photo courtesy Eduardo Arnao

Hudson Valley 50K in the Shawangunks, Ellenville, NY  3,4

Scrolling Photographs
September 14, 2013 - This year has been one that has opened my eyes to an
unexpected experience of challenge, beauty, and camaraderie in the great
State of New York.  Never had I considered how rewarding it would be to
spend time on the trails of the Catskills, then the Adirondacks, and now the
Shawangunks, and I didn't have to go far from home to find as rugged of
mountains as found anywhere on earth.  It is with a certain unrefined pleasure
that I now can say that I have run in the Gunks.

When Peter Preston invited me to join a circle of friends that would run up the
ridge of the Shawangunks, I was delighted to accept.  I generally don't have to
think very hard about joining a group of rock and ridge runners for any challenge
at any distance.  Rock runners are of a breed that I call family.  You can color me
in if the objective is purely to cover ground, without any sense of urgency, just
for the sake of bounding all day long through rocky terrain of the vertical sort.

After doing some diligence on the variety of trails in and around Lake Minnewaska
and the private Mohonk Preserve, Peter laid plans for the group of us to aim for
most of a fifty-mile effort up and down the spine of the Gunks.  With the super
support of Deirdre, who would have aid stations waiting for us at strategic
crossings, seven of us were shuttled to the trailhead at South Tully to start our 
climb to the ridge - Peter, Amy, Ed, Eduardo, Kevin, Jim, and myself.

As is characteristically the case we talked our way to the top by the light of head
lamps before the night gave way to the dawn.  Temps were in the forties and
comfortable.  A slight bite in the air was refreshing.  The mood was good and the
weather would be perfect.  Jim and Kevin peeled off after a couple hours to
leave the five of us to run along the escarpment, indulging in mischievous play,
stopping often to photograph the magnificent vistas, thrust up rock formations,
the broad expanse of the Hudson Valley, and, of course, the antics of each other.
It was great fun on top in mostly pure sunshine as we continued to chat our
way along the ridge, aiming for the first aid station back at Minnewaska Lake,
where Deirdre would have a picnic table spread with a variety of treats that
would rival the offerings of any aid station at any race.  

We took our time eating and drinking and lightening our loads before heading
off on the second leg of our journey.  It was great to share a beer with friends.
I am really getting spoiled about having a beer during events and really have to
guard against expecting it!!!!  The day was filled with a mix of running and walking
on rocky trails, great slabs, and what remains of carriage trails where vacationers
from the big city would venture out into the country in horse-drawn carriages
to enjoy nature in their hoop skirts and other finery.  A sense of a deep history
followed us the entire way.  This is an area of the country that has a long story
to tell.  The names of features such as Gertrude's Nose, Awosting, Mohonk, and
Patterson's Pellet evoked wonder about their derivations from times long ago
when the storytellers were Native Americans and then early Dutch settlers.  

It was enjoyable to think about the orogeny of the region and how the
escarpment was pushed skyward by the great forces of the earth's plates
colliding; about how the forces of alternating freeze-thaw formed giant crevasses 
that could swallow a horse; and how the entirity of ridge and valley had been
hidden beneath glacial ice by more than a mile for over ten thousand years.
The scale of the geologic forces and weather influences that sculpted this
landscape over a time that is difficult to conceptualize only leaves one to ponder in
humbled awe.

Joe Brown, a local here, joined us as welcome company near the end of our day. 
I took time when we reached the renouned rock walls of the Trapps to chat with
climbers that were watching others chalk their way up the face of the rocks.  Some
were on belay and some were free climbing.  While there were not many pitches
above 5.5 these were some well known climbs that made me dream of digging
my fingers into the cracks and scrambling up, up, and up.  I raced to regain my
compatriots and left my dreams of climbing for another day... another day!

At the pace of our sojourn up the ridge it was evident we would not be achieving
our target of 50 miles, so we collectively agreed to cut the day short of any
preconceived plan and finished early with 31 miles, with enough time and energy
remaining to drive up to New Paltz to dine and enjoy a few local brews to cap off
a great day.  Charlie Gadol joined us and a fine time was shared with abundant
talk of doing it again - maybe the next day even!!!  Count me in.  There is more
running of the Gunks in my future.