Two consecutive days of measurable (barely) snow lured me out to the Horseshoe Trail for a midday run on Saturday. Admittedly, I'd have been headed that direction anyway but a couple of inches of snow made the prospect that much more inviting.
I even had a new pair of Patagonia Arrant Gore-Tex kicks to break in.
Another snow squall swirled as I pulled on my hat and zipped up my jacket.
I crossed over Hammer Creek and turned east on the Horseshoe Trail. A few mountain bikes had clearly passed through earlier in the day, but otherwise there were no tracks to be seen. Because of the snow, the footing was unusually forgiving but slippery and I didn't progress very quickly. It was such a beautiful day, however, I couldn't have cared less.
A couple of right hand turns lead the Horseshoe to the top of the ridgeline before the trail bends back on itself and up to the overlook at Eagle Rock.
With snow continuing to fall over Lebanon Valley down below, visibility wasn't much more than a mile or two. I couldn't make out Blue Mountain to the north where I'd head later that night with friends for a winter hike-in/camp out on the Appalachian Trail. The short horizon didn't diminish the cold, crisp loveliness in the slightest.
I continued across the ridge top trail and began winding my way down, down, down towards Route 501 and Middle Creek Wildlife Management property beyond. Wanting to watch my time and knowing that the snow base was impacting my pace, I decided to turn around at the bottom of the descent and climb back up the way I'd come.
On the way back up, I had a juvenile but motivating moment, passing another trail runner (I see few--as in almost none) on his way down the Horseshoe. We were both grinning from ear to ear, offered brief words of encouragement without breaking stride and pulled off an instinctive, perfectly executed low five as we passed by each other.
My pace slowed further on the ascent back up to Eagle Rock but enjoyed every step. Reaching level ground, my feet turned over more easily, my breathing stabilized and I pushed hard on the way back down towards Hammer Creek. Instead of returning directly to the car, I hung a right and worked my way up the next ridge to the west, passing by the large rocks that lurk above the creek and then navigating back down the technical track that dumps back onto the lower portion of the Horseshoe Trail. It had taken me over 53 minutes to cover a little more than 5 miles but I had a blast.
The Arrants proved heavy companions though I knew that would be the case at the outset. The Gore-Tex lining kept my feet warm and dry, making up for carrying several ounces more per foot than I normally do. They shed snow wonderfully and I suspect I'll turn to them on a few more occasions before winter is through, especially for running in snowshoes should we get some more significant snowfalls.
The beard, as usual, was not as successful in its attempts to shed snow.
As if I'd have it have it any other way.