A Meandering Runner

Yes, I do still run! I know most of my posts have been about my adventures on the bike, but I still try to run at least once or twice a week, usually with friends. I frequently run on Friday mornings with a friend who does 10 miles — I meet her for the second half of the run and do 5. She runs on a nearby paved trail (which used to be a rail line) and does two out-and-back segments from the parking lot so that it’s easier for others to meet up and run with her. We have a great time, and there are often at least a couple other friends who join us, which makes it great social time as well as a good run — I can’t tell you how many times that early morning run has led to conversations that had me thinking and pondering for the next few days! I really enjoy it, and hate it when I have to miss it … or, like today, when I sleep through my alarm and miss it.

As soon as I realized there was no way I could make the second half of her run today — I woke up at 6:58, according to my phone, and needed to be at the meeting spot by 7am — I knew that I still wanted to run. Some days, being a more social athlete means that I groan and drag my feet and postpone running alone; today was not one of those days. I couldn’t wait to get out there! But the only question was: where out there?

We are incredibly lucky when it comes to running options. While running in my neighborhood tends to be a little boring (to me), it’s still an option — even at rush hour, it’s safe to run here. There’s only one road that gets heavier traffic at peak hours, and even that tends to be sporadic, not a steady stream of heavy traffic. As long as you remain alert, cross carefully, and keep an eye out for people backing out of their driveways, the roads through my neighborhood are totally safe. However, I have even better running options within a short drive. If I’m willing to drive about 10 minutes, I have access to the Schuylkill River Trail, the Chester Valley Trail, or my favorite place to run: Valley Forge National Park.

My original plan was to drive out to the Schuylkill River Trail. Then, I started driving and decided I would park at Valley Forge and walk over the pedestrian walkway along route 422 to access the trail. Then, I decided I might as well just run at Valley Forge. Then, I decided I didn’t want to run the usual 5-mile paved loop around the park, so I circled through the park and over to route 252, where there is parking for Knox’s Headquarters and the trails behind it. Next thing I knew, without really consciously deciding anything, I was passing the parking lot for Knox’s, heading through the covered bridge and onto Yellow Springs Road, where I re-discovered that the tiny parking lot for Mt. Misery is closed off. There’s construction going on along Yellow Springs Road — they’ve built a new parking lot for trail access, and it looks like they’re almost done the paved walkway that runs from the parking lot to the trails for Mt. Misery and Valley Creek.

(I’m pretty excited about this, because we used to just walk or run down the road to get to the trail, and the road is pretty narrow, without much of a shoulder. Having a protected pedestrian walkway to get people to and from these popular, very pretty trails will be a nice improvement.)

I parked in the new trailhead lot, headed down the open section of walkway and ran down a short stretch of the road to head onto the trail alongside Valley Creek. It’s gorgeous back there, and the trail stays right alongside the creek for about a mile before turning away from the creek and climbing to intersect with the Horseshoe Trail, which takes you onto Mt. Misery. I bypassed that option and continued the other way, following my trail out to route 23 near Washington’s Headquarters. Here, you have a couple options: cross over route 23 to Washington’s Headquarters, and choose a couple trail options from there, or cross over route 252 and turn right onto the trail for Mt. Joy. I chose the latter option.

I’ve never run Mt. Joy before, and I am now kicking myself for not doing it before. It was absolutely, thrillingly beautiful — the kind of beauty that both distracts and uplifts me. The trail is well-maintained and not technical; there were only a couple sections where it was particularly rocky. It’s definitely steep, and I alternated between running and walking as I climbed. The forest here is gorgeous, and for most of my run, it was just me and the breeze through the trees. I startled a couple deer, one of which had a pair of late-season fawns following along behind her; I saw squirrels and birds; I passed a couple walking a dog, but otherwise saw no other people on the trail. As I started down the far side of the hill, heading back toward Knox’s Headquarters, the breeze sent leaves falling gently around me, which really made it feel like Fall is already here! (The cool temperatures helped, too.)

I ended up finishing up at just under 4 miles, which is about what I had wanted to do today. I’m so glad I meandered my way around before deciding where to run. Sure, it would have been pretty along the Schuylkill River Trail, too — it was a gorgeous morning, and the tree-lined SRT is great for a flat out-and-back run — but I got to enjoy the beauty of running alongside a pretty creek, and then conquering a good hill in a beautiful forest setting. I don’t think it gets much better than that.