Sunday, August 23, 2015

Runners aren't alone at the Black River game preserve

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, August 23, 2015

Note from Madeline:
I’m taking a summer break so am sharing one of my classic columns from 2003.  In 2012 the connection from Roxbury’s Horseshoe Lake Park to the Black River Wildlife Management Area  railroad bed trail to Chester opened a floodgate of runners, cyclists and hikers to the trail that was known by my running friends as “Madeline Trail”.  No longer mine; it is now shared by many.  Back in 2003 I wrote about my then tranquil trail.


Concentrating on the steep, rocky trail, I was startled by what sounded like a dog’s yelp off to my left.  Looking up, I saw a fox scampering up the trail ahead of me.

I was surprised that I had caught the wild canine so unaware.  It was almost within tagging distance. 

My surprise shifted to suspicion.  Surely the fox had known I was approaching.  I had hardly been silent as I climbed over the rocks.  What was it up to?  I turned to examine the brush alongside the trail.

Three pairs of bright eyes looked back at me from their hiding place.  The trio of fox kits had clearly been commanded by their mother to remain still while she diverted me.

Not wanting to cause any more alarm for the fox family I continued my run up the trail, following Mom as she had planned.

These were not the first wild animals I had encountered on the Black River Wildlife Management area in western Morris County but they were certainly memorable. 

I run on the game preserve often, even during hunting season.  I wear bright yellow and orange and choose the days carefully.

During the firearm deer season I stay on the roads, but during the rest of the fall I enjoy the beauty of the game preserve and its trails.

One particular morning I was lost in thought as I moved down the trail.  Suddenly, there was noise and movement everywhere.

A herd of deer had been spooked by pheasant hunters approaching from the west and they were on a fast retreat.

I was alone and probably familiar to the animals.  They paid me no attention as they charged past.  They dashed across the trail in front and behind and on both sides of me.

For a moment that was suspended in time, I was in the center of this hurricane.  It had to be one of my most exciting running experiences.

Usually though the game preserve trail is tranquil.  For me it starts on Pleasant Hill Road in Randolph. 

It was once a railroad line that carried iron ore out of the area and is responsible for the tiny railroad town of Ironia.

Now part of the game preserve the trail parallels the Black River as it flows southwest to Chester.

The sand and cinder trail is roughly 4 ½ miles long, a nine mile round trip.  I can alter the distance by throwing in a loop of two to three miles running on the rural roads in Chester before heading up the trail again.

Although good for even pacing because of its flatness, I can also give myself a good hill workout by climbing up to the power line trail.  It was here that I encountered the fox family.  Somewhat rocky, sometimes grassy, this trail is good for running cross country.

Not everyone appreciates my wilderness trail.  Some city friends don’t relish encounters with uncaged deer and foxes.

I’ve taken marathon shufflers on it.  They stumbled and fell and went back to the roads.  For me, it’s my favorite running route.


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