One of the hardest things about traveling so much is that it’s really easy to make excuses for missing workouts. Recently on a trip, I had a very early start at the client site, so I was able to leave early and had plenty of time before dinner to go for a run. But I really didn’t want to go running. So I told myself I’d do a very short run, 1-2 miles, then head back to the hotel and get some food. I asked the front desk to hold my room keys (stupid lack of pockets) and for suggestions on where to go, and off I went.
My hotel was right on the water, which meant to go anywhere, I had to go uphill. I live in a very flat area. I’m not used to hills. I was sure this was going to be a very short run. Got to the turn the lady at the front desk had told me about and I continued. Uphill. Just about when I was getting ready to turn around, I spied a trail going off the side of the road. There was a sign a bit down the trail that marked it as an official trail head. Since this was all kosher, I followed the trail.
It was absolutely GORGEOUS. I’ve never really gone on this kind of trail run. Most of the trails I’ve run on are really wide and rather busy. This was almost completely empty, and a bit narrower. It really made you feel like you had completely left civilization. It was also downhill. Woo! Alas, it was a rather short trail, and I quickly came to the bottom. At which point I had to go all the way back up. But the ground was so soft, and the scenery so amazing, and the air smelled so fresh and earthy, that I got to the top of the trail energized, rather than gassed.
But I figured I should head back to the hotel. After all, this was just going to be a short run. On the way back, I passed some sort of parking lot on the other side of the street I was running along. There looked to be some trails in the distance. There were also some signs and barricades. The signs proclaimed the parking lot closed due to construction of a dog park (yay doggies!) but the sign did not say anything about forbidding entrance otherwise. So I slipped by them and went down a likely trail.
The trail was actually a gravel road running alongside a railroad track. I followed it for a bit. I saw a tiny bit of a hill in the distance, and I figured I’d run to the top to get a look around to see where the road went before turning back. When I got there I noticed some stairs up a hill off to my right and a little bridge crossing a creek. Since human built objects like this were also a sign of a bonafide trail, I decided to see where it went. Once again I was plunged into foliage on a very narrow trail. Looked like a very technical single-track mountain bike trail. At the top of the stairs I found a small sign proclaiming this to be the Japanese Gulch Loop Trail. I decided to head right again, figuring the bottom of the loop would take me back to the parking lot.
The trail looped and turned and went up and down. It was amazing. Exhilarating. Energizing. Freeing. Zen.
I have a pretty good head for directions, and anytime I hit a fork in the trail, I headed in the direction I thought would take me back to the parking lot. But then the trail would turn again, taking me in the opposite direction. Sometimes there would be signs that let me know I was still on the Japanese Gulch Loop Trail. Other times, I would come across a sign saying that I was going on to private territory. (Once, I saw this sign as I was actually *leaving* the private territory and going back on the main trail) One time, I heard cars, and was sure the trail was heading toward the road, but then it would veer off once again. Another time, I heard the sound of lawn equipment and was sure I had reach civilization once more, but I just kept going deeper into the Gulch. (The trail *REALLY* needs to be signed better, or better yet, have blazes denoting which paths to take)
At one point, I finally saw a house through the foliage, and a small tiny side path leading in that direction. I figured I must be *really* close to one end or another of the trail, so I figured I would keep going. I ran for about 10 more seconds then just stopped. I had already been running not only much farther than I had intended, but much farther than I’ve run any time recently as well. I did not know where I was, and while I had dropped off my room key with the front desk, if I got *REALLY* lost, it would be *HOURS* before anyone would come looking for me. This is what I had been looking for for the past half hour: a way back to the hotel. Continuing on would have been really stupid. So taking the advice of others, as well as all those articles in my Backpacker Magazine (don’t let your pride get the better of you!), I turned around, took the little path, and came out onto a cul-de-sac.
But now I had no idea where I was. Again, I had a fairly good sense of direction, so I knew the hotel was vaguely in *that* direction. But I was in a neighborhood with really windy streets, so I wasn’t *quite* sure which way to turn. Being as I was in a cul-de-sac though, the first part was easy: head downhill. After passing some other cul-de-sacs, I found a man out gardening and asked him for directions. I was about a mile away from the hotel. It was all downhill to get back, so it wasn’t so bad.
In the end, it was an amazing and spectacular run. A bit scary there for a bit, but totally worth the extra 3-4 miles! Another interesting thing is that I didn’t take an mp3 player with me on this run, and I really didn’t miss it! But next time, I’m going to plan my run a
bit LOT better!