Trail Running Fiasco: The Lost Car Keys

Perhaps it was a bad sign when we got lost about 6 minutes into our run. Maybe we should have turned back then and avoided the entire situation. But, unfortunately, we had no way of knowing what was to come.

My brother and I set out for a trail run up in Bear Mountain State Park (in New York) early this past Sunday morning. The run itself was great. Besides getting terribly lost every 15 minutes or so (we had to sit over a map for 10 minutes after the run just to figure out where the heck we went), it was a nice route. We climbed ‘The Timp,’ a very steep ascent which provided a rewarding view of the Hudson River and Manhattan in the distance.

And then, while we were about 10 minutes from where my car was parked, I checked my water bottle for the keys.

As you may have guessed already, they were not there.

We were, to put it bluntly, screwed.

We ran past the car until we found someone who worked for the park, and he called the police. They broke us into the car and we decided to call a locksmith instead of towing the car back to Long Island (over an hour away). While this was happening, the police officer who was helping us got a call from a hiker who actually found our keys. Incredibly lucky as that was, nothing came of it; the hiker must have walked out of cell phone range and we couldn’t get through to him again.

I won’t put you through the same agony my brother and I went through, so I’ll summarize briefly.

Four hours, $500, and quite a bit of frustration after the end of our run, a locksmith managed to create a new key and start the car.

An hour and a half later I was home. And already planning our next trail run.

The (Epic) Trail Running Adventure

My latest trail running adventure was one of the more interesting I have ever had. It took me from the peak of Bear Mountain to the banks of the Hudson, and left me exhausted, exhilarated, and at points hysterically laughing everywhere in between.

I went, as usual, with my brother. On this warm Friday we decided that we would summit Bear Mountain for the first time, and then maybe tackle the Bear Mountain Bridge. Just a quick note- I keep referring to Bear Mountain as a mountain, which I understand is its official title, but I would like to be clear on this point: It is a formidable run, but at 1,284 feet is not much more than a rocky hill.

Well, we did it. I actually had to walk part of it (where we lost the trail and were pushing through waist-high weeds), but we climbed it. At the top there was a tower (the Perkins Watchtower, I believe it is called), where our efforts were rewarded with a stunning view. We could actually see all the way to Manhattan (and it may have been my imagination, but I’m fairly certain I saw a visible smog hanging over the island), which was pretty cool.

The way up was hard, especially the end where the trail got fairly steep, but it was nothing compared to the way down. We went down a different trail than we went up, and at first it was a relief to be going down. And then came the cliffs. Well, maybe not cliffs, but large, very steep rock faces which were not exactly runner-friendly. Naturally, we ran most of it anyway. And it was ridiculous. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a combination of fear, exhilaration, concentration, and pure joy before. When we made it down, I looked at my brother, smiled a broad grin through my sweaty face, and burst out laughing.

Now that we’d conquered Bear Mountain, we decided to head over to Bear Mountain Bridge. This we did, and upon crossing it we came on to a section of the Appalachian Trail. We started up, and though my brother could have continued, I was dead tired, and couldn’t handle the climb. So we headed back, and upon our return trip on Bear Mountain Bridge (which has a sign warning about aggressive falcons), my brother noticed a few more intriguing bridges crossing an inlet of the Hudson River. One was for trains, but the other two looked cross-able, so we decided to go for it.

Bear Mountain Bridge spanning the mighty Hudson. In the top right you can see the three bridges I am referring to. (Photo courtesy of

After a wrong turn into someone’s expansive backyard (who has their own foot-trail, for God’s sake?), we made it over one bridge. We had really wanted to go over a curiously low bridge, so we tried to head down to it, and after getting directions and another wrong turn, made it. It was a foot-bridge that continued on a trail toward some fort and the Bear Mountain Zoo. And, we hoped, the car, because we were getting tired. I was, at least.

After dipping our hands in the Hudson, we crossed the bridge and found ourselves in the lovely Bear Mountain Zoo. Little did we know how hard it would be to find our way out of the lovely Bear Mountain Zoo. We passed some falcons (or another large bird), owls, and a huge bald eagle on our first tour of the facility. And then we passed them again. And again. We were quite lost. Somehow, we found ourselves in the back of the zoo with a main street frustratingly just beyond our reach- there was always either a ravine or a fence in our way. Then we came onto a patch of open field surrounded by fence, with signs in the fence- facing away from us. As though we were an exhibit or something. That’s when it hit me: we might actually be in a zoo exhibit. I mentioned this to my brother, with the suggestion that we get on out. We did. As I looked back, I skimmed the signs which said something about a fort, so we may have only been trespassing on some historical remains, but it sure got my adrenaline pumping regardless.

The tale has come to an end. We made it back to the car, drenched, exhausted, and talking about the most ridiculous run we’d ever been on.

The Town in the Middle of Nowhere: My Latest Trail Running Adventure

Thousands of feet of climb, technical and unmaintained trail, temperatures in the high 80’s, humid: such was about two hours of my life this morning. And they were an awesome two hours.

Yes, as I said I would before the weekend, I did indeed go trail running today. And man, was it hot. I went with my brother, as always, and we hit some trails right in the vicinity of Bear Mountain (other times we’ve gone elsewhere, closer to Harriman State Park).

At the end of the run, after nearly two hours of tough running, we found a trail that leads up Bear Mountain itself. My brother looked at me and suggested we climb it. I looked at him and tell him there’s no way. Well, we started up, but didn’t make it to the top. Physically we probably could have, but after two hours of running, if we added on a mountain we would not have been able to walk for the next few days.

Besides for that failed endeavor at the end, the run was amazing. Thousands of feet of climb; one continuous climb for about a half an hour with practically no relief. We encountered some serious inclines, some of which were so steep and technical that we had to walk them. And even walking, I was panting and my calves were screaming at me in fatigue.

We also saw some wildlife for the first time (our other runs have been during the winter; no wildlife around): A couple of deer and a snake I very nearly stepped on.

But by far the biggest surprise of the run happened about an hour in. Running along the trail, we noticed a house below, in the direction of the Hudson River. We remarked on the oddity of this, but kept running. And then the trail turned into pavement. We looked around, and in amazement, saw that we had entered a town. Civilization. In the middle of nowhere.

It felt like that scene in Big Fish, where the main character hikes for days and ends up in that beautiful little town in the middle of nowhere.

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, my brother and I decided to explore this town. We run down toward the Hudson River (a nice decline), passing kids playing basketball, adults watching their dogs. As though this were a regular place; no-one seemed to realize that civilization just didn’t fit in their surroundings.

We eventually turned around and set back up the trail (but not after an encounter with an interesting pair of dogs: a big, ferocious, growling one that the owner told us was harmless, and an annoying little dog that the owner told us to be careful about).

We reentered the woods, but couldn’t stop laughing about the town in the middle of nowhere.

Part of the beauty of running, trail running in particular, is seeing the unexpected. And that is most definitely what I saw today.