I ran in Ringwood State Park this weekend with the goal of tracing out portions of the Mountain Madness 50K route. That race will be run later this month (without me; I haven’t had time to prepare for 5000 feet-up and down-of elevation change). The map and course description on it’s web page make it seem like it might be the most interesting trail race in New Jersey, so I thought it might be a good place to spend a Sunday afternoon. The terrain also looked like a nice testing ground for the SJ Ultravest that just showed up in the mail from Ultimate Direction: more on that later.
The race starts at Sheppard Pond in Ringwood State Park, a few miles west of I-287 just on the Jersey side of the NJ/NY border. The intended route follows the carriage path around the south end of the lake to the red-blazed Ringwood-Ramapo Trail, which heads south toward the Ramapo State Forest. Not having a map with me, and misunderstanding the term “carriage path”, I first ran back down Sheppard Pond Road looking for a trail. I stopped at the construction zone for the cross-park natural gas pipe, thinking that runners and bulldozers might not make the greatest mix. I turned around, ran back to the parking lot, and then ran up Mansion Road past a chapel to a skeet shooting range. The shooters and spectators at the range shot me a few “why don’t you come up here and trade places with the clay pigeon” looks, convincing me that I’d again run astray. Back down to the parking lot, and finally, by chance, along the packed soil carriage path, which does indeed lead to the red blazes of the Ringwood-Ramapo trail.
I followed those blazes for about a mile, at which point I again came across the gas pipeline construction. I chanced it past the first and second “authorized personnel only” signs, but at the third sign I lost the trail and, with it, my willingness to risk contentious discussions with construction workers in hard hats and lug-soled boots. I snuck back through the construction zone to the last point I seen a blaze and then followed the trail back toward Sheppard Pond, eventually taking a right turn on an unmarked two track that appeared to head away from both the pipeline construction and the constant bangs and crackles of the skeet range (by the way, what happens to all those steel bb’s? I didn’t hear any raining through the trees around me at any point, but given that the range was on a hilltop, they must have had an opportunity to rain on someone).
I followed the double track along the edge of first Sheppard and then Potake ponds to the point where it crossed a set of high-voltage transmission lines. A sign reading “Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law” (quaint, really. Where I grew up in Montana, those signs read “Trespassers will be shot on sight”) sent me backtracking to a trail that followed the path of the high voltage line. This trail climbed to a hilltop, then dropped down a nearly vertical back slope toward the Cranberry pond drainage. As it turns out, the area is a favorite with ATV enthusiasts. The startling roar of unmuffled engines contrasted greatly with the friendly waves, grins, and calls of “Hey, Runner Guy!” of the people riding up the trail. I hopped up on a bolder to let them pass, then dropped the rest of the way down to Cranberry creek. I followed a fork of the trail up to Cranberry spring, then climbed the side of Bald Mountain to a hilltop swamp. After a brief respite, double-espresso Cliffshot gel, and some water, I headed back to the truck.
Note post writing: Just posted the run on Strava and found out that I set three segment course records. Come on people, I was jogging! Get back out there and kick my butt!