Saturday, August 8, 2015

Castle in the Clouds Loop

Friday morning, I drove over to Castle in the Clouds to do a loop run that I had done last August. It starts off the highway 171 in a hiker parking area and basically does a summit traverse that loops back almost to where you start.

When I ran this the last weekend of August 2014, temps were near 90 degrees and probably 100% humidity. I remember struggling big time, but it gave me a love for this beautiful place. I've since run here many times since it draws me back. I don't know what it is exactly, but it's just a peaceful place. Today, the temps were in the 60s, and the humidity wasn't high. Perfect day.

I set out up the Shannon Brook Trail and followed it all the way up to the grounds by the pond, then continued on up Mt Roberts. This is the same mountain John and I hiked last weekend, except I bypassed the blueberries and trudged on. It's quite a long climb. 4 miles almost on the dot. Last year, I did a sign selfie thing on every summit, so I decided to do it again this year. :)
I look OLD in this pic.
I snapped the photo and then moved on down the High Ridge Trail that I would follow for quite a ways. There is a long downhill along the ridge that brings you by a beautiful viewpoint.
This view of Lake Winnipesaukee never gets old.
The run is about 4.2 miles with either down or flat, and then the last 1.1 is a pretty steep uphill to the top of Mt Shaw. I realized at the top of Shaw that I was making much better time than last year. I stopped for about 5 minutes at the summit to drink some water and take a few pics.
All of that downhill made me look young again.

I moved on about a mile to the summit of Black Snout. The trails up here are so smooth and grassy for the most part. It's even overgrown a bit, but it's a nice break from the typical rocky and rooty White Mountains. It's all runnable.
Typical trail 
Black Snout is a half mile off trail, but I wanted to hit the summits this time, so I ran up there. This one gave me a bit of difficulty with the sign selfie. :)
Attempt 1

Attempt 2

It will have to do. Scraped my leg and got bark in my hair on this one.

View from Black Snout
The trail goes down, down, down from here and turns onto the Turtleback Mt Trail. There is so much downhill that it's almost too much. It was 2 miles to the spur trail to Turtleback Mt and a half mile up to the summit. This summit has a strange view of Shaw and Black Snout, and no view of the lake.

The trail continues on for another .9 miles to the Bald Knob Trail, which I took. This has a decent uphill which really hurt after all of the downhill. I ended up behind a group of camp girls taking up the whole trail. Some of them understood what "on your left" meant, but most didn't, so I had to squeeze by them. I got to Bald Knob just as the first few girls got there. I took a quick pic and then got the hell out of there. I did not want to spend time around a bunch of pre-teen girls.

I backtracked on the Bald Knob Trail then hooked left on the Bald Knob Cutoff Trail which is the only portion of the run that is actually on a technical trail. It's pretty rocky and slow going. Some climbing, but still mostly downhill all the way back to the Shannon Brook Trail which I followed back to the car lot. 18.3 miles in 2:54:54, about 35 minutes faster than last year. 3,282 ft of elevation gain. I was psyched to have run it that much faster. The weather made a difference, but it also felt easy to me. That same run last year was a beast. And since I finished so quickly, I decided to drive up to the Castle and have a drink and lunch in the Carriage House. I was soaked in sweat and smelled so badly, but the outside seating had a long wait. I opted for the bar, but moved over a seat to spare this couple my stink when they sat down next to me. I was only going to have a drink and an app, but the burger was calling my name. I used to feel awkward going out to eat on my own, but I've gotten used to it over the years.
Localish. They didn't have too many options and nothing on draft.
As I was drinking my beer, all of a sudden this beautiful music starts playing behind me. I look over to see the hostess who had sat me and another girl playing music. It was acoustic type stuff, but it was wonderful. Caught me off guard, as I wasn't expecting it.

Lunch was great, but I had to head home to be there when John got home. What a great way to start the weekend, though.

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