Trail Run Teachable Moments

Trail running with a 9-year-old is different than running with my adult buddies. We end up stopping a lot to check things out. I don’t entirely mind. There are a lot of teachable moments on a trail run. Kids learn best when they are in the moment in real-life experiences. While I’m not that outdoorsy, thanks to a family who is (my parents & grandparents) and an interest in science, I do know a few things. A few LITTLE things. When I don’t know what something is, I take a picture of it and ask my friend’s husband, who’s a biologist.

The park rangers (or someone) will periodically clean up the trails and cut away fallen trees, but big ones like this hang out for several months sometimes. This particular tree was there last year. Sometimes the tree is so big that they just reroute the trail. I’m not sure what will happen here. It’s a horse trail, and clearly a horse cannot climb through like we did.

My favorite part of the trail: flat, wide, and smooth.

We found an owl pellet! I saw one running the other day, too. They look like a pile of dryer lint. If you haven’t heard of an owl pellet, it’s the remains of an animal that an owl ate. They swallow the thing whole and somehow regurgitate the non-meat parts. More info here: owl pellets.

If you take an owl pellet home and carefully disassemble it, you can actually lay out the whole animal skeleton. I didn’t have a pocket, or I would have taken it home to do that. I pullet it apart with two sticks a bit. Owl pellets are technically PUKE so I didn’t exactly want to handle it a lot. I think it was maybe a mole. It was too much fur to be a mouse, I think. Plus, the pelvis seemed bigger than a mouse.

Our state park includes a man-made lake. Many years ago they dammed up a small creek to create the lake. The dam is to the left of where Evan is running here.

And to his right is where the creek emerges. I think it’s really creepy looking into that tunnel. I don’t even like looking at the picture. I did not stay and check this area out for long. For a trail runner, I’m really wimpy. They can control the amount of water that comes out.

Evan did not mind. He wanted to throw rocks in there. No. Just no.

The park is full of steep uphills and downhills. This is partially due to trails that were formed before good trail management/planning existed. Instead of going straight up and down the hills, they should be zig-zagged to prevent erosion. (info on trail management here: linky link)

This looks like an animal cave but is really just a weathered area of rock. I’m not saying a possum or raccoon hasn’t holed up there before but it’s not like it’s a bear or cougar den.

Another “cave” in the rock. It’s very rocky here. I’m assuming glacier activity cut it out like this but I’m honestly not sure. Maybe just years of erosion.

Limestone weathers relatively easily. It is a carbonate rock. This means it reacts to acid in rain, even mildly acidic rain. Normal rain is slightly acidic due to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Limestone also commonly has fossils, though we didn’t see any in this big rock.

We ran about 3 miles. Evan wasn’t feeling great and had a headache, so around mile 2.5 we cut over to the road and ran that back to the car. Still, it was a fun and educational trail run. Did you learn anything new?

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Yeti Winter Trail Run

There is a new race series in our area called the “Yeti Trail Series”. Over the next several weeks, there are four races: 5k, 10k, 15k, and 20k. In the winter. On trails. In a really hilly park. In the snow. Not for the faint of heart!

Even still, I really wanted to run the 5k with Chris, but we didn’t have someone to watch Campbell. So, Chris and Evan ran while I took the position of family photographer. Here’s the start of the race:

There’s Evan off to the left in a blue sweatshirt:

There they go into the woods!

While they were gone, Campbell and I entertained ourselves in the snow.

It was so pretty in the park!

Blowing snow made it a little blizzardy at times!

I love snow on pine trees!

Chris ran the 5k in 23 minutes, which gives you an idea of how hard that race was in 6-8″ of snow on trails (he normally runs in the mid to low 16′s).

Chris went back to finish with Evan:

It was a nice little race! I’m amazed at how many people were there given the weather. Runners are hard-core!

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Wintery Run

Sunday was my first winter trail run of the season! I love running the trails in the snow more than almost anything in the world. Except hanging out with my family and eating chocolate and watching Hallmark movies (ideally all at the same time). Oh and throw a peppermint mocha into that mix.

So I parked my car in my normal spot and trotted down my normal route. I was about to cross the dam of the lake when BOOM, what the heck is that in the road?

The only thing worse than a rat is a really big rat that’s white. Other people call them opossums but we all know that ugly thing is just a big rat. A big rat that wouldn’t get out of the WAY. I actually didn’t get any closer than the first pic. I used my camera zoom on the second. That whole “play dead” thing? Not a myth. I was terrified to go around it, even though the trail is, um, about 15 feet wide, because I knew as soon as I did it would run at me and bite me. I threw a small rock at it to try to scare it away, which made it open its mouth really wide and hiss. For obvious reasons, I did not get a picture of the hiss, but trust me, it looked like this:

THAT did not encourage me. I turned around and took another route. I swear on all things holy I would have rather seen a mountain lion. At least they don’t have gross tails and pointy noses. For someone who grew up on a farm I can be a really big pansy sometimes. Most times.

My rat-induced detour actually took me on a very pretty route.

I found a trail of snowshoe tracks and decided to follow them.

This led me through a nice loop of trail that I had not discovered before. I had run on parts of it before, but not in that way. I was telling Chris when I got home how fun that loop was, and he said, “Whose tracks do you think those are?” Oh. (They were his from earlier in the day.)

More snowy route pics

The frozen lake is so pretty! Usually there are lots of ice fisherman on it, but maybe it wasn’t fully frozen yet.

The last 1/2 mile or so was on my favorite road. It’s so pretty in every season. This is the same road I started on before the overgrown rat incident.

Here is a picture of my new car waiting for me!

You may remember a year ago we started the car shopping process...well we just got around to making the purchase last week. It’s a Nissan Pathfinder and I love it! This is the first photo I’ve taken of it. My favorite feature of the car is remote start. I started it as soon as it came into view, so it was already warming up when I got there. NICE.

Who else has hit the trails this winter?

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