Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lake Grapevine Circumnavigation Report

This "run" was years in the making for me. When I met my friend Billy, I knew I'd met someone who was possibly crazy enough to tag along for something as ridiculous as a self supported run around the lake. Billy picked October 12th, and we were set.

Please refer to my LAST POST for more details about the idea of the run in general.

We arrived at the Boyscout Camp Trailhead around 0745, snapped a few photos, and headed out on the trail heading south around 0805.

We had loaded our packs up and were both carrying around 120oz of water and 18 gels or so and 18 or so Honey Stinger Waffles along with some other random snacks and S-Caps. I carried my 100oz bladder, plus two extra bottles which I'd stuff in the pack if empty. 

We did quite a bit of running as we headed down the Northshore trail to the Rockledge Park trailhead.

These first few miles clicked by quickly. We then hiked up to the dam and dropped down the backside of the dam so we could run down under the dam next to Cowboys Golf Course. 

There was some double track here which was nice. When we ran out of double track and grass we climbed back up the dam and crossed back over into another park. 

It was at this point that I started noticing the intense humidity and warm temps. The low was around 78-80 degrees and close to 80%+ humidity. Both Billy and I were already soaking wet. We did some more running and came up on a short grass section on a fairly busy road. This is the most southern section of the run. 

We covered quite a few road miles here and just did as much running as possible. These early miles consisted of around 8-10 miles of road. Easily the largest section of road for the entire run. From here on out it was just a mile or two at a time of road. We ran past the Gaylord Hotel and continued to a paved cycling path. After a few miles of that we came up on our first section of trail at the Horseshoe trail. 

It was nice to knock out some more trail miles even if it was only 1.5-3 miles. We had scouted the area earlier that week and knew there was a water fountain at the end of the trail. When we reached the water fountain we finally took a breather, took off the packs, and sat down for a few minutes while refueling. 

Once we refuled we spent a few miles on another paved bike path plus a few miles of road. It was fairly uneventful, but very enjoyable. We did a lot more walking here, just to make sure we didn't hit that wall too soon. The heat continued to crank up and we continued to down our water. This was one of our longest stretches without water so I loaded up both handheld bottles, plus the 100oz in my pack. Again, the road miles ticked by fairly quickly, and soon enough we were at our first equestrian trailhead. 

This trailhead is fairly obscure and is tucked away behind two pieces of private property at the end of a cul-de-sac. We took a quick breather for a few photos and headed on. The trail was awesome, and just as much fun as the last time I was on it a year or so ago. It's not very well maintained, and a bit sandy due to all the horse traffic. 

This section of trail can extremely confusing if you don't know exactly where you're going. We only made one wrong turn and I realized it really quickly. We did a little bit of running on and off and just enjoyed the beautiful section of trail. It was nice and shaded with made for a nice reprieve from the heat. As we neared the end of this section of trail I kept an eye out because there were a few more easy areas to make a wrong turn. Thankfully we stayed on course and were at the Walnut Grove Equestrian trailhead in no time. We found a nice bit tree and enjoyed another quick breather. 

After taking a quick break and emptying out trash, etc. we hit the trail again. The sun was rising high and the heat was cranking up. Billy and I still were able to muster out some more running here. I decided we would at least try to run from shade to shade. Soon the shade trees began to fade and we were pretty exposed. 

Since were on another equestrian trail, there was of course, a bunch of sand. 

We pushed on through the heat and soon came to one of my favorite sections. The city of Trophy Club has done a great job building an equestrian/hiking trail system and we took advantage of it. Everything was well marked and groomed fairly well. The only problem was when we got to the trailhead for that section. 

Billy was having some minor foot issues and did some quick adjustments. I glanced over the maps and after going the wrong way a few times, finally decided we were indeed heading in the right direction. We even passed a random woman wearing fivefingers running by herself with no water. I'm sure that was an odd sight for her to see with us two goofballs and our 30lb packs. 

The next section we had run together before and soon enough we were at a nice shady park with running water! 

It was at this point we noticed some dark clouds building to the north and we're hoping we'd maybe get some reprieve from the heat! Sadly, the clouds barely missed us, but the temps did start to drop. We refilled our packs and both decided to carry around 120oz + of water for this section. We both called the wives to check in and let them know we were doing alright. By this point we were both definitely feeling the mileage and lack of training on our parts, but were having a blast. We were still running the flat sections when we could. We soon headed out and began the trek towards the Knob Hills trailhead. 

There was a good 3-4 miles of road and dangerous highway running during this section. We meandered through Trophy Club and began the dangerous run across highway 377. Luckily for part of it we found some nice doubletrack under the highway and ran on that. 

When the doubltrack ended we jumped up on the shoulder of the highway and started booking it. The clouds appeared to start building again and I could hear rumbles of thunder. There was one good lightning strike I could see and I was ready to be off that highway. We cross the bridge after being heckled by some fisherman below and were quickly at the Knob Hills Trailhead. This was a big moment for multiple reasons. We were finally turning south, and it was pretty much all trail from here on out. 

After snapping some quick photos we hopped on the singletrack and began our push south. We were slowing, but still running. It appeared the hard workers from DORBA had done a lot of work on Knob Hills. There was lots of new trail cut and we enjoyed some beautiful singletrack as we pushed on. 

We started to notice the sun was definitely getting lower and I really wanted to be at our next water stop before dark for multiple reasons. 

The trail winded up onto what I call the "high ground" where it opens up and winds around above the trees. Here we did lots of running, as the talking slowed a bit. The sun continued to drop, and soon we were at the end of the Knob Hills "Mtn Bike" trail. Here we moved on to another equestrian trail. 

We snapped a quick photo and sat the bags down for a minute to give our shoulders and back a rest. After a few minutes we reloaded and headed back out. I continued to try and push the pace a bit because we were still 3-4 miles from our water refill. It was at this point I also noticed the spiderwebs getting pretty bad. I strategically asked Billy if he wanted to lead for a bit (Sorry Billy!!). As the sun light was totally disappearing the trees opened up and we popped out by the water line and were only a 1/4 mile or so from our water refill. 

We refilled our water extremely quick and began the 1 mile uphill hike to the next equestrian trailhead. It was now totally dark and our run was now brought to a fast hike from here on out. We had somewhere around 10-15 miles left. We dropped our packs one more time and prepared for the tough trail section ahead. I had run the section many times, but Billy had never seen this part of the lake. We pulled out our headlamps after giving the wives one last call to let them know what time we expected to be done and headed out yet again. 

I knew good and well going into this section that it was confusing. I've had trouble with this section of trail with the sun up, much less at night. Sure enough, not a mile or so in we came to a four way intersection. I unfortunately picked the wrong way. 

After about ten minutes I started to realize we were on the wrong side of the creek. I asked Billy if we were heading south, and he replies, "no, where heading north". My heart sank a bit when I had to tell Billy we went the wrong way. Fortunately it wasn't much more than 3/4 a mile or so. 

Once back at our wrong turn we headed south by the lake shore. This section of trail is extremely tough for multiple reasons. 

1) It's not really maintained. (Lots of thorns, etc)

2) It's EXTREMELY sandy. 

3) It's confusing. 

Regardless it was a good time. We just power hiked on and would occasionally turn off our headlamps to enjoy the beautiful night. There were points where houses would back up the trail/lake and we would sneak by in darkness as to not alarm any home owners. 

There was one point where a family was having a bonfire down by the lake. We turned off our headlamps and snuck by totally unnoticed. 

Billy was having a heck of a time with the sand and his feet so we stopped to let him epmty out all the sand he'd accumulated. 

It was about this time I finally saw the first and only snake we saw all day. It was of course a little Copperhead ready to really mess up our run. Luckily I saw it in time and warned Billy behind me. Disaster averted. 

I severely underestimated the amount of time it was going to take us to cover this section of trail. Billy advised that he was running a bit low on water. From this point on I really held back on water in case I had to share. (Turns out we were OK, but I knew our next water refill wasn't till Murrell Park)

It was also this time we noticed a HUGE fire on the far south side of the lake that appeared to be near the Gaylord Hotel. It was seriously huge. I looked up the news on my phone and saw that there was an apartment fire near the Grapevine Mills Mall. 

We continued to hike as fast as we could and finally made it to the end of our last equestrian trail. Once we popped out at Cardinal Dr. we both emptied our shoes again and removed all the thorns. It must have been after 10pm and I'm sure we were a sight to see as the occasional car drove by. Some guy even stopped to see if we were OK. 

After around 10-15 minutes we finally drug ourselves away from the comfort of the pavement and hiked on. It was a good 1.5-2 mile road section here that we had to hike down to the Twin Coves Trailhead for the Northshore Trail. 

We were both in quite a bit of pain, but the conversation was good and we were finally realizing that this was gonna happen. We kept stopping at different points along the road in hopes of finding a water spigot somewhere, but there was no water to be found anywhere. 

After what seemed like an hour we walked onto the Northshore Trail again. This trail is extremely familar to both of us. We were back on familar ground and new we were gonna make it. The time began to pass by quickly despite the fact that we hadn't run in miles. We enjoyed LOTS of new trail cuts and of course bitched and complained about the wonderful DORBA trail stewards cutting out all those switchbacks :)

The weather was nice and the conversation was better. Billy and I had been hiking/running for 15-16+ hours and had talked about almost any topic you can think of. 

The MADD shelter appeared before us like an old friend. Welcoming with those benches and the prospect of water. Unfortunately the water was not working, but that was expected. I laid flat on the bench as Billy tended to his feet. He made some rookie mistakes I won't mention here ;)

We spent a lot of time here and getting back up was tough. My shoulders were sore from the pack and my feet were becoming more and more tender. I hadn't trained for this and it was showing. 

As we left the MADD shelter it felt like we were crawling, yet we just followed the light in front of us. 

After maybe 30 minutes we arrived at the Murrell Park Gate. Everything was shut down due to the "Government Shutdown", but the water was still running. We refilled in total darkness just in case someone was around, but it was well after 11:30pm at this point. 

This was another great moment, because we knew this was our last stop. We had maybe 3-4 miles back to the Boyscout Trailhead. 

We left the Murrell Park entrance and began a slow hike back to my car. We were on a familiar trail it was a great feeling. We were now17 hours into this adventure. We were well past my original time guesstimates, but I didn't care. This was epic. We had done something no one else has done before. 

Our pace was slowly increasing and before I knew it we were power hiking like we hadn't already covered 55 miles. We had a mile to go and we were taking our "victory lap". 

As we rounded the last corner I told Billy we'd done it. We crossed over the gate and gave each other a big 'ole high five. 

I stopped my watch at where we'd started only 17 hours, 48 minutes, and 44 seconds ago. 

We didn't even have the energy to enjoy the St. Arnolds Elissa IPA I'd brought to celebrate. 

The feeling was bizarre. This was something I'd been thinking about/planning for a long time, and now I'd done it. There was no finish line, there was no medal or belt buckle handed out, yet it was only 4 hours less than my fastest 100 mile finish. 

This one was for me. This one was for Billy. This one, was for the people that just crave adventure. We made our own adventure that day, and it will definitely be on my mind for awhile. 

A huge thanks to Billy for doing this with me. A huge thanks to my amazing wife for letting me run away for an entire day with a newborn at home. 

Now... for my next adventure.... 



  1. That is epic! Congratulations. I think it's totally awesome you did something so big. A big-ass-goal. Way to go, my friend.

  2. I live in Trophy Club and did this loop (very similar anyway) around lake Grapevine on my mountain bike from my house twice this past year. The section past KH on the lakeshore trail is definitely snake infected. Enjoyed reading your account.

  3. I would like to try that sometime. Maybe in cool weather. Nice job

  4. ok....this is kind of crazy...but I like it. I have wondered if it was possible to make it all the way around. I guess the rockledge rumble is a warm up after this :-)