Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bear Creek Lake

Days 'Til 35k- 24
Days 'Til Marathon- 87

Location- Cumberland, VA (Bear Creek Lake State Park, Cumberland State Forest)
Distance- 11 miles
Time- 2 hrs

We are very lucky in the State Park Department around here. VA State Parks are beautiful, nearby and perfect for trail-running. On Sunday, I made the trek west to Cumberland County to check out the trails @ Bear Creek Lake and the surrounding area of the VA Dept of Forestry. I was a little confused about how the State Park and Forestry Dept land connected and how some of the trails flowed between the two. Luckily, they had both a Park Map as well as a Forestry Dept Map available and on display at the trail head. I ended up exploring a little of both. The 35k I've got coming up (quickly!) starts at Bear Creek Lake and winds through the woods via the Willis River Trail. I definitely wanted to scope that out a little and see what kind of terrain/elevation I'm in for. I also ran on the Cumberland Multi-Use Trail, which can be accessed at the BCL trail head as well. I made sure to plan to be out on these particular trails on a Sunday, since they are both in areas that are open for hunting. So, on a beautiful and not too chilly Sunday afternoon, I set out to do a little exploring, Cumberland-style. 

The Cumberland Multi-Use Trail (CMT) was not exactly what I'd call ideal for trail-running. Although it has some nice rolling hills and stream crossings, they have dumped a ton of baseball-sized rocks intermittently along the trail. I guess this is because there is so much red clay back there, the rocks help with traction for jacked-up pick-ups and 4-wheelers. As nice as this probably is for those guys, it made running a bit less than pleasant. But, a nice challenge for my ankle/calf muscles (ouch!). The hills back there were pretty big, so my quads got in on some muscle-building action, too. Nice! But also, ouch.

Pretty Stretch of Cumberland Multi-Use Trail

Anyway, my flighty sense of direction did not come through for me this time and I ended up dead-ended at what looked like someones very large backyard, complete with dual (his & hers?) tree stands. I looked at my map, and it looked like in order to pick back up with the trail, I'd have to run along the red-clay ridden power-line for a mile or two. Eh, that trail wasn't that fun anyway; I turned around and headed back to the parking area, eager to find a new trail to play with. 

From here I headed out to the State Park Trails surrounding Bear Creek Lake. Turns out Lakeside trail was a little too close to the lake (a lot of it was flooded/impassable) and Willis River trail looked more like an actual river than a trail. Lots of out and back-ing, lots of turning around, lots of MUD. But, it was a gorgeous day, my legs felt strong and the squirrels really seemed to be enjoying my company.
 RUN HAPPY!  :))

Bear Creek Lake

Cool Bridge

Towards the end of the run, I found Channel Cat Loop, a nice little 1.75 mi loop trail with a few easy stream crossings, single-track action and a noticeable lack of flooding (woohoo!). I know there are a bunch of other really nice trails back there, so I'm already looking forward to getting out there once everything dries out. I'll be curious to see all the route changes for the 35k next month...if the trail is still flooded, that is. I'm gonna go ahead and start researching "no-rain" dances on YouTube. Otherwise, I'll need to bring my flippers to the start line.