Wye Island NRMA

Wye Island NRMA

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Good Friday

The best part of Good Friday is that the devout spend their day in solemn observance, or simply stay home from work, slowing the pace of the republic.  Businesses aren't as busy.  Schools are closed.  Roads are less congested.  And I, a nonbeliever, can reap the benefits of this holy day.  An early dismissal from work presented a rare chance to drive north of the Baltimore Beltway without descending into teeth-grinding madness in gridlocked traffic.  Always the opportunists, Tristram and I traveled to Loch Raven Reservoir, near Towson, for a late-afternoon run along one of the region's most scenic trails.  
The southernmost trailhead intersects with Seminary Road, though I don't recall ever encountering a seminarian along the wooded paths that trace the lake shore or the fire road that climbs above Dulaney Valley.  For most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the land now comprising this park was part of the Ridgely Family's plantation and within view of their estate, Hampton.  Tristram and I speculated about the area's history and usage, but the hydraulic engineering of the Big Gunpowder Falls and a resurgent forest have concealed the land's past purposes.  I suspect that the Ridgely's veritable army of indentured and enslaved laborers cleared the Old Growth forest and used the timber to fire the furnaces of the Northampton Furnace and Forge during the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. 
In the late nineteenth century, the expansion of indoor plumbing and sewer systems necessitated a new source of water for Baltimore, so the covetous Baltimoreans dammed the Big Gunpowder Falls and, in turn, damned the town of Warren.  While the reservoir still provides water to Baltimore, the land within the park is now solely for recreation.  The fire road is my favorite section of trail because its width accommodates small groups, and its surface is principally dirt with only a few rocky patches and technical segments.  This was our course on Good Friday, which took us from the valley, over a ridge, and into a hollow.  The climb is challenging and nearly constant for three miles, with minimal breaks in the ascent.  However, we both benefited from relatively fresh legs, unencumbered by high mileage or strength-sapping workouts.  

For a competitive runner, moments of vigor are rare, so I whimsically darted up the last hill before the turnaround; my quickened heart rate and searing lungs reminded me of the fitness I had lost over the preceding months.  More important than fitness, however, was our fortune.  Though we may be far removed from our peak strength, we swiftly traversed the good Earth in a forest reawakening from a hard winter's slumber.  Signs of spring abound.  Soon, the trees will bud, the ferns and undergrowth will form a brilliant green carpet, and the wildlife who congregate here will busy the forest from floor to canopy.  For now, the winter forest is generous in its solitude and silence, precious commodities after a enervating week of work.  

We sanctified the run with commune at Union Brewery beneath the mills of Woodbury, toasting to a great run and a good Friday.  Another week of miles and trials had passed, and the weekend held promise: a long run the next morn and an exploratory mountain run in Western Maryland on Sunday. I closed the week with a 90-minute run on the NCR, averaging 6:37 pace and closing in 6:12, my best run in months.  Seven days of running, 55 total miles, and visits to four parks made a holy week.  

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