Sunday, October 18, 2009
Exploring the mountains
Sometimes the best runs are those that are begun without thoughts of time or mileage. Thanks to tools like Google Earth and GPS, it is easy to find places to explore right in your own backyard. As long as you respect private property and Leave No Trace, the world is at your, um, toetips.
My running buddy Jay and I spent most of Saturday exploring Fort Lewis Mountain. This mountain runs from Bradshaw Rd in east Salem, VA all the way to Ironto, west of West Salem. Its ridge line runs about 13 miles, making it one of the longest continuous ridges in the Roanoke area. The highest point on the mountain is around 3300 feet, but we started our run at around 1250 feet on the valley floor. We climbed about a mile through the Forest Acres neighborhood (including the new construction which seems to be continuously encroaching higher and higher). At the end of the asphalt, we left civilization and started our adventure.
4.5 miles later we were at about 3100 feet and we begin exploring the ridge. First we checked out what we thought was the summit to our right. We found a radio tower and some interesting stuff that seemed to be weather station related. As we started along the ridge, Jay suggested that we try to get in 20 miles for the day. 20 miles would be my longest run since March, by several miles. So I told him I would let him know later if that was in the cards.
One of our goals for the day was to find what our map called a "lookout tower." We ran for miles along the ridge in search of, but never finding anything resembling a lookout tower. We were following what appeared to be an old power or phone line, so we kept on running. Just as we were about to give up and turn around, Jay spotted a tall radio tower just ahead. His discovery led us to a complex of FAA towers and radio towers. Pretty neat stuff.
We had come 12.5 miles out and we both had places to be and people to see later that evening. Our goal for the day was to get in a good run and explore this unfamiliar ridge. We reveled in success as we turned around and headed back. The "back" was about an hour faster than the "out," not hard to do when you consider how much of it was down hill.
What a great day to explore the mountains!
Run hard out there.