Monday, April 6, 2009

A Real Maine Trail Run

This morning I finally felt like my old self. I had a beautiful run on the old Town Farm Rd. This is nothing but doubletrack and singletrack trail now. I like to look at the old foundations, stone walls, and the occasional piece of rusting farm equipment. I try to imagine what this road looked like 150 years ago and wonder why at some point, it was just abandoned.

The loop I do is about 6.5 miles. Today some of the higher points were solid bare ground. I daydreamed about summer trail running on those stretches! A lot of the hills were running water streams from the snow melt. This was actually good running because the stream beds were solid and rocky. These stretches gave me a chance to get my shoes clean. There was still some snow, knee deep in one low lying area!

I met up with a landowner that I hadn't met before and finally had the opportunity to ask if it was OK for me to run through his property to get back to Kezar Falls. I have been running through here for years, but never met the landowner before. He was very nice and welcoming. He even gave me some tips on other trails to run on.

Maine has a very unique tradition of what is called "open access." Privately owned undeveloped parcels of land are accessible to the public for recreation, unless they are posted with signs limiting or restricting use. I never go on posted land, and out of respect for the landowners, I try to ask permission to go on unposted land. More and more land is being posted and our "open access" tradition is in danger. The state is doing a lot of research trying to figure out how to avoid loosing public access to private lands. When you consider that 90 percent of Maine land is privately owned and 38 percent of Mainers enjoy recreation of one sort or another on these lands, it sure would be a shame to loose this tradition.

I think if we want to continue to enjoy the privilege of public access, the most important thing we can do is be respectful and considerate to the landowners. This means talking to the landowners if we meet them, staying away from structures and houses and gardens, not ever leaving litter behind, not being loud and obnoxious, leaving the land like we find it, and respecting any limits the landowner puts on public use (like no hunting or no motorized vehicles.)

This cause is near and dear to me. I'm not one to frequent maintained and official trails so much. I love to travel and explore the tote roads, old abandoned town roads, and foot paths in the local woods. To me, this is what trail running in Maine is.

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