Ruffner Mountain is a small mountain on the eastern side of Birmingham that has a long history in the area. In Birmingham’s golden age of industry and iron production, Ruffner was a source of stone and iron ore. Iron was mined and loaded on rail cars for transport to the Magic City’s Sloss Furnace iron mill until the iron industry faded away in Birmingham after the 1950s.
My father grew up in East Lake, not more than 2 miles from Ruffner Mountain and its mines and quarries. In the 1950s and 1960s he drove his old World War 2 jeep all over the mountain, once almost driving right off a cliff into a water filled quarry. He and a friend once “borrowed” dynamite from the mining company and exploded it in the water. Ruffner was his playground then. Last week it was mine.
The Ruffner Mountain Trail Festival is a small but really fun series of races held at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, one of the nation’s largest urban nature preserves, organized by Alabama Outdoors and Resolute Running and directed by Greg Stein. Relaxed and cheery, this group of runners was small in number but so much fun to be around.
Back running for about 5 weeks, I was looking for something other than my usual route around the neighborhood. It just so happened thatHudson had a baseball tournament in Birmingham that weekend, so things worked out perfectly for my first race since surgery.
I say race, but this was an organized easy romp through the woods, taking it easy and just getting some work in a new place. Cool weather with mist greeted us as we started the race. There were three distances to choose from: 5K, 10K, 15K. The bulk of the field chose the 15K, with the 5K second most popular, and my 10K option had the fewest people. The course branched three ways and after the field split, I was alone for most of the race, which was a little unsettling since I have no experience on the course. Plus, it started pouring rain, drenching my glasses an making me miss a couple of turns. I probably lost 10 minutes from running off course and having to work my way back. I didn’t care, as long as I didn’t see snakes and made it back alive.
Ruffner has stunning trails and I’m excited to get back there this summer for more of the organized events.