Note: I posted this back in 2008 when these were called the McNaughton Trail runs. The new name is Potawatomi Trail Runs, but the course is virtually identical. The name of the park is the John McNaughton Park.
I’ll talk you through one of the 10 mile loops (note: in the 10, you do one loop; in the 30 miler you do 3 of these, 50 miler you do 5 of these, 10 for the 100, and 15 for the 150 and 20 for the 200 (yes, there is one of these)).
UPDATE: erosion has taken its toll; some of the “once grassy meadow” sections are now basically dirt road sections and can be very slick when it is rainy. And one field is now called “the field of wet dreams” because it is, well, swampy instead of grassy.
Note: on race day, the course is very well marked with bright yellow tape and glow sticks.
Note: if the course is muddy, it can become a gigantic mud bath. Here are some examples:
See here for more “mud” photos.
The start is near where the McNaughton Park blacktop road runs out. Note: there is a red arrow pointing to the right (as you look toward the end of the road loop). This is the start of the 7.5 mile “red trail”. If you want to do the trail course, you look left. You’ll see a wide, somewhat muddy trail heading down hill. Start there.
You go down hill and empty out into a field. Starting in 2006, the course turns left and you go around the field, hugging the outstide.
The race course has a “short cut” marked; if you go all the way around you’ll add a couple of minutes to your loop time. Stay around the field (don’t follow the horse trails out!) and, at about .8-.9 miles into it, there will be a small entrance into the woods; that leads you up your first climb.
The entrance can be hard to see during the summer; remember it comes at “almost 1 mile” into it. You go up this hill and empty out into a grassy field.
You can see the start of the course on your right and you head straight across the field toward the woods (near where the woods get closest to the road). This is where the “red trail” starts. Again, this entrance can be hard to find when the course isn’t marked. Here is a summer and a spring view:
Now the trail goes through the woods and you’ll go over several “dipsy doodles” (mini ravines). You’ll also cross several mini streams and possibly pick up some mud. Note: recently, a couple of cool foot bridges have been added. Eventually you’ll turn right and go up your second good uphill
and face another field to cross; this one has a foot path and features tall grass on either side. You’ll cross under some power lines.
You are closing in on mile 2. Then you’ll head back into the woods for some more single track; here you’ll encounter 3-4 more mini-ravines and perhaps a small stream. The footing is mostly good but the ravines are momentum killing. Eventually, you’ll come to yet another footbridge and that means that you are close to exiting this woodsy section.
This takes you to the totem pole aid station, and I have a hard time believing that I don’t have a photo of that. Here, you are at mile 2.5, and this is the first aid station.
Here is Jerry Davidson’s:
From this station, you head out following the red trail, for a little while. Eventually, you break away from the red trail:
Note that the red trail moves off toward the left; to follow the race course you go to the right of the tower that you see. This takes you past a bathroom and through some open fields.
Though this stretch, you might encounter some fallen limbs, maybe a stray root and some gopher tracks/holes. But mostly you can make good time.
When I am out on my own, I always get lost here (and so I usually just follow the red trail). But when it is marked, you can see where to cross the first small rectangular field (short side), and go between two trees into a footpath through the woods. You empty out and follow another field going along the long side of the rectangle, then when the field jogs right, you turn left thought the woods again, and move up over a tiny grassy hill.
Then you hug the field and then turn left through some woods
and this path connects to a very sandy path; you turn right on this path and head downhill.
The down hill area is called “the beach”. Stay on it and then go uphill to leave the sandy area; the path becomes packed dirt again. Then downhill to the first major creek crossing:
Note: during the summer, this crossing is sometimes dry:
And you are about 1/3 of the way through the loop!
Across the creek, you turn right and follow the dirt path. Here (when it isn’t marked for a race) it is easy to get lost and miss that first uphill section; you don’t want to miss that! 🙂
This first post-creek uphill takes you about half way up the bluff that you are about to get familiar with. Then you go down, take the dirt paths that run along side the creek and stretch out those legs getting them ready for the bluff section.
You eventually head toward the bluff and go along side of it for about 100-200 meters until you then make a hard right turn right up the side of the bluff: welcome to golf hill!
You are at about 4 miles into the loop. This hill has a rope during the race.
This starts you on an interesting 1 mile section where you repeatedly go up the bluff and almost all the way back down it:
You do have some flat stretches along the bottom of the bluff. The third uphill is the longest though not the steepest. You have one up-down part on this third uphill,
but eventually you’ll come to the end of this section where you will see this:
That is the signal that you are about to take a long downhill toward the creek. Note that this has been changed this year; no more screaming downhill but rather a more reasonable, gentle downgrade.
This bridge is just a hair shorter than half-way! On the other side, you’ll have a minute or two more of a few minor dipsy-doodles
prior to crossing another small foot bridge and emptying out at the base of a hill, where you will turn left and go up a long uphill, which features a wide trail and another wooden footbridge.
You empty out into a field for about .5 miles worth of easy running or walking: (update: this grassy section is now a bit like a dirt road and instead of providing relief from the mud, can provide a source of more mud)
Along the edge of the field you’ll pass a small family cemetery. Then you’ll pass an easy to miss (when not marked) clearing on the right. This is about 5.8-5.9 miles into it and is called “Heaven’s Gate”. Turn into this clearing and you’ll be at aid station number 2 and 3, as you pass it twice. Head towards the end of the field and you’ll see an entrance into the woods. Follow it, but then when you get on the foot path, take your first right (easy to miss) If you go straight, you’ll cut off about .5 of a mile.
This takes you down toward some woodsy paths that run along side the creek. I call this the slalom course as you frequently twist and turn between the trees. Eventually you empty out into a grassy field and follow that for a while. Update: this is now “The Field of Wet Dreams” section. It can be very swampy if there has been any recent moisture at all. It USED to be a reprieve from the wet and the mud. No longer.
Off to your right, you can see the mile 8-9 section of the loop.
Eventually, you head back through the woods, up hill
and back into the Heaven’s Gate field. You exit that, turn right, and head out along the outer perimeter of the field; you have about 3 miles left in your loop.
Here it gets a bit tricky again if you are not out there when the race course is marked. Keep going so long as you see the red markings on the trees. Update: more dirt path stuff now..grass is mostly gone.
You exit the field to the right and go along a wide grassy clearing.
You keep going until you see woods off on your left, and at about 7.25 miles or so, there is a small opening into the woods:
Yes, that one:
And that takes you through just about a mile of small ups and downs, with perhaps one good sized hill.
You pass over one small footbridge, and at about 8.1-8.2 miles you’ll see a larger one:
Turn right when you cross this bridge; this takes you on a bit more of path which empties into yet another field and a downhill.
Here you get easy grass running/walking for about a quarter of a mile.
When you come back toward the woods, there will be a right turn that you do prior to moving toward a field (where you first went downhill at the beginning of the loop. Turn right and after about 200 meters you’ll find the third steam crossing.
yes, that is Andy, the race director, and on the other side you see where the trail picks up again.
You go up a steep hill and past a hole in the Disc (Frisbee) golf course; don’t be deceived; you still have about 1 mile left.
You go through some woods, alongside the creek again, and then back into the woods on a steep uphill.
This part is the most mentally taxing for me, as it appears that you are finally about to get out of the woods, but then you are directed back into them again. The uphill is followed by a downhill, then two more minor uphills and downhills.
The downhill which has the wooden marking post signifies the end of the last wood section; you then empty out onto the disc golf course!
Turn right, follow the red signs on the trees. This takes you across a field, to a path where you go right. The lake will be on your right as you go past. Then as you see a big uphill on your left, take the hill and go through the clearing. This is the last hill of the loop.
Then as soon as you are on the top, turn hard left and follow the treeline. You’ll go through a clearing toward another “hole” of the golf course, but then turn right through yet another small path.
That path empties you out into yet another field, where you will be able to see the start of the course.
Congratulations; you now have another 4-9-14 of these to do. 🙂
Update: this shows what things can get like if it rains hard:
Note the tape on the tree to the right; that is the kind of tape that is used. I see this as a very bright green but perhaps it is really yellow? 🙂 (re: Brian’s comment)
Here is another photo showing a muddy course and the tape:
Both of these, I believe, come from the stretch between the last stream crossing and the disc golf course.