Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Smell of Happiness and other Foresty Tales

The Run
My running companion-to-be, Renee, called me as I was sitting in the parking lot to tell me she was running late and to go on without her.  Normally I would have waited, but for some reason I felt like I needed to leave as soon as possible to get in as many miles as possible.  Plus, I thought it would be fun to listen to some music while I ran.  When I got on the trail I was immediately happy that I decided to wear my jacket as it was pretty chilly near the water.  I was glad to be out, but nothing was syncing.  My legs were crampy, my head was fuzzy and my headphones were irritating me.  I decided the iPhone was stupid and I didn't know why I was carrying around this silly gadget and not just enjoying nature.  I stuffed the headphones in my pocket with the phone.  I refocused on trying to get all my body parts cooperating with each other.  It was like a room full of kids whining at me, Legs: "Laurieeeeee, we hurt!", Ears: "Laurieeeeee, WE hurt.  It's cold!", Head: "Laurieeeee, I don't work for at least 2 hrs after you wake up!"  After the past few days of awesome running, I knew I would have to hit a wall at some point and this was it.  I recalled how my legs were cramping during my fast run on Thursday and knew I was paying for all that speedwork today.  I also thought back to the good runs I've had and they never happen right after I wake up.  I resigned to having a crappy run and decided I'd just do 5.5 instead of 8, so I could take walk breaks and still have time to get back before meeting for trail maintenance at 9.  

Something interesting happened at 2.5mi.  The sun peaked over the trees and gently warmed my face.  At the same time I smelled something...familiar...something pleasant.  It seemed to evoke happy memories, but I couldn't remember what they were.  I sniffed and sniffed but I couldn't remember.  I decided that sniffing happiness was sufficient to calm my curious mind.  I thought about what the smell could be.  Was it something special about this weather, this season?  Maybe it was the smell of crushed, sun-bathed leaves mixed with soil.  Whatever is was, I LOVED it!  I wanted to tell everyone in the world I loved THEM (and I hadn't even been drinking)!  I found myself speeding up a little even though my legs still hurt.  At least my head was in the game now.  The need for speed went about as quickly as it came, but the happiness lingered.  I enjoyed walking the last mile, high on happiness and absorbing the tree-filtered sun rays.

The Trail Work
I was dressed and ready to try my hand at some trail work.  I became worried when I looked at my phone to find that it was 9am and I saw nobody waiting around in the parking lot.  Indeed, a closer look at Mike Goodwin's e-mail revealed we were meant to meet at the parking lot outside the Corps of Engineers building not at the trailhead.  As Renee and I approached the correct lot, we saw a group walking down the road so we chased them down and they slowed to greet us.

I pictured Mike Goodwin being a tall, 30-something, dark-haired, forest ranger looking guy.  It turns out, Mike is a 50-something, 5'6"ish man and he's tough as nails.  I liked him immediately.  Despite knowing that we'd be building a bridge and cutting new trail, I still managed to underestimate the physical demand of the tasks at hand.

We started out by unloading lumber and tools from Mike's truck.  I didn't have such a good hold on my first load, a couple water-logged 2x6 beams.  They tumbled out of my feeble arms and one whacked my leg on the way down.  I might be the world's easiest bruiser, so I knew this one would be a beauty.  I walked it off and went back for more wood and supplies.  Once we got everything unloaded, Mike set us to work.  Somehow the big burly men got the east task of building the bridge while the ladies were assigned to bench cut the new section of trail, remove root and vegetation and cut back overhanging limbs.  We were armed with loppers and pulaskis.  Mike showed us how to bench cut the sloped parts of the trail.  I was a little nervous to try this part, because it involved REMOVING dirt and I was afraid I'd mess it up and ruin everything!

Once I got the hang of it, I had a blast slaying the dirt and roots with my big axe (I think I'd make a good horror movie villain), but I felt a little bad about hacking up the roots and wished the plants a speedy recovery.  Bench cutting was fun but draining.  The pulaski weighs 10-15lbs so swinging it plus cutting through the dirt was definitely a workout.  It went something like this.  Swing, swing, swing, swing....swing, swing...swing...pant, pant, pant...swing, swing...pant, pant...swing...pant, stand...ohhhhh look branches...lop, lop, lop...hmmm no more branches...ok...swing, swing, swing...etc.  Levi joined us after he finished up his 18-mile run and a little later Derrick Shackelford, a runner from Kansas City, came by too.  I think it was a successful day!  Renee and I tried to stay until noon, but our tummies weren't having it.  We took off at around 11:30 in search of sustenance.  We found it at Mirth.

Can't wait for the next trail maintenance day.  We can only hope it will be as gorgeous as today.

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