Sunday, May 7, 2017

Claremore Lake and new trailz (to us anyway)

For three weeks now, a group of dirt-loving friends and I have made trail trips to explore strange new worlds. This week we ended up in Claremore to run some new and newly revamped mountain bike trailz. I have known about the trails around happy Lake for a few years. They were a little overgrown at times, but in the past couple of years the local mountain bike groups have done some incredible improvements to the existing tracks, and have cut several miles of new ones alongside the shores f beautiful  Claremore lake.

Pictured above from let to right: Johnna, Jamey, BfkaM holding on to Blue who's head was chopped off by the picture taker (which was me), Steve, and Alicia hiding behind Steve.)
Our group met at RunnersWorld and carpooled/caravanned to the said location, where BfkaM and blue had gotten an early start and had all the spider webs cleared out of the way for us. We discussed our plan of attach, and decided to go counter clockwise and take all right turns and see how that worked out.
Early on, we ran along the shore of a finger of Claremore Lake, I figured if we were going to get into any mud, it would be here. There were just a few soft spots on these trails, which is a tribute to the trail designers.

Same spot, but looking the other way. We had talked early in the run as to whether we'd see more turtles or snakes. I decided to count a turtle we saw in the road just before getting to the parking area, so the turtles took an early lead. But a few minutes later, a shriek from Jamey indicated the score had been evened. I small green grass snake slithered into a thicket just ahead of my reaching hand. These guys are fun to play with, but he was having none of that. Jamey was on pins and needles for a while as she is terrified of snakes. All snakes. Poisonous snake non-poisonous snakes, baby snakes, dead snakes, and sticks that looked like snakes.

This little spillway is what separated Claremore Lake from Happy Lake. There was enough green slimy moss and water flowing over the top that we decided to not cross. I didn't think there was anything of interest over there anyway, but my Movescount app shows maybe a mile of trails on the other side--another trip forthcoming.

Next was the caves--actually more of a series of grotto and overhangs. There was some graffiti, names carved in the rocks, and remnants of parties past. Alicia says she lifts the rock up a few inches, but Johnna is not buying it.

Johnna's picture, but much like one I'd take.
We had bright blue skies, gentle breezes, and mid-70s to run on a perfect day. We ended up doing a big loop that basically skirted the outer boundaries and ended back at the parking lot. From there, we ran a series of winding, twisting trailz in the heart of the wooded 40-acre plot, and finished with 3.56 miles on my watch.

The plan from here was to check out the 4ish mile trail that ran along the shoes of Claremore Lake. This required running across a bridge with a narrow shoulder on either side. We switched sides several times as there was quite a bit of traffic for a road out in  the country.

Our snake/turtle count was 6 snakes to 3 turtles. I had hopes for a late surge by the turtles. Alicia swears the last snake she saw was THIS LONG!!

Johnna took this pic
Once we crossed the bridge, topped a short hill, and entered the trail, we knew we were in for a treat. This part of Claremore Lake was beautiful. The water on the other side of the bridge and Happy Lake was muddy, but the main body of Claremore Lake was evidently deeper and took the deep blue color of the sky. I took several pictures but none of mine were as good as this one of Johnna's.

We had not been on this trail for even a half mile when Steve, who was running ahead and then coming back to us, came back to me and said he may or may not have seen a snake eating a squirrel. Maybe my inner Steve Irwin, or maybe my inner redneck kicked into full gear and I hurried cautiously ahead with my camera in hand.

This was a sight to see right in the middle of the trail.  AT this point in the feeding ritual, it was determined that the dinner-to-be was indeed a rat, and the snake was still in the process of suffocating his victim. I took a step or two ahead, and he turned to greet me, and I got the idea that he'd bit me if I dared to mess with his brunch. Happy to back off, I retreated a step or two while the rest of our troop caught up. This was a narrow single track trail. To the right was a brier covered drop-off, and to the left was more briers and a fallen tree. And we needed to get through. We spent a good 10 minutes while the snake decided his dinner was dead enough and proceeded to eat.
And YES I got a video.

BfkaM took over the narration and sounded like a nerdy but enthusiastic elementary school science teacher. I have seen snakes feed before, and how their jaws unhinge and how the whole process in sometimes 30 minutes long, so I stopped the taping and we bushwhacked our way above the trail and headed on. Steve said he was really lucky he didn't step right into the middle of this dinner party. He would have possibly saved the rats life. He probably would have been paid back with a nasty bite, as rat snakes are a mean lot.

A couple hundred yards later, we ran into our friends Maddie and Victor who we had also seen at the parking lot. Cool to run on other friends from Tulsa with like interests They informed us that the trailz ahead were in great shape, and they went a long way. BONUS! We informed them that they had a feeding snake ahead.

The trail weaved through the thick woods and occasionally ran along the tops of bluffs overlooking the lake. There were a few ups and downs, but most was runnable and bikeable.

2.7 miles after leaving the older bike trails and the place we parked, we came to the end of the newly cut trailz. From here on to the dam we had a choice of running on the paved road or the narrow band of grass between the road and the lake. Not complaining here at all.

A couple of kayaks came paddling over to the shore where we were walking, and it was none other than Victor and Maddie. They had a great day of adventure as we did, and now I REALLY want a kayak.

We headed on to see what there was to see at the dam. BfkaM, Alicia, and Jamey had turned back about a mile past the snake and they were going to catch us wherever we ended up. We ran atop the levee all the way to the spillway and saw that down below there was a series of waterfalls. From our vantage point, I could see no trailz leading to the falls, but I bet there was a way. By the time we got back across the levee BfkaM, Jamey, and Alicia came driving up. Our running was done and lunch plans were brewing.

Our travels. If you click on the map, you can see some red dotted lines of other trailz that we did not run. The ones in the cluster if zigzags are not really of any interest to me, but the ones on the other side of the lake might be worth checking out. I am quite impressed with the work this mountain bike group has done.

Movescount has a better graphic, but Strava gave me more elevation Strava shows 525 feet of climb, and that could be right over 7 miles, which is what I ended up with for the day.

This is definitely a place I'll come again to run. Despite seeing seven snakes (I only saw three, but there were other sightings between the six of us), the main problem running here was the ticks. I has sprayed my legs, shoes, and socks heavily with 40% Deet, and I still had a few crawlers. All of us picked off a few ticks along the way and after our run. I took my shoes and socks off and heavily sprayed my bare feet, legs, saturated my socks and put them back on, and sprayed inside my shoes. Where there are ticks, there are probably chiggers. Hopefully I killed these little SOBs as well.

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