Saturday morning dawned brightly. It was decided that due to the two brief snowstorms and the questionable conditions of the trails, we would do a track workout. Clare and Cherry came up with a brief outline for the track, and emailed it to everyone prior to the morning run so we would be prepared.
It’s the Spring Equinox; the day when the light of day and the dark of night are equal. The weather forecast is calling for a high of sixty seven degrees, with sun and clouds rolling in late afternoon. Not a drop of moisture to be seen anywhere.
We meet at the Mesa Trailhead because Doudy Draw is still closed for construction, even though someone had heard that it had re-opened and everyone was excited to explore the new routes. Kathy, our resident cruise director, decides that we should go up Big Bluestem to the Mesa Trail, head north to North Fork, and continue along the base of the trail (as if we were going to Trailer Park) to end at the trail head.
The day is bright and beautiful. The company is great, the conversation is lively, and yet… something is different. The mountain looks different. It takes me a full mile before I can piece it all together.
It’s the latter part of March. Usually we aren’t on the trails at this time of year because of the incredible mud that’s mired along the paths. To run in the mud would be to risk life and limb in the sloshing, slippery, rocky, treacherous trail. We’re usually off these trails from mid-March to mid-April due to the melt, running Whiterock, Coal Creek Trail, or Bobolink.
I’m seeing the mountain in bloom. The trails are dry and parched, as though it was late summer. There hasn’t been any moisture to speak of this winter; no snow or ice that’s stuck to the ground this winter for months on end. Any snow we’ve had this winter has disappeared within a week. The seasons are all messed up. The sky is the brilliant cobalt-blue of late winter, the trails look like late summer, and the buds are starting to emerge. The groundcover is coming to life, and I’m here to see the changes.
Shari and I don’t talk about how the weather is all screwed up. How the mid-west is getting absolutely hammered with weather, how the northeastern states are up to their eyeballs in ice-storms, and how Seattle is seeing snow. Drought is another sign that the balance of the Earth is swinging off-center. Global warming has manifested thousands and millions of years ago, and is cyclical. Emissions have pushed the balance of the past one hundred years too far and now we’re seeing concrete signs of humans’ presence on the very things we hold dear.
Instead, Shari and I happily navigate our way through North Fork and manage to stay on the correct trail all the way to the bottom. We don’t get lost, we keep our heart rates up, and we note with amusement the “missing” rocks that have left deep divots in the trail. Apparently someone has removed random rocks in the scree field that I always secretly anticipate. We banter about the possible reasons for removing them, and suggest that the really sharp ones were eliminated out of compassion for people’s ankles. I know some people who slow down when it comes to sharp, jagged rocks sticking up out of the dusty dirt. Not me though; I’m a sucker for quick footwork. It’s one of the thrills of trail running. Shari understands my love of rock-jumping and let’s me take the lead.
The grasses are still yellow this time of year. I’ll have to keep an eye on them and see when they start to change into their spring greens. In previous years there was a full month of lost trail running due to the mandatory closure of the trails in mud season. Not so, this year. There’s no moisture to dictate our running plans. I can watch the emergence of the spring flora to my heart’s delight.
I love watching my bulbs unfold in my garden. Seeing the birds coming around and deciding where to build nests creates calmness in my soul that is unrivaled. And yet… this isn’t right. I shouldn’t be running trails this time of year. I should be further east, away from the mountains, chomping at the bit to get back to my beloved foothills.
I’m worried about the moisture level this year. There seems to be an unspoken urgency about what is to come. The weather reports haven’t said a peep about drought conditions for the summer, and there aren’t any mentions of watering restrictions. The trails are merely an indicator of what is happening around us.
The dust and golden morning light lulls me into a sense of serenity. I’m startled out of my complacency and realize I never got to try out my new Yak Trax this year, or go snowshoeing in the foothills. Maybe if I lived in Seattle…
The changes are quiet, yet significant. There are more to come, of that I am sure.
I had high hopes of a good run, a run that would beat me down and make me remember who I was. I wanted clarity and transcendence. I wanted to return home after a “runner’s high”, buoyed by endorphins and good conversation. As it turned out, I experienced a vivid awareness of my body and knew exactly who I was: a mere mortal trying to make it to the bathroom in time.