Turn your weekend jog up a notch with a trail run

This week’s adventure is an essay from contributor Lyndsey Boekenkamp. If you have a story you’d like to share, email mappyhour@outdoorfest.com.

Being a trail runner, I’m always looking for new challenges. Every weekend, I prep my hydration pack, whip up a few PB&Js, jump in my car, and go off in search of dirt, rocks, and freedom. On those days when a quick local jaunt just doesn’t cut it, I lace up my sneakers and head to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Located in the small town of Cross River, NY about an hour north of NYC by Metro-North, and with more than 40 miles of trails, it’s the perfect place to get lost on purpose. Steeped in lore and local history, the site is the location of several well-known trail races throughout the year, including the infamous Leatherman’s Loop 10K in April, which boasts steep climbs, sweet single track (clear, narrow, well groomed trails), and a whole lot of mud.

While I have been enjoying the trails at Ward Pound Ridge for years, there is one experience I had yet to partake in—going for a run with local trail running group, the Leatherman Harriers. The Harriers boast a regular group trail run every Sunday at 8am, with an optional warm up at 7am. So on a recent Sunday, I woke up early to meet them at the trailhead near the Trailside Museum. When I arrived, a group of three other runners outfitted in colorful spandex were shivering in the softly falling snow. After exchanging pleasantries about ourselves and the unusual spring weather, we embarked on a five mile loop called the Trailside to Overlook run.

The trails were clear despite the snow with sections alternating between twisting single track covered in softly packed leaves and rocky, more technical climbs. With maps in hand and brightly colored blazes to mark our way, we had no trouble navigating the loop. Quipping together as we huffed our way uphill, and laughing in unison as we let gravity carry us back down, the miles flew by and before we knew it we were back at the Trailside Museum, this time sweaty and mud-soaked but just in time for the first few rays of morning sunshine to break through the thick clouds.

Running with a small group was a welcome change from my usual solo trail workouts, and was definitely worth the early Sunday wakeup call. While most runs take place at the Reservation, the group often branches out to explore nearby areas as well, so be sure to check the Harriers’ website and Facebook page to find out where they’ll be adventuring next. And don’t worry about the pace. The group welcomes runners of all abilities and makes sure that no runner is ever on an unfamiliar stretch of trail alone.

To get to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation from the city, hop on a Katonah-bound Harlem Line Metro-North train out of Grand Central, and then take a cab from the Katonah station to the Reservation. The cab ride is about 10 minutes, and will cost anywhere from $12-$15. If you chose to drive, there’s a $10 parking fee without a yearly pass.

Lyndsey Boekenkamp is lucky enough to have the best of both worlds when it comes to options for enjoying the outdoors (she lives in Fairfield County, CT and commutes to work in midtown). Her favorite adventure spots include Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks as well Mianus River State Park which is right in her hometown of Greenwich, CT.

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