Getting Lost, Getting Found – West Magnolia Trails

They say running on tired legs is good ultra training, so two days after my big Georgia Pass run, I headed solo up to Nederland for a little trail exploration. According to my map, there were a mess of trails west of the Peak to Peak highway in an area known as West Magnolia. From these trails, sayeth the map, I could connect over to the Eldora Ski Area cross-country ski trails and visit the Tennessee Mountain Hut making a nice, tidy loop in some unexplored country. I budgetted two hours and set out with gear accordingly. I brought the GPS as well curious to see what I could map of the complicated trail system. This last point proved to be fortuitous.

The trails were, as I expected, quite confusing and I rapidly got into the thick of it along a series of official and unofficial mountainbike trails. Passing a campground, I started going uphill in earnest. Lovely trail! The Lost Meadow was full of wildflowers and flowing streams. I quickly reached a gate festooned with No Tresspassing signs… were these the Eldora trails? Isn’t Eldora on National Forest land? Not wanting to overtly tresspass, I headed left following the hiking trail connecting to the Jenny Creek Trail (or so I thought) and blazed down a very steep hill on a jeep road. Nothing made sense. The road didn’t match anything on the map. Well, maybe it kind of made sense. I turned right on another trail, then another right. More Tresspassing signs greeted me. Huh? Time to go by dead-reckoning; I punched in a waypoint near the base of Eldora and found it pointing me in exactly the opposite direction I would have expected, and several miles farther away than I thought plausible.

Survival mode. One thing lead to another. I struck off across country in the direction indicated and managed to string together some game trails, rough MTB trails, and a little bushwhacking, finally ending up down on the Eldora Shelf Road. The fact that I crossed a No-Tresspassing barrier on the way out implied I must have been on Eldora’s property during some part of this (sorry guys!), but I never saw the boundary.

My map showed another trail off the base of the shelf road leading back up into the West Magnolia trails. “I’ll be late”, I thought, cruising down the surprisingly long, paved descent, “but it should all work out in a few more miles.” Of course, I get to the bottom of the hill and find my trail festooned with more Tresspassing signs. “Come on, man! You’re killing me!”

The first car I stuck my thumb out for stopped… and was being driven by none other than my pal Kristen! Small world! Wonderful Kristen drove me back up to my car saving me several inglorious miles of pavement running… and I only ended up being half an hour late.

10.2 miles in 2:30. Comparing the GPS track to the map, I see I was in a totally different spot than I’d expected. And comparing the map to a newer version of the same map, I see that a lot of details have changed in this particular area. Next time (if there is a next time), I’ll bring a better map. More likely, I’ll just run somewhere else.

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