Look, the Milky Way! Yes, it was that dark on my trail run last night. I saw E.T. and he told me to “gooo hooome”. If you read my last post, A Dark Alley, you would have learned how depth perception goes away in the dark. Plus, it’s just spooky. Every rustling bush is a prowling mountain lion or drooling, rabid cottontail. I’ve seen Naked and Afraid. I know what dangers lurk in the wilderness at night.
By the time I got home from work and changed into my supersuit, it was 5:45pm. I had forty-five minutes to get to the trailhead and run before the sun set. Well, I’ve been so looking forward to running a longer trail that I opted for the closer park, Estrella Mountain Park, to give me more time. I set up our Cub Scout pack’s 5k trail run there (https://runsignup.com/pack645k, Feb. 11th, 2017 if you’re man or woman enough) and was familiar with the 3.1 mile route, so I figured I could easily navigate it. Problem was, this was a pay park and the other one I’ve been running that was so busy was free. So, there was nobody else there. Just me and my imagination – which is pretty wild by itself.
The course I ran is a loop of three trails, each with a different level of difficulty. I started with the hardest one, Butterfield, saving the easiest one for the darkest time. Yes, it was tough and, as you can see, it goes uphill. My imagination said to itself, “Ah, fertile ground. Did that rock just move?” But I trudged on, taking several walk breaks. Or rather, I took run breaks during my walk. Plus, I had to stop every 50 feet to take a picture.
So I made it to the first trail intersection without getting eaten by covey of zombie quail and was relieved the next leg would be downhill. The sun was behind the mountains now and the overcast clouds gave a sinister pall to the sky. Imagination snickered.
This trail, the Dysart trail, ran through two washes loaded with trees, bushes, shadows and mischief. The edges were lined with rocks and the bottom was about eight feet across of sand, so of course I had to slow down.
“What’s that sticking out of that bush? Feet?” imagination said.
“Shut up! There’s nothing there.” I hollered.
As it grew darker, I realized how bad an idea this was. Alone at night on a dark trail. I checked my wrist for the RoadID bracelet that would let first responders know where to send my carcass, or what would be left of it after the mutant geckos got to it.
At the second wash, some owls decided to tease me. One on each side, hooting with laughter as I ran in slow motion through the quicksand. I dropped a piece of cool looking quartz I had picked up earlier. “Just leave it!” I told myself. “Gotta protect my eyes. Don’t owls go for the eyes?”
Finally, when nothing happened, I felt silly and quickly came upon the last trail, Coldwater. It is actually a service road. Nice and wide and level. There were some dips and a lot of horse droppings, but it was relatively easy. This is the place where I saw the patch-nosed snake last time. And now it was quite dark. Another owl hooted behind me. I swear it followed me as it never seemed to get further away. “I’ve got glasses on!” I told it.
There was a horse arena near the parking lot and I could tell by the smell that I was close. Just inside the trailhead, there was a large burrow. I would’ve loved to peek inside and see what was home, but it was too dark even to get a pic. And whatever was in there probably wouldn’t appreciate a flash of light in its eyes while it was trying to sleep. The park ranger pointed out on a hike once that there are several badgers in the area. In fact, their coloring resembles that of a skunk. They frequently get calls from frantic golfers at the course next door. Funny.
In the end, I decided to change my trail runs back to the weekends and do my distance runs during the week on the lighted streets.
Here are some pics I took before it got too dark.
This Friday morning, I am trying an Insanity class for the first time. My friend is leading it and said I could attend as his guest. We’ll see how that goes.
Happy trails to you and cool runnings, my friends!