Some friends and I made the trip northeastward to the Spavinaw Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to run. I have been there a couple of times before, and remembered my way around pretty well, but had not seen all the roads/routes/trails there. I believe one could create a serpentine route that would be a good 50K in length without crossing the same trail twice.
Johnna, Michelle, Jbob, and Lynna joined me and our awesome five-some headed out around 9:30 for a run of a yet-to-be-determined length. I had plotted out some possible route using MapMyRun, and we decided on an 8.3 mile loop with the option of adding an out-and-back. (Note the smiling faces.)
Having ran here before, I knew there were two ways to begin out run. One was to head straight west from the WMA office, which involved a beefy climb right out of the chute. I was here once in my Prius, and wanted to drive on the well maintained roads across the area to scope things out, and my Prius could not make it up the hill. (A Prius does not behave at all on off-road conditions, even when they're semi-well maintained gravel surfaces.) The other departing route takes you north on a road that is not on all the available maps, but is a good route other than a few mud puddles--and trail runners are ok with mud.
After a half mile, a gradual climb began. I had to make a pee stop (have not mastered the pee-on-the-run thing yet) and I fell behind--but engaged the shuffle mode and inched my way back to the group.
This climb had a couple of false summits--you the kind of hill that you see what you think is the top, and then around a bend the darn hill goes up, and at an even steeper grade.
Despite this seemingly relentless ascent, I was not cussed at this point.
Mile two-ish. It was cloudy and and cold, but with no wind and our steady pace, we were warm and happy. West was thew direction and away we went.
Lynna was wearing a new pair of Hokas for the first time--breaking the "never wear new shoes on a long run" rule. I later was told she had wore that same shoe before--this was just a new pair of the same model. That's ok in my books.
Coming around the northern edge of the 8.3 mile loop, we finally got the pay off for all the climbing we had been doing. A nice 1.5 mile gradual descent made this my fastest mile--although it was not particularly speedy. Michelle noticed a cave down in a holler that looked big enough to set up a couple of campsites in it. To get to it, and I wanted to, we would have had to butt-slide down a 75' drop, and then somehow climb back out--or go a half mile or so down the road we were on and follow a creek bed back up to the cave. We decided it might be a good thing to do on a later trip.
Since all of our group pics had the photographer out of the frame, we grouped in for a selfie shot. I gave up on trying to photoshop out the deranged look in my eyes. So there you have it!
Lynna decided to climb to the top of this knoll to see what there was to see. It was a mere 50 yards and not to steep. We made our way there, and the view was great. You could see for maybe a couple of miles down into a valley and back op another hill, and then beyond that.
I took several pictures, but none could capture the view. This pano shot was the best of the bunch.
We reached this point--the intersection of Tower Road and SandPoint Ridge Road and had a brief conference. We had already tackled a good climb out of the Dog Hollow Valley, and had extended the possibility of the 8.3 mile loop. Should we go on?Should we find a way to loop back for a 9-sh mile loop? My adventurous side said no, and I talked the group into heading away from our cars and onto the SandPoint Ridge Road. I remembered this road from my last trip here, and it's beautiful, although I knew it would mean we'd have about 16 miles. My running buddies are good sports, but I do feel like I drug Michelle into going a bit further than she should have what with Switchbacks being just last Saturday.
This was a gorgeous section of the run. Running under tall pines on a blanket of pine needles is my idea of heaven. Jbob was awesome. He would run ahead, top a long hill, and then turn around and run back to whoever was furthest back (sometimes me, sometimes Michelle) and would jog with us and dole out encouragement. He ended up with seven more miles than I had, and who knows HOW many more feet of elevation?!?
Another pee stop for me and then I was chasing Michelle and Johnna. Lynna runs like a gazelle, and she would sometimes zigzag back with Jbob.
This loop goes through an a spot where there had been a fire years ago. Tall grass had taken over the bare area and it was beautiful. I am sure this IS a hunter's paradise.
Yes, there were a few flat sections.
Clicking off the miles. And thinking about food. We had been discussing feeding options from about noon on.
A little roller--up, down, up.
At another key intersection, this is the remains of an old homestead. I have also been here before and was confused as to the best way to go.
There is a gravel creek bed that is marked as a foot traffic only route, but on any map I have seen, it's a dead end. It looked like from the maps we had with us that the route we needed was right here, but actually we had to go west and further away from where we parked to pick up a main route back.
So west we went. I posted a few pics on Facebook, and someone asked me WHAT was in the tree. I told them we were lost, and Jbob climbed a tree to see if he could get a bearing, and then slipped and fell. And the "thing" in the tree was his camelback. Of course it was lies all lies.
AHHH. Here is the road we were looking for. Cochran Prairie Road--a major route on the southern perimeter of the WMA. This road headed east--and up. Mostly up.The sun had finally made an appearance, and blue skies were in full bloom. This also meant the frozen roads were turning to slickish mud in places--not to bad, but coming home with clean shoes was not gonna happen.
We then turned on Chicken Hollow Road, which I think gets it's name from the fact that it cuts off a big portion of the Cochran Prairie loop.
More pine trees, more pine needles to run on. Johnna didn't let the hills phase her at all. Must be that this was still easier than Ouachita Switchbacks the week before.
I announced that this was our last major climb. I was wrong. :-(
A little larger chunks of gravel, as I bet this was flash flooded during the recent heavy rains. I remembered this road heading east and descending right into the WMA headquarters--but what I did not remember was the 150' climb just before the descent. I'm sure I was cussed a little for this and suppose I deserved it.
This is the best map I have found for the Spavinaw WMA. The black dotted lines are basically un-maintained roads, and during this time of the year, they'd be find. I bet some are impassable in the spring and summer.
I like this. I'd think about this graphic every time we climbed another hill. Sick, I know.
I plan on going somewhere out of town once a month, and I'd love to have a huge group of friends with me. We'll carpool and caravan there, run 15-25 miles, and then do the feeding frenzy thing. Fun.