Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Henhawk in February

2014 was a very up-and-down year for me. I had initially planned to run 2 ultras, a 50K and a 50-Miler, but in the spring I developed a nasty groin pull injury that lingered for months. By late summer it had cleared up and I was running again. Maybe too much. I was running well and getting back up to speed quickly. I did a few short races and had great time exploring some new trails. Then in mid-November I ran an unofficial 15-mile trail race with my local trail running club on Mt. Tom. At the end of that run, my left foot felt "tight," and it turns out I'd given myself a stress fracture.  Cue "das boot" and a winter of alternate exercise.

Of course, it's been as good a winter as ever for that. Very cold and lots of snowstorms making the roads dangerous and not very pleasant. I've been plenty happy picking up the swimming (which I hadn't done much of lately), popping the bike on the trainer, and getting back out on snowshoes and cross-country skis once my foot felt somewhat better.

Today I skied an out-and-back on the Henhawk Trail, an old woods road that leads up to Conway State Forest from a small trailhead about 5 minutes up the hill from where I live in Williamsburg. I've never been a huge fan of this trail in any conditions; it's very rough, eroded, and wet in summer, too leafy in fall, and in winter there needs to be a ton of snow because there's a bunch of small rill streams that don't seem to freeze (maybe coming from springs just upslope?) and you need to constantly find ways to get across them on skis or snowshoes. Also, there's one slightly steeper pitch that's just on the edge of control on cross-country skis, even backcountry ones with edges.

However, after recent snowfall, the conditions today were as good as I've ever seen them there. It was very cold, only about 6 degrees at most, and the wind was whipping a steady 20-25 mph, but I was thoroughly suited up and went at a pace to keep the cold and my internal heat in balance (mostly). I used my trusty Karhu 10th Mountain backcountry skis, and they worked perfectly. There were only two flowing stream crossings, and the steep part had enough snow to slow the descent on the way back. I skied out about 2 miles up to the first major signed junction (it's occasionally used as a snowmobile corridor), just north of the Conway State Line and the boundary with Conway State Forest.

The Henhawk Trail in winter (photo by Ben Kimball)
The Henhawk Trail in winter

I hope my Henhawk Trail appreciation is on the rise. It's a very nice undeveloped area with lots of potential for good running and skiing. Apparently repair of the roadbed has begun, with some new loose gravel added, and a bit more work (such as a few small bridges over the rill streams) would open it up to being a really nice all-season trail.

Henhawk Trail map
map of the Williamsburg portion
of the Henhawk Trail in western MA

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