Trail Run in Australia: Blue Mountains, NSW Pt. 1

I saw a pretty place with interesting looking trails on an Instagram account I follow & decided to go there over Christmas.

You did what for Christmas?

I saw a pretty place with interesting looking trails on an Instagram account I follow and decided to go there over Christmas. I had been looking for a good destination for a solo Christmas running trip, and I may make traveling for that holiday my thing, we’ll see. I’m not a Christmas hater, but I’m a traveling lover and it was just the right timing for me to take off. I had a great time and felt really peaceful for the holiday, so I could see it sticking.

I found a place in Bilpin on Airbnb, and messaged the host to make sure that my stay wouldn’t interfere with her holiday plans. I did some research on trails in the Blue Mountains, setting one aside as a first day must do, and then highlighting some other options. Rather than over-plan, I figured I could always ask around once I got there, since at least I spoke the language this time. Before I left I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to do in the mountains over the holiday, but as it turned out, I wore myself out the right amount with adventurous days to enjoy early low key nights.

Mount Banks

It was over 90 degrees, but I flew a long way to run here, so I just made up my mind that it wasn’t going to be a factor. I filled my pack, and made sure that when I was running low on water that I was already on my way back to my car. I had bought a large dispenser from the the grocery store, which stayed in my car the whole time so I never had to worry about finding water at or before getting to a site. It was such a great run that I didn’t even notice the heat.

The lookout at the turnaround point is just incredible, with many different points to just sit and take in the view. My pictures don’t really do it justice but here they are anyways! the total distance I ran was 4.6 miles, with going off and turning back included. If you just went out and back I imagine it would be around 8.5 miles. I found in Australia, walking tracks are given “finishing times” more than distances, so I’d do a little covering before starting out each time- yay math!

I took the “Via Ridge” route, and while there were some steeper sections, they were not long, and I found the grade overall completely run-able.

I did a turnoff to the Mount Banks lookout from the main trail indicated above, but that path was really overgrown and I found myself doing more hiking than running, and I returned to the main trail. On the way back I went right to a side trail instead of left   which would have led me back the way I came. That trail also became very over grown but was fun to run for a bit if you want to check it out, and maybe in another season it will be easier to get through!

I started a new workout on my watch for the way out and the way back, which is how I have two separate maps. The maps below show the main route, as well as the turn off I did on the way out up to Mount Banks (left), and then the little side route I did before I ran back to my car (right).

Map & Parking: Turn off of Bells Line of Road to the dirt road, and drive until the end.


The trails I was after were headed at a spot full of tourists, arriving by bus, and by car. There is a great lookout spot, and while many were hiking, most were just driving in for a view and then leaving. There was parking available for a fee, for up to 8 hours. I was lucky enough to arrive early that I found a space right away, but when I left people were waiting on the road for spaces to open up, so I’d recommend getting there early if you are driving. Even though there were a lot of people around, I found myself alone on the trails away from the lookout points quite a bit.

I took the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Federal Pass, then came back up to where The Three Sisters, a geological formation that was super popular for photo ops, were on my way in. Going down and coming back up meant using stairs. Both routes were steep but had rails where you needed them. I grabbed a shot in front of the valley beyond the rocks. There was no one on that lookout spot except for the person holding my camera, so I was able to take in a final view without having to hustle and duck.


I really enjoyed this run. Parts of it had to be walked- like the stairs, but the rest was great for trail running. Also, the landscape was varied for such a short run (4.1 miles). There were stunning views at the beginning and end, and cool waterfalls, vegetation, and serene surroundings in the middle on Federal Pass.

There was a dining area with several options for drinks and food right there, sit down or take-away. It also had great outdoor seating. I had a coffee and a non-alcoholic cider before I left, while I decided what to do with the rest of my day. I decided to make my way back towards my digs, and assess when I was closer to home if I had another run in me and if the weather would hold off enough for me to get it in.

Pierces Pass

On the way home from Katoomba, I stopped at Pierces Pass. My host recommended it to me, and even though it was right next to Mount Banks, which I had done the day before it made for a different kind of experience. It was more of a hike, and I was going down to a river, not up to a view. I spent an hour and a half on this trail, and the going up part was actually a little easier and less tedious than going down, as it tends to be that way for me often. Total distance round trip was 3.4 miles, and took me 45 minutes each way with minimal stopping, mostly walking, and some running.

Luckily, there was a river at the bottom, and I took off my shoes and let my feet soak in the cool water. If you make your way there, there’s another path that joins the one I took down, called the “Burra Korain Blue Gum Forrest Walking Track”, and is indicated on Google Maps, and had I not been exhausted I would be able to give you more information on it, but here is the route I did take:


Link to a here for directions & parking.

Will wrap up in a second post about the rest of the trip!

By Means of the Sole

Last Sunday I had planned on finding a new trail to run in or around Houston, or maybe revisiting one if I had too. As I sat in my living room trying to figure out where to go, I felt unmotivated to drive far, and settled for running the gravel path around Memorial Park. I had run only five other miles in the week because of some funkiness in my knee, but with the issue under control, I wanted to at least get in another hour of running before the week expired. I made two decisions. I would settle for a relatively dull run around the park, but would treat myself to a trip out of town the next weekend for something different.

Fast-forward four days, and you’ve found me writing this from a coffee shop in Austin, Texas. I found a AirBnB in West Austin, taking out a room in a house full of dudes designing an app. I was really excited at the prospect of inserting myself in a “Silicon Valley” type situation, but alas, I have no high-stakes shenanigans to report (yet). What I do have to report is that I went on a delightful trail run not long after arriving, which I’ll report on a paragraph or two down.

On my drive from Houston to Austin, I picked up listening to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. I started it last September, on my drive from Los Angeles to Houston. It’s a dark choice, but I saw a gorgeous and grotesque artist’s interpretation at the Chicago Art Institute last June and got inspired to read (listen to) Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel. ANYWHO, a character in the novel, Lord Henry, is dependable for accurate yet somewhat depressing descriptions of human behavior and beliefs, and he tells Gray at one point that the senses are a cure for the soul, and the soul a cure for the senses. I mulled this over, as I was driving to the Texas Hill Country to cure something that I was yearning for in my soul- a taste of adventure.

When things suck, for lack of a better word, when life just doesn’t feel right, I throw myself into something that will startle, refresh, or at least be distracting for, my senses. Watch something mindless, eat like its going out of style, or seek out some sort of companionship because being alone is just unbearable. Then there are more rare moments, where nothing is as interesting as what is going on internally, and I’m pushing away all the distractions at once, so I can figure out what is happening in the space between my ears. Unfortunately I think I live more in the former mode than the latter, and I think it would be nice to flip the situation. I’ll never figure the world out, but I think I have a fighting chance of nailing down what really makes me tick someday.

Trail Running often joins those two extremes. Outside, alone on the trails I experience life first hand.  The sensory experience of the world is limited to how I take it in, no memes or sitcoms to interpret human behavior for me. This is how I get closer to answering, “Who am I”? For the record, I still am not sure.

Today’s run was great. About a mile in, as I was mulling over life events and major decisions, I crossed paths with two people on a tandem mountain bike, and they warned me about a rattlesnake they had seen. I tried to be chill about it at first, but called out as they rode off, “ON THE TRAIL?”

“YES!” they shouted back.

Yikes. I came across a freakin’ alligator on a trail not too long ago, and that was startling, but this gave me the willies. The trail had a decent amount of overgrown single track, and I didn’t feel comfortable letting myself zone out with my thoughts for the rest of the run, so I didn’t. I paid heavy attention to every step, taking in as much detail of the ground as I could with each move forward. I never saw the snake, but for my efforts in avoiding it, I caught sight of a bunny that held still as long as I needed to snap a picture, and as I turned to resume the run, three deer bounded right in front of me! If I hadn’t been looking for the snake, I wouldn’t have seen the bunny, and if I hadn’t stopped for the bunny, I might have missed the deer.

I have two more days of running to do here, and I’m really looking forward to them. Whether I see something new or think something new, its all good. Lord Henry was right, sometimes we need to get away from all the input, and other times its great to get out of ourselves.


Slaughter Creek Preserve Trail




Trail Run in Scotland: Great Glen Way, Part 2

Day 2: Invergarry to Invermoriston, 16 miles


The second day of my Great Glen Way run, I woke up before 5 am. I didn’t need to get up till 8:30 at the earliest, so I tried to go back to sleep. I think I dozed a little, but I mostly day-dreamed and game planned for a life I wanted to spend traveling, running, and writing. I had breakfast in a sunlit dining room while I chatted with my hosts at the Glen Albyn Lodge. I had requested a packed lunch the night before, and was presented with a sandwich, crisps (chips), and sweets for 6 pounds before I left.


I caught the Great Glen Way a kilometer or so down the road from the B & B. It started off as a nice winding playground of a trail, with small climbs and descents- more fun than work. Not even considering digestion cramps from breakfast, I ran alongside Loch Oich until the trail met the road again, at a town called Aberchalder. There, I stood still and stared at a boat as it went through the lock, heading to Loch Oich from the north. I understood the concept of locks, but hadn’t witnessed it in person before. It started to rain a bit through the process and I took off.


The path then followed the Caledonian Canal once again. The main excitement of that stretch came from the frequent costume changes I went through. The weather would change suddenly and drastically, from cold rain to sunny, partly cloudy skies. I was constantly putting on or removing my jacket and gloves, and putting away my camera or grabbing it from my pack to snap the incredibly blue sky when the rain would let up over the canal. After 5 miles, I was in Fort Augustus.

Fort Augustus was downright bustling after the lonely stretches I had just completed solo. There were more boats going through the locks there, and many people were out as well, despite the temperamental weather. It was the largest village I had passed through since leaving Fort William. There was a visitor’s center, eateries with enticing menus, local craft shops and whiskey tasting spots. My drop bag was left for me at the Lovat Arms Hotel, which I located without a problem. I settled in with my packed lunch and the goodies in my drop bag in the living room area of the hotel, in front of a lit fire. It had started to rain a little more steadily at that point, and I relaxed on a comfortable couch, perusing my photos so far and the map of the route ahead. Once finished, I went to the visitors’ center and purchased a magnet featuring the Caledonian Canal. Magnets are my go-to as souvenirs, because they are small, plus I’m always in my fridge and thus get constant reminders of my travels.

As I went over the map while I was nestled into the Lovat Arms, I was trying to make a decision- high route or low route? From Fort Augustus, I could climb or not climb, and still arrive at the same point. I knew about the two “high routes” on the Great Glen Way, and one started after leaving Fort Augustus. I had told myself I wouldn’t do the high route- the mileage I was doing was enough. I was tired, and my muscles and tendons were too unpredictable. However, when I got to the fork in the road, I chose the high route. It’s a cool feeling when “what you would do” kicks the ass of “what you did do”.

Once I was through the main ascent, the terrain alone was surreal. The forest I had been climbing through gave way to barren, rolling hills that had once held trees that had since been farmed. I made sure to keep looking south every now and then even though I was running north, because the southern views were more interesting. I came across a couple trekking together, and offered to take their picture, as I saw they were taking turns snapping each other. They were heading north, but going for the southern views as well.

The written guide claimed I’d be running 20 miles that day, but since I was picked up in Laggan at the Eagle Inn (see previous post) and driven to Invergarry, I actually wound up running more like 16. I finished in Invermoriston. It was another great place to end a day of running- I arrived before check in, so I went to a coffee shop for a snack and free wi-fi.  I also visited this awesome craft shop, where I purchased leather wristbands that would have probably been at least $30 in the states, but were going for 3 to 4 pounds each.


My B & B that night was the Bracarina House, but I had dinner at the Glenmoriston Arms, the hotel next door. I had booked my meal there before even leaving for my trip, as I was advised that it was the only place to get dinner in town and it could fill up quickly. I had a steak. It was delicious, and I devoured it like a hungry raccoon. I met two older gentlemen who were also walking the way. I would find them a few more times. Martyn & Dic were from Wales, a few decades later in life than myself, and did hikes and walks most weekends. They trekked mostly local to Wales, but with trips like the Great Glen Way sprinkled in. They claimed weekend averages of 14 miles. What a life! The last time I met up with them, I was sitting on a train on the way back to Edinburgh, and they happened to be across the aisle- at that point, it was the fourth time we crossed paths. I had taken this running trip to see what I could do, and these dudes showed me.