Hitting the trails

Two super-cool new trail runs to pass along for Montgomery County runners:

>One area running coach told me recently that the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath, which stretches 184.5 miles through Maryland and Virginia, gets “more crowded than 270 at rush hour” on nice days. That isn’t such a problem this time of year, but it’s still worth checking out the Gold Mine Trail, which climbs four leafy, rocky miles through the woods above the Towpath in Potomac. The trail starts just behind the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center (11710 MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac), and spotlights one of my favorite parts of living in this area: the painstakingly preserved history. It takes its name from a functioning gold mine dug in the 1930s! It’s less than a five-minute drive to the Beltway, yet seeing the falls (yes, the visitors center takes its name from actual waterfalls) and experiencing the awesome soltitude of the trail made me feel like I was on some back trail in Shenandoah National Park.

>The 6-mile Cabin John Trail through Cabin John Regional Park (7777 Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda) is good for a directionally-challenged runner like me, because frequent road-crossings allow for regular “am I where I’m supposed to be” checks. It starts just beyond the park’s funky Locust Grove Nature Center, which was originally a warming hut for a commercial toboggan operation.

Twisting my ankle in Rock Creek Park just before New Year’s humbled me about trail-running in my little, lightweight Brooks shoes, so I actually walked these routes, with some bouts of running where the trail looked nice and clear. But I’ll definitely be back in the spring, and those with sure footing or sturdy trail-running shoes should try these trails now.

As for me, Steve and I will be joining the Pacers fun-run gang on the 5-mile Alaska loop tonight.

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