VHTRC Web site logo    
  Home | News | BRR | MMT | WHM | Search | Contact | Forum Index

Martha Moats Baker Memorial 50Km
August 14, 2010

By Eva Pastalkova

See also: MMB Results 2010 | Marth Moats Baker Memorial 50km Page

I am writing this as my apology and explanation to Denis and anybody else who worried about my whereabouts during Denis's Martha Moats Baker memorial run.

Eva Pastalkova
The Trail

Dennis, thanks so much for doing this race and I apologize for my disastrous navigation through the woods. This is how it all happened......

I drove to the Wild Oak Trail trail head on Fri night to make sure I am ready when the time is right. I was. After an initial set of Denis's instructions (the key one being: "Never cross a chalk line!") we were headed out and up following the Wild Oak Trial.

My map said: turn left at the first intersection. With that I have taken off and dived into the beauty of the early morning, foggy and rain freshly washed woods. The trail was just beautiful - mosses and lichens some rocks and little pine trees scattered around. Once I got to the intersection, I checked the map briefly for another possible crossing that could be nearby and that I could mistaken this one with but there was none. I somehow managed to ignore the fact that I could not find the name of the trail I was about to take in the map. I turned left and kept going. The trail was supposed to be going downhill, which it was, even the slope felt a bit too steep compared to the map. My mind was wondering in the wind and I kept going, looking for a road we should be taking. After a bit surprising sharp turn and a water crossing I hit the road. All, right, now right. Hmmm... such a nice, paved road? After about of a mile, I run into signs pointing toward Todd Lake and it was clear that I am on a road 95, the same road, we started on. This was not right! I searched the map, found the spot where I was and decided to go back to the start because that would allow me to get back on a trail, to get salt pellets I forgot and to sweep the yellow ribbons Denis used at the crucial intersections of this run. I was back at the Wild Oak Trail trail head about 1hr 45min after we started, grabbed the salt and some more food and hit the Wild Oak Trail once again. All right, I thought, now I got lost and am starting almost 2hrs late. I am back to my old myself, now all should go well.....

It did. Almost.....

I passed the troubled intersection and found the little trail on the map I overlooked before. Headed the right way, I kept climbing. High in the hills, I met guys running the Grindstone training run, all just flying down. All was good. The hill felt a bit endless and legs still somewhat tired from a 100 miler I ran two weeks ago, but the woods were mysteriously foggy, wet and the trail gentle and just beautiful. I checked about three times the intersection on the top of the ridge where we were supposed to turn left. All looked right. The trail climbed a bit and then started to descend. The map agreed. Then, as if without a warning, the trail took a sharp left turn and started to descend. My intuition froze for a second and proposed to return - this did not feel right. But I rejected it, checked that the trail was traveled today and kept going, which, as it turned out later, was a mistake. I just missed the ridge road that was supposed to take us to the first aid station. I just did not expect this crossing so soon. After rather endless hill it felt all trails were taking much longer to travel and I did not feel I run long enough since the last intersection. So I kept running down, looking for a road.

I was not really impressed with the similarity between the road in front of me and that one in the map. The sign by the road said: "Camp Todd" but that was nowhere on my map. Hmmm.... But I had a road and it was going in the right direction. And I took all the right turns, I thought. Let's turn right then....

After a while, there was a trail branching to the right - exactly as in my map. "Good. I am on my way....I kept going, my mind wandered back to the lab. After a while, I got to an intersection I was looking for. It did not look 100% as I expected based on the map but 'hey', the first turn of the road I was supposed to follow looked exactly as it should based on the map. Great!

The road with the right looking turn started to climb (hmmm, I would not really expect such a climb based on the map....) and it kept climbing and climbing and climbing..... I kept looking for the turn I was supposed to find.... I kept going; the road kept climbing and winding.... I was waiting for the peak, which was supposed to come fairly soon. But how soon? Did not hills seem so slow before? Let's be patient. A trail to my left - hm, not in my map. A trail to the right - hm, not in my map. A major road branch of the road - hm, not in my map. But here, I could see lots of foot prints, human and doggie ones, one pretzel and a car full of empty water jars standing by a gate. I passed the gate and run for a bit. There were lots of footprints but then they seemed to disappear. I went back to the gate, the car and the pretzel. That all looked so familiar! But can I really on that? And even if I can, how does this all fit into my map? The road with lots of footprints was going in an absolutely wrong direction. Here I decided that things matched too poorly and that the best thing to do was to return the way I came. I run for about 4 hrs since my second start at the Wild Oak Trail trail head and I lost some time searching so I should be back at the trail head before 6 PM. On the way back I run into a biker and asked him whether he could help me to figure out where I was. By now it was pouring so I very much appreciated he was willing to stop and look at my map. My map turned out to be useless so he pulled out his. All right! This is where I am! Eureka! I have taken another wrong left turn earlier in the woods and got to the super-windy rd. 85, which is NOT on my map! The guy has said that road I was supposed to take was rather overgrown one so I might have overlooked it. I have considered my options and decided to turn back again and to follow rd 85 until its intersection with the overgrown road we were supposed to run on and that I missed high in the hills. Back to climbing the same road again, I passed the place with the footprints, the gate, the car and the pretzel. I kept climbing and looking for a peak on my right hand, where I was hoping to find the intersection with the overgrown road. At some point I passed a very 'overgrown' road with a gate and thought - that might be where we were supposed to come from. There was also a little path with lots of freshly bend grass to support my theory. All excited, I kept going = now I am starting to be back in business! And then my body froze: 'You never cross a chalk line!!!!!' A chalk line was right in front of me. Instead of being excited that I am finally seeing a chalk line I got angry: how else do I get to the intersection I am looking for? But then I noticed a little trail with yellow ribbons going in a 90deg angle from the road. All right! Let's go than. This is probably a shortcut. I climbed a steep climb following (and taking down all of) the yellow ribbons. The ribbons took me to a road with a safeguard. I climbed the safeguard, looked around ... no ribbons. All right, than I have to figure out where to go next. I turned left and followed the road up. I ended up at a dead-end look-out area. There was no one around. Just a dog. All wet and looking lost. I talked to her a bit, asked her about her owner and kept searching for a trail. The doggie seemed to be tame and let me pet her. I felt pretty confused about my whereabouts. I told the doggie I had no clue where I was. She did not seem to mind and was just following me. I have decided I have to explore the road I landed on so I have a better idea about where I am before making any further decisions. I run back and made an estimate of where I climbed the rail (Who, in a world, took the ribbons down?) and kept going further. The doggie was following me. Then I spotted a yellow ribbon and a chalk line on the road! What? So where am I supposed to go? I have studied the map for a while and then I got it!!!!!! All right, now I know where I am! The place with the pretzel was, in fact, the first aid station! WOW! Hard to believe! And the trial behind the gate was that mysterious 'overgrown' road. All right, everything fits well now! There was a trail headed in the right direction just at the right hand end of the chalk line - that is what I am looking for! WOW! I got it! I am going back home now! The doggie was still hanging around. She had a name of her owner and two phone numbers on her collar. She also had a fairly large antenna on another of her two collars. That I could not get: did the battery get discharged? Was the rain the cause? Did the dog get out of the range of the antenna? The dog seemed to be really wet and unhappy and very much welcomed when I pulled food out of the backpack. Everything disappeared in a split of a second. A Zip-bag almost followed the food into her belly. All right, let's go now. I was planning to take the doggie with me and to call her owner once I get back to a car (well, once I get coverage). The doggie was following me faithfully but seemed to limp a bit. I tried to put her into my backpack but she was too big to fit there. I kept encouraging her as we run. I would stop from time to time to pet her and to make sure she was not afraid I was about to leave her in the middle of the woods. She was accepting all of my care with huge intensity and hunger (closed her eyes and leaned against me with all her weight).

All was going great. We passed the first and the second intersection we were supposed to pass, kept bearing to the right and kept going. It was not raining anymore and the trail felt great after all of the roads. And then we ran into another dog! It was the same strain as the dog I was running with, just of a different color. And it had the same, huge antenna on its collar. It seemed exhausted and limping. Man, what is this? Both dogs had names and phone numbers of their owners on their collars and the tags seemed similar. They did not seem to fight each other. The new dog seemed to be all scratched, was making crying sounds and was headed in the direction opposite to ours, deeper into the woods. She was very tame but at first, insisted on her original direction. But it did not make sense for me to let her go that way. I tried to call her as we were taking off. She reluctantly turned around and started to walk with us. But her limping made her really slow. It was obvious there was no way we would get out of the woods soon. Should I carry her? I tried. She was heavy. I could carry her for a short time but then my hands started to hurt. And I could not run. And funnily enough, she always slowly relaxed her body, which made it really hard to carry her. I tried to stick her into my backpack because she seemed a bit skinnier than the first dog but she was too big as well. She lied down or walked really slowly when I left her on her own. What should I do? After a couple of iterations, we found an acceptable way I could carry her and run. I would carry her as a sack of potatoes over my shoulder and help myself by sticking her hind limbs into my backpack. This worked! We run as much as I could. I was worried about touching those parts of her paws that were hurt the most but she never protested. The other doggie was following us. The new doggie took a hard landing a couple of times when I tripped over a branch and then over a stone. I felt bad for her but she just tried to lick my face. I could not believe it! I tried not to rest much when I needed to put her down. She always lay down and started to shiver quickly. All of us were getting tired. The running doggie started to lay down whenever we stopped. That was scary. She always lay down, leaned against me or the other dog and was either licking her paws or just simply closed her eyes and put her head down. Then she kept laying and looking at us as we were leaving her. Eventually, she always got up and caught up with us. Now the trail was going mostly down and was getting steeper - a clear indication we were getting closer toward the end of the ridge and therefore closer to the civilization. I tried to keep going as much as we could. A minute or two of a break from time to time but otherwise we kept going.

Then, suddenly, we arrived to the road. There were two big trucks and three people. I thought, might be I can ask them to look after the doggies while I go for my car. But to my huge disbelieve, the guy from the truck has said: 'This dog is mine'. I could not believe my ears. What? "Do you know where I met your dog? I asked him. But he did not seem to be bothered by the fact his dog was 5 or 6 miles away. "But none of these dogs would have returned on their own, do you know that?" He did not seem to mind that much and said: "The dog was going in the right direction". "Not when I met her!" I replied. They stacked both dogs into a cage on a truck. I just could not grasp that. The guys had large antennas and probably detected the doggies were following our trail. But would they pick one doggie at the Reddish Knob and the other one in the middle of the woods? The guy said this was the first time these dogs were in the woods on their own. That seemed right - these were fairly young and not very strong or muscular dogs. But, once again, would they pick them up? I could not grasp the world I just run into.....

I was about 2 miles from the Wild Oak Trail trail head now. I started to run, feeling confused, stupid and tired. A honking car was going against me - Tom Corris looking for the lost souls.... So kind of you, Tom. Thanks so much! And really, I AM VERY SORRY for making you worry!!!! Very sorry for that!

I got to the Wild Oak Trail trail head quiet exactly 12hrs after we started. Some more people were still around - thanks so much to all of you and please, accept my apology!

What can I take out of this? I have forgotten a trail map of the area at home this time and have to be careful about that! But more importantly, I have to pay close attention to my navigation while out there. It DOES matter that I do not show up at any of the aid stations as this time. I make people worry and that is wrong! That is really wrong! I really enjoy being part of this huge, loving, caring, fun and crazy family! It is my family and I have to be respectful of its members!!!!! And, one more: the antennas of the bear-hunting dogs are functional.

PS: If my Googling is right, the dogs were of an American Foxhound breed*.*

Go to: MMB Results 2010 | Marth Moats Baker Memorial 50km Page

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
Home | News | Events | About the VHTRC | Members Only | Features
Bull Run Run 50 | Massanutten Mt. Trails 100 | Training Runs | Links
Feedback