Several years back while gathering for a run in the parking lot at Lincoln Woods, a promising young ultra distance trail runner asked me where I liked to run in the White Mountain area. He knew the trails inside and out and was ready to talk Presidentials, Pemi Wilderness, Evans Notch, or the Mooslauke Region. I answered that my favorite running territory in the National Forest was the Eastern part of the Sandwich Range Wilderness. And just like that he lost all respect for me as a White Mountain area trail runner. He kind of curled his lip up and squinted his eyes and asked in a disapproving sort of voice, " why? " But before I could give him a good answer he spotted someone worthy of his respect and wandered off to talk to that runner.
Today I ran the familiar Old Paugus, Whiten Brook, Lawrence, Cabin, and Big Rock Cave trails. They are lined with dense wet vegetation and erratic boulders and running water. As I crossed Whiten Brook over and over again, as I climbed over Mt Paugus and Mount Mexico, and as I reveled in the complete solitude and tranquility of the area, I realized that I couldn't have explained it to him anyway. There are no great views, the climbs and descents are gradual by White Mountain standards, and the footing is pretty wet and mushy, even during this time of drought.
Today, the mosquitoes were thick enough to choke me at times. I never saw another soul, except for a moose that I glimpsed through the trees briefly. I sweated gallons. I finally wore out my Nathan pack, pushing my bottle right through the rotted material after a refill at a stream. My muddied running shoes will never smell the same. I scraped the skin off my legs climbing over blow downs on the section of Whiten Brook Trail between the Big Rock Cave and Cabin Trails. I never felt even a hint of a breeze. As always, I had one hell of a good fun run there!