Reflecting at Pickthorne

I returned to the place of my people, Arkansas. I sought breathing space in the place where I always find it to prepare for what lay ahead.

On an overcast Sunday morning I set out from Pickthorne onto a winding, flat trail, with overgrown trees that did not allow any vision of what lay between or behind them. This overgrowth required me to be extra mindful of the surroundings so photographs were not taken in order to move quickly through this section. Fortunately nothing happened other than my heart and mind racing and I was able to turn back to see what was behind me and look forward to what was ahead.

The trail from Pickthorne Park connects Henson Tennis Center and Devon Park and has stream running along side it. There is also a bird sanctuary according to the website, which I did not see.

The end of the paved trail had these interesting rock sculptures that I imagine have taken many shapes as they have been reformed and reimagined by the people passing through.

Though eery at the onset, Pickthorne Park is recommended if accompanied by others. For more information on Little Rock or Sherwood parks, click the links.

In memory of James E. McCoy

Photos: MsThorns

Takes Your Breath Away, Rock Springs Park

After the running FAIL at Peachtree Ridge Park, I didn’t rest until I had an opportunity to try another park.  The destination this time, Rock Springs Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The Park
Per the Gwinnett Parks and Recreation website, Rock Springs Park features the following: 113 acres, football field with lighted walking track, six lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion, restrooms, 2-mile paved, multi-purpose trail and grill.
One thing of note that I’ve not seen at other parks is that there is a recycling bin in the lot near the pavilion and playground for bottles and cans, which is fantastic and I hope will get implemented in other county parks.

The Trail
Before heading down into the the trail I stopped a couple of ladies and asked them how hard the trail was. Here’s the conversation:

Lady 1: “oh you’ll love it it’s beautiful.” 
Lady 2: “no you didn’t hear her, she said how hard is it?”
Lady 1: “are you walking or running?”
Me: “running”
Lady 1: “oh it’s pretty hard then there are some hills”
Lady 2: “it may be okay for you just hard for somebody who hasn’t worked out in a while”

Lady 2 proceeded to ask me if I wanted to leave a number just in case I had problems. I told her, no thank since my shoe is tagged with emergency information.  I should have known after this conversation that this run would challenging, but the hard-headed runner had a score to settle.  I wasn’t about to let another trail beat me.

So I did my warm up (always a quarter mile walk) and headed straight uphill. Upon reaching the top I ran out of trail but ended up by the football field. Heading back was only a brief respite as the steepness going up meant I would be “putting on brakes” on the way down.  Continuing on the downhill to my original starting point and beyond, was more of a downhill, back towards some water.  There was plenty to view on the trail but not enough to make me forget about how hard it was.  After few rough downhills it was time to make the ascent out. I don’t remember any normal breathing at all during the entire run which ended up at 3.25 miles.  The website indicates the trail is 2 miles, it’s actually 2.25 starting from the football field entrance.

Rock Springs Park is a great place for four things, children’s play (they have a really nice playground), tennis, football and of course the trail.  Though this trail is really challenging, it’s a good test of fitness, that I’d recommend in anyone’s running or walking program.  However to prevent entry I wouldn’t recommend it more than once a week.

Fore more information on Rock Springs Park or other parks in Gwinnett County Georgia, please be sure to visit the Parks and Recreation website.
Until next time see you on the trail.

It’s Not You Peachtree Ridge Park, It’s Me

With a week that was packed to the gills with stuff, I decided that a change of scenery would be good for the Saturday outdoor run.  Having checked the Gwinnett Parks website, Peachtree Ridge Park in Suwanee, Georgia looked to be a prime candidate for this week’s run.
The Backstory
I had a number of annoyances occur on Friday during the day job and a few more after leaving job two last night.  Once I finally made it to bed, there was no real sleep, just moments of sleep in between some very bizarre dreams.  By the time morning came I was relieved to see daylight and was looking forward to getting to the park.  Getting there was quick an easy, traffic was on my side.  It was cool out with a bit of dew on the grass, another plus. I thought, this is going to be a good one.
The Park
Peachtree Ridge Park has most of the standard features of the larger parks I’ve been to in Gwinnett.  The parks website lists the following:
Amenities: ∙ 156 acres  Handicap accessible ball field and playground for children with special needs  Three baseball/softball fields  Football field with lighted walking track  Two soccer fields  Outdoor basketball courts  Playground  Pavilion  Restrooms  1-mile paved multi-purpose trail

On this morning run I managed to see it all, because I didn’t exactly follow the paved trail.
The Trail
The paved trail was clean (goose-poop or trash) only the first few fallen leaves of the season were on the ground.  I started at a pavilion next to a small playground and followed the curve towards what I thought was the back of the park.  What I noticed was how far out some of the brush hovered over the trail, it was clearly in need of some cutting back. I took a trail the left, which made a small loop into a nice wooded area in which there was a small covered picnic area, which was really cute.  During my second pass I saw a lady doing what looked to be Tai Chi with another lady and a dog that started yapping as I passed by (the dog was messing with my chi).  Following the small loop I made another left and immediately regretted it.  There was a steep downhill, on which I “put on brakes” to make sure I didn’t go to fast (yes even I’m fast on a downhill), which followed a manageable climb out.  The trail leads to the football field and the walking track which surrounds it, but it’s not really a track.  It’s a loop around the football field, paved and marked, like the trail.  There was a pee-wee game going on with cheerleaders and everything (didn’t know they had cheerleaders at the little bitty kids games).  As I wound my way through I was uncomfortable and it wasn’t just the brush or that hill, which I would have to climb on the way back.  There was something urgent pressing… my bladder.
I NEVER have to pee when I’m on a run.  Well not never but almost.  I’ve probably had to go twice in the last 15 years or so.  Well today was that day.  I made it around that football field.  Ran up that hill that scared me and going up it I’d say it was at least 45 degrees, I mean I was learning forward so far, I felt nearly horizontal.  Made it back around to the front near the car and high-tailed it to the restroom…
which was clean had toilet paper and soap, thank GOD! I resumed my run, this time running through a small tunnel instead of the loop and followed the trail, again to the left and a funny thing happened, the trail ended in a parking lot, followed by more parking lots.  This was fine because on this portion of the run I got to see a rabbit, the basketball courts, a large playground and the baseball and soccer fields.  I made a loop through the parking lots and headed back to the trail.  I said to myself, pick your feet up and watch the curb and I did , except all of my body went up.  I FELL.
My bracelet flew off and I landed on my tail facing the other direction.  A passerby asked if I was alright and handed me my bracelet.  I had a small cut scrape on my palm that was bleeding, but otherwise I was fine, a bit heated but fine.  I’d planned to run for a certain amount of time, but by then, my mind was made up to run back to the car.  I was out of there.  Stopping 20 minutes short of my scheduled time for today, I decided to cut my losses.
Peachtree Ridge Park is a great park for families, as there are numerous fields, play areas and open stretches of land that are conducive to play.  The trail on the back side near the football field is a BEAST!  If you like challenging yourself on steep hills this is a great place to do it.  As for me, I’ve been there and done it.  I won’t be going back to this park, though it’s fairly close, the experience unfortunately soured me on it.
Until next time see you on the trail! (I promise to remain upright.)
For more information on Peachtree Ridge Park, please visit the Gwinnett County Parks website.

Rhodes Jordan Park, A Little Something for Everyone

For the last few years, it’s been a tradition to go check out a new park following the Peachtree Road Race.  The purpose of which is two-fold, 1)finding a new spot to enjoy and to run in and 2)to exhale from Peachtree.  This year’s exhale took place at Gwinnett County’s Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia.


Rhodes Jordan Park at 100 East Crogan Street is nestled in downtown Lawrenceville and is built around Lawrenceville City Lake.  At a large 162 acres, nearly any activity you’d like to enjoy can be accommodated there. The park features: a community recreation center, community room with catering kitchen, classrooms, dance/aerobics room, fishing lake, pavilions, playgrounds, seven baseball/softball fields, football field overlay, outdoor leisure play pool, double gym, tennis center with eight lighted courts, outdoor baseball court, outdoor horseshoe court (the first I’ve seen at any of the parks visited thus far in the county) and a 1.9-mile paved multi-purpose trail. 


The beauty of the park is the lake and how everything is nestled around it. There is a an abundance of water fowl and in the early morning they pretty much have the run of the place, with their numbers decreasing as the morning heats up.  There are several boardwalks bordering and crossing over the lake as well as a secure railing on the low lying areas of the park.  There’s also a variety of wildflowers, and especially lovely to see, butterflies.  I visited the park in July and September and the visuals were spectacular in both cases, which is especially enjoyable while putting in the miles.  

The Trail

According to the park master plan there’s a network of trails totaling 3.8 miles.  What’s actually paved, connecting and usable is closer to the 1.9 miles listed on the website and it is a fairly easy 1.9.  Taking the paved areas around the lake, behind the picnic area and near the horseshoe courts, will give you a nice crossing loop with minimal hills.  The trail is not marked, which is fine.  Those who keep track of such things as mileage (which obsessive runners like me do) can just do a timed run and do the math to arrive at mileage.

The trail is mostly shaded with only small sections bordering the lake open and you’ll feel the heat, only momentarily. The trail is really enjoyable because there’s a lot to look at and keep your mind off of how long you plan to be there, the relative ease of it is also good, for any distance or type of run (repeats, tempo).  In fact yesterday I saw a young man doing hill repeats up a grassy hill to the trail.  With all the beauty there is one drawback of the trail at Rhodes Jordan Park and that is the poop.  Waterfowl, especially the gigantic geese (and there are several varieties) we have here make poop that’s as big as dog poop and it is everywhere on the loop directly surrounding the lake, so watch your step.

Rhodes Jordan Park is a park for everyone, there’s really no outdoor or indoor activity that one could not enjoy.  The easy, breezy trail is great for runners and walkers, and the park’s accessibility and aesthetic appeal make it great for days when you don’t want to do anything at all other than sit under a tree.  If you’re in Lawrenceville, take a little time to enjoy this spot right in the heart of the city.

Until next time, see you on the trail.

Camp Creek Greenway, Lilburn GA

I was out riding around looking for something compelling to take a picture of on that Sunday afternoon and ended up near a park that I’d been by before but had ruled out as there was no trail.  Making a u-turn to go back the other way, I came across a sign for a Greenway. My heart started beating fast, because this one, if it was real, was close to where I live.  I couldn’t figure out how to get to it and on the second access attempt, landed somewhere on this mysterious trail. Turns out I’d just located the Camp Creek Greenway.

Camp Creek Greenway runs along Camp Creek through the city of Lilburn Georgia.  A gentleman on the trail informed me that parking for the trail was at Lilburn City Park where I’ve been on numerous occasions, not knowing that a sizeable trail ran right through it.  Where I landed was basically on the short forked end of the trail, where Greenway and Spur Trails meet.  I decided that the next weekend I would come back and check it out.  Last Sunday I parked across from City Park and walked what I’ll call the main/long trail.  Regulars along the route indicated that from the start and back was about 2.6 miles and it was absolutely 2.6 miles of loveliness.  I still wasn’t satisfied because I had not seen all of the trail at once, plus I had yet to run it.
Now for the WHOLE trail (running).

I made it back on Saturday the 10th. The morning was cold, frosty even, but clear with little wind. I started in the City Park parking lot headed towards the fork and bore right on Spur Trail which has a nice boardwalk and a pretty decent incline to Killian Hill Road.  Running back to the fork and then onto Greenway Trail I crossed a short boardwalk that had a bit of ice (the folks on the trail are really friendly and a lady warned me of the ice before my approach). I ran through this trail which ends at Poplar street and turned back.  Running through the park, across Main St onto the main/long portion of the trail, I crossed several short wooden bridges and a longer boardwalk, with bits of ice.  The trail ended at Rockbridge Road.  Turning back and completing the run in the parking marked roughly 4.4 miles.
Lilburn’s Camp Creek Greenway is really a gift for the area.  Some folks may not like the out and back routes to get mileage in, but for me, it’s worth it for the scenery, which is absolutely beautiful and because it is relatively flat and fast.  The few caveats are: ice on bridges and boardwalks; mud on the main trail (about a 4 ft section of it) after major rain and; finally for allergy sufferers, this trail should probably be avoided during peak allergy season in late March and April.  There are signs that indicate that pollination is encouraged and no grass cutting or insecticides are allowed in certain areas.  Still I highly recommend it for those that beautiful scenery, friendly people and a fast route.
See you on the trail.

Photos by Michelle A. Thorns. View the full set here.

Running in Lenora Park

The day after Peachtree Road Race, I knew I had no strength to run (see why here) but could definitely go for a walk and check out another one of Gwinnett County’s (GA) finest.  So I fired up the parks and rec map and Google maps and landed at Lenora Park in Snellville, GA.

Lenora Park in Snellville, GA has many of the features that residents and visitors come to expect in Gwinnett’s larger parks including: baseball/softball fields, a track, leisure pool, dog park, batting cages, gym, pavilion, children’s playground and disc golf.  I didn’t know what this disc golf was until I came back on Saturday and saw it in action.  There’s something for everybody in this park and the second visit revealed it in full use.  For me though, it’s all about the trail.

On Tuesday I walked it, really early around 7:00 am and walked it slow to take pictures and poke a round and what became crystal clear is that the paved trail is for EARLY MORNING or cooler weather use, unless you are the hearty type who can take the heat and humidity of the Dirty in July.  There are plenty of trees but for all but the back side of the park and a little piece on the Lenora Church Road side, runners, walkers and bikers get to enjoy plenty of wide open unshaded space in which to move.  That aside, I love this trail.  It is relatively flat and fast for all rabbits and is a nice break for turtles like me.  The paved trail is 1.7 miles which is fantastic with only three loops you’re at 5.1 miles and four loops puts you at  6.8.

What was especially beautiful for me at this park is that on Saturday morning the park was full of black people.  Since my folks have such high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, I was really encouraged to see so many folks out there handling their health business.

Lenora Park is great for runners, walkers and bikers with that fast trail and is great for more leisurely pursuits as well.  If you’re in the area, check it out and if you’re not I encourage you to visit the parks near your home base.  July is National Park and Recreation Month, why not grab your kids, running shoes, book or nothing at all and experience parks for yourself.

See you on the trail!

This is the park where the goose was found with an arrow in him.  The goose was alive and was able to fly.  The arrow went through the tail feathers.  WSB-TV showed the story on the 11:00 pm news about the arrowed goose, but it is not yet posted on its site.  Trust I will be calling Parks and Rec in the morning. 

Two more parks this week

This parks post is a bit different out of necessity. 

Graves Park is located on Graves Road in Norcross, GA. The parks site indicates that the main paved trail is 1.25 miles. The actual markings from my trek around it end at 1.14 miles. The park mostly consists of open fields for volley ball, has two tennis courts, pavillion, children’s play area and a really nice dog park split for large and small dogs.. Trail is about 50% shaded with some hills and inclines. The trail is just challenging enough but not so hard as to leave you gasping for air.  This park will definitely be in rotation for running and one in which I can take my shared custody dogs to 🙂

Mountain Park Park is located on Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn, GA and it has a LOT going on. Baseball/softball fields, football field, lighted tennis courts, batting cage, grassy shaded areas, a skate park and a 1.0 mile pave trail.  The trail runs close in to all the fields, so it might be a bit distracting for someone used to running on trails surrounded by trees.  There are some trees on the back side and the trail is really most conducive for easy run days.  I likely will not run in this park but will pull up in one of those grassy areas and read or chill or watch all the kids play.

Having taken an extra day off during the holiday I went to these parks because I made a promise to myself to change up my routine a bit after Peachtree and run in some different parks throughout my county.  Both Bethesda (visited on 7/5) and Graves (visited on 7/6) meet my criteria for good spots to run, enough hills, adequate shade, not too close to the other activities and so on.  What I found most disappointing was the discrepancy in the maintenance of these parks. Both Bethesda and Mountain Park were clean, trash bins empty and doodie bags (for dogs) stocked appropriately throughout the park.  Graves Park on the other hand had some trash on the side of the trail, the trash bins were full and there were no doodie bags in the stations along the route.  Norcross, in which Graves Park resides is in a majority Latino area.  So my mind really started racing at the point.  Instead of flying off the deep end altogether I contacted the Parks department to find out why the other parks were clean and this particular park was not and was told that the supervisor for that area was out as a result of an accident.  Now, the supervisor generally is not the one who cleans the park there are work crews that do this.  Even after the holiday it’s highly unlikely that not every single one of the work crews was off, which means the parks still should have trash picked up. Besides, is there not some sort of contingency plan for when people are out so that the work continues? It’s all too fishy for me, because even ignoring the trash problem, there is still an element of  maintenance in terms of weeds and grass and overgrowth in Graves that was not present in the other parks visited.  So the question in my mind is, is there willful neglect of parks that serve minority areas and those that do not?  I’ll be returning to the park to see next week and will be checking out more of the parks in the more heavily populated minority areas in the county.  My desire is to be presently surprised to find them all in pristine condition. My expectation however is that they won’t be.  Gwinnett County on the whole is a “majority minority” county but there are pockets where this is not the case.  If I find maintenance to be equitable, I’ll let it rest, if not I’ll be calling for back up.

Stay tuned.