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COYOTES HAVE been on my mind recently, for two reasons.
First up, there's a unique 10K trail run at Caledon State Park coming soon called "The Howlin' Coyote," which coincides perfectly with the recent opening of many more tails and roads at the sylvan setting on the Potomac River.
And I'm fairly sure, though not certain, that I saw a coyote run past the corner of my yard right here in suburban Fredericksburg.
To find out more on the "Howlin' Coyote," a 6.2-mile run along an interior fire road and on forest trails at the state park in King George County,
But there's another reason this longtime Friends of Caledon official was a natural to help plan the trail race: The park is his backyard.
That's because Justyn is married to Nina Cox, the park manager, and the couple live in a house in the park.
For 20 years, Justyn, an avid runner, has been using the roads, trails and other pathways in the 2,579-acre park to get in shape for marathons, half-marathons and other races.
"I didn't have a hard time coming up with a course that was the right length," he said when we talked at Caledon one afternoon last week. "I just put two runs together to make the right length."
For me, it's the perfect sort of event for Caledon, given that the resurgence of the eagle population at the state facility led officials to recently open up more of the roads and trails to visitors. In years past, some had been off-limits to hikers, cyclists and others, especially at times of the year when eagles were nesting.
"That made it the perfect time to schedule a trail run here," said Cox, who noted that his running background and that of current Friends of Caledon president Lori Schlemmer made the run a perfect fundraiser for the group.
The course Cox calls "interesting" combines interior park fire roads with a forest trail that has hillsides and more than a few twists and turns.
The 47-year-old Cox went to Stafford High School, played baritone horn in the Marine Corps Band for 10 years, then spent 17 years in the business world before shifting to serving as a personal trainer and an aquatics teacher at the King George YMCA.
He said one of the best things about the event, which will benefit the Friends trail and playground fund, is the hope that it will bring folks to a park that he knows is so special.
"In our yard, I've watched a deer grow from a young fawn to an eight-point buck," he said. "We've seen rehabilitated eagles released here, and more wildlife and beautiful sunrises and sunsets than you could count."
He said that the Friends settled on the coyote name for several reasons.
For one, he's seen one or two in the park, and there are other signs that they're there. And two, there were a jillion races that already featured "eagle" or "eagles" in their name.
"And 'The Racing Raccoon Trail Run' just didn't sound good," he said with a smile.
Cox said the race is open to 200 runners, though he's not sure that many will turn out for the first year.
"But we hope to make it an annual event, and let it grow, because it's something unique for King George County and the region," he said. "We're going to put on a really nice race, with cool technical T-shirts available for runners and chili for them after the finish."
As for that coyote I saw, after studying photos of them online, it made me think I'd really caught a glimpse of one.
And a neighbor nearby said his dog had been acting strange the day when it came through.
I'll be on the lookout to see if this one returns.
And listening for a howl or two, of the sort runners might want to indulge in as they cross the finish line soon for the Caledon Coyote.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415