26 January 2015 … Mr. Whitley on my mind
“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. 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.
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.
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.
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—–