Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The Beautiful Sights and Strange Sounds On the Capital Trail

Mile Marker 0 at the start of the Virginia Capital Trail near Jamestown Settlement (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

Editor’s Note: This story is written from the experience of WYDaily’s Senior Multimedia Journalist, Ben Mackin. 

WILLIAMSBURG — Should you ever be on the Virginia Capital Trail, anywhere between Mile Markers 0 and 3, typically early in the morning around first light, and you hear a noise that can only be described as something akin to a hyperventilating asthmatic walrus, please do not be alarmed. It’s just me trudging along on a morning run, trying not to look like I sound.

If you have never been out to the trail early in the morning, you are really missing out. The trail, which starts at Jamestown Settlement and stretches 51.2 miles along Virginia Route 5 to Richmond, has become a major artery for cyclists, runners, hikers and nature lovers since it was completed in 2015.

Now, don’t get confused, I’ve never run that distance nor do I have any intention of doing so. I am only familiar with the first three miles of the trail. Three out and three back is about all I have time to run in the mornings, given my slow pace and the fact that my 3-year-old and my 1-year-old refuse to drive themselves to daycare…

Oh, and the fact that my wife expects me to go to work and help pay the mortgage. With that said, let me tell you, those first three miles are pretty spectacular early in the morning.

Cornfields just before the first mile marker on the Virginia Capital Trail. (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

First and foremost, the pure spectacle of seeing me run should be enough to get you out there. You will stare in amazement, and ponder how it is possible that the cacophony of heavy breathing and grunting combined with intermittent whimpering, are actually coming from one human. Then, after I pass by out of earshot and lumber into the distance and you let out the laughter you were politely stifling, take a look around you. Drink in the serenity that is our collective back yard. The sun will be peaking up over the trees surrounding the cornfield next to the trail. As you look out on to the vast expanse, a low fog will still be rolling over the furrows. Breathe deeply and let the cool morning air fill your lungs and smell of the woods take over your olfactory system.

As you move further up the trail, wildlife abounds. You’ll see deer and rabbits in the fields grabbing breakfast before they start their busy day of deer and rabbit business. Wave at them. They probably will not wave back, but I’m sure they will appreciate the gesture. Watch out for gangs of Canada geese, though. While they have never accosted me, the way they flank both sides of the trail and menacingly stare at you as you pass by, it can be a little unnerving. But on the bright side, they make you run faster.

If you want to see what’s off the beaten path, hang a right just after mile marker two and go checkout the slightly less beaten path that is the Greensprings Interpretive Trail. You will wind your way through nature, watching the sunlight stream through the branches creating a fantastic array of shadows that sway in the wind. If you’re lucky, you will catch a faint glisten of a spider web strewn across the trail at eye level and you’ll duck before crashing through it.

Of course most times you don’t see it and spend the rest of your run trying to get the sticky substance out of your eyebrows and hair. You will also actively try not to freak out while wondering whether that is a bead of sweat rolling down your back or an irritated arachnid looking to exact her revenge on you for destroying her home.

(WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

There is no end to the natural beauty and wonder that is the Historic Triangle. Whether you are a cyclist, runner, walker, “pogoist” (assuming that is the term for someone on a pogo stick), I hope to see you out there one of these mornings. If you wave to me while I’m running, don’t be offended if I don’t wave back.

Typically, all of the energy in my body is devoted to perpetual forward motion leaving only enough brain function to not run into oncoming traffic and sometimes, if I’m lucky, dodge a spider web.


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