The picture does not do justice!
Have you ever visited somewhere and thought "I could just stay here forever!" ?
I have and it fills me with such happiness that all I can do is take a deep breath and smile.
I think we all know this place. It is a place that makes you feel at ease and at peace with all the beauty around it. It is a place that you would not think twice about packing your bags (or taking nothing) and starting new in. It is a place that brings a smile to your face and heart. It is an amazing connection. I am sure you all have a few of those places. You miss it as soon as you leave and start planning your next trip back before you are even home. Common....you know the place....and I know you are thinking of it right now! Happy thought! *Smile*
It is such an amazing feeling standing on those rocks!
Now, for those who know me, it should come as no surprise that one of my "live here forever" places is out in nature. Here in Kentucky that place is the Red River Gorge. For me, it is a place of breathtaking beauty where magical views seem to go on forever. The rock formations are like something out of the books you had as a child....you just look at them and think "if only I could climb them!" The waterfalls (which I have bathed in while camping) are perfect....and cold...but still....you stand under them and feel like you are in some mystical place that no one knows about. I swear...sometimes I just think how neat it would be to take nothing and try to live it out like we would have all those years ago. I hear of people taking a few weeks and just exploring the Gorge and am instantly filled with envy. How neat that must be! I can totally see myself doing that someday....I just have to find the time....and the people because I don't think I would do that alone the first time!
Anyway, totally off track...yes...I know. You are probably sitting here thinking "that's nice Andi, what the hell does this have to do with trail running?! " Well...ok...here we go (calm down people). Today I got to head to Red River Gorge (RRG) and explore some of the trails to run this spring and summer. There..now we are on track so let's discuss that shall we?! OK!!
I got a late start this morning (around 11:00 am) and was a little worried what the conditions were going to be like when I arrived. It rained pretty hard last night and I figured if it was anything like Raven Run here in Lexington then it would be a muddy mess. I really was not looking forward to sliding around trails I was not familiar with and the thought of spraining another ankle really made me think about finding something else to do on a beautiful Friday. Also, it is a holiday weekend here in the US (for my European market) and I figured a million people would be taking off to head in for a weekend of camping, hiking, running and climbing. However, as I got on the Mountain Parkway my mind was instantly put at ease. There was really no traffic at all and the sun was shinning bright all the way there!
Mountain Parkway :)
Just to be on the safe side it was recommended that I explore the Auxier Ridge instead of anything down in the valley. It is a ridge that leads to Courthouse Rock and Double Arch if you want to take the time to go down into the valley and back up. It is made up mostly of sandstone so the trails are a perfect mesh of sand, roots and dry decomposing leaves. I was disappointed to find that there is still a lot of fire damage from a while back, so at first the views were not as pretty as I had hoped. There was a lot of debris and I was surprised how many trees were down. At one point there were so many trees down that a different path on the trail had to be explored but I was not too disappointed. I was not really out there today to full out run. I had never been on Auxier Ridge before and I like to "investigate" and get my feet used to new terrain before I start running. I just think it is a smart thing to do and may help avoid injury (sprained ankles anyone?). I like to see how my feet (and shoes) do with the roots and rocks. I want my mind to have an idea where it is going before my feet do so that I can enjoy the scenery while I run. Today was not about running full speed on the ridge...and I am so happy about that because I got to take in so many wonderful views (see some of the many pictures). Normally I only get around 560 feet of elevation change on the trails of Raven Run and today I got over 800 without making my way down to the bottom. Look out VO2! It is only a matter of time before I am unstoppable ;)
Credit: Outrageis Mapping
I also had never really ran on sandy trails before and let me tell you....if you are going to....go out and get yourself a pair of the Salomon Speedcross before you do. Holy crap...those shoes performed better then they do at Raven Run (and they are awesome there!). The rubber grips on the toe really helped when it came to gripping rocks on uphill climbs (and there a few...almost scrambling at some points). It is so nice to have shoe that performs as well in mud as it does on sand and dry dirt. Both uphill and downhill were easy...even with a lot of debris. I was surprised how well my feet and legs were able to respond to any obstacles in their way. Normally my ankle would turn but in this shoe I have such good support that I am able to change my stride and avoid that horrible pain! It felt good to feel so confident on the trails (and you know I am being honest as I have trashed Salomon shoes in the past.) Sandy trails really allow for roots to come to the surface and small rocks are constantly being kicked around on the trail, so you really have to be aware of your surroundings and have shoes that can react when you "stumble" across anything you kicked in front of yourself! Finally having the right footwear really has me happy. It is letting me get out and explore these wonderful areas without hesitation. Now that I think about it, I may have to go on line and buy a few more pairs for when I blow these out!
Sandy trails with lots of roots
Fire damage and down trees
It was a wonderful long afternoon and in the end I only explored about 1/1000 of what there is to see at RRG but I am as tired and as happy as can be. The sun was shinning all day but I don't think it got above 65 degrees, so I got a good dose of vitamin D without frying. Not much nature to report...a few birds and a really fast lizard, but that did not matter....the views made up for it. I think total I saw about 6 people so it was not very crowded and I cannot wait to get back. My local running shop has a few trails mapped out for running and I would love to camp out there and get in as many as I can in the upcoming months. While I will stay at Raven Run for day to day exploring....I definitely want to make RRG a place for weekends. I think the terrain will be great for the 1/2 I am doing in Colorado in Sept!
Thankful I did not have to drive back...seat belt nap was an EPIC fail but I can't sleep any other way in cars (always wack head on window)...I am tired. Dear lord I look tired and pale...I need more sun ;)
As for me, things are going well. I am getting used to changing the way my body responds to certain things and mentally I am exhausted as it is a lot of work. I think I need a vacation...or a camping trip :)
Really....I am exhausted...so just ignore any mistakes...I am too tired to care right now and I am sure there are many ;) If you want to see more pictures...there are like 34 on my FB page. I went a little camera crazy!