Saturday was my birthday, and the first item on my agenda was to run with the girls. I’ve been fighting a cold for several days and on Friday, my absolute goal was to put enough food and drink into my body so that I would be well-fueled and well-hydrated for an hour trail run. We all need goals sometimes, and Friday, that was mine.
I woke feeling…okay. Not great, not in prime running shape, but… okay. Well enough to make it. The cough and sore throat that have threatened were mild and my lungs weren’t zapped with goo.
We met at the South Boulder Creek Trailhead, just off of Hwy 93 on the south end of Boulder. From the trailhead we ran due west for a mile before jumping onto the Mesa Trail, which meets up with Big Bluestem. Big Bluestem is a single-track that winds through some of the prettiest terrain on the mountain before meeting up again with the Mesa Trail. From here, we would go north to South Fork, then head east down the trail and loop back around to the Trailhead.
I carried my handheld video camera, knowing that the camera would force me to slow down, always a good idea when you’re fighting a virus. Plus, I wanted to see if I could get footage of Big Bluestem, one of my favorite running trails of all time.
The clouds were miraculously absent after days of dreary grey. This sunshine girl has been craving light for days, and the lack of light has affected my energy level and mood. This run would not only give me exercise and welcome girl-time, but a good dose of Vitamin D.
I started at the back of the pack, still cautious about my energy level. Big Bluestem has a huge climb, and I didn’t want to burn energy on the front end and be zapped when I really needed it. Elizabeth, Sarah and I chatted easily on the jaunt through the meadow, and caught up on some life stories. At one point E pointed out a small herd of deer bounding up the hill in front of us; our first wildlife sighting of the day.
On the first leg of the Mesa Trail I realized that I had more juice that I thought, and moved ahead of the girls at my own pace. The lead pack was far in front, and now I was on my own heading into Big Bluestem. I pulled out the video camera, pushed Record, and set off on my own journey through the mountains.
The morning light cast my shadow long in front of me, but I didn’t notice it. Lucy, Sarah’s dog, ran with me from time to time, but never too far ahead of her owner. Her sandy-colored coat blended into the sandstone rock, and when I looked east with the sun in my eye, I had a hard time seeing the little dog.
My feet lovingly landed on trail and rock, and climbed easily up the inclines. It’s been months since I’ve been on this trail, but my body still remembered the nuances of the turns, and I looked forward to each section that evoked memories of past seasons.
The first stop was the sign that warned of bears and mountain lions in the area. I always appreciate the warnings, though as a runner I’m far too focused on my footing to stop and look around. The animal would have to be on the trail for me to notice it, when I’m running trail.
The next stop was a barren bush where I checked for buds, but saw only a sampling of last year’s berries. March 19 is too early for buds, but it won’t be long now before the mountain is in bloom.
My breathing and steady footfall made a rhythmic soundtrack for the footage I was shooting. From time to time I stopped and noted rock formations peaking through the trees, or the granite slabs of rock that were so thick I had to slow and step up the natural stair steps.
My favorite section of trail is where the trees form a natural tunnel and the trail is littered with pine needles. It’s damp here; the dirt stays moist with the debris that is slowly eroding back into the ecosystem. The sound of my footfalls changed to a muffled thud, and the ground felt softer beneath my shoes. I imagine that fairies live in this place; the energy of the mountain is strong, tucked away and protected from the elements. It would be a good home for a magical creature.
At the top of the trail the lead pack was waiting. They had been there for a while, judging from the steady sound of chatter and laughter. We waited for Sarah and Elizabeth, then headed north on the Mesa Trail until we reached South Fork.
South Fork is a steady, gentle trail. When you’re heading down, it’s a good place to relax the legs and recover. When you’re running UP the stinkin’ trail, it’s a brutal piece of butt-kicking that takes your ego down a few notches. Lucky for my tender body that’s fighting microscopic bugs, we were on the downhill side today.
At the bottom of South Fork we turned south and high-stepped through the rock landmine that always tickles my fancy. I don’t know what it is about rocky debris, but we get along well.
The trail angled east again, and we settled into an easy lope through the meadow. The sun was up and the light was golden, bouncing off lone trees and dry, dead meadow grasses. I think DaVinci would have liked to paint the mountain on this day, if he were able to choose.
Back at the trailhead I took one last, long look at the rugged Foothills that border my world. They didn’t seem to mind the gentle caress of my footsteps today, and even offered up some of the hidden gems of beauty as a birthday present to this runner girl.