I think I will always be a trail runner first. Then a runner.
I lost the concept of time today out there. I forgot about the job search. I got rid of all the bullshit. Yeah, this happens when I run at home, just not to this degree. I’ve been reading Run Gently Out There by John Morelock, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from emulating Morelock’s style and voice right now. Not only would I fail at his game of botany, ornithology, phenology (a word I learned from him), and poetic prose as one stream of thought, I would be betraying my own style and voice (still in development stages). So, this is turning out to be a paragraph about writing rather than running. And that’s good. Because, I can only use my own two feet to run, as much as I pretend I can run as fast as someone else or as far as someone else. And, I can only use my own words and my own voice to write, all the time keeping in mind those who influence me and inspire me. Right now, everything running and writing is all mixed and tangled together. Like it should be.
I started on the wrong trail. I realized I was on the wrong trail after three minutes, when I didn’t see any white blazes. I’m lucky it only took me three minutes. I backtracked to the trailhead for a clean start and pledged to keep an eye out for white blazes from then on.
I was ready and expecting to get my ass kicked. The (real) trail started out mellow and meandering through a small meadow, then quickly took me under a canopy of trees that was home to all the mosquitoes. I wasn’t running fast enough though, if the mosquitoes were able to get to me. I wasn’t running fast enough because the trail was going straight up, and then straight up, and then it flattened for moments just long enough that I thought about escaping the mosquitoes, but again it began straight up. And it wasn’t smooth, perfectly manicured single track. This section of the Long Trail (maybe the most basic-ass name for a trail, but also pretty clever) is the most rooty, rocky, and technical trail I’ve ever run on. The roots had roots. And for some reason I had sunglasses on for the first half hour. I guess I thought it might be sunny. It took me a while to realize that I needed to use my eyes unfiltered. My footing improved from there on, but the trail went unrelentingly upwards still. Then I realized that I was having fun, lots of fun, and my ass was not getting kicked. My ass was helping me get up those inclines.
Finally, I got to a place that felt like a place where I should turn around. It was a shelter, where thru-hikers regroup or sleep, or both. I’m sure they do other stuff there, too. Maybe weird stuff. It felt like a place to turn around because the clock had just reached an hour, and there was a nice view through some brush and trees to a mountainous silhouette a few miles distant. So I stopped and took a few photos and I chatted with a guy sitting on the picnic table who happened to be a thru-hiker. He had started at the northern end of the trail, by the Canadian border, and was attempting to hike south 100 miles. He said his experience with the southern portion of the Long Trail led him to believe that he could, no problem, do 100 miles on the northern end of the Long Trail. Now, he was rethinking. He, too, said this trail was the most rugged he had ever hiked. Witness. He was averaging 1.1 miles and hour. Me? About 3.
Amidst all the climbing there were a few descents but nothing prolonged, so I knew the return journey was going to be quick and a little dangerous. I did not fall though. Proud of that. And it will make the rest of the running I plan to do here a whole lot easier. I had forgotten what it feels like to run down the side of a mountain. It feels like I am somehow a boulder in an avalanche, trying for the path of least resistance and most of the time finding it, but at other times struggling to move clear of trees and knobby roots. If I had to use one word, I’d use enthralling, but that wouldn’t do it. Just a feeling that can’t be matched by any other feeling. It has no substitute and can’t be replicated.
The photo above is from the descent. I stopped here because I had to. There wasn’t any way I could run past that spot, even as good as I felt. It’s a huge rock outcropping that drops off shear into the valley below. Prospect Rock. Then the river down there and the mountains on the other side. Uhh. When I got back to the car, I was just bubbling with stoke. It doesn’t matter how far I ran. It doesn’t matter how long.