Friday, November 14, 2008

Pawtuck Pounding

Wow... we finally did it. We've talked about it ad-nauseam over the last year now. "Hey man.. we gotta run 3 loops in this place." I've gone out there many times with the intent of running the loop 3 times. Each time I've gone, it took me so long to do 2, and I was so wrecked after 2 that 3 became nothing more than an inside joke. Until today. Nate and I started out around 10:30am for our try at 3 loops. This place is rugged. Each loop consists of a 6 +/- Mile loop that goes up and over North and South Mountains in the park. Each loop holds about 2200' of elevation gain. On a good day, we can bang out one 6 mile loop in about 1 hour 25 minutes. The average time is about 1:35. As if its not challenging enough, we've chosen to run the loop in November, once all of the leaves are down covering the rocks and roots that make up this park. And on a day where the temp hovers around 50 and a heavy thick drizzle falls from the sky.

We held no reservations about finishing. With the uncertainty of how Nate's foot would hold up under the stress of the run, and how I would hold up staying warm given recent affects of my anemia... we agreed that we'd simply run as far as we comfortable could. If we got 3 loops in, great! If not.. ce la vie and we'd live to try another day.

The Pawtuckaway Mountains are a small, rocky, circular range that form the outline of an ancient volcanic ring dike dating from 130—110 million years ago. The ring dike, first completely mapped in 1944, is a smaller and more accessible example of the same kind of geological process that formed the Ossipee Mountains to the north. In 2008 the new public availability of aerial photography on Google Earth led one New Hampshire resident to discover the ring dike and wonder if it was the impact crater of a meteor. This same question was discussed on a geocaching forum in 2005.

Loop 1:
Rain continued to fall at a slow but steady clip this morning and not long after leaving the comfort of our cars I was soaked. Nate was wearing a light jacket and the warmth his body was generating caused him great discomfort. It didn't take him long to stop to shed a layer. We stashed a few water bottles for refills in a rock crevasse I know of near the stream at Round Pond before heading around to North Mountain. The run begins by us running down into the glacial hole that makes Pawtuckaway what it is. We make our way down a rock strewn doublewide trail to Round Pond. From here is where each loop starts and ends. The loops takes us out below The Lower Slab rock climbing area, along a marsh and then bypasses the bouldering area before making its way to the base of North Mountain. From here we climb steeply up alongside the Devils Den before topping out at a National Guard Repeater. The run then continues on to the top of North Mountain after one more gnarly incline. We then traverse the top of the mountain and get lead down a steep steep downhill section which is marred by lose rocks.

After making it to the bottom of North Mountain, we run on snowmobile trails and dirt roads across this section of the park to the base of South Mountain. From here we work our way around the trails and climb steeply once again to the top of South Mountain which is home to one of New Hampshires 14 active Fire towers. From here, we run through some large boulder areas before making our way downhill to "the stream" which we cross and then run alongside on an old road, remnants from the old town that once existed here. Then we head over to "The Switchbacks" working our way down and around to the shores of Round Pond which lead us back to the start/finish. Great.. one loop complete. Only one problem.. the downed leaves make it hard to follow the trails we know so well which causes us minor confusion along the way and a few moments of memory lapse.

Loop 2:
The rain had let up and the mist dropped heavily now. I was soaked and cold but continued to move along as gracefully as possible. I have a few kinks left from the RANH. IT Band issue in my right knee and a sore right quad and piriformis. As we completed North Mountain we ran along the snowmobile trails, I took notice as we always do to the old foundations that lie silent in these woods. We speculate one to be an old church given its enormity and the close proximity to the old Cemetery that lies forgotten in the wood as well. The settlers all died in the last 1800's at ages as old as 85! Simply unheard of for the time period and it seems as though all those who rest here, lived to be older in age! After much searching on the internet, I have found no information about this lost town.. I am intrigued.

We got lost and turned around coming off of South Mountain. It took me awhile to figure out we had gone the wrong way and only after we lost a few hundred feet of elevation. I made Nate turn around with me and return to the top so we could find our way once again. We added miles and elevation... great.

Loop 3:
We though it would kill us. We certainly hiked much slower than we had on the previous two loops and we were feeling the burn. But Loop 3 hurt no more or less than loop 2 usually does. As we ran down North Mountain we ran into two hikers, "Are you guys ok or is this your normal pace?" Must be interesting to imagine that some people "run" down mountains. hehe. We carried on and made quick work of the usual running sections before staggering up South Mountain on last time. After returning to the bottles at Round Pond, we headed back up the trail to the cars.

Pawtuckaway N-S Loop x3
20 Miles
7,000+ Feet of Elevation Gain
5 Hours 20 Minutes

It was great to be out challenging myself again. I haven;t done much running this month, or since the RANH, opting to take some time off to regather myself and allow my body a chance to rest. Nate and I had a great time reminiscing about what we've accomplished this year. I think we did all that we set out to do. We look very much ahead to 2009 and continued success and dreams. We have some great (crazy) ideas shaping up for 2009 and we hope some of you will come on out and join us in our adventures. If two knuckleheads like us can do it.. so can you. Stay tuned! Good news is.. while his foot was sore, it is evident that his foot is healing faster than I had originally thought! Way to go Nate! We talked about many things we've been waiting to talk about and it was just an all around excellent run to partake in. Snow will be falling soon and the trails will disappear.. looks like road running looms ahead.

Happy Trails