Monday, March 10, 2008

To Kill a Hiking Nerd

Saturday was mostly about running errands and catching up on some long overdue chores at home. However, the perfect weather conditions pretty much made it impossible to stay indoors. By mid-afternoon I could no longer resist and had to head to the trail. I would do something longer on Sunday, but I wanted one last weekend of hills before tapering for C2M so I would head to Mission Peak and do one nice loop to the top.

Before I even arrived at the parking area it was clear that the arrival of Springtime weather beckoned many others to the trail as well. The street was lined with cars and people walking to and from the trailhead. I decided that I would do my 8 mile figure-8 route heading up the Peak Meadow trail rather than contend with all the hikers on the main fireroad. I love seeing so many people getting out and enjoying the trails, but sometimes they can be a bit of a chore to deal with especially on the lower part of the trail. There is always a certain percentage of people who seem to be oblivious to the existence of others on the trail, walking 4-across, kids wandering on-and-off the trail, people with headphones on who don't hear you coming. By the time the Peak Meadow meets the Valley View trail things have thinned out a little bit.

For the first two miles up the trail I encountered all of two people on the trail and managed to see one coyote wandering about near Horse Heaven Trail. With the two last weekend and the one I would see on Sunday that makes 4 coyotes in 3 runs, I consider that good juju for the upcoming race with the word "Coyote" in its name! Alas, my path would eventually take me back into relatively busy hiker territory and it turned out not to be a happy place for me. Immediately upon intersecting with the main fireroad I see one hiker just about to head onto a shortcut with a clearly posted sign saying the trail is closed. I let him know that he its closed and that he should stay on the main trail. He looks surprised, but does the right thing. Not long after that I pass another of the many cutoff trails and notice three water bottles sitting at the top of it. One is about half full so I am hoping that someone (some lazy idiot) left it to pick up later. I vow that if they are still there I will grab them on the way down. I think about how ridiculous it is as the Mission Peak rangers have gone to such trouble to place trash bins along the trail in at least 3-4 different locations. How hard is it to carry a little empty plastic bottle with you especially when you don't even need to tote it the whole way down? I would soon learn...

I always like when I get up over the saddle and onto the Eagle Loop Trail as it is, once again, a place of solitude. It's also an opportunity to stretch the legs out before the final trip to the peak. I'm enjoying the hills and the legs feel good. Taking some extra days off after last weekend's 49-miler has payed off. As I come back around to the ridge the views are beautiful, sunny and clear. I reach the peak and touch the view pole. There are a few parties mulling about as expected. And then I notice it. More empty water bottles. Just left there sitting between the rocks. I ask a couple near me if any of them are theirs. The answer in the negative. I look around and then start picking them up. Five in all. I ask loudly, "What the fuck is wrong with people!" and then head down the trail with the bottles in had (as well as my own handheld). People give me strange looks as I pass them going down. Hopefully the image of someone moving fast downhill, leaping over rocks with hands filled with empty water bottles makes them think. The most absurd thing is that the trash cans at the top are like only a couple hundred feet from the peak. I push them in with emphasis and then head down the trail filled with ire.

As I head down the main trail, my frustration with peoples inanity fuels my downhill pace. Who goes to all the trouble to hike to the top of a peak covering 2200 ft in under 3 miles and is too lazy to carry their garbage a couple hundred feet down to a trash can?!? I'm running a sub-7 minute pace down the hill. Coasting by hikers on their way up I'm not nearly as friendly as usual. As I come around a curve I see some guy that I just passed cut right across open land. I yell at him to "STAY ON THE TRAIL!!" My pace drops down to 6:30 and then below. Luckily, someone has picked up the water bottles I passed on the way up since I am in no mood to slow down. Oh, I still would have picked them up, but any kids near by probably would have been subjected to a string of expletives as I did so. The missing water bottles alleviates a little of my angst and I'm able to clear my head of the images that were filling it; dead hikers laying by the side of the trail, empty water bottles shoved in every orifice.

As I reached the bottom of the trail where it levels out, I eased up and caught my breath realizing that I'd covered the last two miles in about 13:30. I planned to do at least 20 miles of trail on Sunday and I had probably put a little beating on my feet since the trail has already turned to hard-pack after only two weeks without rain. I reminded myself of the beauty of the trail, the incredible views and amazing weather that I was lucky to be able to experience. I empty the few other bits of trash I had picked up on the trail from my handheld's zip pocket and jogged back down to my car to make for a total of 8.5 miles on the day. I tried to wipe all the bad vibes from my mind and focus on that wonderful post-run glow that inevitably follows a solid effort.

Then all thoughts turned to food as I checked my messages and received a voicemail from my wife saying to meet her and the boys at Red Robin at 6:30. An hour and a half, 8.5 miles, +/-2300ft, how many "bottomless" baskets of fries is that worth?

1 comment:

angie's pink fuzzy said...

way to go steve!!! good job cleaning up the trail as you run record-setting pace. sometimes anger is the best fuel :)