Rave Run: Bearskin State Trail
While on vacation in Wisconsin’s North Woods last week, I had a crazy idea. I saw a city park advertising a half marathon for the following morning, and it got me to thinking …
I was already scheduled to do 13 miles on Saturday morning anyway, so I decided last-minute to run the inaugural Bear Cupboard Run Half Marathon. It was to be held on the scenic Bearskin State Trail, with on-site registration and shuttles leaving from the finish line in the park to the start line along the trail at 6:30 a.m. An impromptu half in scenic country? I’d get a medal, a shirt and a great story to tell. Why the heck not?
We returned to our cabin at about 10:30 p.m. on Friday night after spending 10 hours on a pontoon boat. I laid out all of my race day necessities, checked the map, set my alarm for 4:55 and, despite still feeling like I was rocking on a boat, zonked out into a coma-like sleep.
I awoke with a gasp and checked the clock: 7:05 a.m. EFF!!! In a “Seinfeld“-ian stroke, I had set the alarm for p.m. instead of a.m. (insert sad trombone sound here). As I cursed my idiocy, my husband reminded me that the night before I had been suffering from “boat wobble snoozy brain,” and thus, I could not be trusted to accurately set an alarm clock. He was right, and of course, I still had 13 miles to run, so off I went to the south trail head of the Bearskin State Trail.
Over the next two-plus hours, all regrets about missing the race were erased.
The Bearskin State Trail is 18 miles of compacted granite through Wisconsin’s wondrous wilderness. It’s actually a former railroad corridor that gets its name from the large creek it follows. You can hike it, run it, bike it or snowmobile on it, depending the time of year.
I didn’t see another human until about four miles in when the trail spit out next to a golf course. Later, I would pass two bikers and two hikers, but most of the time I was kicking it with the butterflies, dragonflies and chipmunks.
And, since I was on vacation and not really in a hurry, I did what tourists do: I stopped several times to take photos and take in nature. The trail crosses the Bearskin Creek 13 times, so that means there are 13 bridges or trestles of varying lengths along the way. The most impressive was the 746-foot Harshaw Trestle at mile 2. It curved through the trees and was one of the few places where you could really see the railroad influence. (It sort of reminded me of the bridge scene in “Stand by Me,” though there was zero danger of a train appearing or my foot getting stuck in the tracks.)
I also stopped at an observation deck with a sign proclaiming it as “beaver haven.” I saw several beaver huts and stayed for about five minutes to see if I could spot one. No dice, but it was still a lovely view.
The run itself was difficult. Though most of the trail was shaded, it was getting warm and sticky and insects were buzzing my head. I was running low on water, and although I struggled through the last two miles, I felt great when I was finished.
It was one of the only long training runs I’ve done where I concerned was less concerned with my pace and more concerned with enjoying my surroundings and taking as many mental pictures (and actual pictures) as I could.
I’m kinda glad I overslept. I don’t have a medal to show for it, but I still came away with a great story. — Mags