Friday Night Vertical 2021

Friday Night Vertical 2021

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Warner Trail- Complete!


Found this broken sign on the ground so I took it with me.

I DID IT!! I BEAT THE WARNER TRAIL!

Thought I would make a separate post for my 2nd attempt at the Warner Trail on Thursday. This was the "adventure" I mentioned I was doing. I only told a few people I was doing it since I didn't want to announce that I was going to be solo running for over 33 miles on a trail with constant easy road access. After my failed attempt back in September, I knew I needed to try again but that it would have to wait until Spring. I set my window for May because it would get really overgrown as it rolled into June. My original date didn't work out since it was the Thursday after the Big A 50k, and there was no way in hell. So I set it on my next free Thursday which was May 30. Only a few days before the Cranmore Mountain Race but waiting longer would have me surrounded by way too many races. So May 30th it was.

I gave a bit of a history of the trail in the last post, but I'll put it in here again. From the website:

The Warner Trail offers delightful and varied outdoor experiences as it stretches more than 30 miles from Sharon, Massachusetts, to the Diamond Hill State Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island. The trail passes through Sharon, Foxboro, Wrentham and Plainville in Massachusetts and through Cumberland, RI. The possibility of establishing a woodland trail connecting the southerly fringe of the Boston area with the trail system in Rhode Island was first envisioned by Appalachian Mountain Club members, Charles H. Warner and John Hudson, prior to World War II. With the energetic assistance of Ron Gower and a number of other AMC club members residing in the general area, the trail was slowly put together, one section at a time, starting at RT. 128 and going through the Ponkapaug Camp of the AMC. By 1947 it extended south to High Rock in the State Forest in Foxboro. In the early 50’s the trail had reached Diamond Hill, RI., but shortly developers caused the loss of the Ponkapaug to Canton Jct. RR station section. Mead Bradner, another active AMC member who spent many years caring for the trail, established the Friends of the Warner Trail in 1994 to ensure that the trail continues to thrive.

I still don't understand how such an old, established trail is so unknown. How did I not know about this? And I wonder how many who live on it even know it exists. It goes through a lot of private property, like people's driveways and backyards so they must know about this right-of-way through their land, but the rest are probably clueless. This mysteriousness of the trail is what drew me to it. I've done the well-known Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, but so have 1000s of other people. How many have done THIS trail? Well, very few. And although I don't know this for sure, I might be the only one who has run it all at once. I know people have hiked it in one swoop by camping along the way, but I don't know yet of anyone who has run it. So that's neat, but honestly, I don't really care. I wasn't going for an FKT; I'm not into those at all. Just doesn't interest me in the least. My only goal was to complete this damn thing. It had been hanging over my head for over 1.5 years. 

The anticipation of it was a mix of dread and excitement. This trail has broken me every time I've been on it. I was destroyed by 20 miles in my first full attempt. I've screamed and cursed this trail more times than I can count. How could this silly little trail be so hard?! It's not like it's crazy mountain climbs or extremely technical, but the constant rollers do beat me down. But really, the hardest part about this trail is the navigation. You can't let your mind wander once or you're off-trail. You are constantly searching for markers, and during all the recon trips, the guidebook was always in hand. This wasn't just some trail you could run while getting lost in thought. No, this trail is 33.2 miles of a mind game. Just when you think you know it, you don't. Another thing that made this run even more difficult was doing it alone. I'm not one to run with other people but running over 33 miles solo with no help, no competitors to keep you on your toes and no one to push you when you want to cry and quit made it so mentally difficult. 

Having to carry 7-8lbs on my back from the start also made it difficult. Since I was truly solo, I had to take LYFT back to my car so I had to bring a change of clothes, just like last time. No way was I getting into someone's car wearing my sweaty clothes. This time, however, I remembered to buy $1 flip flops at the Dollar Tree to carry. Lightweight and cheap. I started minimally with 1.5 liters of water with Nuun and only maple syrup and Raisinettes. Some salt chews that I forgot I brought and should have used. Haha. Phone, car key, wallet, guide"book". Pretty sure that's it, but it was heavy. And have I mentioned at least 10x that I hate my pack? I was sure to lube up everywhere it would rub...it didn't help. Oh, in case I forgot to tell you...I hate my pack. 

Front page of the guidebook. A mix of dirt and dried sweat. Rips from briers and brush along the way.
I was a little nervous about my late start. I didn't get off work until 7am, and I still had to go home to shower and pack. The shower was necessary since I needed to wash off the run grime from the day before. Clean slate before becoming disgusting again. Haha. The drive was around 2:45 which put me starting just before noon. Unlike September, though, I knew I had plenty of daylight so I didn't have to worry. But still, getting started so late was going to be tough. I expected it to take around 6 hours. I hoped for less, but expected it to be longer. I wouldn't finish until after 6pm. I had a long day ahead of me after a long drive. All of a sudden 33 miles seemed like 100.

I parked the car in the usual spot near the cemetery on Dedham St in Sharon. I didn't dilly-dally since I needed to get going. Put on my pack, literally told my car I'd see it tonight and started walking up the road to the start of the trail. The weather was perfect. Cloudy and cool. So I was actually chilly walking up there. Got to the start and took this awkward photo. I apologize in advance for the selfies, but it was the only way to get photos. Honestly, I don't like taking selfies of myself. I know that's hard to believe, but every time I take one I'm reminded of how I have no one in my life to take photos of me other than at races. It would be cool to have some shots from other angles while running or at the start and finish of this trail without my distorted selfies. I wished I had someone other than me to take all of the photos. I'm not kidding. I've always been really into photos since I was a kid. I owned multiple cheap-ass cameras over the years. I even have the worst selfie ever of me on the Appalachian Trail in 1997. Haha. So my photo obsession is not something new with the smartphone era.


As you can see, the trail is clearly visible behind me. Lies. Haha. Although you can kind of see it, in September, you could not. I ended up hitting this at the right time before all of the overgrowth. This didn't mean that a stick didn't get caught in my feet and trip me up almost immediately. It was just the Warner Trail's way of welcoming me back. Haha.

The run started off well for about the first mile. I was going completely off memory and took a left turn at the first road instead of a right. Haha. I had forgotten I had to run up another road before the left turn. I caught it immediately since I didn't recognize it at all. My photographic memory was 100% accurate when I did get to the correct road. Haha. I entered Moose Hill and was NOT going to let the Turkey Trail steer me the wrong way for a 3rd time. No way, mister! But it didn't stop me from being reminded that I can't daydream when I ended up at a road that I'd never seen before. Turned back to find where I'd blown past the trail. No more daydreaming. Seriously. You think you know this trail by memory...but you don't. Two wrong turns in the first 3 miles. This was going to be a long day. From here on out, there was no more getting lost in thought. I had to focus. That was exhausting in and of itself.

Somehow managed to take the Strava CR from myself up to the Moose Hill fire tower. I didn't know this until after, but it showed just how much better I was feeling today vs the 1st attempt in September.




I love this part of the trail. Fairly easy running with some good rollers and views. Once you exit Moose Hill, you run through this rich person's yard and down their driveway, past an underground house and then a left towards the overpass of I-95. People I passed were very friendly. Got a wave from the mailman here.

I wonder if any of those drivers saw me take this.
The next section had previously been the most overgrown on the entire trail, but with it being earlier in the year AND someone having cleared it, it was very easy to follow. I started to notice what seemed to be new metal trail markers, as well as old ones, painted over with fresh white paint. I would find these throughout most of the trail for the first 20 miles. I have no idea who's been clearing it or marking it, but they have done some nice work. I was able to move through this part quickly and then it was onto a longer road run through a McMansion neighborhood until I entered the woods again to run along the reservoir in Foxborough (or is it Foxboro?)


Newly painted trail markers. Way more visible.



Just like last time, since I didn't learn my lesson, I stopped at mile 11 for my first drink of water/Nuun and to eat something. Although still cool out, I noticed the humidity starting to creep up. I remember knowing, yet being in denial, by this point that I probably wasn't going to make it. It was crazy humid and I was very drained already. I pushed on but was already enjoying a sufferfest. Today, I still felt really good. The humidity made me a bit nervous, but I knew I'd make it past mile 20 today.

From this point, the trail is really well-marked through F Gilbert Hills and the first section of the Wrentham Town Forest. Gilbert was way easy running today. Last time my tendons were really hurting. Although, I felt them today, it was very minimal. More of just a slight aggravation. I stopped by the only overnight shelter on the trail again for a pic then carried on over Sunset Ledge and dropped out of Gilbert and across Rt 1.

The water holes are all labeled through Gilbert


Sunset Ledge

White blazes...not to be confused with the Bay Circuit Trail in the northern part.
The next section I had trouble with last July with overgrowth and skin ripping grass. In September, that was all cleared by some kind soul, but then I found the trail ended at a house on Warner Trail Rd. Today went much better since it was still fairly cleared and I knew to just go around to the back of the house. So that was easy. I was starting to feel the humidity even more, though, by the time I entered the Wrentham Town Forest. This was where I really died in September and quit right after I got back to the road. I was glad to be feeling much better today...until I wasn't. Just like last time, it felt like 100000% humidity. I was suddenly pouring in sweat and stumbling. NOOOO!!! It was happening again! All of a sudden, I doubted being able to finish and thought I might have to stop at the Wrentham Senior Center again feeling defeated and flying the white flag forever.

The not so obvious trail

You can barely see Gillette Stadium just above the trees.
By the time I got to the Senior Center, I wanted to quit. I really did. I stopped and drank some water and realized there was no way I was getting by without stopping somewhere to buy a drink so I planned to do that in Wampum Corner. I definitely knew I could keep going. I HAD to finish this trail today. I had to! So I just kept moving. I powerhiked up Knuckup Hill this time. Last time I ran the whole thing. Today it was only 6 seconds slower. Crazy how little difference there is hiking uphill vs running. I got a text from Bryan here asking if I could pick up John from school. Seriously, he can't even be a parent for day. I wrote back that I couldn't because I was in southern Massachusetts running and 20 miles away from the car. Not that I needed to provide any excuse since Thursday is my ONE full free day of the week. He refuses to stop trying to taking my day away from me. (He picked up John, btw.)

Wampum Corner was about 3.5 miles away. Easy. Well, it wasn't... because I got lost in the next section AGAIN. This was the same section Phoenix and I got lost in the last time I was on the trail. I swear I had it memorized this time, but nope. I wandered over dirt bike trails of thick mud and all around this section. Saw a trail I recognized, but it still seemed wrong. Fortunately I found the trail and went the correct way to Rt 1A this time. This road was insanely busy so it took people actually stopping for me to get across. Right on the Warner Trail in Wampum Corner was a liquor store. I'll admit that I just wanted to buy a beer here and quit, but instead I grabbed a Gatorade. I was soaked in sweat and my pack smelled like cat pee. Haha. The only person who actually seemed to care about my safety would end up being the woman checking me out. She knew the store was on the Warner Trail and told me to be careful out there since there are a lot of crazies. I appreciated that. I stepped out, drank half the bottle of Gatorade and then saved the rest. That Gatorade saved me. I wouldn't have finished the trail without it.

Pretty pond just after Knuckup Hill
I carried on down the old RR bed to go under I-495. I'll admit that this section skeeved me out a bit. Just a bit of a sketchy area through here. The trail was completely unmarked for awhile, but the right turn off the RR bed was actually marked. Once I hit Green St, I knew I was about to hit the one mile I was worried about since I hadn't run it yet. It did NOT disappoint. In fact, it was the most frustrating point of the entire 33 miles. John messaged me just as I entered this section asking when I would be home. Haha. I had told him after midnight, but he forgot. I sent him a photo with the description, "This is really hard."



The turn off the road was marked and the trail seemed to be marked well at first. I pulled out the guidebook for the only time I would use it today. Well, it's 10 years old and a lot of the descriptions don't match up, but it seemed to at first so I ended up going off in the wrong direction for awhile until I knew for certain it was wrong and turned back. I bushwhacked back to the trail and carried on. No markers, but all of a sudden there was one! The guidebook said to take a right so I did. I looked back to see a northbound marker pointing in this direction so it all seemed to match up. Well, it didn't. I honestly have no idea if I was on the trail or not. There were SO many trails that "matched" the description of the guidebook that I kept checking them out only to realize it was wrong. I ended following what seemed to be the description, but the trail was obliterated so I turned back and ran into the trail...backwards. I assumed the trail I had just attempted was the trail so I decided to do an out and back from where I was up to Red Brush Hill. I was SO frustrated and tired at this point. I was so done. So, so done. 7 miles to go and I had just added on probably a mile. I had to take a frustrated photo with the trail marker on Red Brush Hill.


I was happy that I knew where I was at this point, and, while not marked at all, the next short section down to the road was easy to follow. I drank the last of my Gatorade here just before what would be the longest road section of the trail. I had been dreading it. It was going to hurt. The trail used to cut straight across and down, but a golf course was built in this space which forced an out-of-the-way reroute around on Hancock St and Burnt Swamp Rd. I was thankful to see Hancock was all downhill to Burnt Swamp and then the rest was flat. I still stumbled through here running well over 9 minute miles. I was hurting badly. I couldn't wait to get to Camp Ker-Anna because I knew I'd be back on the well-marked trail with only 4 miles to go.

As much as I hated running on pavement, this actually ended up being a very nice section. The sun came out and dried up some of the humidity without bringing the heat with it. I passed by beautiful fields. Definitely gorgeous, but I still wanted it to end. I finally made it to Camp Ker-Anna. You can see the joy in my face!


The sky clouded up again by this point and the temperature remained cool, but I still stumbled through these last 4 miles. I was dying. I had to walk up every hill, but most of it was runnable... if you can call what I was doing running. I loved this section when I had done it before, and it was still really nice. It helped knowing that I was going to complete my goal. I was going to finish the Warner Trail!

If this hadn't been a reservoir, I would have gone in for a swim. I was so gross covered in a thick layer of grime.



When I finally reached the road and then turned toward the summit of Diamond Hill, I was ecstatic. I couldn't run this uphill at all. My legs were trashed, but I was still excited. I didn't take a photo of the view since it was so cloudy, but I took 2 pics by the old lift tower cement block and then the water tank.



I had forgotten that the run down the hill wasn't just down. I wanted to die when the trail climbed back uphill again to make its way over to the end at Diamond Hill Park. My watch had been blinking "low battery" for the last 3 miles at this point. I just hoped it would make it to the end. This uphill never seemed to end, though!! Just get there already!

Finally, I took the left turn down the ski slope and onto the flat near the straight planted trees. At the last tree I was done!!! I had done it. I finished the Warner Trail! Of course the only people around were right next to this tree so I had to apologize for encroaching on their space. They weren't  friendly and looked at me like I had just stepped out of a UFO so I quickly took a photo of the unexciting trail markers and then another awkward selfie and walked toward the parking lot. Such an uneventful finish. No one there to congratulate me. No one there to take my photo. No one there to hand me a bottle of water. And really, all I wanted at that moment was for someone to give me a bottle of water. But there was no one there who cared. I started on my own and finished on my own. The only thing I would have is the data...until my watch died while trying to save it.


Deer in the headlights. Grrr. 
I finally sat down on the stoop of a building to rest and start my Uber ride coming, but there was no Uber available. Haha. Uh oh. I crossed my fingers for a Lyft driver and lucked out with one just over 10 minutes away. This gave me time to go off into the woods and change into dry, clean clothes. This felt so good...except for the discovery of really bad chafing. OW.

I changed quickly then went back to the stoop to take my shoes off. Those $1 flip flops were the best thing I brought. Looking down at my ankles, I thought maybe I should add a Warner Trail tattoo to the right ankle, since I have the Appalachian Trail tattoo on the left. And while I'm at it, get a Pacific Crest Trail tattoo, too; it's only 17 years late. Haha. Maybe if I have money to spare for them some day. The arm tattoo I was going to get 3 months ago was also put on the back burner. I just can't justify spending money on tattoos right now, but I will eventually.


While I waited for the driver, I saw an ice cream shop across the street. I wanted ice cream so badly, but I had cooled down so much that I was freezing to the point of shivering so I didn't. My ride came. He didn't say a word the whole time which I much prefer. I decided to try turning my watch back on again to see if I could save it. It came on. I hit save. Watch died. I should have stopped there, but nooooo, I just had to give it one more try. Turned the watch back on...and the run was GONE. No, no, no, no, no!! Of all runs! Not this one. But it was definitely not showing up on the watch. This actually depressed me so much the rest of the night. I put a manual entry on Strava and people suggested that I might be able to find the file using the computer. I hoped so, but in the meantime, I was bumming big time. But they would turn out to be right. The next morning, I was able to find the .FIT file in my Garmin that had been saved in full. It was there! I was so happy!

The drive back to my car was 35 minutes, and I wondered what this guy thought. Picking up someone in Rhode Island then driving them to a cemetery in Massachusetts. Haha. I'm sure they see their fair share of weird rides. I was so happy to see my car knowing that over 7 hours beforehand I left it with so many miles ahead and uncertainty. Now, I was back with a success story.

33.8 miles on my watch. 6:13:09 for moving time. 7:11:31 for elapsed time! Hard to believe my many stops added up to almost an hour. I stopped frequently for photos but quite a bit in the sections where I lost the trail and then at the liquor store. 3,209ft of elevation gain. That's not really a lot of over the grand scheme of things, but you can see from the profile map that it's just constant rolling hills.




I changed into warmer, nicer clothes once back at my car. My chafing was SO bad. Mostly all over my back and left shoulder from my pack, but the worst was the chub rub!! Wow. My next shower was going to be so much fun.

I had planned all day to go to Blackie's Bulldog Tavern in Smithfield to celebrate, but after getting back to my car at 8pm I decided not to make the half hour drive south. I already had a long enough drive home so I stopped the Yard House in Dedham since it was on the way. Sadly, I wasn't hungry at all. In fact, I was nauseous. Even the Petrus Chocolate Raspberry Stout didn't taste good. The burger and fries were good, but my body wanted no part of it. I forced down half my meal and the beer and then left. Kind of a let down of a celebration. Haha.


My drive home wasn't bad until I got just into NH and started to fall asleep. So I stopped in Newington and closed my eyes for about 15 minutes before continuing home. I got home just after midnight. I was SO tired but happy to the see the dogs. John was sound asleep. I took a shower of pain then finally climbed into bed after 1am.

I still can't believe I finally finished the trail end-to-end. Over 1.5 years to finally get it done. Although I had done most of it with someone else, it was fitting to finish it off solo since that's how I roll. It made it more challenging, but I was also able to go at my own pace and only worry about myself. I would have preferred not to carry that pack or at the very least have someone drop me some waters ahead of time along the trail, but I didn't have anyone to do that anyway. And it truly is far more fulfilling to complete it all on my own. Doing something like this by myself really helps make the mental game stronger, and I'll need that when I try my hand at longer distances again.

This trail was an awesome and awful experience, but it was so neat to discover it and then whip its ass. Haha. Would I do it again? Probably not...but who knows. For now, though, this chapter is closed.


5 comments:

  1. New Banner & What An Accomplishment. Huge Congrats!! And Busting Out Some Dr John Funk!! Oh Baby!! Have Yourself A Righteous Weekend & Enjoy The Time With Those Pups.

    Cheers

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  2. Great job and thanks for writing it up - i did 8 miles of it from Wrentham to Foxboro Friday and this really makes me want to try it all

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    1. Just now seeing your comment. Good luck if you do the whole thing!

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  3. FUN write-up, Leslie! Full of raw, honest real stuff, as it should be. I only learned about this trail when I happened upon the halfway shelter below High Rock at Foxborough a year or so ago and thought, "the-WHUH Trail, now?" Sounds like maintenance for some sections comes and goes, and maybe some of the private landowners choose to not recognize the ROW sometimes. Thanks for sharing your play-by-play exploration of the whole thing.

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