Forest Park Nature Center: Tour of Outer Loop (Summer)
The good news about a bad race is that I put little effort into it. Hence I felt good enough to eat some breakfast and take a short leisurely hike; the day was too pretty NOT to. :-)
I chose: the Forest Park Nature Center: This is the facility.
I did the outer loop: A, D, L, V, Q, S, T.
Distance: if you add up all of the “little distances” as recorded on the park map, you get a distance of: 3.25.
By one of those old foot pedometers I got 3.5.
Though the 7 individual legs were each wheel measured to .0x, I wonder about round off error. Also, I measured it as a full loop; instead of stopping at the parking lot at the end of the Wilderness trail, I continued on to where I started. So that might account for some of the discrepancy.
Surface: mostly dirt. There is a small stretch of parking lot.
Trail difficulty: there are a couple of small “groomed” stretches and the parking lot. But mostly, I’d call it “easy forest path”; while there are a few roots, rocks and railroad ties, this doesn’t approach a technical trail.
There are three short but steep uphill sections to this loop (60-70 feet?) and a few small rolling inclines.
Time so complete: given that I am a 53 year old man with 5 knee operations and given that I run 5K races mostly in 25-26 minutes (8-8:20 mpm), my times to complete this loop are:
running: 45-50 minutes
walking hard: 55-65 minutes
leisurely hike: 70-80 minutes
A decade ago, my runs and fast walks were 7 minutes faster; my leisurely hike was 10 minutes faster.
A fit, non-elderly person will have no problem. A couch potato will suffer.
About running the trail or walking it fast: it is a fairly big park and the rookies/families tend to stick to the “easy” to “moderate” sections. Hence you’ll have no problems most of the time and have it “almost to yourself” during the early morning hours.
Serious trail runners can get a workout if they do this loop multiple times or if they, say, add the hilly 1.25 mile (each way) spur.
Mud: after a rain or during the spring thaw period.
roots/rocks: some; not a problem if you pay attention.
leaves: in the fall, leaves can hide railroad ties, rocks, roots, etc., and can be slippery.
snow: this is an appropriate place for a snow hike. But it adds time.
Wildlife I’ve seen squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, deer, wild turkeys and rabbits. There are also foxes though I’ve never seen them.
I start at the main building:
This leads you to the Valley Trail (groomed; handicapped accessible): leg 1 (A on the map)
You stay on just a short time; you pass an opening to the right which contains an apartment building. Note: you sometimes see wild turkeys or deer there. Shortly you come to the first turn;
you go right on the Lower Deer Run Trail: leg 2 (D on the map)
Eventually you come to a parking lot. Cross it; you can see the entrance to the trail continuation on the other side.
You gets some honest to goodness single track on this section, though it is pretty flat:
And there is a “new” bridge.
This eventually meets Deer Run:
Deer Run is leg 3 (L on the map); this section is slightly more rugged but the outer loop misses the hardest part of it.
There is farmland to your right. There are small hills here.
And about .9 miles into it, you come to the intersection of Deer Run with Wakerobin. If you turned left, you’d tackle the toughest hill on the course. This is the start of the Deer Run hill; the outer loop does NOT go this way:
If you go straight, you find the longest stretch with 2 good hills.
You are now on Wakerobin, which is leg 4 (V on the map)
At first, Wakerobin is like Deer run; some flat, some minor inclines, and a bridge or two.
Eventually, you near the entrance to the first of 3 good hills:
This is the start of the hill.
Note: beware of the bridge railings; a lose nail can tear a jacket (as it did mine), especially if you are running or walking fast. This hill goes up and up and up:
But the crest eventually comes. And yes, there is a “rest area” about 80 percent up the hill, but fit, non-elderly people won’t need it. But it is nice to know if you are with a rookie hiker.
Here is the crest:
You stay on a ridge for a while; this is “sort of” single track.
Then you start to descend
Another new bridge marks the bottom of the hill (the park people have gone soft; these bridges weren’t here a few years ago)
Now you head back up again; it is as high as the first hill but not quite as steep.
You can see the crest from here; you’ll be turing right (follow the arrow “to the trail head” sign)
This takes you to a very short segment on Bee Tree: leg 5 (Q on the map).
Bee tree continues to the left. Go straight to Possum Path.
Possum Path: a downhill leg; it starts “sort of technical” and becomes “groomed” at the bottom of the hill.
This is leg 6 (S on the map)
You go down a ways:
And yes, it is runnable:
Eventually, you see the bottom of the hill:
And it turns groomed; it looks a lot like the Valley Path.
About 3 miles into it (by my measurement), you see a hilly path heading off to the right. That is Wilderness; you will take that to get hill number 3.
You are now on Wilderness, or leg 7 (T) on the map. You have about .5 miles (800 meters) to go.
This is basically an “up the hill, down the hill” leg; the uphills and downhills have railroad ties. This is a good sized hill, but isn’t quite as steep as the first one.
The uphill goes on a while:
While going up the hill, you sometimes see small memorial markers:
Here is another runner (from a pack of 3 that I saw)
You are near the end.
When you see the bridge, you are almost at the parking lot, even if you can’t see it clearly.
The end is now in sight:
At last, the end.
However I usually stop and start my loop at the same spot to make it a complete loop. Often I start where the grassy area in the front to the parking lot meets the sidewalk and end there as well.
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