One of the topics we occasionally try and write about on this website are our favourite trails. I have several favourite trails in the Gatineau Park – trails whose views, elevation changes, or flow are awesome for running, mountain biking or, preferably skiing. But my real favourite trails are those I haven’t run yet. There is nothing I enjoy more – not even Burma, or Skyline, or Wolf – than being at the start of a new trailhead. Nothing passes the time faster than an out-and-back run on a piece of trail with new views and unexpected surprises around every corner. Invariably, if I get to the end of my allotted run time and have to turn around, I stretch my run out – just a minute, just around the next corner, just up the next hill – to see what’s there.
And regardless of the town you’re in, there is always an awesome trail to find (ok, Ocean Springs, Mississippi is a notable exception – have yet to find a solid trail in that town, and mostly end up on the beach or the golf course – nice, but not the same thing). I even found a ‘new’ (for me) trail in Ottawa two weeks ago – the gravel path down by the Ottawa River heading East from downtown. Its calm, peaceful, and very, very flat.
I found another awesome trail this weekend, but this time it was in a new town – La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Finding this one took a bit of work. On Thursday, myself and a colleague did an initial exploratory run. We found the highway and a service road beside the highway, but no good trail. We initially thought we’d found something when we turned off the service road onto an old track, but a few metres in that turned into wet muskeg. No success. On Friday, we checked out a campground just north of town that had some nice roads to run on – but still not a trail. But someone later that day said something about a trail at the end of the campground, so I checked it out on Sunday morning.
Which is how I found myself at the end of the campground, standing in front of the Nut Point Hiking trail, furiously swatting mosquitoes. The trail was a classic awesome running trail – slightly overgrown so it would brush you on both sides, and not very well maintained, but really smooth and flowing. It crossed granite Shield and swampy muskeg over old catwalks. Mossy, scruffy northern pine forests, blueberry fields, through a large burn from a fire not long ago. Through prime bear country too, which worried me a bit. Great views of Lac La Ronge, a spectacular northern lake. This was a nice trail. It just went on, and on. I turned around 45 minutes in and headed back, full to the brim with discovery and enjoying the way back as much as the way in.
The lesson is this: whatever town you travel to, no matter where you go, go looking for a trail. Here are some memorable one-time trail runs in towns I’ve visited:
- Whitehorse: the trails on the other side of the river from town, heading up the Yukon River past the fish ladder.
- St. John’s: the Signal Hill trail.
- Gadsden, Alabama: the dirt road off Noccalula Road behind my cousin’s house.
- La Ronge, Saskatchewan: the Nut Point Trail.
- North Vancouver: the Lynn Peak trail.
- Tofino, B.C.: the Long Beach run.
- Malbaie, QC: the big climb in the Parc des Haut-Gorges.
- Washington State: An awesome point-to-point setup near the Methow Valley.
- Lewes, Sussex, England: The Sussex ridge run back into near Brighton, through sheepfields and pastures and medieval stuff.
- Dublin, Ireland: the big awesome park trails in the middle of town with the deer.
- Port Moody, B.C.: the Golden Ears trail.
Notable out-of-town trails I plan to run include:
- Thunder Bay: Sleeping Giant Prov. Park, including the Chimney.
- Toronto: the Don Valley trail system.
- Squamish, B.C.: the many trails I have heard of there.
- Mammoth, California: those trails look awesome!
- The Cabot Trail (I KNOW it’s paved, that’s not important!)
Feel free to write and tell us about one of those times where you didn’t plan it, you just went looking and found something awesome.