Shrouded by the darkness of the early morning, cars lined up outside the Cossatot River State Park Natural Area Visitor Center. Runners bundled against the morning chill in fleece and wind jackets filed into the bright and warm building to check in and get their swag. At 7 am we were ushered on to a school bus that would carry us to the opposite end of the 14 mile Cossatot River Corridor Trail. It would be up to us to make it back to our cars.
Obviously Assistant Superintendent Davy Ashcraft knows trail runners at least by reputation since his pre-race instructions included asking us not to bite any bears we might see on the trail. At 8 am the Go! was given. Certain people were in a big hurry to establish
position dominance early.
The terrain runners would be traveling for the next 13 miles was evident early on. Up and down, rolling hills, beautiful trees just on the cusp of an explosion of Autumn color and rocks. There were rocks and roots and other such stumbling blocks. Enough rocks that attention was necessary but not so many as to earn the rock garden moniker. The elevation changes would take runners over low water bridges and up to ridges high above the boulder strewn river.
Seeing those giant boulders, worn smooth by time and water, it is easy to understand why this river is called the skullcrusher. It’s also easy to understand the River Runners desire to get his kayak thrills when the water is high, the current fast, and the river froths with white. The middle miles of the trail wind in and out of the thick forest, from the river bluffs to the fern lined interior. Running alone, the sound would drift from hearing the roar of the river to hearing only the roar of my own heartbeat.
At the end of the final bridge crossing is a sign that reads 0.4 miles. Yea! On a gravel road. Uphill. Yea. I was sandwiched between Mike in his orange Go!Running shirt and Josh, my trail companion for a good portion of the run. I want to catch the orange shirt. I try to catch that orange shirt. I fail. But I’m okay with that. We all sat down to a burger and some tea and it was all good. We had spent a beautiful Fall morning enjoying some of the most rugged and scenic trail in the Ouachita Mountains in a way that makes us all happy. We have experienced the stoke.
Check out our Facebook Page for over 500 photos from the run, as always, download, tag and share for free.