Cajun Coyote 100 Mile Race | Louisiana | 2014
Une Bonne Course
by Gary Dudney
Drive on down to Evangeline Parish in south central Louisiana, tune into an Afro-creole all Zydeco all the time radio station, stop in for some viande boucanee, pull into old Ville Platte, capitol seat of the parish, and then set your sights on Chicot State Park (pronounced “chico”). Now you’re ready for the Cajun Coyote Trail Races 20 Mile, 100K and 100 Mile.
Packet pickup featured some delicious gumbo and a few remarks from race director Jeffrey Beck who ran a top-notch event and had enlisted the help of some very friendly, hospitable and helpful volunteers.
All three races happened together on the 20-mile loop trail that circles Lake Chicot, a 2,000 acre expanse reportedly full to the brim with bass, crappie, bluegill, and red-ear sunfish. The course passes through an extensive hardwood forest of beech, magnolia, and chicot and includes several long plankways that span some very mysterious-looking cypress-tupelo marshy areas. With the leaves down from the trees, the forest can look like any other woods in the eastern half of the country until you see big sprays of saw palmetto growing on the forest floor or you come to one of the swampy stretches and see the distinctive cypress trunks rooted in the water. Then you say to yourself, “Oh, yes, this is Louisiana.” A close encounter with an armadillo was also a clue that I wasn’t in Pennsylvania.
Cajun humor was on display as well: some suggestively-arranged, inflatable, plastic unicorns at the “Unicorn Crossing”; an inflatable woman clad in a bikini that you were supposed to write on with a marker; a plastic alligator head chomping on the corner of a plankway; and lots of signs to keep your spirits up, especially on loop number 5.
Trail running purists will appreciate a course that is almost entirely rolling singletrack trail with only brief interludes along causeways, forest roads, and a bit of asphalt on the way to and from the Start/Finish. The loops were run clockwise except for the middle loop, which broke up the 100 miles very nicely. The greatest obstacles in the race were the leaves hiding the many roots snaking across the trail, which made for some formidable tripping hazards. The leaves also obscured the trail so navigating at night got dicey even with the many blue blazes painted on the trees to mark the trail.
Appropriately for a race called Cajun Coyote, coyotes howled through the night lending a spooky factor to the running. But frequent aid stations, well stocked with pizza, quesadillas, and three kinds of soup, kept the bogeyman at bay and offered warmth and comfort in the otherwise cool and dark forest.
Adjutant Major Marcellin Garand of Savoy, France, who served under Napoleon before making his way to Louisiana and giving nearby Ville Platte its name, probably would have considered the fifth running of the Cajun Coyote “tres bien.”