogs coming down the road. Geeze! They weren't too friendly when I drove by the first time so I turned around and hightailed it back to the car. I had pepper spray, but I wasn't really looking for a fight. I made it back to the car safely and out of breath. It was a close call, but I knew Chattanooga was next. I was really looking forward to Chattanooga.

Since I had 4 hours before the next run, I took the time to relax and get some breakfast. As I approached Chattanooga, I was getting pretty excited. I was anything but disappointed.

Before I knew it, my half a mile was done, and it was time to head back to the car. I really didn't want to, but I also didn't want to get caught in Atlanta traffic after 5pm. I decided that on my return trip I would stop and do some miles on one of the many trails on Lookout Mountain. I managed to get into Atlanta shortly before 5pm, and luckily I managed to get to the hotel without any major traffic issues. It took more courage to get myself to go out and run on city streets than deserted trails. It was .6 miles from my hotel to the building I would be going to the next morning and so I completed my final mile for the day. 

What could have been a very long day in a car turned into a mini-adventure. Why hadn't I done this before?!

On my way home, I stopped in Chattanooga once again and this time parked at Craven's House since Point Park did not open until 9am. I left Atlanta at o-dark 30 to miss traffic and get to the trail early. I started along Bluff Trail at 7:30am, and I had the trail completely to myself. The only unfortunate side to this was that I became a spiderweb slayer. 

I had managed to get my miles in for the day on some beautiful trails. I'd love to go back to Lookout Mountain and do some more exploring on the awesome trails in the area. Road trip anyone?

Next time I find myself on a long journey in a car, you bet I will be doing this again. You never can tell what you will find off of the beaten path.