Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Powhatan State Park: Creepy, but good.

Sunday, 1/26/2014
Distance: 6.5 mi
Time: 1:10

I guess I must have missed something, because it seems as though we've moved to CANADA. This Virginia winter weather is ridiculous. I've heard a lot of people saying, "If it's gonna be this cold, the least it can do is snow also." This logic doesn't work for a summertime girl like me. I mean, O.K., sledding is pretty fun. Also, snuggling up in front of the fireplace; I'm a big fan. But, not a big enough fan to enjoy these insanely cold temperatures for any length of time. Snow or no snow.

It looks like we snagged that YMCA membership just in time. I've become a bit of a renewed fan of the gym and even a reluctant treadmill-runner. I do consider myself a bit more hardy than most when it comes to outdoor running, but anything sub-*15 and I'm OUT. Throw in some snow/sleet/rain/Polar VORTEX and I'm extra out.

Conclusion: admittedly, many of my runs lately have looked like this:

Badass treadmills @ the Swift Creek YMCA. You can pick from a ton of "locations" to visit. This run was a mix of trails in California. Pretty RAD. Very good for fidgety, easily-bored button pushers like me.

Enough of that wussy treadmill-talk. On Sunday, I decided to brave the chill on a real trail run. The temp was around 35, which was cold-ish, but totally tolerable in comparison to the weather we've had lately. However, the wind was brutal, and part of the reason I decided to call it a day after 6.5 miles. The other factor? Mainly, fear for my life.

 (pause for dramatic effect.....)

Powhatan State Park is the newest of Virginia's 26 State Parks. Located along the James River, the park has a TON of potential for awesome trail-running. Most of the trails are still under construction, but there are a lot of fire roads and plenty of room to explore. Before Sunday, I'd only been out there briefly with my little family for the park's grand-opening last summer. I decided it was time for some more exploration, as far away from the treadmill as possible. Powhatan State Park Trail Map.

 Granted, it was a freezing January day, but there was no one else at this park. I mean totally deserted. The contact-station had a big Closed sign in the window; the only sign of life was a single car parked at what I assumed to be the Park Ranger's house, near the entrance. Snow still covered the ground and there was a sort of errie silence as I got out of the car, looking around for anyone, anyone? else. Nope, nadda. Fresh out.

I planned to run for about 90 minutes, or around 9 miles. I headed out onto Cabin Trail, towards the river. I quickly realized that I was maybe the first person to venture out on this trail since the snow; not a single human footprint in sight. But, there WERE tons of footprints; this trail is well-traveled by critters of all sizes, it seems. I started to become very aware of how silent it was, how alone I was, and how no one would hear me if I hollered. I began looking more closely at the many footprints on the ground. My imagination started rolling.  

What paw prints do we have here?
Squirrels, cute. 
Deer, awwww.
Chipmunks, adorable.

hmmmmm....not sure about these tracks.

Mountain Lions? 

Just as my imagination was setting sail on a terrifyingly hairy adventure (trail runner gets eaten by bears AND gophers!), a HUGE flock of pigeons flies up RIGHT next to me.  

Snapped this pic right after I was semi-attacked by a giant flock of possibly rabid pigeons.

 I'm not exactly sure what came out of my mouth, but I think it sounded something like, 

(that's the edited version, of course)

Not that anyone would have seen or heard if I had been attacked and mauled by a herd of crazy pigeons, anyway. 

Damn. Pigeons.

Alright, so I've got an okay sense of humor. That was actually pretty funny. I spent the next few minutes trying to regain a somewhat normal heart-rate and a smidgen of composure. After making sure I didn't actually pee my pants, I head down the trail, reminding myself not to return down that path on the way back. Even without the crazy pigeons, it was a little too deserted and quiet in that field. New potential phobia: pecking flesh-eating pigeons. Great.

I headed down the trail to the river: Turkey Trail. I didn't encounter any turkeys (enough wildlife already!); the path ended at the boat launch and campground area. Eventually this trail will make a loop, according to the Trail Guide, but it doesn't seem to be completed yet. They have a nice picnic shelter and tables and benches; definitely a spot that we will visit with our kiddo, once the Polar VORTEX subsides. Anyway, after poking around down near the water for a bit, I headed back up toward the fire road. 

Boat launch @ Powhatan State Park

 Last stop: a short little 1/2 mile trail called Gold Dust, which also leads to the water. Pretty nice, other than the spooky SHACK along the trail. I seriously felt like I was the idiot chick in a horror movie when I came up to this "cabin." I was going to stop to take a picture, but I was so freaked out, I ran past it as quickly as I could. It was a broken-down old wooden shack, 6-ft ceilings, tiny dilapidated chimney, windows blown out, front door cracked open, rocking chair perched next to the front door. Admittedly, I've got a pretty active imagination, and after getting ruffled by those dang birds, I was already on edge. This ram shackled possible torture-chamber was exactly what my wild imagination needed to create a whole narrative surrounding my imminent capture and gruesome demise. I think I read too many novels.

Icy creek winding down to the river, Gold Dust Trail, Powhatan State Park

I scooted back out to the main park road. This is when my old friend Mr. WIND decided to visit. I think the wind gusts were amplified by the wide-open field, and I know it was a windier-than-usual day, but it was WINDY windy. I had to duck my head and give it all I had just to keep an 11-minute pace. The snow underfoot didn't help. Around this time, I checked my mileage; 6.5 miles. Just then, I see the first other human I've seen out here all day; a single dude in a jacked-up truck, his guns displayed in the back window.  

My possible kidnapper.

Yep, I'm getting the FRICK outta here. Peace out, Powhatan State Park; I'll see you when its less deserted, less freeeeezing, less ridiculously creepy. 

Now that would never happen on a treadmill.