It was so hot this past weekend I couldn’t muster the ambition for an ambitious hike; best I could do was 4.6 miles on the mountain-biking single-track at the park across the road.
Tanglewood Park has a raft of amenities, among them an antebellum mansion/B&B, arboretum, horse stables, championship golf course, several ponds and a path along a lazy river.
And then it has these three mountain-bike single-tracks. Two of them are fairly mild, but Track No. 3 is an impressive 4.6-mile tangle — more labyrinth than trail in many parts. It’s built expressly to give mountain bikers a place to practice their moves, a bad-ass bunny slope compared to MTB tracks in the real M’s. It has obstacles, a few jumps, countless hairpin turns and the very real prospect of getting hopelessly lost.
Normally I avoid mountain-bike tracks because I think the paucity of bike-specific trails obliges generosity from those of us with far more options. I certainly stay off Tanglewood’s MTB tracks when they get the most use on weekends or evenings after work.
But there was little expectation of knobby-tired traffic at sunrise on Sunday morning, so I figured what the heck — I’ll take the camera along and it’ll give me something to throw up on the blog without having to drive 200 miles.
The picture at right gives a rough idea of the track’s shape — with a few amusing complications: several spurs go to the parks campgrounds and other attractions, and horse trails cut across the woods as well. More intersections than you can shake a stick at, and a chance to take a wrong turn at every one of them.
But as I said, it’s only 4.6 miles so it’d be very difficult to stay lost forever. I take my morning walks on this route (when I have the energy), so I know the turns pretty well after about 20 or 30 trips. But it still trips me up now and then.
I left Sunday with no expectation of interesting pictures, though I did snap a few. May as well get right to them.
These signs give it away. Note they don’t say “no hiking” or “no trail running.” If you’re an MTB’er who googled your way to this page, be warned: you could meet walkers, runners, dogs, equestrians, and maybe even the fox I saw dashing full-throttle across the woods one morning, or the large doe chasing it away from her fawn. This is a forest, suburban though it may be, with real forest creatures. The deer are none too bright; go too fast and you might crash into one before it has enough sense to flee.
Scenes like this are why it’s essential to be in the woods at sunrise now and again. You’ll be able to look your pastor in the eye and say “yes, I was in church last Sunday.”
One of many stacks of logs to make life interesting for bicyclists. Most of the stacks have tracks around them, but not all.
It was a great morning for fungus. The woods have a remarkable variety.
Several breaks between the trees provide paths to different sections of the park, but they all look sorta alike so it’s difficult to navigate by them.
Speaking of navigation: this gate is a handy point of reference, because the gravel road leads out to the park’s main roads. If you’re way, way lost, you’re not far from being found if you end up here.
Check this out: no turtle sightings in 11 months, and two in the past two weeks.
The trail also passes near a horse paddock.
Shelter No. 2 is brand new; it just opened a few months ago. Great thing about it: a water fountain that pumps cold water. Note this place might be rented for wedding receptions or office parties or other civilized folks who might not welcome the sight of grungy stragglers emerging from the woods in search of a drink of water. Be polite.
I’m pretty sure the lightning strike that had the cat under the bed for hours also snapped this tree in two.
One of the aforementioned deer.
Wooden track through a boggy section.
Yet more fascinating fungi.
Actual bike riders started showing up just as I was getting done.
Links for this walk: