Thursday, December 24, 2015

Changes for the 2016 and 2017 Southeastern Trail Series

Over the last year I have been considering options for creating a 50 Mile Race at Oak Mountain State Park (OMSP.) Although the park is almost 10,000 acres and has well over 50 miles of trails, it’s hard to come up with a route that “flows” smoothly and will be fun to run.

I have two goals for the 50 mile course and race. First, create a single loop course that does not repeat any trails. That one will be tough and require permission from private landowners outside the park. The map below is a 33 mile loop we may use in 2016. Using the course map below, the 50 mile runners will have to repeat 17 miles of the first lap. This course was measured using Google Earth. By zooming in as close as possible, I was able to follow the actual trails in most places. Over the next few weeks I plan to get out to the park and measure various sections with my GPS and find out just how close the map is.

Second, the real motivation for coming up with a 50 mile loop for 2017 is to add a 100 mile race.  In my events application to OMSP for the 50 Mile to be held in 2016, I explained my hope to be able to have a 100 mile race in 2017. We cannot get official approval until we file the race application in November of 2016 but everyone at the park seemed really excited about the idea. Even if we can’t get permission to use private property for a portion of the race, we already have a 33 mile loop and I am pretty sure I can come up with a 40 mile loop within the park.

I really don’t like using bike trails and paved roads but again, there is no other option. The course will use the Lake Trail and Rattle Snake Ridge Trail but those are very nice trails and I enjoy running them. We will also need to use the Red Trail starting at the South Trail Head going all the way up to just above Blood Rock.

Starting last summer I began running sections of potential trails for the 50 and measuring various trail combinations. After the first of the year, I plan to measure all sections of the course below and get a total length. Then I will be able add or delete whatever it takes to get the length right.

The course will be difficult. At least two long sections will be on “Bandit Trails” that will be fairly hard to negotiate. One of these trails will be a tough, tricky climb up to the top of the northwest ridge of Double Oak Mountain. That said, I hiked up that trail on 12/22, right up through the cliff band over piles of soaking wet leaves in light rain. I then went back down the same way I came up. I survived!! There will be another section of Bandit Trail below Peavine Falls but this one is not too bad. 

Below is my “First Draft” map. We will see how it comes out. 
This map was drawn with the start at the Cabins. the 2016 race will start at Redbud Pavilion

The following is a turn by turn description of the course for Birmingham runners that are familiar with Oak Mtn State Park. As I said, until I actually measure it, this is just my best guess!
The race will NOT start in the Cabins as planned. Four of the Cabins are already rented so the race will start at Redbud Pavilion instead. For the 2017 race, we will reserve all the cabins for 50 and 100 mile runners. I plan to be standing at the door of the OMSP office when they open on Friday, November 17, 2016 to reserve all 10 Cabins. I figure 100 mile runners would like the idea of getting up, eating breakfast in their own cabin, walking a few yards to the start and using their cabin as a private aid station during the race.

In 2017 the race will start at the Cabins on Lake Tranquility pictured below.

The 2016 race will start at Redbud Pavilion at 6:30 AM with a loop around the BMX track then take a left on the “Chimney Trail” to the “Dog Cat Snake Trail” and over to the North Trail Head (NTH.) From the NTH, runners will cross Findley Dr. to the NTH parking lot, then take the trail back to the campground. They will run through the campground and cross over to the northwest side of Oak Mountain Lake. Runners will then following the trail along the shoreline, cross the spillway and continue heading northeast along the lake shore on the gravel road. At the end of the gravel road, enter the paved road and continue straight ahead, past the north toll-booth to the road across Lunker Lake Dam. (3.68 Miles)

From there the course follows Findley Drive about 1 mile back south to an old roadway that turns off to the left along a small creek. This trail starts at the parking area with just enough room for two or three cars. This parking area is 0.4 miles north of the North Trail Head. (There will be a water only aid station here.) The trail follows the creek to a fork where two small creeks merge. Runners cross the creek and angles left following the creek upstream through an old quarry cut. Just before the spot where the creek running straight down Double Oak Mtn makes a left, (this is the creek you have been following upstream) the trail turns right and goes straight up the mountain paralleling the creek.

Continue uphill through a very rocky area covered in boulders to the base of the cliffs. The trail climbs through the rock band to the left side of the cliff face, then angles right up to the crest. The course then follows the ridge crest heading southwest. Near the end of the ridge, the trail turns left across a short shoulder and up to the Eagle Nest Overlook Trail. Follow the trail along the crest, then down the hill to the left and connect into the Blue Trail heading back to the NTH. At the trail head, follow the Yellow trail back to Maggie’s Glen, switch to the White Trail for ½ mile to the Cabin Trail then through the cabins and back to Redbud Pavilion Aid Station. (9.5 Miles)

Leave the aid station heading up the paved road toward Findley Dr. After about 100 yards, go left onto the bike trail, past “the Rock Garden” and left on the Yellow Trail. Stay on the Yellow Trail, past Redbud Pavilion, up past Tranquility Dam and around the lake on the southwest shore. At the end of the lake, take the trail to the right, up the hill to the ruins of the Chapel in the old scout camp. Turn left on the gravel road. Stay on the road past the cabins being renovated and up to the top of the hill to the overhead, wooden, Camp Tranquility sign.

Just before the sign, go left onto the Thunder Trail for the long climb to the top of the West Ridge of Double Oak Mtn. At the top of the ridge, go right on the White Trail and down to the Bike Road along the crest. Immediately turn right back onto the start of the Thunder Trail for a few 100 yards. At the intersection with the Yellow/White Connector Trail, go left on the connector for the steep descent down the mountain. Stay on Y/W all the way to the bottom and just before reaching the Group Camp Road, go left onto the Yellow Trail. Follow the Yellow Trail, heading southwest until you come to the paved road leading up to the Wildlife Center. Go right down the hill to Terrace Drive and to the Marina Aid Station #2. (15.0 Miles)

The Marina by the Marina Aid Station

Leave the aid station heading northeast on the paved road across a short section of lake, then turn left onto the “Lake Trail.” Follow the Lake Trail, across the dam to the intersection with Rattle Snake Ridge Trail and go right. Follow the RR Trail all the way around until it finally coming out at the south end of Double Oak Lake. Follow the paved road a short distance then along the shoreline, across the beach, through the patio area and back to the Marina Aid Station #3. (19.6 Miles)

The Lake Trail around Double Oak Lake

Leave the AS heading southwest along Terrace Drive to the Wildlife Center Trail on your left. Head up the trail going through the boardwalk for 1/3 mile until it intersects with the Yellow Trail. Go right on Yellow to the second intersection with the Jekyll n Hyde Trail and turn left. Follow Jekyll N Hyde down the hill to the Peavine Falls Road. Cross the road and go left on the bike trail, “Mr. Toad.” Follow the bike trail up the Johnson Mountain trail, then cross the paved road to the BUMP Trail. Follow BUMP all the way up the mountain and up past “Blood Rock.” Just past Blood Rock take a sharp right onto the trail leading back to the Peavine Falls Road and the gate on the end of the Red Bike Road. (I think the call it the Red/Green Connector)  At the Peavine Rd, go left down the hill staying on the Peavine Falls Rd to the Peavine Falls Parking lot and the Peavine Falls Aid Station. (27.3 Miles)
Peavine Falls

Leave the PVF Aid Station headed northeast on the white trail. Just as the white trail turns left runners will go right down a faint trail angling downhill to the south. Follow the trail until it crosses Lower Peavine Creek and turns left heading north up the opposite side of the creek. Continue climbing up past the stone overlook, then continue uphill until the trail merges into the Blue Trial. At the intersection, go right heading northeast along the Blue Trail. Continue on Blue for a little less than 3 miles. Go left at the intersection with the Orange Trail heading down the mountain. Stay on The Orange Trail across the Red Fire Road (bike trail) and back up the hill to the intersection with the White Trail. Go right down the White Trail.

Follow the white trail along the ridge, over Shackleford Point and along the crest for about a mile. The white trail drops sharply downhill and continues down until it joins the Yellow Trail. At Yellow turn left and follow the Yellow trail for about a mile until Yellow makes a sharp left and crosses a creek just above Tranquility Lake. Where the Yellow Trail turns left, runners continue straight ahead keeping the lake on your left. Follow the trail back to the Cabins and continue on the paved cabin road. Circle around the lake heading back left along the northwest shore of the lake, still keeping the lake on your left. Continue around the lake on the gravel road to the paved road at the BMX track. Go left down the road and back to the 50K finish. (33 Miles) Fifty mile runners will go through the Cabins Aid Station and continue back out on the course for 17 more miles. Just what that 17 mile loop will be is yet to be decided.

At this time I plan to leave the race date where it is but I may make a few adjustments by next year.