We lucked out with the warmest New Year's Eve weather in years for the VHTRC night run on the AT. I'm always ambivalent regarding NYE. It's nice to spend it with friends, but the hoopla associated with ringing in the year by having a fabulous time at some big bash brings out my solitary side in a big way. I'm not much of a party-girl on this night, so a run in the woods seemed like a fine alternative.
Except that my trail karma has been bad lately, including repeatedly twisting my left ankle. And here I was on a wicked rocky, leaf-covered stretch of the AT. What a fine excuse to go slow and enjoy the mild, clear night. At Weverton, Kerry had stashed a wonderful midnight feast, including shrimp, sushi, birthday cake and champagne. At midnight, toasts all around and Quatro got the kissing started with all the ladies. I'm sure the seventh-grade Quatro was the kid who could be counted on to get 'spin-the-bottle' going at parties. Of course, if Gary had been there, he wouldn't have waited till midnight. Gary wasn't there, but he was ably represented by his close friend, Mr. K. Creek.
It finally started getting a little cold, so we packed up and headed for the 6 mile run back to our cars. After successfully negotiating the first part, my ankles were having a bit more trouble on the way back (possibly influenced by Mr. Creek) and I dropped to the back of the pack. After one good twist, I just sat down and had a good cry of frustration, then picked myself up and got moving again. Way back of the pack now, couldn't even see the lights up ahead anymore. Walked off the ankle pain before picking up the pace. It was cool being out in the woods alone, I was enjoying it. I was absent the day that the navigation gene was handed out, so I recently got a GPS to provide the sense of direction that always eludes me. But I didn't bring it this night, because who could get lost on this stretch of trail? It's like the freakin' towpath, very easy to follow.
You can guess where this is going. I'm wandering along enjoying the stars and the trail, then hmmmm....I don't remember all this mud. And the trail doesn't seem quite as clear as I recall. But I see lights, and can hear the 340 traffic, so figure I'm OK. That's about the time that I arrive in the enormous yard of a mansion, with lots of barking dogs. Swell. Turn around and head back. Trail seems to disappear. Back and forth several times between the mansion and the disappearing trail, no trail alternatives in sight. No white blazes. Sigh. No longer sure which way I was supposed to be heading. But I'm not worried and rather enjoying being out there and trying to solve the puzzle of how to get back to my car. But totally clueless now. Can't find the AT, so maybe I can follow this driveway to the road and get back that way.
It's 1am and there are 20 cars parked on the grass of the mansion, clearly a party going on. I'm walking down the long driveway/dirt road in my running shorts, carrying a flashlight and headlights are coming.
"ma'am, are you lost?"
"uh, yes I am. I was out running with my friends on the Appalachian Trail and I got separated from them"
The man looks at me like I am insane. "Where are you going?"
I explain where my car is, which he said was two miles away and it was a good thing we talked because I was planning to head in the wrong direction. I DNF the run at that point and ask him to give me a ride. He turns out to be the owner of the mansion, who was headed out to retrieve some lost party-guests. I was the second one back to the parking lot, just behind Mike Priddy.
We all reassembled in the parking lot, only to get busted instantly by the local cops, who were mighty disappointed not to be breaking up a bunch of under-age drinkers. I believe they, too, thought we were insane to be out running on the trail at night, but they just laughed.
It was indeed a fine way to bring in the new year. Thanks to Kerry for the lovely idea, and for being the force (and the caterer) behind this event. Hope those of you who ran the Redeye had an equally great time.
Happy New Year to all my VHTRC friends! I've thoroughly enjoyed the past year of trailrunning with all of you great people, and your friendship means a lot to me. I hope the Trail Fairy brings you good health, great adventures, and many opportunities to indulge in your trailrunning passion in 2005.