Share |

Saturday, April 29, 2006 -- Clifftop - Babcock State Park, WV
Babcock Gristmill Grinder - MSTR #2 (iPO Event Id#: 7263)

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [2005 Coverage]

Story and photos by Julie Black

Photo by Julie Black
Babcock's working grist mill
It's hard to imagine over 500 grist mills spinning in one place. At the turn of the century this place was West Virginia. Today, the place to see one of the most photographed mills in the country is Babcock State Park. Named the Glade Creek Grist Mill, this living tribute to history was pieced together in 1976. Parts came from all over, but most of the structure was sent piece by piece. These parts are dated back to 1890.

Featuring over 4,100 acres of rolling terrain, the park's trail system is ideal for the 12-mile Babcock Gristmill Grinder run. The second race in the 2006 Mountain State Trail Run (WVMTR) Series, the run attracts a hearty core of trail running regulars.

Photo by Julie Black
The view from the top
It's a chilly morning, but the sun is glistening off of Glade Creek. Fisherman and photographers position themselves along the trout stream waiting for the catch of the day; either a perfect fish, or a perfect view of the old mill.

"Greetings Dan." I say with a shake in my voice feeling the morning air on the nape my neck. Dan Lehmann is the head of the WV Mountain Trail Runners. Set up in the pavilion, bright smile and capped as always, his attention is on registration. It's a great day, great day indeed.

"I want pictures!" says Tim Daly, a trail runner, kayaker, doctor, and father of five. How he finds the time to do all that he does I'll never know, but I'm more than happy to take his picture a number of times.

Photo by Julie Black
Happy runners enjoy the trail
Partner in grime and husband of mine, Jason, asks me where I think I should shoot. Hard to tell since there are so many amazing spots in this park. I know it well. We vacation here every spring. Zipping down the road we see race director, Donnie Hudspeth. "I think I may shoot runners on the Wilderness Trail." I tell Donnie, who's busy setting up a water stop excited about the sunny weather. "Wilderness Trail eh?" He raises an eyebrow. "They'll be miserable. It's all uphill to the finish... perfect!"

"Miserable, well, miserable don't make for good pictures." I think to myself. Misery may love company, but I'll pass on that one today. Skyline Trail is my first choice, and then I'll scoot downhill and head them off at the pass before they hit the uphill finish. Perfect!

Reaching my destiniation, the overlook at Skyline, I sit and wait. Quiet as a mouse, I watch the breeze make the tall pines sway. I hear the distant roar of the river below and a few crows cackling over their breakfast.

Photo by Julie Black
Michael Bee heads for the pavement
Emerging through twisted rhododendron, three swift figures shuffle over leaves and twigs. At first, they appear to be deer scampering about. But I realize it's the race when I see red shorts. Joel Wolpert, winner of the Mountwood 12-miler, leads the tight pack. The Bee Brothers, Michael and David, follow very close on his heals. They nearly run into each other on the singletrack as they go by me.

More runners in small groups make their way through the dense forest top. The wind is kicking, and the uphill climb wasn't easy, I can tell by them breathing heavily.

Just before hitting pavement in the last 3 or more miles of the course it was clear that Michael Bee had left the fast pack behind him in the woods. He took first in 1:30:00. The next three runners battled up the last hill within a minute of each other. David Bee was second with a (1:33:42), Joel Wolpert (1:34:25), in third, and Bradley Mongold crossed the line in fourth at 1:34:47.

Photo by Julie Black
Thanks for smile in mile 9
"Wow!" my mother-in-law exclaimed as my whole family watched the first runners finish. "There sure are some good looking runners in this race." "Those are my sons." said Mrs. Bee proudly. Rather flushed with embarassment, my mother-in-law explained that she has a son their age, and Mrs. Bee smiled. "They're twins." she said.

Emily Chaney and Katie Aerni cruised the trail together and became fast friends along the way. Talking up the trail, one would think they were out on a Sunday jog. Chaney pulled ahead in the end to spread things out and finished 10th overall and first for the women in 1:48:19. Aerni (1:49:02), crossed for a respectable second. Anne Olashanski rounded out the women's top spots in 2:04:43. Only a few racers got off course, and several racers met at Pies and Pints to trade their stories.

Photo by Julie Black
Lehmann, a founding trail father
The Mid-Eastern trail family continues to grow, slow and steady. In a sport that seems to be dominated by out-west epic runs and northern trails that leave racers breathless, the WVMTR continues to expose the sport of trail running to more and more people in smaller valley communities. The organization is a non-profit that came together among friends.
Editor's Note... As I returned to the cabin my family and I were staying at in Babcock, I watched my 3-year old son pretend to be a trail runner for the next few hours. I believe the observant little fellow ran a few miles of his own, round and round the picnic table, over the roots and rocks, high-five to Mommy and back again and again. Generation next on the mountain scene. It's true, West Virginia is still an undiscovered gem in many ways. The green rolling hills and lush mountain paths have a story to tell. Ask the trail runners who live and run here, they know, pass it on.