George Mitchell Nature Preserve

Houston weather being what it is, my new dream is to run with dry trail shoes more than once.  Dammit.  I decided to explore a new area on my own.  I needed to add mileage, and when I run with the HATRs, I push myself a bit more than in a typical mileage building run.  Also, I want to start making a mental map of trails that are even somewhat accessible so I can train smarter for trail runs.

Of course, on the day I picked for this adventure, severe thunderstorm warnings abound!  I even got caught in a downpour while walking Star, and I had decided to put on my running shoes prior to the dog walk.  I changed my socks later, but I had wet shoes right form the start.  But they don’t call ultras for a mere rain, so it’s time to man up and figure it out.

I got to the trail head after passing right by it, because it’s called The Woodlands for a reason.  It was still raining at the start of my run, which meant the trails were mine!!!  This made me really happy, and I didn’t see anyone for the first half or so of my run.  I explored the main “fitness loop” trail first, which I nicknamed, “the highway” because I practically could’ve driven my old Saturn on it.  There was more water than actual mud, so I just splashed along through puddles, carefree about my wet shoes!  I veered off to the wetlands trail after, just wanting to see where it would go.  These trails were not as maintained, and the grasses cut me as I ran along.  I surprised a feral hog, which started the hell out of me because I thought it was a dog at first.  But most dogs don’t make pig noises.  Except my Hef Monster, but he’s very special, and also more of a pig-horse-bear-dog.  I eventually came to trails that paralleled Spring Creek, and I looked for a crossing.  I was still passing through various drainages that were flowing into the creek, keeping my shoes wet and adding mud whenever possible.  I eventually came to the intersection of the trail and Gosling Rd., where there was a flood control flow barrier that looked passable.  I decided at that moment, however, I needed more snacks form the car, and I still wanted to explore the other direction of trail so I turned around, intending to return after my snack.

Back through the grass I went and I started to wonder if I should’ve brought some Zyrtec, because wow did that sting and itch.  Snacked at the car and kept walking.  Suddenly, I experienced the proverb, because I heard a tree fall in the forest, so there you go.  I decided to do the bike trails loop, where things got much more interesting!  I’d been clearing the trails of debris as I went; you’re welcome Woodlands.  There was a tree across the path, and I thought about going over and through it, but then figured, what the hell, if I could pick it up and move it, I would.  I had to break it into 3 pieces, and drag the trunk end out of some grape vines, but I managed it.  About 10 minutes later, some bikers passed me, so I felt like I did a good thing, even though it may have taken me a mile’s worth of time.

tree in the trail

tree in the trail

tree cleared!

tree cleared!

Foot for scale on tree in foreground.

Foot for scale on tree in foreground.

I tried another trail off the loop and got to what I thought was another regular incline.  Oh no.  I slipped in the mud trying to run up it and had a moment of decision on whether to fall on my left or right side.  I’m always going to protect the left, so I wiped out hard enough on my front/right side that it knocked the wind out of me.  I sat there for awhile, breathing deeply, checking that my fall didn’t rip or dislodge my port, which really hurt, and thanking my quick twist to the right for keeping me from falling on my left side.  The fucking hill was not going to get me, so I grabbed tree roots and pretty much just pulled myself up it.  I ran along, and suddenly realized I was headed back down the wetlands trail I’d been on earlier.  But when I got to one of the creek crossings, the water was twice as deep, and the crossings weren’t very good.  I saw a snake in the creek and I tried to follow it to see if it was a coral snake, or that snake that looks like a coral snake but isn’t.  Undetermined.  But I reasoned that if these small crossings sucked, Spring Creek was going to be impassable now, and good thing I didn’t get stuck on the other side.  I went to wipe the mud off my hands on a nearby palm, when I saw that the leaves were a spider party.  Not that plant, get the next one!  Speaking of bugs, there are flies there the size of your thumb!  And they bite.  Hard.  This is when I got to practice a lesser known skill, peeing standing up in less than 15 seconds so the flies didn’t bite me.

I made a renewed effort to find the trails by Bedias Lake, and then the wetlands trail up to the NW.  It was challenging knowing where to turn, and while I was looking at the map, I turned an ankle on “the highway.”  I should not have mocked it.  I finally found the turn, and headed out, but slowly, because I was concerned about the ankle.  I ate a bunch of spider webs on this trail, and there was a section that was completely inundated and filled my shoes with sand.  I was happy I was nearing the end of my run because I couldn’t get all the sand out of my shoes, and I was starting to enjoy the trail significantly less with the sand lumps.  (I had to wash my shoes and socks twice after this to get all the sand out.)

I finally met some people on the trail!  A few very nice other runners, and one guy, who I judge, and his kids.  His dog lunged at me and he said “she’s really very friendly.”  “I’ll have to take your word for it buddy.”  I skirted the trail edge, while he made cooing noises at his dog.  Come on people!  Use your command voice and prompt correction!

And that was it.  A very wet day again, and a beautiful place to run.  I learned that my new backpack isn’t as well balanced as my Camelback, so thank you Tony for hitting the upper body so hard so I could manage it.  Also 3 liters of water defies the laws of physics by seeming 4x heavier than 2.  I was running at a very difficult time of day for me, nutritionally.  I got very hungry and maybe ate too much at once, which slowed me down.  I’ll do better next time!

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