*This post was originally published on my initial blog on August 2, 2013. I am in the process of migrating my content from Blogger and appreciate your patience as I do so!
After a few days in Hilton Head for vacation, I realized that my options for running routes were limited to either the beach or the limitless bike paths around the island. The bike paths were good for a few days, until I got bored. I either ran left out of our neighborhood, or I ran right. Pretty awful when I’m doing long runs and the paths are straight as an arrow after a couple of miles in either direction. For my long run of the week, I was determined to scour the internet to find somewhere I could do the 12.5 miles I was hoping to get in during the 90 minutes (RELATED: Unforgettable Runs: Handies Peak, Colorado).
In a magical moment, I found it: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. The website said that there was a long 7.5 mile loop, and plenty of off shoots that I could run for some more mileage. Perfect! My dad agreed to drive me there early Saturday morning, but I was nervous for the 90 minute run all by myself, when I usually run it with friends. The week before, my long run had gone well, but with my mileage going up, my legs were beginning to feel the increase. My dad and I prayed that the run would go well and I would see God through the nature and the ability he gives my body– because he cares about the big things and the little things!
The beginning of the path was out in the sun and looked like a dirt road with beautiful marshland directly on either side. I was caught up in the beauty, but relieved when I hit shade after about half a mile. The rest of the run was 90% in the shade, which I was very grateful for! I breathed in the sweet sea air as I passed the gorgeous Ibis Pond on my right side, which just so happened to be teeming with large white birds… like: they were everywhere! I ran really fast to get away from the birds, and soon came to the point where the path bent as I’d seen in the map. I needed to go left. Well, I couldn’t go left. Bummer: they’d closed the path. It seemed I had to go straight, so I continued on for a good mile before the path ended at White Point. The view was breathtaking, and there was no one but me and the water. Running back, I realized I would just have to take lots of little paths and make my own route to get my distance in. I was disappointed that the minimal visitor information– consisting of just a giant map in the parking lot– hadn’t informed me that the main path was closed. In hindsight though, I really enjoyed running out to a lot of other points on the islands.
(READ ABOUT MY OTHER ADVENTURES! Like, Ziplining in the El Yunque National Rainforest)
It was so weird though because I kept thinking that there were birds rustling in the bushes. After I’d settled into my run though, I realized that the noise I heard was a million tiny little crabs scrambling to escape my footsteps running through their little crab towns. They were literally everywhere where sand was, but as long as I kept moving, I was good. Even that was awesome though, because I don’t usually encounter crabs when running in Ohio. I weaved in and out of the main trail, going on a lot of the routes out to points and separate islands. Some were flooded with water, since I was so deep in the marshland, but most were passable with minimal mud. I even passed a few cyclists who were out searching for birds (which is cool with me since they stood as markers for me on where the birds were).
I enjoyed how the run was on soft terrain. Sometimes it was grass– with few ruts– and at other times, it was fresh forest floor, in the woods. I run at a hilly, wooded park at home all the time. The difference? This one was impeccably serene, the paths were more interesting, it was FLAT, and it was right by the ocean, surrounding me with tall and wispy Palm Trees. Most of the paths connected to each other, so instead of going out to many points and just turning around, I was able to explore and find my way around the refuge. No problem: 12.5 miles leaves plenty of time to explore (and yes: I got my 12.5 miles in. I would recommend bug spray though. Every time I stopped to tie a shoe or “relieve myself,” I was swarmed with giant biting flies and mosquitos- even at 7 a.m.
I was so impressed with the wildlife refuge and envious of people that can run there more often. I am a total beach girl, and having the beach right by my side as I passed from one tiny island to the next, was the coolest thing. I will never forget the fresh ocean breeze that blew from behind while I softly crushed palm branches underfoot. If your in the Hilton Head area: this run is a must!