The hotel where I was staying was located right on Town Lake, which cuts through the middle of Austin and has a very popular jogging path around its entire shoreline. My plan was to follow this path for 3 miles to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin's largest natural area, and then run up the first 3.5 miles of the 8-mile Barton Creek Trail. This seemed like it would make for a nice 13 mile round-trip run that would sample Austin's finest trails.
|Map of my planned route (in blue) and unplanned detour (in orange).|
|Austin skyline before dawn.|
Soon I came to a sign marking the start of the Barton Creek Trail, and I made my way up the increasingly rocky path as the first hints of light began to appear in the sky. The trail closely followed the creek, which was bone dry above the springs and flanked on either side by steep slopes littered with bleached white boulders. Though the urban sounds never quite disappeared, it otherwise didn't feel like I was running through the city- quite nice.
The main trail was very wide and had good footing, but in the dim light I kept accidentally veering off onto narrow, rocky side paths. Now I love me some good single track, but I wanted to finish the run before it got hellishly hot, and I didn't want to slow my pace too much. I eventually came to a wide path that crossed the creek, and remembering that I would need to make a crossing at some point, figured this was the main trail. I followed it for a while, but the trail became gradually less distinct and more rocky, eventually leaving me picking my way through a boulder field in the dense, scrubby forest. This was definitely not the main trail.
|Cliffs above Barton Creek.|
Eventually I came to a break in the cliffs, and I decided to climb up in search of the trail. This was no monster hill and I'm no stranger to climbing (I had just run Escarpment for Christ's sake), but it was steep and the weather was starting to get sauna-like. The sweat was pouring off me when I emerged at the top to find a lawn and some buildings, but no trail. Damn it. After some wandering and looking around, it became clear that I really was lost, and as disappointing as it was, it seemed my best option would be to abandon the trails and find my way back on roads.
|Looking back across the Barton Creek Greenbelt from "The Compound"|
Luckily, the street I found was a main boulevard heading directly back into the city, and I could see the downtown skyscrapers ahead of me to confirm that I was going in the right direction. The rest of the run was pretty dismal- a long slog past strip malls and gas stations in the blazing heat- and I sweated an absurd amount. I felt a little self conscious but very relieved when I finally dragged my tired, sweat-drenched body through the hotel doors and felt a blast of frigid air. Those Texans know how to crank the AC.