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Conquering the Cove

Took my trail shoes off before I got in the car for the drive home last night.

Dear mother. The smell.

Well, those have to live outside now.

I’m not sure Fall Risk wanted to go to the Cove yesterday. Specifically. But she’d expressed a desire to do so in the past. So, she agreed to meet me there.

“Let’s meet at the boat dock to do the lowers. That will keep us on the flatter trails.”

Ok. First. I only suggested that because I knew her ankle needed to be eased back into trails. Because it’s still recovering. Even though she absolutely has done everything her physical therapist has told her to do…

Also. I was throwing those words out there like I know shit. I don’t know shit.

Lowers. Psht. I was just parroting out what I’d heard Master Mountain Junkie say to me last year. When Rogue and I swept the marathon course at the Cove.

Plus. I don’t know. I don’t know if the boat dock was the best place to start.

So I got there before her. So I could do a little recon.

Pulled up to the Boat Dock Dude. And tried to pay him. And he said, “You know what? I don’t think I’m gonna charge you today. Just be sure to get out by 6:30. When the park closes.”

Well that’s nice. I almost made a joke about, if I’m not out by 6:30, then I’m lost. But instead explained that I’ll definitely be out by then. I’ve got a 5pm strength class to attend.

Because Fall Risk and I agreed. We needed to go to class after this.

I found out later that they’re not charging anyone for parking right now. I’m not special. Boat Dock Dude wasn’t just being nice to me.

So he and I have trust issues now…

Started running out Happy Valley. Because that’s the only option. That I could find.

Two miles in. I didn’t see any sign of a trail. Except the fake trails without signs. It was all very confusing. But Fall Risk would be there soon. So I turned back.

When I got back to her car. She said, “I brought you a sandwich.”

Which is the exact way I should always be greeted. Not necessarily always “sandwich.” But various food or drink items.

“So, we’re gonna need to check out the trail map before we get started.”

Now. Some of you can probably look at all of this and get a pretty solid plan in your head.

I am not some of you.

I just knew that she needed to see more than just Happy Valley. So I wanted to try to get her to the Enchanted Forest.

I tried to math a bit. Which is always the worst idea.

Took those pics. Because we were gonna need those.

And we took off.

Every now and then. Fall Risk would ask about the fake trails that we’d pass.

“I don’t know. I think they may be for the mountain bikes.”

Yeah. I don’t know. Sometimes shit just comes out of my mouth.

Then we’d pass another one. And she’d say something again.

“I know. They look like trails. But there are no trail signs. And I can barely manage to follow an actual trail. I probably shouldn’t take you onto an unknown trail.”

That was a legit statement.

A little over three miles in, we found the sign for Schoolhouse.

Finally. Actual trail.

And it was pretty.

Took that opportunity to eat the snack that Branch and a Half Military has packed for me.

“Is that a burrito???”


Then we found Little Bell.

Where we had to cross some water.

(I don’t actually know. The water crossing may have been back on Schoolhouse. I’m kind of winging it on the memory stuff here. I just remember we had to cross the water. And I remember that because it was traumatizing.)

So, I went across first. Because I have yet to break anything. So I’m the lower risk.

“It’s not bad. But the current is a little strong here. Maybe you wanna go up there a little bit.”

Which is how Fall Risk fell into the hole. And froze.

And I didn’t breathe. For a full 30 seconds.

Until she started to move again.


There is no cell service out here, dude. Ima need you to not require rescue.

“We can turn back if you want.”

Oh NO. We’re doing this.

(I just want that on record. That I offered. I offered to just turn around. Four and a half miles in. And head back. She refused. She wanted to see this through. That is the point at which I’d like to be absolved of all responsibility for what follows.)

“Fuck. I hope you’re impressed by Enchanted Forest. And don’t think this was all for nothing.”

Then we got to the road. Which I assume was Happy Valley. Because every fucking thing seems to be Happy Valley out there. And I had to take some time. To wander a bit. And try to make maps form in my head. And then finally found this.

Several feet up the road.

And I took this opportunity to review the maps again.

“Ok. So once we head in here, we can backtrack the way we came. Or we can take Arrowhead back over to Happy Valley and take that back. It looks like it will be about the same mileage either way.”

I didn’t know if it would be about the same mileage either way.

I just know that I didn’t want to watch Fall Risk break something six miles into the Cove.

She just looked at me. Didn’t really offer an opinion either way.

So…I’m in charge. Ok. Cool.

But look it. Isn’t it pretty?

And she kind of offered some agreement.

Also. I found her a baby possum.

“You really are kind of like a Disney Princess. Finding wildlife in the Enchanted Forest.”

Any outing where someone calls me a princess. Sincerely. Is a successful outing.

But ok.

Here’s where it all kind of starts to go wrong.

Because when you get to the end of Enchanted Forest. Or any trail. Apparently. You run into Happy Valley.

Not Arrowhead. Like the maps says. Just Happy Fucking Valley.

Like, that bitch just inserts herself into every fucking trail out there.

And, I mean, that might be helpful. Like, that might be considered a lifeline. That you can always get back to the parking lot. Because you’re always gonna run into Happly Valley.

Except that bitch runs all over the fucking Cove. And if you don’t know which direction to go, you’ll end up at the wrong parking lot. 5,000 miles from your car. And the fucking signs.

Sometimes, when you’re lucky, the sign will say Happy Valley: Bennett Springs that direction and Boat Dock this direction.

Thank you. That shit is helpful.

Sometimes the sign will just say Happy Valley.

And more often than not, there’s just no fucking sign at all.

The fuck is happening here?

Like, we couldn’t put one teeny tiny sign here?

So that intersection accounted for a little extra mileage.

“I think we’re on Happy Valley now. I think if we just stick to this, it’ll just take us straight back.”

I was doing a lot of thinking.

Very little of it was helpful.

Then we came up on the sign for Schoolhouse trail.

And a five mile marker.

And here is where my brain nearly exploded.

Schoolhouse intersects with Happy Valley around three miles from the Boat Dock.

That mile marker says it’s five miles to the Boat Dock.

But it’s only three miles to the Boat Dock.



The fuck??? Does this bitch just magically swing around to all sides of every fucking trail ever created????

I tried.

I tried to make the map work in my head.

I just couldn’t.

I still can’t.

I just know we were a good seven or eight miles in at that point. I’m not exactly sure. Because I’d done an extra 3.8 before we started. And I was at about 11 miles there. And that’s a lot of math. And Fall Risk’s ankle has a limit. And I think that may have been its limit right there.

Five miles.

Of Happy Valley.

At one point. In an attempt to both lighten the mood. And remind her of how badass she is. I explained that at the end of Conquer the Cove you have to run the last few miles down Happy Valley. Somewhere. I don’t know fucking where. Because this fucking road is every fucking where. But it’s the worst part of the entire race.

Nothing is worse than Happy Valley.

Happy Valley is the unhappiest place in the entire Cove.

Except also I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I’m not sure what you’re actually on at the end of CtC.

But it sounded good.

And then Rogue starts messaging.

And I explain the situation.

And that Fall Risk’s ankle is pretty pissed.

And I’m probably not allowed to lead any future adventures.

“Tell her ankle that this is how it gets stronger.”

I’m not telling her ankle that. You tell her ankle that.

And we should probably stop talking about her like she’s not here. In this chat.

And my phone was dying anyway.

And I didn’t want to waste precious battery contemplating how much Fall Risk might hate me right now.

I needed that battery for my Strava.

Oh I’m getting credit for this bullshit.

And around two miles out. I started to remember. The park closes at 6:30pm.

And making it out in time was becoming a legitimate concern.

We may just live here tonight.

WHY did I eat that burrito already???

And we’d clearly missed our 5pm strength class.

But damn that. Because we were burning through some calories out there.

And as we passed the half mile marker. And got closer. We could hear Boat Dock Dude announcing: “Park closes in ten minutes.”

Well, he’s clearly talking to us…

It’s fine.

We made it back to our cars with three minutes to spare.

Not much conversation at that point.

There was no time.

And I’m not sure Fall Risk actually wanted to talk to me anyway.

But also? This chick is a fucking badass.

Because she absolutely found her limit out there. And pushed right on through it.

She can do any-fucking-thing.

That’s just how we do.

Later that night. After she was ready to speak to me again. I suggested we go out to Apple Orchard Falls today. Jokingly.

And then held my breath. Realizing that she might take that shit seriously. And say yes.


Oh thank fuck.

Because none of this makes any sense to me …

We probably shouldn’t be letting me lead anyone through AOF.

Also. If Bennett Springs is actually closer to Enchanted Forest than the Boat Dock. Maybe we just don’t ever tell Fall Risk that.



Just reading and writing and running and looking for my happy place.


  1. martywinn says:

    I don’t know if you actually want the answers to your questions or not but. Yeah, Enchanted Forest is a bit closer to Bennet Springs Parking Lot than the boat dock. And yes it is beautiful (my favorite spot in CC). Did you see that there are 2 Enchanted Forests (very close to each other but not connected)? That’s confusing. Can’t believe that was not part of your trouble.

    I did a very similar path last Saturday https://www.strava.com/activities/3387688603 . A also got lost/took a wrong turn about 1.8 miles in. It seems like Happy Valley goes to the water, but no, that’s just a dead end spur. A sign would be nice. Yes there are a lot of “fake” trails. (looked at your Strava, I guess you did not make the same mistake as me) The one’s uphill from Happy Valley often lead to Rock n’ Roll which is a very cool trail under construction. Some cool work putting rocks in place to make bridges, probably mostly for bikers. Not too steep.

    The big river crossing was on Schoolhouse. I was none too happy to have to do that and have wet, heavy shoes for the rest of the day. But Carvin’s Cove is always surprising you like that. I thought about going upstream and walking across fallen trees but decided the risk of injury was too great.

    Be thankful you did not get on Arrowhead. I always get lost on Arrowhead. Especially when I am trying to find Sawmill Branch to head up towards the AT. Good luck finding that trail. No sign. 2 square inches of blue paint and a piece of typing paper in a plastic shield almost entirely covered by a rock. Arrowhead is beautiful with a very strong, full creek/river beside you.

    Yes Happy Valley touches everything and it is not in a straight line. Schoolhouse is not a shortcut though it might look like one. Oh, yeah, both ends of Schoolhouse are at Happy Valley. One end is about 3 miles from the dock, the other is 5 miles away. Both Enchanted Forests, Songbird, and Arrowhead are like that too.

    Look at your Strava map as you go. Compare that to the Cove map you took pictures of. Try to always know downhill is towards the cove, uphill is the mountain. You should be then able to orient yourself on the Cove map. Great job taking on navigating and making it back in time. I finished an hour later than I estimated. Yeah, free Carvin’s Cove until things open back up is my understanding. Of course I paid for a year pass at the beginning of the year. Boat dock dude got mad at me after he sent me away because of a full parking lot I parked up the road and waited for someone else to leave. He said I should not have done that but he let me park anyway. You were lucky to see the possum. I got a black snake, but he quickly slithered off. Love your adventure stories.

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