There are many ways to look at a trail, but I have never looked at how to make a trail exactly 3.1 miles before. Last fall, Audubon started looking at ways to create a new course for the Wild 5K that showed off more of the property, avoided parking lots, and was easy to follow. The challenge was one that had to take place on maps and trails, and it was a lot of fun.
We laid out a new race course on paper, then walked it using a GPS and some phone apps to make sure it was the right length. This required a different sort of walking than I normally do. Instead of meandering about to look at this and that, my trail was straight and tight to the inside line of curves and corners.
It was far harder than I expected. Audubon is a place where I am easily distracted. Flocks of Tundra Swans hugged the pond at the edge of Bluebird Field, but I couldn’t wander over to check them out. Interesting patches of color bloomed in the fields and odd dragonflies zoomed past, but all had to be ignored so that I could stay on track to roughly measure the race course.
The new course, after some fussing and adjusting came out perfect. Dave Hedberg, longtime Audubon route coordinator for the 5K, came out next with a wheel to measure the distance. He walked the whole trail, carefully keeping track of measurements to make sure the new course was accurate.
It was to be one of his last jobs as part of our Wild 5K committee. Dave unexpectedly passed away recently. Many remember him as the person who counted down the start of the race and worked hard to make it happen. The work that he did behind the scenes was even more helpful. He set up each stake to mark the course meticulously and stayed that day until every last thing was put away. In honor of all the hard work he put into Audubon’s 5K races, this year’s July 27 Wild 5K will be run and walked in his memory.
The new race course starts out wide and long and travels through what I consider to be some of the most beautiful parts of Audubon. It curves past a line of ponds on one property line that seem under-visited and wild. It runs down parts of the paved trail where muskrats scurry out of the way. The trail turns at Tank, the giant concrete turtle, and past the Nature Play area. From there it goes through fern laden pine forests, across marshes, and through shady forests full of deer.
Audubon’s crew of volunteers has been working to make the trails perfect for the race. Since last year, they raised and leveled two bridges, graveled and chipped the trails, reduced beaver flooding, and trimmed back grass. It takes a lot of work to manage miles of trails on 570 acres, but things are coming together for the race.
Last year was the first time I had been to Audubon’s 5K. Well… any 5K. What impressed me most were the people who attended the race. There were runners who finished in just over 20 minutes and others who took an hour, but the first ones to finish immediately turned around to cheer on the people coming through next.
The runners and walkers were more than just an assortment of people that came through. They were a community of random people that gathered together. Some came as families. Some were groups of friends. Some were friendly rivals.
For me, this collection of people aged 12 to 80 that showed up on a warm July morning to race reminded me what the Audubon Community Nature Center is all about: community. There was a great community of racers as well as a great group of volunteers helping out.
If you are interested in running or walking in memory of David Hedberg at the July 27 race, which starts at 9:00 a.m., register online at auduboncnc.org/wild5k. While you can register all the way up to the day of the race, the deadline to get a T-shirt is July 15.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.