Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail Run - Appleton Farms Spur

I haven't run on the Bay Circuit Trail since May when I meandered for 30 miles through seven communities, getting lost in the process.  I've been reluctant to return to the BCT and cover the remaining 100 (or so) unfinished miles to the shores of Kingston.  Most of the sections yet to be run are over 20 miles in length and my ailing IT band just wont stand up to the distance.  I decided to run a shorter side spur to quench my thirst for some BCT goodness.

The spur splits off the main BCT in Willowdale State Forest and runs through Bradley Palmer State Park, Pingree Reservation, Harvard Forest, Appleton Farms Grass Rides  and terminates in Appleton Farms.  There is a proposal to extend the trail east from Appleton Farms to Crane Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.  That would be sweet.  My plan was to run in an east-west direction, beginning at Appleton Farms. The out and back run would total 16 miles so I cut it a bit short to come in around 12.  I didn't want to push it too far since anything over 10 miles has been causing some serious knee pain.

Course view

It was 21 degrees when I arrived at Appleton Farms but the winds were light and the sky was a clear and brilliant blue.  My decision to run in shorts and a long-sleeved shirt turned out to be a good one. I'm warmed up soon enough once I got moving.  The first two miles though Appleton Farms was on a pleasant dirt road flanked by pastures and meadows.  The few cows grazing in the early morning light seemed uninterested with my presence.  I met another runner coming from the opposite who thought I was nuts for wearing shorts. Hey, it's not winter yet.

A frosty morning.

Some of the easiest running I've done in a while.

Leaving the farm, I entered an area laced with wide carriage roads.  The BCT is not blazed here so I followed the trail description to find my way to a large clearing where six roads met like spokes on a hub.  A pinnacle salvaged during the demolition of the old Harvard College Library in the early 1900s stands in the center of the clearing. There are three other pinnacles on the property.  I departed the clearing and followed a wide, grassy road to Harvard Forest.

Round Point clearing

The Pinnacle

Once I entered Harvard Forest/Pingree Reservation the trails were sparsely marked with the white rectangle blazes of the BCT.  I was never confident I was following the correct trail but only once strayed briefly off the chosen path.  A bridle path built and maintained by the Essex County Trail Association brought me to Bradley Palmer State Park.  I was now on familiar ground having run in BPSP several times over the years. 

Crossing Black Brook which splits Harvard Forest and Pingree Reservation.

A pond on the grounds of Pingree School.

When my Garmin hit six miles in BPSP I was still about two miles from the main BCT trail in Willowdale.  Since I was no longer discovering new trails I decided to turn back now.  Running the additional four miles out and back would only increase the risk of knee pain on the return trip to Appleton. The 12 miles I ran is twice the longest distance I have been running lately.   No need to be a hero, or a dope.  In the end. I never had any pain.  But that could change at any time. It has in the past. Still, I'll take a good day when it comes.

Do I have any other choice? 

More images from my run can be found HERE.

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