Stone Bridge Caveman 6K and 15K Snowshoe Race
…where two rights definitely do make a wrong
This bit of wisdom could apply either to our attention span when dealing with the convoluted path of the Stone Bridge Caveman 6K and 15K or to Jen Ferriss’ bleary-eyed packing skills. Also a cautionary tale about why it is best to purchase a fleet of shoes of varying color patterns, even if your favorite color choice is red…
Upon pulling into the Caveman parking lot, we proceeded to test the weather and sort out our gear choices. Jen kicked off her boots and optimistically reached into her bag to retrieve her sneakers. Only to discover not a matching set, but two delegates from two separate red combinations, both favoring right-footedness. Since the shoes were styled differently, we had hoped that perhaps one might, for a brief moment in time, adapt to a left-footed role. Sigh…Neither model was ready to surrender their right-footed leanings. Luckily, since she was set for a 10 mile XC ski trip the following day, Jen had already opted for the 6K. Which as far as 5K or 6K distances go, was still plenty challenging. Especially with two right feet fighting over the steep downhill lead.
The Stoneman Caves venue, owned by outdoor enthusiast Greg Beckler features 14 miles of challenging trails, some groomed for skiing; some single track and so steep they would be impossible to ski. Winter snowshoers are treated to breathtaking views. But as with most things worth attempting, there is a Catch-22 involved. Halfway up the mountain you are greeted by a sign warning: “Far from Lodge. If you reach this point after 2PM, TURN BACK. Pack headlamps!” I reached that point at 1:40 PM. WHEW! That wasn’t much wiggle room, but I figured I would be faster than a bigfoot hiker, especially with the freefall that I knew awaited me. At one point, saplings provided no backup and I actually did fall square on my butt. Seizing the opportunity and grateful that I wasn’t forced into a deliberate slide, I seized the opportunity. Too bad there were some barely hidden rocks in the way. Ouch!
While Greg has installed a Disc Golf route along some of the tamer sections, the 15K course reminded me more of an Orienteering experience in that folks pop up unexpectedly, headed in all different directions, each on their own personal mission. This is difficult to explain but if you spy someone ahead of you ziggurating up a mountain, you know you will be doing that eventually, but not immediately. At one point a runner sped downhill past me on a different trail and when I glanced up, I noticed that that particular route bore a sign with the magic words, “To the Finish.” Considerably cheered, I soldiered on uphill, convinced that I would soon be joining him. I don’t know why I thought that as he was noticeably younger and faster than I, but then thinking is not necessarily anyone’s strong point mid-race.
Despite the potential for confusion, I did not get lost! Both versions were well-marked with color coded flags, ribbons and arrowed pie plates. I must admit, though, that I was a bit disconcerted when I spotted Jules Seltzer, who was entered in the 6K, motoring down the trail as I was headed up. And not a pie plate in sight. From a race director’s standpoint, multiple markings would just have been confusing in this case and I knew all the intersections would be well-defined. Still, this is not a journey where you can assuage your various body parts with thoughts of what to eat for supper. It simply required too much concentration. And that, ultimately, was part of the fun.
Our other carpool mate for this trip was Kim Lengyel, who is contemplating training for her first half marathon. Not wanting to keep us waiting, she had politely signed up for the 6K, but secretly harbored 15K ambitions. We convinced her to go for it. After all, I had earmarked the 15K, knowing that everyone would be waiting for me. Except, of course, it was my car, giving me ultimate authority. Still, I was admittedly selfish, and likely to remain that way. We convinced Kim she could definitely tackle the 15K since she is an experienced hiker, which is what most of us would be doing at some point. Plus, she would not be hampered two right feet as Jen was.
After her race, Jen was left massaging her sore feet by the blazing fire pit. Once Kim had finished, the two of them hiked off to explore the cave portion of the property, with its spectacular ice formations, while I changed and recovered. Eventually, Greg hopes to add year-round lodging and event hosting to the mix. For now, visit https://stonebridgeandcaves.com. Or, if you are interested in more extensive visuals, https://www.sho.com/escape-at-dannemora to view the trails where Ben Stiller’s Golden Globe Escape from Dannemora was filmed. If you are interested in the prison itself, attend our Cock-a-doodle Shoe snowshoe race next year at Saranac Land Trust and afterwards take a spin through town to shudder at the forbidding prison.
By laura clark