Yesterday, Speedy and I went into Philadelphia to run some trails in the Wissahickon Valley. Philadelphia always boasts about Fairmount Park; it's the largest urban park in the country and it really is a pretty cool place to run and ride. But as we learned yesterday, it's got nothing on Wissahickon.
The last time we went to run in Wissahickon, a few months ago, we ended up on a trail that was closed for maintenance, so we didn't get to see much of the park and ended up running through Manayunk. So our hopes were not too high for yesterday, but my shin has been hurting lately so we went looking for some softer surfaces for our long run. We thought maybe we'd end up on an easy dirt path or something; not super exciting but still a change of scenery.
I love trail running. Love it. Give me some technical single-track any day and I'm a happy girl. But, alas, single-track trail is hard to find in Philadelphia, and the most recent good trail running I've done has been on the Austin Greenbelt or the Berkeley fire trail. Until yesterday.
These trails kicked my ass. We should have known we were in trouble when we first turned onto a side trail (the Yellow trail) and saw it go straight uphill. There were lots of hills, and the trails were rocky and narrow. It was awesome, and I was loving it. We had no idea where we were going, and while we took some wrong turns, we knew that we couldn't get too lost because there are pretty definite boundaries to the park. We saw a few hikers and a bunch of mountain bikers, including some pretty crazy teens bombing down a hill not wearing helmets.
We got to our turnaround, and decided to head back on the Orange trail, which looked (on the trail map) like it might track closer to the water and therefore be flatter. We were so wrong. Turns out there is a pretty darn good reason the Orange trail is closed to mountain bikers. It was still really hilly, and much less well-marked than the Yellow trail. And rocky. As in, giant boulders that we had to climb up and over to find the rest of the trail on the other side. And some of trail went up short but steep hills, so that we had to hold onto tree branches to get up. And halfway there, we came across what looked like a giant block party in the middle of the park. Devil's Pool is a small area where water pools before it spills into the river, and there were tons of people out, yelling, shouting, jumping off of rocks into the water, and just generally having a good time. It was very cool to see, but sort of surreal since it almost appeared out of nowhere in the middle of our run.
It was just a great run, and so unexpected. We had no idea the trails were so tough; some of what we ran on rivaled what we've seen in Austin, which is like my holy grail of trail running. My legs were trashed at the end, but it felt great. I can't wait to go back!