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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Land of the Lost

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           This morning I got in my first trail running in the heat of Texas.  Early morning (7AM), when it was only about 87F (31C), we drove more than 40 miles (64 km) to a town called Glen Rose so that I could run trails in the Dinosaur Valley State Park.  That’s right!  Dinosaur Valley.  The story is that 113 million years ago (yikes!!) dinosaurs left their footprints in the mud there.  Today, my husband and son went searching for those footsteps in the Paluxy River while I ran the forest trails up plateaus in the distance.

Before driving off to trailheadSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The initial trail took me to a dry portion of the river where I ran across to catch the “White” Trail.  Their trail marking system seemed pretty straight forward at first.  The trails are named after various colors, and boulders and tree stumps every so often are painted with a dab of that color. 

I saw from the map that there was a tributary along the “White” trail that dumped into the river right at some dinosaur tracks.  Soon into my run, I went off-trail (Oh no!  Don’t go off-trail), and ran a dry over-grown tributary back down to the river.  I didn’t see tracks right away, but found three young children fishing for bass in one of the pools.  I was alarmed how friendly these children were as they nearly walked off with me to help me find dinosaur tracks.  I wanted to say, “NEVER walk off with a stranger!”  I don’t know why I didn’t. 

I scooted off and ended up finding a multitude of three-toed, giant bird-like tracks, exactly where my trail map indicated.

Paluxy RiverSAMSUNG


Carnosaur track, according to brochure probably AcrocanthosaurusSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I got in some elevation, though they were mild and comfortable climbs.  That was a good thing, due to the heat. (My body temperature reached a high of only 1.3 degrees over normal and pretty much remained at about .3 to .5 over normal).   And the trail system worked good for me all the way to the top.  But I did notice some oddities.  For example, the “White” trail stopped and started throughout the system.  As did all the other colors.  When I’d reach a fork in the road “White” might head off in TWO directions, and suddenly “Yellow” would appear at the same fork going off in another direction.  Without my reading glasses, which was okay as long as I held the map far enough away from my face, I would decide which point on the map I would run to.  For example, I would think, run to the “Blue/White” intersection.  Turns out though, there might be 3 or 4 “Blue/White” intersections.  It got to be a little crazy.  But the trails were beautiful.  And they were empty.  I didn’t see a single runner or hiker.






I planned on running one big loop around the trail system then make my way back to the trailhead where I would meet hubby and my youngest son.  Good thing I had a cell phone. 



At ten minutes past my meeting time, hubby called.  “Where are you?” 

“I’m not sure.  I can’t find the “Blue/White” trail intersection.”  I assured him though that I was pretty close and should only be a little longer.  LOL.  I really thought that.  I had complete confidence.

But then the painted markings stopped.  I had no idea which trail I was running.  The temperature was growing warmer by the minute.  Fortunately, my mother-in-law came up with a great idea before we left, which was to fill a baggie up with ice and put a few kitchen towels in it.  So I was able to change out the wet cloth over my head frequently for a new fresh ice-cold wet one.

At the point that the trail markings ended I should have turned around and headed back the way I came.  Instead I kept running until the trail ended!  Did I turn around?  NO.  I went forward.  I went forward because I felt confident I was running in the right direction. 

With no trail, I set the garmin to direct me back to my starting location.  Problem with this, is that it directs you back “the way the crow flies.”  In other words, it doesn’t consider obstacles.  I followed the tiny arrow on the garmin for quite some time, bushwhacking my way, bruising and scratching my limbs.  I crossed what I thought was the river.  I climbed up steep rocky ledges, and kept moving diligently in the arrow’s direction.  That is until I came upon two parallel barbed-wire fences.  I considered climbing it.  Then looked for a tree to climb and hop it.  No such tree was available.  So, I followed that fence-line all the way back to what I thought was the Paluxy River (but I now know was only a tributary), which I crossed again and bushwhacked my way back up to that unmarked trail.

FINALLY, I found the “White” trail.  Which “White Trail?”  I didn’t know then that I had NO IDEA.  I ran it down and came upon two rangers in a 2 seater off-road vehicle.  I flagged them and asked, “How do I get back to the trailhead.”  The “Yellow” trail they pointed out.  I should have followed my instincts and continued on the “White” trail. 

Forty-five minutes late, hubby called again.  We were both losing reception, but I could hear him exclaim, “This map is TERRIBLE.”  He saw the problems with the trail system right away.  He couldn’t help me out at all, because if I said that I was on the “Yellow” trail, he would have no idea WHICH “Yellow” trail.

I went off-trail again (No, no, no – don’t go off-trail!)  I continued to drink up and change out my head cloths.  I could go on and on with the travels of Lauren in Dinosaur Valley State Park.  Let me just say this – I didn’t panic until I reached the two rows of barbed-wire fence AGAIN.  That’s when I began sobbing.  Water was running very low.  I still had an apple though and a little bit of ice.  I cried for about a minute, feeling completely hopeless.  I had no phone service and the forest was thick. 

Boxed in AGAIN! (before the tears)SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I dried up the tears and got my wits together quickly and continued back downhill toward the tributary (which I still thought was the river.)  Then, there through the thicket I could see a dirt trail, and I could see that it was marked “Orange.”  My map now shredded from sweat, I remembered no “Orange” trail in my vicinity, but I ran it anyhow because it was a road!  My water now gone, I ate my apple and carried on, hoping that after each rolling hill I’d see something familiar – the campgrounds, the trailhead, the giant dinosaur models. 

Hubby called some time later to say that he was at the ranger station and that they were sending out someone to find me.  With poor reception, I was able to describe my location.  And I was told to STAY PUT, that is sit in the shade and wait.  DO NOT MOVE.  Now, I really know this about being lost.  You’re supposed to stay put.  I’ll tell you, that was the hardest thing for me to do.  I did walk a short bit for shade.  But there I sat, eating the ice that remained in my bag.  Afterward I took my temperature and happily, it was normal. 

Two rangers in a two seater arrived first.  I stood up and smiled and asked “Am I in trouble?”  They laughed and said, “No.  We do this all day long.”  They asked if I was okay, then waited with me until the ranger with the BIG truck arrived to drive me back to hubby and my boy. When I hopped into the BIG truck, one of the first things the ranger said was, “I don’t know who made up that trail system.  We’re supposed to re-do it soon.”

I laughed.

I could not believe how far in the WRONG DIRECTION I had traveled!!  I had never crossed back over the river, and in fact had run PAST the trailhead.  I felt utterly foolish and embarrassed, but most of all relieved. I apologized to everyone – the rangers, my husband, my son.  They all said that I didn’t need to apologize, but I felt that I did.  I  was cocky and sure I’d never get lost.  I had a good sense of direction.  I went off trail ALL THE TIME.  But it did happen to me.  For the first time in my trail running career, I had to be rescued.  Rangers had to search for me and drive me in.  Yikes!

Miles logged today:  8.35 (13.44 km)

Elevation Profile: +1350 ft (411.5m) / -1176 ft (358.4m)

My Activities Dinosaur Valley 7-9-2011, Elevation - Distance


  1. Great blog Lauren... Glad everything turned out OK.

  2. Wow what an adventure! I am so glad you were found and are okay. Those trails sound way crazy. Probably not the best idea to label multiple trails the same name. :)

  3. Wow Lauren, glad you were ok and had enough cell reception when you needed it. This is sure to be one of your greatest running adventure stories with time!!!

  4. Now that has not happened to me yet... I've been off trail and a bit lost but so far I've always found my way back. Good thing you are in great shape and know how to handle the heat. Maybe a lesson to us all.

  5. Thanks Jeremy -- it was quite an adventure, one that I think I needed. : )

  6. Thanks Hank. I learned a lot on this one. It seems like I learn something on every run. This one I learned LOTS.

  7. Thanks for reading Kate. Definitely an adventure. When I look back at the satellite picture, I cringe. I can see so clearly where I messed up!

  8. Thanks for stopping by Whitney -- talk about phone reception. Can you believe it! And to top it off, we were both running out of charge on our phones.

  9. Thanks Johann! I certainly learned MUCH. : )