Wild Swimming at Douthat State Park

It takes about an hour and a half to get to Douthat State Park from Charlottesville.

Brian came with me, which is pretty amazing because he doesn’t like running and thinks lake water is disgusting.

It’s really hard for me to fathom. 

We had been to the park twice before for the Odyssey Trail Running Rampage.

I ran the half marathon in 2018 and we both did the marathon in 2019. After each race, I had really wished I could jump in the lake but I hadn’t thought to look at a map ahead of time to figure out where the beach was. Now that I know how close I was and how easy it would have been I’m really regretting my laziness.

Brian ran 50 miles last weekend, so he didn’t want to do more than five miles. (another reason I was shocked he was going with me. I mapped out a route that started at the beach (or what I thought should be the beach, it was really hard to tell on the trail map) and included the Tobacco House Ridge Trail, which I really wanted to do because there was supposed to be a nice overlook of the lake from that trail.

There are 40 miles of trail in the park, so it wasn’t easy to decide which to do.

It’s not a coincidence that I didn’t do any of my wild swimming between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Hordes of people kind of ruin nature for me.

I was worried the park would be really crowded on such a beautiful October day, but it wasn’t. There were some people fishing and hiking, but the trails further from the lake were nice and quiet.

From the lake, we took the YCC trail out to the park road and then ran on the road to the Beard’s Gap Hollow trail to Locust Gap Trail to the Blue Suck Falls Trail to the Tobacco House Ridge Trail and then retraced our steps on the road and YCC Trail. This was a slightly modified version of my original plan because we turned early at one point. It worked out fine, though. It was just a bit more climbing than we anticipated. 

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IMG_20211002_130714868_HDRThe trails were well marked and well maintained. I loved the Locust Gap Trail, which was nice and smooth along the ridge. The Tobacco House Ridge trail was nice, too (after the short but very steep first tenth of a mile or so). The view I had been so excited about was not as amazing as I had hoped. It’s probably better in the winter. 

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The Blue Suck Falls Trail was rocky and steep and I did not like running down it. You run up it in the Odyssey race and I much prefer that. The rest of the trails were really nice, though.

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When we got back to the lake I was happy to see that it was still empty. The water felt cold at first, but really nice once I was in. I stayed in for a while and could have stayed in longer, but I knew Brian was eager to get going.

I didn’t take a selfie after my swim because Brian said he got a picture of me in the water.

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This is his picture.
Can you find me?