Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ending with eagles

“What are you watching?”
“Apollo 13.”
“Is it just starting?”
“I’ll go out when it’s over.”
“You just want to see the slide rule scene.”
*****mindless drivel to test something*****

No, I said inwardly, I just want to see a bunch of people working together, all while in a stressful environment where honesty is more important than any political, cultural, or socioeconomic concerns. It is corny in today’s in-your-face world, but yeah, I suppose that part where successive thumbs-ups from the slide rule scene put the exclamation point on it. We don’t do that very often anymore.

They got back. I went out.

The blockhouse tries to hide the fog
The blockhouse tries to hid e the fog

The mystery of a chilling wind on my (first time this year) bare legs while entering the fog will never be solved with any sort of finality. It the wind is blowing, shouldn’t the fog go away? Shouldn’t it be like your breath on a cold morning and just politely disappear rather than causing some mental plea for a long-forgotten formula of heat transfer, thermodynamics, or mathematics encased in cobwebs?

Something mathematical approaches...
Something mathematical approaches…

A Northern Harrier, wings not moving enough to ruffle feathers, whispers along looking down through the grasses for dinner. I try to ignore it and concentrate on making the fog go away. The harrier dives into the grass at the same time I notice I can see all the way across to the Olympic Mountains. The trail up the bluff awaits.

Up the bluff...
Up the bluff…

Where to turn today? Recovery runs are always full of consternation. I feel good… somewhat. I can only tell the Achilles is still tender if I concentrate on listening to it. I sort of walk/shuffle up to the top–a weak compromise. My intentions to run to the almost-dead tree are compromised when I hear the two big splash sounds. Seal or sea lion? I look in the wrong direction first. By the time I find the ripples from the splash, the cause is gone. Onward to the turnaround tree.

One of several "turnaround" trees we have named
One of several “turnaround” trees we have named

Okay, evaluation time… bleah–actually, everything feels good. Okay… there are no major hills going back, just those four or five thirty- to fifty-yard long things… just slow down and it will be okay. What about the prairie? It is about three quarters of a mile and a gradual climb. Hmmm, okay, just stay above shuffle to the bench; evaluate and maybe “sprint” the last three or four minutes to the car.

Barely up and along prairie's edge to the bench
Barely up and along prairie’s edge to the bench
Where Arlo Guthrie waited?
Where Arlo Guthrie waited?

How, oh how, could twenty-seven minutes of nonstop “somewhere above shuffle” be met with such satisfaction? The reward was spotting three eagles in the tree tops near the parking lot.

Three of them...
Three of them…

I walked around for a couple of minutes… prairie, mountains, trees, eagles, water that moves… I am blessed to live in a place where I love to walk, shuffle, jog, run, or pause.

—– Run gently out there —–

Pink, yellow, green, grey

It is barely the fourth day of spring.  All that is left of winter is the distant snow on the Olympics and Cascades.  Plants and birds are in a hurry to blossom or migrate.  There can’t be that much color to distract during a run, can there–in just four days?      The Oregon Grape is already covered with the small yellow buds that will change to red; maturing into the grapes themselves before many weeks pass.

Tall Oregon Grape  -- yellow-bud-berry phase
Tall Oregon Grape — yellow-bud-berry phase


Flowering pink currant in bloom


Flowering pink currant in bloom
Flowering pink currant in bloom

Even away from the sunlit bluff and the openings in the forest where sunlight penetrates there is a change going on.  The mosses and ferns that cover the stumps, scars from the logging of many years ago, trying to somehow beautify what is missing.

Ferns, mosses, and lichens abound around the stumps.
Ferns, mosses, and lichens abound around the stumps.

As the trail winds down into the damp bottom of a kettle, the bright yellow of Skunk Cabbage dots the trailside.  These early spring plants will vanish as the leaves of the trees return.

Skunk Cabbage...
Skunk Cabbage…
Soon to take over the sides of the trails…
Nettles, the stinging type
Nettles, the stinging type

The temperature was almost 60ºF.  There were wisps of fog here and there — not enough wind to move it.  One outbound freighter was there, barely visible.

An outbound freighter in the morning's fog
An outbound freighter in the morning’s fog

The trails are drying out.  There are damp spots that will vanish some day soon when the trees start drinking again; spots that will stay dry until early fall when the trees decide it is time to doze until spring again.   The many shades of green are about to be joined by yellows, reds, oranges, and the many shades even the mushrooms bring to my forest.  We are seeing and hearing many birds.  Some are returning from Oregon, some from California, some from Arizona, but none seem willing to tell just where they went since we last saw them many months ago as fall turned to winter.  They are in a hurry to get home.  It is time to build nests and watch the sun’s seemingly northward journey.

—– Run gently out there —–

Misinterpreted Intentions and Darkness

Part 1 of 2?

— “One adjusts.  Readjusts.  Makes certain internal corrections and realignments, restoring trim, achieving that serial illusion of balance between the fall and the recovery, an act repeated every second in walking, which sustains in turn our automatic, cinematic notion–functionally adaptive–of progressive movement through the space-time continuum

Geez, who knew that — Edward Abbey (A Walk in the Hills, Beyond the Wall) — knew about ultramarathons or running trails?

I was lying to myself again.  Making adjustments.  One truth I knew was that I should not read Abbey, Muir, or Leopold as winter finally yields to spring.  They were always eager to go find spring; to be among the first to greet the warmth, no matter how weak it was; to be among those waving good-bye to winter and then to return to their beloved wilderness.  Muir would have been in pursuit of the slowly receding line of snow on the westerly face of the Sierra.  Leopold, depending on the year, might have once more looked at the arid beauty along the Continental Divide in New Mexico and wondered about his native Wisconsin–how could the contrasts live within his mind?  Abbey’s knowledge of the Arizona deserts might draw a smile as he noted not making note of frost as he wrote in his journal on that first day of warmth.  A last bit of weirdness about these three who have shown and taught us so much of the western mountains and southwestern deserts–Wisconsin (Muir and Leopold) and Pennsylvania (Abbey) are their states of birth, but, to our good fortune, something westerly called.

The next lie was tossed over my shoulder at the car, “I’ll be home around eleven.”  I could almost see her smiling acceptance of my misspeaking.  Sunset was about twenty minutes gone.  The official tide table says it went down at 7:12 p.m. PDT.  That time column will not be correct until the sun has moved far enough north to set in the flat horizon provided by the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The artificial horizon of the Olympic Mountains usually robs us of four to six minutes of daylight.  Those few minutes of illumination were unimportant.  I had lights, both head and hand–darkness, an old friend and running companion, would not be cause for concern.  The tide level and intention, rising or falling, was a concern.  The tide was still dropping and would for about fifty minutes.  All told I had over eight hours until the next high tide–plenty of time to cover the five or so miles along the beach to Partridge Point.

I still wonder, even after all these years, about why I watch the disappearing taillights before turning to start.  On daylight runs she watches until I make the first turn down the trail.  On night runs I watch her drive away.  Which thread is the tenuous one?  The false warmth of sunset’s colors bathe me as I start up the trail to bluff’s edge.  The blinks of the lighthouses across the strait, though barely visible now, will seem overly bright as darkness reclaims its realm.  The calm of the prairie’s stillness reflects the calm of the sky.  There would be no wind to chill or fling sand or hide the sound of approaching things.  I bet against an unknown bookie that I could get to the turnaround tree before turning on a light.  I am still driven by the “get as far as you can before turning on a light because you can’t turn it off until dawn” thought.

Quiet as I may think I am, I am still scolded by several birds in the salal and Nootka roses alongside the trail.  That the songs continue means some sort of acceptance or deemed-harmless status was achieved.  I wish my hearing had not aged–I wonder how many songs, quieted wings, or splashes in the waves I have missed.  Movement is still noted, but how many Winter Wrens have I missed?  Their song is not long, not loud, but, nonetheless, still beautiful to hear.  The next song is never missed.  Two, maybe three, Great Horned Owls have taken roost and are hooting loudly establishing territories for the night.  It might be correct that I only hear the females.  It might not.  It is not a point to ponder, there being no available answer.  I have made it to the turnaround tree.  I have enough daylight for another five minutes of running if it were not for the trail going into the woods for a ways.  This is the time of day when the roots awaken and stretch from a day of sleeping; often rising enough to trip passersby.  I turn on the flashlight and follow its green glow, listening to the whisper of Douglas fir limbs brushing my arms as I run.  When I come back out in the open there will be about a half mile at bluff’s edge and then it is down the zig zags to the beach; then across the long curving white line of sand to an almost hidden Partridge Point light.  It is full dark now.  I add the headlight’s beam to the flashlight as I descend.  We often talk about what would be best if we were to fall?  At the top it is about 250 feet to the bottom, not vertical, but certainly too steep to walk up or down.  So, if falling, do you stick your arms out and spread your legs hoping to not roll over and over, or do you try to keep you feet together (very few trees on the bluff face) and just try to slide down… so you can slide into Parego’s Lagoon, giving him a good laugh wherever he may be; or skewer yourself on some ill-tempered piece of driftwood?  We have no answer after ten years of running the bluff.

The beach has a wide enough band of firmness that I can run without needed to “read” the sand every few steps.  I even turn off the hand light.  The headlight on dim is plenty.  If I had looked at the moon phase chart a little closer I would have put the run off for a couple of nights.  But… always a “but”… the rains might come back; the winds might come back; the lie might not be believed and the demons would be heard and my footprints would not be left on the sand tonight.

I have no food.  It is only a three-, maybe four-hour loop.  I have two 20-ounce bottles on the belt.  I can top them off at Partridge Point for the six or seven miles home.  Having no food does not mean I cannot sit on a suitably placed log and enjoy the solitude of open sky, familiar stars, and almost no noise.  I can still hear the throb, muted by distance, but still intrusive, of the outbound freighter.  It has already made the turn into the strait.  I can see the port and starboard lights–another piece of knowledge too trivial to be information, but being just useful enough to be above raw data.  Where I sit, my eyes are about eight feet above sea level–uh oh… what is the formula for how far is it to the horizon?  Like spouting off LC=2Rsin½ø, a formula which has been in my head since the early ‘sixties, I bring up an approximation “the square root of [(height in feet of eye level)/(0.6)] = sight distance in miles, or, since I am about six feet above water level I can see about three miles.  After that you play with how high the ship’s lights are or how high the light house’s light is or …  keeps the mind busy as the time and miles go by.  I have never ran with a sound system, there is too much to play with in my cobweb storage facility to need one.

Hmmm, someone put a Hershey Bar in the fanny pack.  She has taken care of me for an untold number of miles…  I’ll just sit here while dinner digests.  You aren’t supposed to run for at least 30 minutes after eating.

First run in four months…

Three weeks ago we started going to the fitness center.  Treadmills, rowing machines, and stationary bicycles offered symmetry and a relaxation so I could “listen to my body” as I did this, that, and t’other in the hope of returning to where I am supposed run…

An empty forest trail always beckons
An empty forest trail always beckons

Yesterday morning I looked at the Achilles area on my left leg.  The knot that had been lemon-size was almost gone.  There was no sudden difference in sensitivity as I rubbed my fingers up and down the sides of it.  Kathy watched, finally saying, “You should go out.”  I muttered agreement, got dressed in what had been walking clothes for most of an eternity and went to the trails.  For a change I had to be selective about where to run, and about how long to run–neither of which was normally a concern.  At least 45 minutes?  Yes, that seems enough to feel things out.

I have never seen a pigeon on this trail
I have never seen a pigeon on this trail

Up Raider Creek and across to the misnamed Pigeon Ridge.  There were several pauses to make sure I was not feeling anything.  I know “we” can block things out.  I did not want to block anything out.  I wanted and needed to know it is okay to be running, however slowly, again.  I might have watched for roots more closely, I don’t know.  I was surprised as I got to Fisher Ridge that the rooty section was behind me.  No trips, no stumbles–the oxymoron of concentrating on relaxing was allowing foot placement to be done with no conscious distraction.

mar_02_14_2 (Medium)

I checked for reported downed trees on Emilie’s Ridge and Mainline to see what tools would be needed tomorrow.  The hints of new growth, the harbingers of Spring, are all around.  The madronas smooth bark is already changing from its yellowish green to red as it stands in attention-gathering contrast to the salal, rhododendrons, and fir trees around it.

A madrona among the salal, rhodies, and firs
A madrona among the salal, rhodies, and firs

Across Mainline and down Tunnel, aptly named as the dense woods keeps it ever darkened and moist.   The watch beckons…30 minutes… I have no concern with bygone days when runs were measured in hours or ‘back by sundown’ or such.  I am happy to be out and moving comfortably with no need, other than lungs that don’t recall what they are supposed to do, to pause.  One cedar demands attention.  Its trunk becomes many branches, each seeking the sun.  We have untold numbers of books that tell us the trees are not sentient beings, but none explain the contortions trees go through to get to the sun and how they know to do that.

Western Red Cedar spreading out to find the sun
Western Red Cedar spreading out to find the sun

The reported fallen tree is found.  It is small.  I will return tomorrow with a hand saw and loppers to cut and clear the trail.  There is a mountain bike race this coming weekend.  We will try to cover all their routes to make sure the trails are clear for their speeding here and there.  For now I am happy to have the time and energy to make one more turn away from the car.  I have not been down Shepherd’s Crook since October.

Down to where the shade never leaves
Down to where the shade never leaves

The ferns never go away from the kettle that Shepherd’s Crook winds through.  Red alder, hemlock, and Douglas fir trees line the bottom and sides of the kettle.  Cascara and rhodies grow along the upper slopes catching the sun’s last light; horsetail ferns line the last of the climb out of the dampness and onto Raider Creek.  The car is just a quarter mile away;  a gently downhill finish to another start.

—– Run gently out there —–