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(Continued from the previous page.)

After the race began I knew I had a few hours to kill before I could see Jim at the river (er, creek) crossing. That gave me the opportunity to wander around the start/finish area -- to see how runners would be coming into the finish -- and to take a hike with Cody on some of the nice trails at Sweetwater Creek State Park.

Here's a section of the map that shows the blue, red, yellow, and white-blazed trails within park boundaries:

Race participants run on most of those trails, and more outside the park. Cody and I only had time to do part of the yellow, red, and blue trails along the creek and ridge above it.

All of the photos on these two race pages are ones I took on my hike and while watching the race. Jim didn't take a camera with him during the event.


I first walked northeast from the start/finish area on the red and yellow trails, downhill to the creek and the location of the aid station at the demolished bridge (photos of that on first page). The soft trail was mostly smooth through the woods and along the curvy creek shore:

Part of the red-blazed trail

Sandy yellow trail along the creek

Volunteers had already set up the aid station and were ready for the runners:

About two hundred yards past the aid station volunteers were waiting for the first runners to reach the creek crossing:

Note the cautionary sign re: swift currents, flash flooding, underwater obstructions, and slippery rocks! Folks in some rugged ultras like Hardrock (or on the Appalachian Trail in New England) see much worse than this, but for many 50Kers, this is their first experience fording a potentially dangerous stream.

Two ropes had been strung across the wide creek and volunteers had forded to the other side to assist runners coming and going on the yellow-blazed trail loop on that side:

I highlighted the volunteer who was stationed by the ropes on the other side of the creek.

I wasn't interested in hanging around to see the front-runners reach the creek crossing 17+ miles into the race (runners passed through here earlier in the race but didn't cross the creek the fist time) so I set out on my own exploratory hike on the red trail along the creek and the blue trail on the ridges.


This is a scenic section of trail that gets right_up_next_to the creek in some places:



Note the shredded white plastic bag hanging high in the tree over the trail.
The water was at least that high during a flood!

The surface of the creek is very placid in this area, in contrast to the shoals and rapids farther downstream. It always makes me wonder how a stream can be so seemingly-still in one place and rushing an another place where there is more of a slope. Shouldn't it all look like it's moving at the same rate???

It's fun to ponder things like that when I'm hiking!

Some of the shoals farther downstream

After being deprived of the pleasures of swimming in creeks and lakes at Brazos Bend for the past month (alligator territory), Cody was a very happy Labrador retriever when I let him jump into Sweetwater Creek along here a few times.

Cody and I continued walking along the red trail at it gradually ascended a hill and got a little farther away from the creek before reaching the first interpretive sign for the old textile mill. A few benches invite visitors to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way:



By now I had reached the mill race, a 1,525-foot trench that slaves dug parallel to the creek. You can see it in the diagram above and in this photo where the trail switchbacks farther up the hill:

Mill race and spillway

I continued up the hill past the previous location of the company store (no longer visible) and toward the ruins of the old mill.


I am fascinated with the ruins of old structures like ancient Native American cliff dwellings and other remnants of buildings that have been preserved through history so we can understand more about the way people lived in other times and places.

So I was naturally drawn to the interesting remains of the New Manchester textile mill, which was burned by Union troops during the Civil War. This was a pretty big operation that included a brick manufacturing area, a large sawmill, a three-story company store that also sold shoes and dry goods and included a post office and two floors with living quarters, a dam to facilitate the mill's operation, and the mill itself.

The park does a great job interpreting the construction and operation of the business venture and what occurred to the buildings and workers here during the war:

Long story short, the Confederate mill workers were detained and sent to prison in Louisville, KY until they pledged allegiance to the Union. Then they were transported across the Ohio River and ordered to remain there until the end of the war. Few of them ever returned to New Manchester.

I hope Jim and the other runners in the SweetH2O paused long enough to read some of the information about the business as they ran or walked these hills, or at least glanced over to see what was left of it.

If nothing else, I thought the protruding brick walls of the five-story mill were pretty interesting from various angles:



The terrain around the mill is very hilly. The park has built wooden observation decks above the skeleton of the building and a series of steps down to the lower level. Even though I have some knee pain going down steps like these, I was so curious I descended anyway!

The mill is down to the left, between the trail and creek.

Nice deck at the upper level

What, no elevator??

I took the next series of photos of the ruins on the way down the stairs and at the bottom, at creek level. Note the tall chain-link fencing preventing curious visitors from entering the dangerous building. Nor can you walk in front of the remains along the creek.



And then I got to go back up all those stairs, which for me is much easier than coming down:

OK, I abbreviated the history lesson so I don't lose readers who are only interested in the race. The photos do show what the runners see (at least, from the level of the trail), if they care to look anywhere besides where their feet are going to land.

Race report continued on the next page . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil