Mud

Today we set out for the longest run my little team has ever completed in a single day. It wasn’t the prettiest run, but I couldn’t be happier with how things went.

First, a little backstory: I’ve been dying to up our run mileage, but it’s not an easy task for a central Jersey musher. Last night, I spent several hours on trail websites and Google Maps, trying to scope out some decent miles for us. I ended up with four options:

The Pine Barrens - Ol’ faithful. When I make the journey down there, I usually end up running the 3.8 mile loop at Mt. Misery, but I’m getting bored with that. There are many, many more miles of trail I’d love to explore there.

Six Mile Run - Another trustworthy spot. However, just like the Pines, this area offers miles of trail I haven’t tried yet.

Paulinskill Valley Trail - One of two converted rail trails I’m interested in running. It’s 27 miles long, and pretty much a straight shot through Sussex and Warren counties. My plan would be to pick a starting point somewhere along the trail, run a few miles, break, then turn around and head back. My concern is activity on the trail, especially people walking dogs. Since it’s only one path, it’ll be hard to avoid interaction. My team is hit or miss with passing strange dogs – it mostly depends on the dog.

Columbia Trail - This is the other rail trail, which spans about 16 miles of Northwest Jersey. I’ve hiked a portion of it during the summer, and it’s definitely a well-travelled spot. Ultimately, an area I’d love to run, but it’ll come down to finding the least busy time.

When I woke up around 7:30 this morning, I thought the day was a wash out. There was a mix of rain, sleet, ice, and snow coming down throughout the early hours. Not enough snow to go sledding, but enough ice to make a rig fishtail. I was about to call it quits when the sun began to shine.

Since I got a late start, I decided to head over to Six Mile Run, as it’s the closest in proximity to my house. My usual parking spot was full of cars, so that had me worried – but I was headed to a different spot today. I had spied a “Blue” trail on Google Maps, which seemed to hug the edge of various farms along the woods. My game plan was to run this trail until it met up with the “Red” trail, take a break, and then run the same path back. I knew from past hiking experiences what the red trail was, and I wasn’t about to attempt it on the rig.

We took the wrong path right from the get-go. Well, not really, but it wasn’t the part of the blue trail I saw from above. Now in real life, the wiggly trail was labelled “Blue Trail”… and the trail I wanted to take had no sign or could even really be seen from where I had started out. Welp. At least it was pretty fun.

The majority of the run was smooth and simple. The path was wide and flat, with gentle inclines and declines that didn’t trouble the dogs much. The whole thing was pretty muddy, but in some spots I had to hop off and help push the rig through. We saw lots of birds (Turkey Vultures kinda give you a sense of impending doom), a horse, and an abandoned house along our journey.

That’s not to say this run was easy. Oh no. It certainly had its challenges! There were multiple spots where the trail turned into the woods. This meant weaving through trees, bouncing over exposed root and rock, much steeper inclines and declines, and the scariest part: making our way over boardwalk bridges.

I don’t have any photos from that part, because I was holding on for dear life. But imagine the boardwalk pictured below. Instead of being directly over the ground, elevate it about 5 feet up. And stick a freezing cold, rushing river beneath it. Now keep in mind I’m not riding a mountain bike – I’m riding on a rig, which is precisely the same width as the bridge.

Oh, and the bridge doesn’t have any railing on the side.

By some miracle, I am still here to blog about it. The dogs listened phenomenally well as we inched across these bridges. They hated being on them, and I know they were fighting the urge to bolt to the opposite side. Somehow, they managed to control themselves and didn’t take a single step without my call. What good pups!

Finally, we reached a point in the trail where it got too steep and winding for the rig to handle. I turned the team around and made the slow trek back to the truck. I stopped them a few times for water, but they didn’t want to rest. I was really impressed with how well they did, considering our daily runs are only 1.8 miles. 

The entire run was about 7.5 miles and it took us roughly two and a half hours. I couldn’t tell you the exact numbers because I forgot to push “record” on my Mushometer app, so that whole squiggly part in the beginning is just a guess. I’ll definitely go back there again, since it was very beautiful and quiet. The part of the trail that’s best for us is too boring for the bikers, so it works out better than my old spot. 

I hope it’s a little less muddy next time, though.

Jessica Kizmann

Dog musher, New Jersey.