The little-known Mason-Dixon Trail is fertile ground for an epic adventure and an upcoming article...(map from the Mason-Dixon Trail website).
Last fall, the question of the season was whether I/we could run 50 miles. The JFK 50-Miler was on the docket for Mike Keene, Stephen Bardsley, and I--the first 50-mile run for either of us, and we had something to prove, to try, to shoot for.
This year, a scheduling conflict has kept me from having a go at a tougher 50-Miler: The Mountain Masochist 50. In a sadistic way, I was looking forward to that challenge, but honestly, I don't really miss having a daunting race approaching for the fall (by daunting, I mean one that there may be some serious questions as to whether I can even finish under the cut-offs). What I do miss is having an epic adventure to get psyched for and have at.
Don't get me wrong--Keene, Katherine Binder, and I are training for a 50-mile relay, the Vermont 50, for which I somehow became the recipient of the longest, hilliest leg :)--22 miles of tough Vermont mountain climbs and descents. I don't take that lightly at all, it's pretty well a mountain marathon, in a beautiful state that I've never run in. I am very much looking forward to it. But running a 50-mile relay doesn't seem to have the same inherent questions that a solo 50-miler does.
Yet there are ultra marathons all over the world, attracting thousands of runners. And as cool as it is to see what people are accomplishing in races, I am more intrigued by those folks, and those adventures, that aren't races at all, but "personal epics," like Matt Hart mapping and completing a circumnavigation of the Tetons. Perhaps this fall, it's not a big race, but a self-chartered (charted) adventure where the real prize lies.
I have two young daughters and a wife who works. I don't have sponsors, a lofty budget, or a ton of free time to make a month, or even week long trek. We're talking a couple days, easy driving distance to start, and self-supported. Luckily, there are nearby epic playgrounds all around us. Here are a few that intrigue me for fastpacking/trail running, two days, one-overnight:
The Mason-Dixon Trail - 190-ish miles, of scenic, regional (and national) history. There are ultras held in and around this trail in the spring and summer, the terrain is varied and beautiful, and fall would be the optimal time to enjoy it. Not a lot of folks even know this trail exists (I didn't). I can tell you, whether or not this ends up as a fall trek, getting to know and write about this trail is going to be a project/goal of mine. In this case, I'm thinking just a section, not (yet) a thru-hike.
Assateague Island - 38-miles from tip-to-tip, and already slated as an open Rise Up Runners "challenge." Fall camping on Assateague is phenomenal (and much less buggy than summer!) and it would be great fun to complete another issued challenge :)
Black Forest Trail - a 42-mile loop in Pennsylvania that looks and sounds simply beautiful and challenging. Another trail I know very little about, but am drooling over the thought of two 20+ mile days and an overnight and new and storied terrain.
These are personal challenges, in three epic settings, each of which I hope to enjoy/complete/experience, say in the next year. This fall, it is a matter of time. The weekend of November 14 - 16 has presented itself as available for adventure and a great time of year to step up to one of these treks. Or maybe there is another playground...er...setting that no one has brought up yet?
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Cooler weather, changing colors, football season, and new challenges. What does this fall hold? What do you think?