Saturday morning Jesse and I went to try out running on parts of the Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT for short) and a one of the smaller trails within the LSHT system, the Little Lake Creek Loop Trail (LLCL for short)
We wanted to get an early start on the day, so we parked Jesses car at trailhead #4, then he hopped in my truck and we drove on to trailhead #1. We were on the trails running by 6:05.
Its still quite dark at 6 in the morning, so we were using hand held flashlights and head lamps. I was also carrying my new Vapur Eclipse Anti-Bottle that I ordered as a solution to Endurance Buzz Adventure's (that's the people responsible for the Whispering Pines 50K) "No Cup Race" rules. In other words, the aid stations dont have cups of water. They have water, you provide your own cup.
All 3 of items of gear that I was carrying performed PERFECTLY! I will do a full writr up review of the Vapur Anti-Bottle after a little more usage, but I can already tell its going to be very satisfying!
From Trailhead #1, which is the Western end of the LSHT (which itself is something like 98 miles long, adding in the additional subsidiary trails and its around 130!!!), runs thru some "managed" areas of the forest where the trees have been harvested and your running thru knee to waist high ferns under a sparse canopy of pine trees.
After a mile and a half or so, you come to a split in the trail. Staying to the left will kep you on the LSHT, going right will bring you onto the LLCL.
Both areas stay in the nicely manager areas for several miles where the very well marked single trail meanders along side various ponds and creeks, with the occassional creek crossing. There are no bridges on the LLCL, creeks were crossed the way small creeks should be crossed. By running down the bank, thru the water, then back up the other bank. This was very enjoyable, and made for some interesting and rather technical sections. It was enjoyable.... the first dozen times.
After about 5 miles things got messy.
It had been raining for a few days on and off, but I dont think it made that much of a difference. The rest of the 7.5 miles of the LLCL were a soggy muddy mess that at times literally ran thru swamps where the mud was almost mid calf deep.
Since I was barefoot the mud and water wasnt too bothersome. Jesse, on the other hand, was running with water drenched shoes for the last 7 miles. There was no avoiding it.
At some point on this section of slogging thru swamp after swamp I managed to kick the shit out of a stump or root or something that I couldnt see due to the underbrush growing out over the trail. My toe was bleeding, but it actually wasnt as painfull as it should have been.
When we finally made it to Jesses car at Trailhead #4 12.5 miles in, I switched out to my second Vapur Anti-Bottle (more on that on my review post) and grabbed some packs of trail mix and set back out to make the return trip to my truck.
There is a 1.25 mile long tail connecting the LLCL back to the LSHT called the Pole Creek Trail (we will just call it the Pole Creek Trail since the name PCT is already taken...). This trail was quite nice! Gently rolling terrain, single track with a pine straw bed. Not very technical or rooty from what I can recall.
Once I joined back up with the LSHT I realized why people hike it rather than the LLCL. It was amazing! Very easy to follow, no swamps, fewer creek crossings and even a few bridges over the occassional swampy areas!
It was in need of some maintenence in a few sections. There were several downed trees that were laying across the trail. At first I would just leap up onto it and keep going. No real hindrance. But after 17 miles of running thru mucky swamps, steep creek embankments and lots of slippery and slick muddy sections of trail, I was fading and climbing over fallen trees became a bit of a nuscance.
There was one section that felt like a straight shot for about 3 miles, the entire time was spent either doing a gradual climb on slick mud, or doing a step descent on muddy slopes coverd in hidden roots.
The final 3 or 4 miles was back in the maintained area following along the side of a little creek, occasionally crossing thru it to the other side. This area was awesome! It was a bit on the rooty side, but very baefootable. The fact that I was running quite tired legs at this point probably made the roots a little more of a challenge than they actually were.
I made it back to my truck at 21.4 miles in just a hair under 5 hours. There was a lot of walking involved. This was my first run back in almost 2 weeks, so my conditioning wasn't where it should have been. It was still a great run that left me very sore. My feet actually took quite a beating. The soles are bruised in several areas with a few scraps. The tops are quite cut up from all the undergrowth that had grown over the LLCL in the wilderness section.
I tried to take a few pictures, but my phone was in a zip lock baggie, so the pictures aren't that great and so therefore I only took a few. Maybe my next trip out there will be a little dryer and I can snap some quality pictures!
I'm deffinately looking forward to my next adventure on the Lone Star Hiking Trail!