Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trails and towers

In between hurricanes, flooding, and generally gray, dreary days, I've managed to get out for a few nice hikes and runs.

On Labor Day weekend, I went for a 5-mile hike with my own personal guide and bear protector (that's what we call boyfriends nowadays) in a local state forest, where we hiked to a fire tower and through some trails that he frequently mountain bikes on. The tower was stable and didn't sway very much, but it was all see-through mesh, including the stair steps, so you could see all the way down. Luckily I'm not afraid of heights, and getting to the top was worth the climb.

The view from the top was a little misty, but still amazing.

My tour guide's 3-year old German Shepard came along and enjoyed scampering around in the woods (read: treeing a family of bears). My favorite trick is when she hops up on a rock on command. So cute!

The trail to the tower was steep, and my calves were really feeling the burn on the way up. I could tell that I was not in great shape, but I really enjoyed getting out and walking in the woods after being cooped up inside with no electricity and lots of rain for ages. After hiking back down the mountain and taking a loop around some other trails, I was itching to run, and it made me realize how little trail running I've done this summer.

After hiking, we kayaked on pedal kayaks. Very cool. You push the pedals back and forth with your feet and steer with a little knob that works the rudder. It takes a lot less energy than paddling with your upper body. (Believe me, I stopped pedaling, raised the rudder, and used the paddles instead just to see, and it was quite difficult in comparison - and wetter.) The only downfall is that you can't go backwards. It was a lot of fun and made for a great day of outdoor activities.

So this morning I woke up to a gloriously bright sunny day. It was 60 degrees and just perfect, so I put on some running gear, packed my bug spray, and drove down to a state park to go for a run.

I've run a few trails here several times, but there are still some that I haven't been on before, so I decided to do a little exploring and check out a new one. It turned out to be a great choice. Aside from a few rocky areas and stream crossings, it has great footing for running. It has just the right balance of technicality and runability. It was still a little wet from all of the rain we've had lately, which was a little bit of a hindrance, but in drier conditions, it could be one of my best trail-running options close to home.

I noticed in the beginning that I was feeling pretty good - entirely better than I was two weeks ago on the day I saw Momma bear and babies. This time I felt lighter and nimbler and more powerful. Maybe the fire tower hike had some good effects on me, and maybe the other exercise I've been doing is improving my fitness a little. Whatever it was, I was in a great mood and was just thankful to have the opportunity to be able to go out and enjoy the forest like that in the morning before work.

If the weather cooperates tomorrow, my tour guide/bear protector and I might go for another hike, location to be determined. Should be fun!

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