I am starting a new feature on my blog: guest post Monday. Every first Monday of the month, I’ll publish a guest post with someone’s favorite walk (or run). That way we’ll get a series of awesome hikes all over the world.
Interested in writing a guest post? Get in touch!
Now without further ado, Laurie is up for the first one.
Hi! Let me introduce myself. My name is Laurie and the name of my blog is Meditations in Motion. My blog is nominally about road and trail running adventures, but often my thoughts stray into deeper waters and the posts visit topics such as gratitude, faith, mindfulness and reactions to setbacks. You can read my thoughts on those subjects (and others) by clicking on the links in the previous sentence.
When Nina asked for volunteers to write a guest post, I jumped at the chance. It seemed like a natural fit – hiking and trail running. I decided to write about a trail run I do with a buddy of mine. We have done several versions of the loop I describe, and it is one of my favorites. The start of the run is only about three miles from my house, and there is plenty of shade on the route, so it is a good run to do on those hot, humid, Pennsylvania summer days.
I usually run trails with my friend Al, another former chemistry teacher. Al and I have run together for a long time, at first as part of a group. Over the years injuries and age have beset members, and the group has dwindled to just two – Al and me. I guess we are the luckiest, or maybe just the most stubborn, but we continue to run trails.
The Horse-Shoe Trail is a 140-mile path that begins at the western boundary of the Valley Forge National Park in southeastern Pennsylvania and winds its way through private property, state game lands, and public parks to meet up with the Appalachian Trail just outside of Harrisburg, PA.
Horseback riding is allowed on the trail, and the official trail guide says that all dogs must be leashed, but the section of the trail I run on is fairly remote; I have seen many hikers and trail runners with unleashed dogs. I have mixed feelings about this. I love to allow my dog Benji to run unleashed whenever possible, but I have also been bitten by a dog while I was running. Encountering unleashed dogs always gives me an uneasy feeling.
There is a trailhead directly off of US Route 322, but the parking lot is tiny (only about 3 or 4 cars can fit), so we sometimes park in a larger parking lot nearby, and begin our run on a gravel road (Pumping Station Rd.)
The gravel road is very lightly traveled. There are a few houses along it, and a few fishermen wade in the nearby Hammer Creek, but you can easily run the length of the road without encountering more than one or two vehicles.
We began our run on a hot, humid Wednesday morning in mid-July, jogging slowly on the rolling gravel road. Al is training for an upcoming 15k trail race, and I am training for a road marathon. Neither of us wanted to push the pace. The road is mostly shaded, with a few breaks for power cuts or when it is directly beside Hammer Creek. I could bird by ear, and heard several species of warblers, thrushes, and flycatchers in the surrounding woods.
After slightly over two miles, we turned off the road onto a short connector trail that links up to the Horse-Shoe Trail. The connector trail was a steep, narrow wooded uphill that was not well maintained. I resolved to do a thorough tick check when I got home.
We turned onto the Horse-Shoe Trail, which involved more climbing. The trail in this area is full of rocks and roots. The hikers’ nickname for Pennsylvania is “Rocksylvania”. That is definitely apt for this section of the state.
We eventually climbed to an overlook and finally began descending through a very pretty maple/oak/beech forest toward the stream again. The trail in this area is well marked and easy to follow. There are several smaller side trails, leading to a boy scout camp, but there are signs and blazes which help you stay on the Horse-Shoe Trail.
I was glad for the descent. Al has a 10/10 method for climbing hills (10 seconds running/10 seconds walking), which we used in the earlier part of the run, and I was soaked with sweat due to the humidity. Or maybe I was just glowing. (Women don’t sweat; we glow, right?) We did not carry water since we planned to be on the trail for less than an hour, and my thirst was increasing.
We got to a place where I could see the creek again. The trail parallels the creek back to the smaller parking lot.
Now for the only part of the run I didn’t like: crossing the bridge on Route 322. To return to the larger parking lot form the Horse-Shoe Trail requires us to run along busy Route 322 for about 100 meters. We could either cross the busy highway – twice – or run on the wrong side of the road (with our backs toward traffic). We opted for the latter. After the quiet, traffic-free run, the noise and traffic from the road are jarring.
We made it back to our cars, enjoyed an icy drink of water and said goodbye, another successful trail run completed.
- Start: Parking lot off US Route 322, 1 mile west of Brickerville, PA
- Distance: 9k (approximately)
- Dogs: allowed on leash
- Tip: good for hiking or trail running
More Information: Keystone Trails Association