Thursday, 26 May 2016

Charleston Hampton Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length a short 3.2 km (2 miles) but extensible with 1-mile laps of Mary Murray Drive loop, terrain: flat

Here's a nice run, far away from the tourist crowds in the Charleston old town. While the tourists are wandering the magnificent old streets at the south end of the peninsula, there is also a great park run further north, at Hampton Park. The park is surrounded by some pleasant, gentrifying neighborhoods, like Hampton Park Terrace, and it is also bordered by The Citadel military college. This run combines that green parkland, waterfront campus and quiet neighborhoods for a really beautiful route.
Live-oak in Hampton Park
Hampton Park is also packed with history. It was the site of an orange grove 250 years ago, then became a horse-race track in the decades before the Civil War. Carolina planters would gather there every February to celebrate their plantation lifestyle with a race festival.

During the Civil War, the racetrack was used as a prison camp for Union troops, and over 250 died there and were buried in a mass grave. Then, in 1865, when the city was surrendered to the Union Army and the white residents had fled, the town's newly-freed black population celebrated a precursor to Memorial Day at the race-track. They reburied the Union soldiers into single graves and then 10,000 people held a procession there, decorating the graves with flowers and singing liberation songs, they then sat down to picnics and watched Union soldiers parade around the grounds.

The graves were later transferred to national military cemeteries.
Firemen out exercising in the early morning near the pond
The racecourse never got going again after the war, and the area was turned into a park, designed by the company that designed Central Park in New York. The west end of the property, along the Ashley River, was given to The Citadel as a new home after their old quarters downtown had gotten too small, so the present park is smaller than was originally planned.

Nowadays an oval road, Mary Murray Drive, follows the original racecourse around the edge of Hampton Park. Mary Murray is a one-way road with a big bike lane, and is fine for running. The course is exactly a mile long, letting you easily add as many laps as you wish to this short route to lengthen it to your needs.
Along Mary Murray Drive
So, ready to visit another historic, beautiful corner of Charleston? Let's get to the east edge of Hampton Park, where Cleveland Street meets Mary Murray Drive. There are two baseball fields and a playground just east of the park proper, in McMahon Playground, north and south of Cleveland Street.

To start the run, turn westwards towards the gazebo in the park and start running! The gazebo was left over after a big international exhibition held on the site. You'll see spreading live-oak trees dripping with Spanish moss to either side.
The gazebo
Just run straight through the park until the path ends before the pond.

Now continue straight across the grass and cross the little bridge over the pond, and continue over the grass at the other side. 
Crossing the pond
When you reach the next flower-lined path, turn right and head to the north edge of the park, running past the parking lot back to Mary Murray Drive. This is the part of the park where the graves once stood.

NOTE: You can start the run here, if you need a place to park.

Now turn left and follow Mary Murray until the left-hand curve. Here, continue westwards along Jenkins Avenue, passing through the gate into The Citadel. It's a private college, but it's open for runners like us.
The Citadel entrance on Jenkins Avenue: just cruise on through and hang left!
Follow Jenkins Avenue as it takes you to the left between some college classrooms and Summerall Field, the big parade grounds. You'll likely see cadets moving between buildings, going to classes and crossing the field.
Cadets crossing Summerall Field
Keep running westwards along Jenkins until it ends at the waterfront of the wide Ashley River. There are estuary swamps along the water's edge, so take a closer look by running out to the end of the little pier behind the clubhouse towards the right. It's a beautiful sight! Originally, Hampton Park was supposed to continue to the river here, with a riverside path here, but that never happened.
The estuary at the pier
So now turn south to run along Hammond Avenue, with the river to your right side. There are some athletic fields here.

After the sports fields, Hammond Avenue passes some housing for faculty (officers), and curves to the left.
Faculty housing on campus
At the first turnoff to the right, take Mims Avenue as it loops past more faculty housing (it looks just like the housing in the Presidio in San Francisco!) and heads north to Richardson Street.

At Richardson, turn right, then left to get you back to the south end of Summerall Field.

Now turn right on Lee Avenue and run eastwards out of the Citadel campus and into the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood.
Along Moultrie Street
You're now back at the southwest corner of Hampton Park, and you have the choice of either running east past the old homes along Moultrie Street, or run a few meters within the park itself along Mary Murray again, which parallels Moultrie here.

Now just follow the south edge of the park until Ashley Avenue, where Mary Murray Drive curves to the north, and follow that curve past the baseball field.

In just a few steps, you'll be back at the start, and can now add one or more laps along Mary Murray to add some distance. Have fun!

Monday, 16 May 2016

New Orleans French Quarter Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 5 km (3.1 miles), terrain: flat, you're below sea level, after all!

If you've stayed in the French Quarter in New Orleans, you know how loud and raucous it is in the evenings around Bourbon Street. But, luckily, if you just get a block or two away -- or run in the mornings -- you'll get a whole new impression of the French Quarter. Suddenly, it's quieter, scenic and it offers a few untouched corners to discover.
Life is colorful in the French Quarter
And if you combine that with a bit of the waterfront and the compact downtown, you'll experience a memorable running route that you might want to repeat a few times.

This route will take you from the town's main plaza, Jackson Square, south along the riverfront, then cut through the downtown to cross the French Quarter and return to Jackson Square.

So, if you're ready to head out and discover a bit more of these fascinating neighborhoods, get yourself to the statue of Andrew Jackson on his rearing horse in the middle of Jackson Square. 
Jackson Square
This historic square was the site where the huge Louisiana Territory was turned over from France to the US in 1803. It was originally used as a military parade grounds, called Place d'Armes, and modeled after the Place des Vosges in Paris. The red-brick Pontalba buildings flanking the square were built in the 1840s, and are the oldest apartment buildings in the US.

Stand there at the statue of Andy Jackson doffing his hat, the first one worldwide that supported a horse standing on only 2 legs (I wonder what they do with it during hurricanes?). The pointy towers of St. Louis cathedral rise up behind the square to the northwest.

Turn your back on Andy and run through the square to the Mississipppi River, just a bit south of the square. Run up the steps taking you over the dike, where the old cannons stand guard, then back down to the riverfront promenade, past the train tracks.
The promenade along the Mississippi: we'll run to those last high-rises on the left!
The wide river opens up like a bay, curving away in both directions, giving the town one of its nicknames: the "Crescent City".

Turn right onto the promenade and head southwards past the Nachez riverboat dock. The ship is real steamboat, and it often puts on a good show of letting off steam, with a calliope player on the roof giving short displays of his strange art.
The Nachez setting off
The promenade now enters a wider green stretch for a few blocks, Woldenberg Park, then takes you past the aquarium.
Waterfront runner
But then your progress will be stopped by the glass walkway of the Canal Street Ferry Terminal. The ferries connect the city to the picturesque old town of Algiers Point across the river. But you can keep running south along the river for a little bit if you find the walkway that continuing southwards, to the left of the train tracks.

You're now in a big, paved square with a fountain, Spanish Plaza. Keep running south here.
Spanish Plaza
But after the plaza there is a big mall, Riverwalk. Like its name implies, there is a walkway along the water next to the building, but there is no way out at the south end, so you should turn inland here (to the right) at Poydras Street, one of the main downtown streets. Many high-rises line the street as it leads westwards, including the Hilton Hotel and the big casinos.

Run west on Poydras. But this spot is pretty busy, so take the first real left turn onto Convention Center Road to run one more block southwards.
Lafayette Street: pretty quiet here
When you get to Lafayette Street, turn right and head up this quiet, partially pedestrian, street seven blocks up to an old square, Lafayette Square. This was the heart of New Orleans' first suburb, the American Quarter.
Lafayette Square
Cross the square and then turn right to run back north through the downtown along St. Charles Avenue.

NOTE: Try heading out south on the St. Charles tram line through the Garden District and Audobon Park to see a beautifully green side of town.

Along this part of St. Charles, it looks a bit like Manhattan, with the traffic to match.
St. Charles Street
After five blocks you'll cross busy Canal Street and re-enter the French Quarter, where the street name changes to Royal Street.
Royal Street musicians at the courthouse
Now we'll just stay running north along this scenic street the whole way through the French quarter. The further north we get, the quieter and more authentic it seems. All the boisterous circus of Bourbon Street is just one block to the left, but you don't notice it here. It's full interesting shops and restaurants with their wrought-iron porches around here.
Another Royal Street scene
Artists sell their paintings in the street along St. Peter, the cross street behind the cathedral. There are more single-story buildings at the north end of Royal Street.

When you reach the tree-lined cross-street called Esplanade Avenue, you've reached the north end of the French Quarter. Turn right and run southeast for a block to Chartres Street. Turn right on Chartres to run down still another scenic French Quarter street straight back to the cathedral and Jackson Square.
St. Louis cathedral

Friday, 6 May 2016

Savannah Old Town Squares Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 4.8 km (3 miles), terrain: flat, except for one hill at the riverfront

Georgia started out in the 1730s as a colony guided by high moral standards and new ideas: no slavery, no hard alcohol, a place where debtors could get a new start on life. Founder James Ogelthorpe wanted to create an ideal society in an ideal town, Savannah. And that ideal town would have a whole new layout: there would be 22 squares in the town, allowing everyone frontage on a green park.

Although most of Ogelthorpe's ideas soon got discarded in practical colonial life, his great idea about the squares can still be experienced in Savannah today. See it for yourself by trying this run through the old town. The squares and the typical Savannah architecture make the city truly unique.
Typical Savannah houses, with high steps
The route crosses many of the squares, touch the riverfront, an old cemetery and adds Forsyth Park for a taste of Savannah's biggest area of green-space. We'll first run south through one line of squares and the park, then cross over for a block and run back north through a second line of squares and the cemetery, passing through a total of nine squares.

So, let's head out and explore this beautiful old town...
Chippewa Square with Ogelthorpe monument
We'll start out at the main square, Chippewa Square, downtown. This one has a statue of Georgia Colony's founder, James Oglethorpe, standing in the middle, dressed as an English officer. Looking north, you can see the golden dome of City Hall a few blocks distant, at the riverfront.

NOTE: the northern edge of Chippewa Square is the spot where the bus-stop scene was filmed for Forrest Gump.
City Hall at the river
Turn your back to Oglethorpe and start running south along Bull Street through the heart of the old town. You'll cross Liberty Street, one of several east-west streets that have a green median strip full of spreading live-oak trees.
Madison Square has a few cannons, too
Soon you'll run through the next square, Madison Square, with its statue of Revolutionary War hero William Jasper. You'll begin to notice by now that the square names don't correspond to the monuments found there. This square is named after president James Madison.

At the south end of the square, you'll pass two impressive buildings, the Scottish Rite masons building on the right and the old Savannah Volunteer Guards building on the left, now the home of the famous Savannah College of Art and Design, which has restored buildings all over town.
Nice living along Jones Street
Running south along Bull Street, in two more blocks, you'll cross Jones Street, with many of the nicest old houses in town, with their characteristic long stairways up to the front doors. They were designed that way to keep the street dust and smells out of the houses.

You'll then cross Monterey Square with its stone monument dedicated to General Casimir Pulaski, another hero of the Revolutionary War.
Monterey Square monument to General Pulaski
Continuing southwards along Bull Street, in just two blocks you'll enter Forsyth Park, a beautiful long rectangle of green, with fountains, a big bandstand and exercise lawns. You'll run straight down the middle of the park, past the white fountain and then the Confederate Memorial.
Forsyth Park fountain: it was ordered from a mail order catalog!
When you reach the south end of the park, turn left and run towards the eastern edge of the park along Park Avenue. There is a line of cool caf├ęs and shops across the street, and a street produce market is held there on Saturdays.
Park Avenue with Saturday market
When you get to the southeastern corner of the park, turn left again and start running northwards along Drayton Street, along the eastern edge of Forsyth Park.

When you reach the northern end of the park, at Gaston Street, turn right and run a block eastwards to Abercorn Street, where you turn left and continue northwards towards the next line of squares.

In two blocks, you'll hit Calhoun Square, with no monument but with all its original adjoining houses intact.

In two more blocks, you'll cross beautiful Jones Street again, so why not do a small detour and run down the block to the left and back again, just to see it.
The Lafayette Square fountain with St. John's cathedral
Continuing northwards along Abercorn, you'll then cross Lafayette Square, with its fountain and the Catholic cathedral lining the north side.

Keep running northwards until you come to Perry Lane, where the Colonial Park Cemetery comes up along the right side. Turn right onto Perry and run past the open duelling grounds on the left to get to the cemetery entrance.
In the cemetery
Turn left and run northwards through the cemetery, with its old graves. When General Sherman's troops conquered the city, many of them lived and slept in this cemetery.

Exit the cemetery at the northern end, at Ogelthorpe Avenue, where you turn left to get back to Abercorn Street just a hundred meters away.

Now continue northwards along Abercorn again and run through the next square, Oglethorpe Square, with no monuments (remember: the monument to Oglethorpe stands in Chippewa Square!).

In a few more blocks, you'll come to Reynolds Square, with its statue of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, who preached for some years in Savannah and founded America's first Sunday School.
Factor Walks behind the cotton warehouses
We're getting close to the Savannah River now. In two blocks, you'll cross East Bay Street, where you can take the steps down to the cobblestone lane heading downhill to the riverside. The river is lined by old cotton warehouses, and on the hill-side, there are a row of bridges connecting the warehouses to the bluffs behind them. The bridges are called "factor's walks". The factors were brokers who would look down at the incoming cotton wagons arriving from surrounding plantations. The factors would judge the cotton quality and decide in the prices to be paid.
The riverfront
Riverside warehouses
At the riverside, take a look at the lively restaurant scene here and the river boats, then turn left to run to the next gap between the warehouses, where you turn left to run uphill to the bluff again, around the side of the golden-domed City Hall. You are now back at East Bay Street, at Bull Street.

So now just run south along Bull Street for 15 blocks until you get back to Chippewa Square. You'll go through two more squares along the way, Johnson and Wright. Johnson Square is the largest in town, with an obelisk and a sundial.

Wright Square is the burial site of local Indian chief Tomochichi, who gave the site for Savannah to Olglethorpe and his settlers. The square also has a big monument to William Gordon, who built the Georgia railroads.
Gordon's monument at Wright Square
And the next stop is Chippewa Square, back where we started this beautiful loop through town.