The sunrise that went on and on and on...

An Orderly Series of Errors

There is an… No. There should be an order to the occurrence of errors. Mistakes should be arranged in a certain magnitude as the day develops, as the miles pass ever more slowly. The suddenness of the change from running to walking tells of the ignorance in which I sought shelter. There was no one to tell me running sevens (mile pace) for fifty miles was not to be done this early in the day.

The web of deceit awaits...
The web of deceit awaits…
I was eating well. Someone even took a picture of me dallying at an aid station and put it in UltraRunning. There I was, preserved for eternity, trying to gain weight as I ran my first 50-mile ultramarathon. The eating was not a problem that day. A lack of respect, based on the bliss of ignorance–there is that word again–let me leave the 40-mile aid station still running just over seven minutes to the mile. The debt collector, never a humorous sort, came calling about a mile later. He arrived with such suddenness that I actually fell off into the roadside bushes. I am never a pretty sight, sometimes I frighten small children or puppies–what could I look like with these spasmodic limbs and uncooperative joints as I tried to regain verticality? I crawled to a nearby highway sign and slowly returned to upright.

I started walking. In just a few steps normalcy returned. Aha! It was just a random cramp; just a minor inconvenience.

I have never had pineapple upside down cake at an ultra, but...
I have never had pineapple upside down cake at an ultra, but…
It wasn’t. The seven-minute miles became ten-minute miles with no pause at the in-between numbers. The brief flirtation with tens was short as 15-minute miles now seemed to be all-out running and that was the way things would finish.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.

“Do you want to change shoes?” I looked around at the three other runners. They all had a pair or shoes in hand to change to after the river crossing.
“Yes.” Kathy brought a pair of shoes. The wrong shoes. Everyone has some wrong shoes.If you look at a problem from a different viewpoint...If you look at a problem from a different viewpoint…

I absolutely cannot remember where I was going with this.  I know I sometimes repeat mistakes–argue which way we went at a certain fork again; causing some unneeded bushwhacking or two hours extra running when we finally turned around.  It helps that I usually run alone.  I live with the groans and the chorus of “why and why and why” from the demons, and run on.It wasn't that they weren't on the right feet.
It wasn’t that they weren’t on the right feet.

I have never run with my shoes on the wrong feet.  I did run a 10k on trails with one Saucony and one Brooks.  I don’t remember which was the left one and which was the right one.  I won age group; kept a straight face when asked if I always mixed brands.  I ran a couple of hours with no insoles one day because I forgot them.  That one has an easy solution, relace–tighter.  Don’t run long downhills in loose shoes.I think staying home would have been a better idea
I think staying home would have been a better idea

We left the house one day with snow coming down, wind picking up and we were happy with the thought the trails will be all ours today.  We ran a bit, paused to ooh and ahh and revel in the God’s own beauty.  Kathy was the first to notice the wind was moving the tree tops a bit more.  The gentle swaying was turning to dancing, some jerky and snow that had been clinging to the firs and cedars was blowing loose–clumps falling here and there.

It wasn’t long in coming.   Ceraawaack!  Shoulders are scrunched.  Neck is drawn in and both arms go over your head as you try to believe you can tell which direction the sound was—then silence.  “Let’s get down away from the ridge.”  “Okay.”  We dropped down, still hearing limbs breaking, wishing we were on a steep downhill trail and not the contour following one we were on.  The good fortune of knowing that forest meant we could turn down a game trail we normally did not run.  We just wanted down, away from the wind.  We went back the next day.  This time the oohing and ahhing was from looking at the trees and were strewn like pick-up sticks.The decision will be made by someone else.
The decision will be made by someone else.

I am cold.  You have been cold before.  It’s getting colder.  Run faster.  Where is the car?  I parked it down there and ran back up here.  I think I’ll stop when I get to the car.  I’m not going back to the car for a while (she said while running off up the trail).  I don’t have a key.  I know that, keep running.  You’ll warm up.

———-Run gently out there———-

Differing Days

There are days when I simply do not want to have to look down at my feet every step or two.   A deserted road with a center line whose end I cannot see might call. _evening 015
The mountains just across the water, the tendrils of smoke from a mill, or, perhaps it will just be the graceful flight of a Northern harrier searching the prairie for a snack–any number of gentle tugs will let my feet disengage from my conscious and time and distance will go away.
herons_geese 048
Bends and curves will be rounded with no thought about–hmm, I suppose that is it.  I sometimes want a run with no thought to be called forth.  Some conscious awareness is needed for seeing geese, eagles, or bicyclists, and  hopes of not quite imagined things are always there.004
Hills, up or down, are just differing strides, shifts of effort.  A watch is just so I know when to turn back.  It has no duty today, no splits or paces to tattle or nag about. It the route is a familiar one, the watch is left on the top of the refrigerator to sulk. jul_17_18 017
Somewhere east of Tonopah was a road whose end we could not see.  We could see mountains that could not be reached if we ran all the rest of our days.  They set just above the ground, shimmering in the heat.  They might be real a hundred or a million  miles away or not at all.  We would flip a coin and the winner would get to run toward something not there, maybe.
Trails ask for more attention, more than just passing awareness, and fewer glances–if any–off into the distance.rain 025Wandering eyes, a meandering mind, and a switchback that has no concern for the state of my mind accounts for scratches from briars, rashes from poisonoak, and the occasional short flight through the air with little grace, ending with the “whoooompf” of the last bit of air leaving my lungs.
auntit_pat_ 053The far side of a valley is not a thing to contemplate as you descend a trail in open country. Rocks await the moment of errant eyes. On a good day it is just a short slide on a grassy hillside. On a more typical day it will be scrapes and bruises and maybe the bonus of cactus needles as a reward.
...On an almost weekly basis I pass under this “leaner”, sometimes pausing to look for signs of recent movement. When it finally falls I will return with saw and clear the trail. I have paused on the uphill side, letting my eyes and mind pretend I see what I will do should it decide to fall as I am coming helter-skelter down Boundary Trail. Our truce has been honored for seven years, but so has its muteness.
bluff_trail_dead_treeThere are trails that seem to live in a world needing neither strict attention nor allowing day dreams. They often add time to runs, but no distance.
—–Run Gently Out There—–

shades of grey

Shades of grey

How many words for grey: ashen, sooty, pearly, silvery, dove-gray, tattletale gray, darkening, foreboding, silver-haired, even fuliginous or grizzled. The waters of Puget Sound were having trouble deciding what shade to be today. I was on pavement trying to get from one park to the other and on to the trail to the house.

An old Douglas Fir, top broken who knows how long ago.
An old Douglas Fir, top broken who knows how long ago.
Blues were trying to break through the upper layer of clouds, or were the clouds trying to close to hide the blue sky. I zipped the front of my tattered windbreaker as I passed the pasture with the llamas. There were llamas on Hope Pass ‘neath a sky more blue than grey some time back. I needed to top the hill so I could pretend to pick up the pace and warm my legs again. Cold has colors too, mostly behind darkened doors. Greys and pale blues don’t warm legs. Gloves have been put back on my chilled fingers.

Anything would brighten the run. It had become one of those runs that is two miles too long. Lambs? I don’t want lambs playing next to the fence as I trudge past. I want… What? Sympathy?

Yes, a display of commiseration would work.

I get lambs. Silly leaping lambs. Now they are playing with the baby llama. Lambs standing on their mother’s back. Oh great, now the wind has died and it’s warm. A hundred yards to the trailhead. Wild roses spread pinkish polka-dots to tell me where to turn. Car noise dies behind me as I escape into the woods again.
HPIM4511
There is no grey in my woods. I see only patches of blue as I look up through the cedars and madronas. We saw trilliums and dogwoods two weeks ago, gone now as the leaves thicken and the darkened forest floor of summer comes. Canada geese were in large number on Wednesday, singing their way somewhere; surely not north, not yet. I see more cormorants in the water. The harlequin ducks ride in the cold waters of their winter home. They wait patiently waiting for some sign that I will never see, hear, or sense, and they will take wing, gone to their mountain homes.
082
The unwanted two miles is lengthened as I turn toward the Old Men and my footsteps are quieted as the dirt of the trail becomes padded with the fallen needles of a hundred autumns. Through the darkness of the cedars come slashes of light. Turning at the fork I retrace the steps just made. Steps not mine anymore are set quicker now, legs of years gone away stretch out, briefly a smile as trudge becomes run, shoulders relax, and ground is covered. I feel I could run forever. If I had time, but I don’t know what color time is.

—–Run gently out there—–

30 Years Ago Today

hour_glassI am prone to falling prey to a nagging memory that spins tendrils of smoke to keep me from concentrating.  It started on the ferry this morning.  There was something in mind, but what?  It is Monday, so that might rule out running.  Late February… last year?  Nothing.  Here and there in my mind–what was in February?  Mudderfell 6-hour?  Yes, no… not sure.  Snake River Marathon?  I think that was March.  February?  Seaside?  Trails End Marathon was in late February.  That could be it.  Why now?

And then it went away–until about an hour ago.  The Seaside part had clicked.  I quit keeping a running diary in 2002.  Most of the old diaries are in a box in the garage; destined for the recycle bin if I ever take the binding out of them.  Most of them.  1985, 1986, 1997, and 1999 are not in the garage.  They are on a nearby shelf.  1985?  That was the first year.  I had started running in August of 1984.  My first official marathon was the Trails End Marathon in Seaside, Oregon in… oh… oh my.

Thirty years ago today.  In the same place the demons reside are angels sent to brighten otherwise nondescript days; to bring smiles and long gone images.  The cryptic aspect of entries in old running diaries.
—–
Saturday, February 23, 1985
48º start : 58° finish, overcast, no wind– Seaside, Oregon–Trails End Marathon
Disaster–too fast–ran 7:03s thru 18–7:10 for the 19th and then hamstring cramps the rest of the way.  2:16 for the first 19, 1:22 for the last 7.2, 3:38:08 total–oh well, live and learn.  I died a thousand deaths, but I finished and I will do another.  I don’t think I should have done the practice marathon three weeks ago (3:48 on Cap City course)–there is no one to ask.
—–
I looked for history on the Internet and found one Web site with old Trails End results, but it only lists the sub3-hour folks.  I would never make that list.  It required more concentration than I seemed able to hold.  That list caught my eye because of some of the names–mostly Pacific Northwest nostalgia.

Warren Finke 2:35:18 — One of the PNW’s greats and Mudderfell co-RD
Lary Webster 2:48:11 — The grand old leader, almost sub6 at 50 miles at 50
Ron Nicholl  2:49:31 — Hee hee, cut the bracelet off my wrist years later
Chuck Cammack 2:49:58 — Would win one or two (ultras) up here
Lee Fields   2:53:24 — Always flirting with the top ten
James McDowell 2:55:26 – His son, Nate, would be the first to run sub20 at Wasatch
Brian Kessler 2:56:02 — He who knows not of cold (shirtless at 35°)
Sonny Condor 2:57:59 — My memory fails, but…
Fred Willet  2:59:41 — Fred might recall– Fred won Siletz, a tough 50 miles of Coast Hills trails and logging roads, in ’87.john_on_horse002

Thirty years ago today I ran my first marathon.

———-Run Gently Out There———

No Relevant Pictures

Just as the really hazy thought “Was that a root?” passed through some
unnamed, and seldom used, region of my cerebrum, I lost my balance.
_shoes 002
I can usually spell the second sound, the sound you make as you hit the
ground and most, if not all, of the air leaves you lungs. Whumph,
whoomphhhf, ooufm. or some variation.a_sequoias1
It is the first sound I was concerned with at the moment. I was making it
as my eyes searched the landing spot for rocks (none), pointy things
(none), and that little distraction of whether or not I will miss the trail
and finally find out what it feels like to slide down two-hundred feet of
grassy, but really steep hillside.

Maybe hnnuhhoumph? Seems close.

I’ve got the right should turned so I will land on my side, Uh oh, I’m
crooked and I am going over the edge. Am I above the lake? Yeth.
charlie_dog
Something like wahhnooumpurhk? Maybe.

Ooumph? Okay, some air is still in the lungs, but I am slipping over; grab
something… no, not on the downhill side, grab something on the uphill
side..huh? Anything, just grab something. Okay. Got some vines. Be still.

It was more high pitched. Haennpheeeeng? Yeah, that’s real close.
cosh_1
Got balance back? Almost. Can I roll left? Uphill? No. Slide your
right hand down and find a grip. What are you doing? Looking at the
driftwood I’m going to roll to a stop against. Push with your right hand.
Okay… any air around here yet?

Okay, I think “whaneieenungh” fits. Yeah. Can I roll over now. Pull on
the vines a little. Okay. Will they hold? I think so. Only need a
couple of inches. Ready. Go. Push. Okay? Yeah, I’m good.

Whaneieegungh followed by ooumph should do it.
kathleen_prairie (Large)
How long you going lay here?
Not long.
What did you trip on?This.
Not much of a root.
I can do a lot with a little.

—–Run Gently Out There—–

An Unexpected Gift

Friday is almost always a no-run day, has been for years.  That is not to say I don’t get out for a walk, a pedal, or… trying to catch sunset in pictures again.sunset 008
The prairie is behind. Waters of Admiralty Inlet in front. The Olympic Mountains, complete with winter’s shoulders of snow, are just across. The sun is moving slowly across their skyline. A voice from somewhere in time barely remembers something about “two diameters a day”–a clearer memory says we are just over one third of the way through this winter. A solstice or two found me out here checking, taking note of just which peak kidnapped the sun that evening. A ransom was exchanged and warmth returned… two diameters at a time. Ravens and eagles played along the bluff. Vibrant black feathers shone a little brighter each evening. Two eagles, almost adults, only a few brown streaks in their shoulders and great broad tails, played, talons flashing like swords of old. Each day’s passing gave a few minutes more daylight; two diameters at a time.
sunset 023
At water’s edge…, “Is this the ocean?” I looked around, small people nearby–one looked at me quizzically. Where is her big person? “Is this the ocean?” I sat down on a driftwood log, picked up a pointing stick, “No. This is not the ocean.” I pointed off in the distance at the end of the mountains to the flat spot. “See the flat spot?” “Yes.” “The ocean is out there.” “Is that where the whales are?” “Yes. It is getting dark. They go out there to sleep.” “Why do they go out there to sleep?” “If they sleep in here the light from the lighthouse (pointing at the Port Townsend lighthouse—on cue) keeps them awake.” “Oh.” Small person runs off to a large person, “Mom, he said all the whales went out there to go to sleep.” I turned to look at Mt. Rainier.
sunset 026
I should have come out earlier; gone up on the bluff. Time has lapses up there. A not painful, but inconvenient lesson was learned when I plopped down to watch a ship or two, outbound, probably to Perth or Busan or maybe somewhere romantic like Long Beach. A gazillion tons of things unneeded, but easily sold–hidden by lights that look like Japanese lanterns slowly going out with the tide. I have no flashlight tonight and the little person is coming back.
sunset 033
“Do you know her?” “No. I just thought taking a picture of someone taking a picture was cool.” “Oh. Mom wants to know where the trees are.” Hmmm, there aren’t any trees here. We are on the prairie. “The trees all got knocked over by the glacier a long time ago.” “A glacier?” Uh oh, she knows what a glacier is. “Yes, there was a glacier here about ten thousand years ago.” “Where is it now?” “Canada. It was from Canada and it went home.” “Where’s Canada?” I pointed to Canada. “Is that where the trees are?” “What trees?” She pointed at the car, “The trees on the book.” I glanced at the car. Mom(?) was looking in the back window… hmmm. “Where are you from?” “Iowa. Do you know where that is? We don’t have any of those (pointing at the Olympic Mountains). We don’t have any big trees neither. Where are the trees?” I really wish I could guess at her age. What age does curiosity go away? What would she think of a jelly fish? Mom (?) is still at the car. I got up and walked over. “Are you really from Iowa?” She smiled, “Yes. I’m sorry about Clare bothering you.” “Not bothering, just asking questions about things not in Iowa.” She pointed at a copy of a book in the car. “We both want to know where those trees are.” Ahhh, those trees.  How did they know it was my car? There is always a copy of my book and a copy of Kathy’s book in the car. I unlocked the car and got my book out and handed it to her. I explained where Baker Lake is and how you probably can’t get there at this time of the year because of snow. Mom looked disappointed. Small person looked very disappointed. I got a trail map of nearby Fort Ebey State Park out of the car. In the fading light I explained about Cedar Grove and the old men, the old trees up there–and maybe, just maybe, the two eagles we think live there … “Eagles!?” Small person bounces too. “Yes, maybe, but even if they aren’t home it is a beautiful trail with some very old trees.” I turned to leave. “Bye!” “Bye, Clare.” Mom held out the book, “Your book.” I said, “No, your book–enjoy our island.”
cover_mixHow did they know it was my car

—–Run gently out there—–

A good thing ends

26 January 2015 … Mr. Whitley on my mind

HPIM3781
Forever in love with the ghost in the distance

“When good things end” rattled around in my head as I started up the last bit of climb to the trailhead. I thought about delaying the end, but the sun was just about to touch the water when I left the bluff thirty minutes ago and, try as I may, I have not been able to slow its descent. There is a single LED light in my fanny pack, but its uselessness as a primary light source has been proven. Sadly, I must admit, more than once. I did postpone the inevitable end of my run for a few minutes by turning up the trail with no name. It is a horseshoe trail off the main trail that has caused more face plants and strained shoulders from grabbing limbs for balance than any other three trails put together. I took it simply to add time, not really caring about the reduced speed in the darkening woods. Reduced speed? Had the day been about speed? Or focus? Or something else? What was I doing that I was so reluctant to end? It had not been a well-focused run, not thought out at all. chuckanut 031 When I began this run, the time it took to find out what today’s run should be or was to bring passed without notice. The grey, almost black, clouds got more attention than the junctions and decisions about effort. It wasn’t until fifteen or twenty minutes after I started that I noticed the face full of zeroes on my watch. Okay, scratch running the perimeter for time. What is the next option? Just keep going and enjoy the day. At the bottom of the kettle five trails come together. From here my mind’s eye sees me as being in the middle of a five-petalled flower. Each teardrop shaped petal is about a half mile long and climbs (or drops) about 200 feet. Aha! I’ll do each “petal”—obviously a hill-repeats day. The face full of zeroes glared silently. I started up the hundred yards of ball bearings that lined the first climb. chuckanut 008

I made it through two petals and was merrily kicking rocks out of the way going down the third when I did one of the few tricks that I have mastered with no regard to speed, terrain, or season. I kicked a rock. “Watch that rock,” came a voice inside. Hmm, it is rolling back into the trail… right where my mind’s eye says my foot will need to land… uh oh… this is where you do the magical change stride length while in midair. I cheated by grabbing a handful of salal to pull myself a few inches to one side while my eyes remained locked on the still-moving rock. Okay, now I know the rock can’t see me and doesn’t know which way I will go, but it has just adjusted course so I know it is going to be under my lead foot. If its intentions are to cause me to stumble and roll most of the way to the bottom, it is doing a pretty good job for an inanimate object with few sentient qualities. The guys in charge of deciding on shoulder roll versus butt slide have opted for butt slide. I accept their decision. I’m going down, but it is a controlled fall and I am back on my feet before the bottom. Two petals to go.

The pleasure of an unexpected hard workout raised my spirits. As I ran out from under the dense canopy of the forest, the cleared power line right of way let me see the clouds again. A touch of chill came in on the wind and the warmth from my recent hard effort went away. Pausing to see which way the clouds were going, I untied the jacket from around my waist and slipped it back on. I laughed at the lump in the pocket. Gloves? Yes, there are almost always a pair of gloves in my jacket or fanny pack or backpack or vest or whatever. I have never known the weather to guarantee feel good stuff. Above me, there was a distinct line separating the black clouds from the grey across the westerly sky. There was a front coming in. I thought of which trails would have the most tree cover and turned off the power line trail. chuckanut 032

As so many times before, the first drops of rain brought the late Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” to mind. I was silently getting through “I’m no stranger to the rain, I’m a friend of thunder…” when the first flash of lightning came. We don’t get many thunderstorms up here. We get gentle rain, sometimes followed by hard rain, sometimes accompanied by wind, but we don’t get flashing lights and sound effects. “And I’m good at finding shelter in a downpour….” Maybe I should try for another song. I wasn’t worried about the lightning as I had turned down onto a trail that was winding its way around and down—down where no trees were on high to attract a random bolt of electricity. I was looking for some cedars—nature’s umbrellas. I got to them and sat down on one of the contorted roots I had long ago understood to be there as a bench for when I wanted to sit and pause in the quiet of the bottom of the kettle. I pulled a smashed up PB&J from the pouch, knowing I wouldn’t need much time to eat it. Rain that started that suddenly with that intensity seldom lasts very long around here.crooked_trees 066

The quiet returned as the rain passed. The rain laden leaves were heavy enough so as to not dance in the rising wind. My sandwich was finished and the rain was gone. I got up, listened to the creaks and pops of my now cold joints, and started the climb to the bluff overlooking the beach. Passing storms mix the grays, greens, blues, and whites of the water in the strait that, like snowflakes, are never recalled as having been seen before. The eastbound storms hide the mountains to the south and east, but the westerly end of the mountains are visible and sharply silhouetted by the lowering sun. A raft of surf scoters, probably never having acknowledged the storm, bob on the waves.  There are three kayakers just pushing their always frail looking watercraft back into the waves. I wondered if they had soggy PB&Js to eat while waiting out the storm. The sun is a lot lower than I had expected and I needed to head for the car, but the clarity of wave patterns and snow lines on the mountains kept holding me there. The contrasting stillness of the mountains and the ever moving waters of the strait are left to a poet to describe—all I can do is look from one to the other. The contradictory thought of each being older than the other does not bother me.

What bothers me is not having a flashlight and the idea that a good run is in need of an end.

—–Run Gently Out There—–

cropped-ebey_landing_south1.jpg

Running and Weather

Last week’s fog is nowhere to be found. The tops of the trees that hid in the mist can be seen again. Fog comes in for a week at a time or for a few hours with little concern for it being morning or afternoon. It can be thick enough to make me wish I had a jacket, but can vanish with just fifty feet of elevation change. Splotches of fog appear on the waters of Admiralty Strait to map the temperature clashes between air and water.Fog in the tall treesRunning on the bluff trail we can see above water and fog. The Olympic Mountains are slowly becoming whitened with snow. The jagged mountaintops, seldom bare, are now rounded with the early snows of fall. Winter awaits, barely two weeks away. These early chills and moisture; do they foretell of snow on our trails instead of a post card view away across the strait? The tree tops behind us are starting to dance–gently, barely whispering of wind.
b_fog_wind_2“Wind, but no wind chill.” I once used those words to start one of my columns. Yesterday as we returned from the bluff trail above Ebey’s Landing the wind suddenly made its presence felt. The actual temperature was about 40ºF, a not uncomfortable temperature for us as we ran along the trail just off tree’s edge a little over two-hundred feet above the water. We had both glanced at the tree tops as we ran, acknowledging and commenting the soon to be felt wind. Out in front of us we could see the waves becoming more active. The wind was out of the southeast–a direction that allows a fetch (wonderful wind word: the distance an uninterrupted wind travels) of fifty or more miles. A wind that on other days would push the tide up, giving it the power to rearrange the driftwood. Today it was only enough to make us glad to turn our backs on it as we started across the prairie.
b_fog_wind_3Kathy mentioned an upcoming trip to the other side of the mountains; to the open hillsides of the Palouse, Washington’s grain belt. We will get to run in an area where no trails are needed and the wind moves clouds way overhead while pushing us up one side and along the ridge. Routes will be chosen according to the direction the clouds move. A vague notice of darkening clouds might take place. There is a chance of thunder storms in these almost treeless hills.b_fog_wind_4Ice? The nearness to winter solstice means the sun does not get high in the sky; does not stay long enough to melt the mornings frost. The high pressure system has kept cold and clear skies for us for the past five days. The giant high and low pressure systems out in the Pacific Ocean and the rain shadow we live in here on Whidbey Island keep our weather ever changing, but rarely at the extremes encountered in other parts of North America.
b_fog_wind_5
When was the wind storm at Rockport State Park? 2011? We went to see eagles, but got sidetracked and hiked around the wind damage done in the park. A short run turned into an hour and more of walking, pausing to take a picture, pausing to try to imagine the noise and the ground shaking as a giant shattered, then came crashing down. Pick up a stick and try to break it. Now think of the power provided by the wind to break a “stick” five or six feet in diameter.Wow?  That is a 7, maybe 8 foot diameter tree trunk that has broken.That is a seven-, maybe eight-foot diameter tree trunk that has broken by the wind.
Wind fetch Wind fetch
The wind and the tide. The weather and the water. The beach that is runnable almost everyday becomes unpassable as a wind with a long fetch matches direction with the incoming tide. The moon joins in to create a higher than usual tide. The view from Partridge Point is hypnotizing.  Waves are pushed higher and no two waves break the same way. No surfers are seen today. The waves they want are here, but too near the bottom of the bluff. There are too many pieces of driftwood with no particular place to be–the tide, wind, currents, and the whim of nature are for the enjoyment of gulls and an occasional eagle, but not for man.I will not run the beach today
We have sunsets over our mountains–colored by the day’s weather bringers.b_fog_wind_8Weather is just as much a part of our running as it is a part of our daily lives. The books for running grew from training, nutrition, and injury to include weather, how to read the sky, why the tides and fogs and … a few from my shelves:

Weather Wisdom — Albert Lee
Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped LIfe, Myth, & the Land — Jan DeBlieu
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemispheres with Migratory Birds — Scott Weidensaul
The Weather Book — Jack Williams
Climatology: An Atmospheric Science — Hidore / Oliver
Beyond the Moon : A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides — James Greig McCully
Blame it on the Rain: How Weather Has Changed History — Laura Lee
The Weather of the Pacific Northwest — Cliff Mass
Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning — Richard Hinckley Allen

—–Run gently out there—–

The Last Season — book review

The Last Season -- Eric Blehm
The Last Season — Eric Blehm

In my weird way of classifying books I read I have put the following on the same shelf:

John McPhee — Encounters with the Archdruid
Bernd Heinrich — Ravens in Winter
David Laskin — The Children’s Blizzard
Aldo Leopold — A Sand County Almanac
Edward Abbey — several
John Vaillant — The Golden Spruce
Jon Krakauer – Into Thin Air
Diane Ackerman — The Moon By Whale Light
Gretel Ehrlich — The Solace of Open Spaces
Timothy Egan — several
Edwin Way Teale — his four seasons series
Barry Lopez — Arctic Dreams
John Muir — several

David Roberts’ Alone on the Ice and Finding Everett Ruess and Alfred Lansing’s Endurance are, oddly enough, in another room.

Last night I finished Eric Blehm’s The Last Season, a story about a back-country ranger who worked many summers in the High Sierra, only to one day disappear. I added it to my eclectic shelf. Blehm captured the outdoors, the high country and the low; the cold and the hot; forests and water and quiet as well as any of those occupants of that same shelf his book now rests on. In a book about the outdoors, he brought the occupants to life as much as the mountains in which the story takes place. As I read The Last Season I went back, either in memory or by footsteps to the bookshelf, to check, relive, or reread something I had almost forgotten. It is one of the most captivating and pause creating books I have had the pleasure to read in quite a while.

—–Run gently out there—–

fin do camiño

Start — it seemed so simple that morning.  Terrifyingly simple, pull on shoes, pull on backpack, listen to the soft click-click-click of the “sticks” as we walked out of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and up into the Pyrenees.  Psychological shards and artificial joints were put in mind’s recess for a while–sunrise awaited.

Our first sunrise, 15 August 2004 -- 600 miles and more away
Our first sunrise, 15 August 2004 — 600 miles and more away

Each day started with no known goal.  We had those many marathons and ultras and miles and miles of running, but here we were, bathed in our ignorance of walking.  Voices around us talked of “needing” a minimum of 30 kilometers a day.  How would we reach those goals with all there was to see?  Vineyards and sheep; horses and mown fields; villages and solitary houses — all were to be seen and noted, not glanced at and vanquished.  Mornings were for bread, cheese, and a nectarine or an orange, but never for a hurried passing through.

Cirauqui...
Cirauqui…

The arrows, flechas amarillas, the yellow arrows of the camino — the marks of blind faith and trust.  They were on rocks in the dirt roadbed; on old chestnut trees; on buildings in the cities; on and on and on — until the last one was reached.

Our faithful friends, these yellow arrows
Our faithful friends, these yellow arrows

We passed these strange stone structures.  In the U.S. they might be called “corn cribs”, here they are “horreos” — quite large, 30-40 feet (10-12 meters) long, slots in the sides for air flow to dry the corn.  There were no days without learning; no days without seeing how life is without mass production all around you.

A "hórreo" -- corn crib made of stone -- Galicia
A “hórreo” — corn crib made of stone — Galicia

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Praza do Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Galicia, Spain — our 42nd day of walking.  A day of great confusion, sorrow, tears, happiness, befuddlement, prayer, hugs, laughter…

The cathedral -- Santiago de Compostela
The cathedral — Santiago de Compostela

The great doors were open.  In a few minutes or an hour, we will never know how long, we went in.  Our appearance — not dirty, not disheveled, but trail-worn and perhaps a bit wrinkled at the brow — gave us ushered passage up through the lines.  “They started in St. Jean…”, we could hear the whispers; “800 kilometers ago…” we heard someone say.  We were passed forward to where St. James would welcome us.

Above-ground cemetery, way west in Galicia, Spain
Above-ground cemetery, way west in Galicia, Spain

Two days of rest and we left to walk on to the coast.  We don’t know when we decided to walk on to Fisterra (“Finisterra”–Latin for Lands End, Galicia, Spain).  Someone said we should so we could see the end of the world.  It was only another few days of walking, four or five days — we won’t be back this way; will we?  No.  Four days?  Yes.  Okay, in the morning.

Resting at Corcubion
Resting at Corcubion

A fitting almost end– a lawn and the hints of Fall.  We had walked out of summer and into fall.  We needed our long sleeved shirts in the mornings, but shed them in the midday’s sun.  We paused in Corcubion  — fixing one last meal.  France, South Africa, Belgium, Australia, and the U.S. at one table; one last international table where each dish had felt several hands during preparation; one last “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”  All would be asleep in the morning as we departed for the last day of walking.

Faro de Finnisterre (Lighthouse at Land's End)
Faro de Finnisterre (Lighthouse at Land’s End)

The waymarker at Land’s End — 49 days, 600 and some odd miles — meaningless numbers as we tried to understand what we had done.  Physically we could understand it.  That was not the question.

The last cross -- the Atlantic Ocean at Cabo Fisterra
The last cross — the Atlantic Ocean at Cabo Fisterra

In St. Jean-Pied-de-Port I heard the clerk’s question, “Spiritual or religious?”  “Uh… spiritual, I suppose.  Yes.  Spiritual.”  He checked the appropriate box with such a simple stroke of his pen.  Now we were here on this bluff high above the Atlantic Ocean and could not get up to walk back to town.    What had we done?  Spiritual?  Some days, some minutes, some places, certainly.  Religious — same thing.

Land's End - Cabo Fisterra, Finisterre, ...
Land’s End – Cabo Fisterra, Finisterre, …

After a while we decided the answer was not immediately forthcoming and that was probably the best we would to that afternoon.  We walked back past the yellow marker that pointed nowhere; paused to touch it — just in case — and walked back to town.

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