Completed my first run on the Ridgeland Trails. First heard about these trails from mountain bike riders but it is also open to peds and a biker friend at work thought I should check it out and I am glad I did.
The entrance is off of Giles Road, but from Ridgeland, MS you head West on Lake Castle Road and you will see a sign for Ridgeland Trails. It’s one of those brown signs with white letters similar to what you see on the Natchez Trace. You will follow the signs to a right on to N. Livingston Rd and then a left on to Giles Rd and then another sign will turn you on to a gravel road that leads to the parking area. The kiosk in the photo is right beside the parking lot. From my house this is very nearly a 30 minute drive which is a pretty long drive for a training run, but slightly shorter than driving to Butts Park in Clinton.
My friends had told me that the trails were maintained by a club called the Tri County Mountain Bike Association (TCMBA), however I was not aware that membership is required to use the trails. When I got to the trails I noticed the No Trespassing signs and the kiosk had information about membership and a requirement to complete a waiver to use the trail. Fortunately there was a $3, 2-day trial, so I completed a waiver and dropped my form and $3 in to the drop box.
There are three trails you can use. As you can see in the photo. The colored arrow signs lead you on 3.5, 5.5 or 9.5 mile trails. I decided to run the 5.5 mile route. I’m still recovering from last weeks trail ultra so I did not want to push too many miles and I had heard the trails have some hills. But I wanted to get enough miles to get a feel for the trails, so the 5.5 mile option seemed like a good choice.
Early in the run, I knew I had selected the right distance. My legs were weary from the combined stress of last weeks trail race and the Run for the Son 5k this past weekend. It was about 9:15am when I started so it was already hot and humid. I was well hydrated and felt as long as I kept the pace slow I’d be fine. Use it as a recovery run.
As I got started I was immediately impressed with how well maintained the trails are at Ridgeland Trails. The club has put a lot of work in to making this an excellent outdoor resource. Could not help but compare this to the abysmal shape the Natchez Trace Trails are in. On the trace trails, you really need a machete to hack your way through but the image of me running through the woods swinging a machete makes me laugh and wonder if I might decapitate myself accidentally. The quality of the Ridgeland Trails shows you what free enterprise and ownership can do. As you can see in the photo the signs are easy to see and you would have to be delirious to get lost. There are some long stretches with no signs, but there were no turn offs either. I could tell by the shadows where East was and that’s where the parking lot is. I found myself relaxed and just focusing on pace and obstacles.
This is a single track trail, mostly hard packed dirt. There are fewer technical features on this trail than at Butts Park, so I’d imagine the mountain bikers get moving pretty fast through there. I did not see any bikers while running the trail today, but on other days I would have to be mindful of their presence and yielding the right of way to them. There are a lot of ups and downs which keeps it interesting. The way the trails are laid out, they meander a lot. In many cases you can see the trail you just ran down right next to you, which at times made me feel like a rat in a maze. Several times I wondered if I had not run on this exact section of trail before but then I would come to some unique feature that I knew I would have remembered, so I knew I was not lost. There is a lot of shade. It’s heavily shaded with some areas of dappled sunlight and only one section where I actually came out in full sun for ten yards or so. There was no breeze today and I doubt even on the rare windy day in Mississippi you would feel it in those densely packed trees. About three miles in to the 5.5 mile loop I noticed signs pointing to exit. That seemed like a nice feature where if you discovered you needed to or planned to end the course early, there is a get out quick option.
I sucked down my bottle with Nuun in the first four miles of the trail and suddenly I popped out at the start. At the trail entrance behind the kiosk there is a large shaded area with some wooden tables and platforms. There’s a fire pit and an outdoor shower plumbed with running water from a garden hose. I got my towel and did my push ups and core work on one of the platforms under the trees. The photo shows the view while doing ab work on your back. It was a beautiful blue sky this morning.
After my core work I packed up and headed for home. I need to do some more reading and talk to more folks about the clubs perspective on trail runners. The info at the kiosk said the trails were open to “mountain biking and hiking”. Running is hiking isn’t it? Anyway, it was not clear whether I was truly welcome. I did see some folks on bikes heading in as I was preparing to leave and they were friendly.
Overall this was an impressive facility that I am sure provides many hours of outdoor enjoyment to people. I’d like to come back and do some longer runs, experience the 9.5 mile trail and maybe combine some of the other options for an even longer run.
- West Floriday Boundary Trail Run (patthomasson.wordpress.com)
- Yandell Trail Run – Natchez Trace (patthomasson.wordpress.com)