We needed a getaway. Last week was a hectic week--a good week for me in my job, and a stressful week for Dana. I had reasons for going to the Ouachitas and I tried at the last minute (Thursday afternoon) to book a 1. a cabin in the woods near Talahina, or 2. a bed and breakfast in the same area, or 3. a seedy motel room in the same area. It's deer hunting season in these here parts, and every hopeful hunter who was not roughing it would be camping out in the nearby motel rooms in God's country. But, I lucked out!! The Pine Valley Cabins happened to have an opening for Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday night if I wanted it. I did!! So, Friday, after a long day at the office, working feverishly (actually, I was on the golf course!) we headed out of town around 8:30 pm for a 3+ hour drive to a small cabin near a town I had never heard of (Muse, which did not have even a store or post office, and if it was a "wide spot in the road", I missed the wide spot), and hoped to find this cabin in the dark. We did find it, thanks in no way to our GPS, but rather to the simple directions to Sandy, the proprietor of Pine Valley. We were greeted by distant barkings and howlings of coon dogs that echoed in the wooded hollow. The cabin was new--it smelled new, it was clean, well decorated, and was a hunter's trophy case. We unpacked, and hit the hay. I was wiped out but was ready to slip into relax-mode. I slept a little late, and instead of hitting the trails early, we had a leisurely breakfast, and planned our day of running--this day we'd run the Billy Creek Trail.We had a gracious host, Miss Coco. She helped out with the dishes, with disposing of any leftover food we had, and she also kept all the wild animals--bears, wild boars, and mountain lions away from our cabin during the night. She also kept our laps warm when we sat around the campfire the next night.
I had bought a few trail maps and they were very detailed, and I had no doubt we could find the trail head and navigate our loop with no problem. However, we did have a little trouble finding the trail, and burned about an hour and had just about decided to try the Horse Thief Trail instead, but almost by accident, we stumbled onto the signage we were looking for.The first 2-3 miles of our loop was a climb. The first 1/2 mile of that climb was heavily overgrown. This trail does not see a lot of traffic, but was well marked with yellow blazes.This area is know for amazing foliage in the fall. We might have been a week or two early for the optimum colors, but it was still nice.Plus, we had bright blue skies and mild temps--maybe 80 degrees at the warmest.On the way to the top, the trail utilized part of a logging road. This made the climb a lot easier, but it was a bit warmer in the sun. We were both wearing our Nathan Packs, and carrying 2 water bottles.Near the top, the single track was a little more defined and was quite runnable.We went by a couple of intersections--just wanted to be sure we were heading the right way.
Nice smooth running--a stretch with fewer rocks!! Dana likes it!Steep rocky downhills--Dana likes it NOT!She's not too keen on the rocky technical uphills either.Another mountain, another day.
We finished our run with 6 miles on the dot, although we did not take the trail all the way to the top of the Talimena Drive since we were semi-concerned about getting out by dark. (I was more concerned about getting back to the cabin in time to charcoal a couple of rib-eyes.)
Day 2: We got up a little earlier, and Dana made omelets. We paid our cabin fees, and I visited with the owner. What a life, to run a cabin rental like this. Hmmm.... Although she said we could have stayed as long as we wanted--even til the evening, we decided to pack up and head back towards home, and stop at Cedar Lake.This is the top half of the map pictured at the top of this post. The Horse Thief Trail begins at Cedar Lake. I have ran this trail before, and it is a good one. It is, however, a 14 mile round trip, with no way to abbreviate it. So, we decided to run the perimeter trail around Cedar Lake--a 3 mile journey. I had never ran this trail, and I am certain this is my favorite "short" trail!This was an easier trail--a few rocky sections, a few rooty sections, a few short climbs, lots of pine needles, and postcard pretty views of this awesome lake.This was a picture-taker's delight. A trail-runner's delight too!Mr. Sun was with us today. Tall pines reach high to greet him.Our mountain from yesterday. We were very close to the peak.
Roots. These will trip you quicker than rocks. Brings back memories of Sunmart and Rocky Raccoon.You have to respect these roots. Here's one just waiting to bite someone!!Like Rocky Raccoon, there are a few wooden bridges over the swampy areas.Most of the trail was runnable. This would be the perfect place for a trail 5K.
I had mentioned rocks, roots, pine needles, pint trees, bridges....did I mention the Everglades?Or the Jungle? This trail has it all.We finished our run--just a little under 3 miles--and made ourselves a picnic lunch and ate under the whirring pines. I could live there. I did live there.It's a sure thing--we'll be back.