Sunday, March 13, 2011

Training Day

It’s raining sideways this morning as I make my way to the Spencer’s Butte trailhead.  On the way down Amazon Parkway, I see runners along the sawdust path, even in this abominable weather.  As I pass a group of three, I can see their faces in my rear view mirror, and they turn out to be a family.  There’s a man of about fifty, running with two girls, obviously his daughters by the resemblance, and they look to be about ten and twelve.
            And as they recede in my mirror, I think “this is a fine place.”  And I’m so glad I came here to live.
            The Hideaway Bakery is built in pure Mediterranean style, with dark yellow stucco walls inside, lit by four-paned white-washed windows, set into the deep, hay bale walls.  The ordering area is a narrow alley, while most of the interior is occupied by a huge clay oven.  Embers are barely visible through a crack in the iron door.  The warmth from the oven is a presence, a hug from your grandmother.
            Outside, under the covered patio, I sit with cold hands curled around an Americano, waiting for my breakfast burrito, “with seasoned tofu, not eggs.”  When it comes, it’s remarkable.  The roasted potatoes are crunchy and rich with spices, and the tofu is chewy and tangy with a scrumptious white sauce.  And while I wait, there is a very Eugene crowd to entertain and engage me, from the toddler in an Andean knit hat who finds everything and everyone supremely interesting, to the thirtyish man who sits next to me, alone, and mutters to himself in a language that sounds something like Croatian while he reads real estate listings.
            Rain drops tap at my right arm, and the cold pushes in against the creaking space heaters.  Sitting there, sipping Espresso,I almost decide to cancel my training day today, I am so stressed and sleep-deprived.  But I decide my commitment to training wins.  If I want to hike high, windy passes this coming September, I have to pay up.  And the trail is so good, I can’t say no.
            If the afterlife is a dirt path lined with tall trees, I’ll know I’ve gone to heaven.
            I’m in an altered state this morning as I turn toward the insanely steep power line trail and move up under unstable skies.  But my energy increases as I climb.  As it always does, even though my attention is altered by many hard, hard nights.  I pass a whimsical, sprawling oak tree covered in ferns, and climb upward as the skies grow more optimistic.  At the summit, there are views, though they are drenched in the darkness of winter’s last.
            Mostly, the trail is deserted today, but there are a few familiar faces; the older man who hikes with trekking poles, and wears a wide, leather hat.  And the fortyish dark-haired woman who is always with her teenage daughter, the girl so well mannered, and the woman looking like someone I’d like I’d to meet.
            The miles flow by today like water, and I find myself having set a record.  I’ve exceeded two miles an hour on the way up and three miles an hour on the way down.  The winding, rocky, seven thousand foot ridges of Sky Lakes Wilderness whisper old memories to me as I shift my pack into the trunk of the car.  One September long ago, while passing through those rocky ridges alone, there was a crisp, icy morning when for just a moment, I could have sworn that the light in the day was coming from everything, not just the sun.

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