I just can’t get over how much fun it was running Swift Camp Creek Trail. It passes through a truly amazing and underappreciated area. I’ve got to get back there soon with my camera. Of course I have unfinished business along that trail too. I’ve still got to complete my latitudinal traverse of the Red River Gorge via Rough Trail and Swift Camp Creek Trail.
I hatched that particular scheme when we still lived in Colorado. I think when it was first conceived I thought it would be easy. I had thru-hiked Rough Trail two different times. The first time I did it as an overnight backpacking trip, and then a later went back with Tomahawk and hiked it straight through in a day. It’s about ten miles end to end. Before both of those outings I had section-hiked the entire trail during my earliest Gorge explorations.
How hard could a crossing of the Gorge be? It would be nothing compared to travelling through the mountains of Colorado. No problem!
As I mentioned in my previous post I had hiked all of Swift Camp Creek twenty years ago; probably as two out-and-back hikes from the north and south termini. In the following years I often hiked the northern section to Wildcat Trail and then closed a loop using Sky Bridge Road to get back to the trailhead, and I’d also hiked a loop on the southern portion utilizing the unofficial Turtleback Arch Trail to complete a loop. Then as suggested in Ruchhoft’s Land of the Arches I had also hiked the Hell’s Kitchen section of Swift Camp Creek proper through the roughhewn gorge during dry weather from near Rock Bridge to a logical ending point. I then picked up Swift Camp Creek Trail to return to the Rock Bridge trailhead. I did that adventurous hike at least three times.
The one section I had never repeated after my initial explorations was the stretch between my historic exit point from the creek about three miles below the Rock Bridge/Swift Camp Creek Trail junction and Wildcat Trail. That lost mile blew me away. It was amazingly beautiful. It was technical and narrow. The creek roared over boulders and shoals below the trail providing an incomparable soundtrack to the melodrama I was playing out on the trail.
Once I passed Wildcat Trail I was actually disappointed to be back on familiar ground, even though I had been apprehensive about running through the semi-remote and committing miles of Swift Camp Creek.
My goal is to run all of Rough Trail and Swift Camp Creek. After my attempt last week I now know what I’m in for. It’s not fourteen miles as the trailhead signs would have you believe. It’s not fifteen miles as most maps tally it up to be; no, a latitudinal crossing of the Red River Gorge utilizing two of the longest trails in the area equals seventeen miles and no less than 2,000’ of climbing (six big climbs). What also makes this run challenging is that the trails do not loop. You have to shuttle or do a crazy 34 mile out-and-back…!!! New scheme! It would be easy enough to shave off three miles around Grays Arch on one pass to make it an even 50 kilometers.
No shuttle necessary.
I’m a long way from that level of fitness. But I’m also at an advantage being so close to such fine runnable trails. Oh. My. Badness. I’m not sure why I hadn’t considered that before. Maybe because it’s just a little bit whackadoodle.
Like I said in my last post this trailrunning thing is a chemical equation I need to solve more completely. I’m getting there, but I’m still falling short. Running takes so much more out of me that mountain biking ever has. I had it figured out, and now I have to relearn fueling for running on trails.
Why do I put myself through all of this? In “Dream Seasons” I talked about running (or biking) to find a state of flow, of existing only in the moment and leaving the trappings of industrial time behind. But the reality is that on a long run there’s a lot of time when I just can’t run hard enough to evoke flow. Maybe it’s because of my inherent wussitude. When my body rebels and I have to walk it’s almost impossible at that point to find the void of flow.
Does that mean I should actually be looking at shorter runs? Sounds like it. There were times on my last long run when I was just kind of bored with the effort. I wanted to be miles on down the trail. I wasn’t enjoying the moment. Was I bored; or was that the vague shadow of depression?
I’ve no hope to win the Rugged Red this year unless my opponents all take a wrong turn. It’s possible but not too probable. I’ll focus on my best effort this year, but then go into the next year with a much more honed focus on getting faster and better on the trail. I’ll cross train more. I’ll broaden my training to incorporate more strength and core fitness as well as dropping weight to become the climber I want to be.
My intent it to establish a competitive FKT on a latitudinal (and ultimately a longitudinal) traverse of the Red River Gorge and to dominate next year’s Rugged Red. There are other key trails and loops that make for good ITT type races through sites like Strava. Sand Gap comes to mind. The short but classic Auxier Loop is excellent. Lost Branch/Osborne Bend thwarted me a week and a half ago, but it was really a good loop just screaming to be run fast.
I live in a world class area for rock climbing. I’m beginning to think I live in a world class area for trail running. I also think it’s time I get serious about my athletic ambitions. Mandy and I want to be in better shape. I want to be able to perform at a higher physical level than I currently am, and I want to do so and have fun. It’s going to take some serious reshaping of the mind and body. I know the key (for me anyway) is to step it up in a very assertive way.
My mind can come up with the schemes. Can my body keep up if I teach myself how to do it?