Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wapack and Back

Had a great time taking photos at the Wapack and Back Trail Races this past Saturday. In the morning, I drove out to Wachusett Mountain in north-central Massachusetts to take photos of the hillclimb bike race (photo gallery here). I hiked up the auto road to the highest ski trail crossing and took shots of the "sufferfest" as riders gasped their way by (actually, most looked pretty spry still, and some even looked fantastic!). Then it was about a half-hour drive north to the trailhead for Mt. Watatic where I found the finish line for the trail race all set up and ready to reward runners.

The leaders wouldn't be there for a while yet, so I hiked out on the Wapack Trail towards the Binney Pond Road aid station. Bypassing the summit of Watatic to save a mile or so, I took the State Line Trail cutoff, which was actually quite nice, even if the various junctions were slightly hard to follow (they were signed, but they didn't exactly match the map I had printed out). After crossing the state line into southern New Hampshire, I met the lead runners of both the 50-mile race and the 21.5-mile race in the ultra-scenic clearcut area just south of the Binney Pond Road aid station.

It was a pleasure to meet and talk with TARC (Trail Animals Running Club) members Tim and Kristen who were staffing the aid station. They were set up with food, beverages, and rockin' tunes coming out of the truck. And there was a  tarp over the table, which was particularly nice since it was lightly raining off and on throughout the day.

A little farther north I ran into Scott Livingston, a fellow trail runner/blogger/photographer dude who it was good to finally meet; no more pure blog lurking! He was coming back from just having hiked all the way out to Windblown. After a brief chat about photography we were on our ways again.

I took most of my runner photos in the next mile to the north, where the Wapack Trail passes through NH's Binney Pond State Forest. This is a very pretty stretch, and well worth a visit just to hike sometime. After skirting along the boggy edge of the shallow pond itself, the trail meanders through deciduous woods and then eventually climbs up 1,817 ft. high Pratt Mountain via a series of steep-but-not-too-steep switchbacks. At the top, there's a great southern view out over the pond to Watatic. Runners were pretty infrequent by this point (I'd been out on the trail for several hours), so after half an hour I headed back down.

A quick response to the runner who ran by and said "so these photos are going to be free, right?" Well... no, they're not. You wouldn't expect to walk into a record store and say to the owner "so these CDs are free, right?" My time is not free. The camera equipment wasn't free. Photos are my product. I love taking the pictures and I enjoy the whole process (and I sincerely hope the athletes I take photos of enjoy seeing themselves in action afterwards), but I need to eat and pay bills just like anyone else. To put it as simply as I can: if I don't sell any photos, there won't be any more photos, not from me anyway, because I won't be able to afford to take them.

Following a brief stop to wash poison ivy off my leg (I seem to have become a PI magnet in recent years), I made it back to the aid station just in time for the heavier rains to set in. I snapped a few more darkish shots of some of the later runners (either finishing the 21.5 or coming back out for the last 7 miles of the 50) and called it a day around 5PM. I'd hiked about 7 miles total.

Coda: After driving back west through heavy rain on Route 2, Jen and I met up in New Salem (the NEW Salem) on the northwestern edge of the Quabbin and ran the 6.2 mile course of the Rabbit Run, which will take place this coming Saturday. The skies cleared and we had an excellent, bug-free run in the late evening light. Then we topped the whole day off with beer, food, and live music at Deja Brew up in Wendell.


Binney Pond from the overlook on Pratt Mountain, with Mt. Watatic rising in the distance.

L: Runners descend Pratt Mountain; R: Best race moment ever.

Slaphappy trail racers at mile 48 or so.

Signs at the Route 119 trailhead for Watatic.

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