running in the rain

hot cup of coffee

I’ve been up to the Skyline Trail a bunch of times for a run.  On hot summer days you might find fog streaming through the trees on this 1600 ft. ridge.  In autumn there’s six months of dry, soft, leaf litter underfoot.  But I’ve always thought it would be cool to run up there when one of our vigorous winter storms was rolling in.  Today was that day.

By the time I’d finished up with my Sunday agenda it was after 2 p.m., so I was getting a bit of a late start.  Checking the weather ahead of time, it looked like a break in the rain – so I headed up there.  I walked across Skyline to the trailhead, and some Weird Guy went blasting past in his over-compensating large vehicle.  I’ll show him; I nimbly scampered over the horse guard and on down the trail.  Wait.  There’s somebody else running up ahead – I don’t want to be following somebody for several miles!  Oh good, they’re taking the side trail to the Methusalah Tree.  Bye now.  I take a quick right down to Kings Mountain Road and the crossing to the Skyline Trail.  There’s an impromptu creek running down this side trail, which I am able to avoid by using fancy footwork.

The first couple of miles include a few spots with some ponding action on the trail, so already I can tell this is going to be interesting.  We’re high enough so that we’re basically in the cloud, and the atmosphere is almost tangible.  There’s a new fallen tree – looks like a young Bay Laurel – across the trail, but you can get around it.  (Just past mile 2, if you’re going.)  Beyond that point you can really get into a long-distance running groove on this trail.  There was little traffic on Skyline, except for the jerk I mentioned earlier, so there was no road noise.  But there was plenty of Entish creaking and murmuring from the big trees way above you.  One of the nice features of this trail is that it hugs the hillside just below the crest on the east (leeward) side of the ridge.  So, if, like today, there’s a strong westerly wind, you might see the treetops whipping around but it’s nice and calm down where you’re running.  Around mile 3 I spooked a deer browsing on the trail.  Hardly ever see deer on this run, compared to the lower hills.  Past mile 4 there’s a lot of Miner’s Lettuce growing along the trail.  Running Buddy and I ran up here during Christmas week, and it wasn’t here at that time.  The new green against the dark loam of the trail was amazing.  If you saw a photo of it, you’d say, “nah.  photoshop.”  But it was the real deal.

The 5 mile marker, our turnaround, was a welcome site.  It was pretty cold, and even with the forest canopy I was getting a good soaking.  One thing I noticed on the run back was, “hey, it’s kind of getting dark”.  By the time I got to the fallen tree about 2 miles from the end, I could tell it wasn’t just darker from an especially large cloud or something.  It was due to the position of the sun, relative to my position on Earth.  I’m not usually at my most peppy state for the last two miles of a ten mile run, so I had maybe 20 minutes to go.  One more treat awaits at mile 1 or so; the trail opens up here and you can see to the north along the ridge.  There was a drift of rain swirling around, and a dozen or so birds were hanging up there in the wind.  Maybe they saw me watching them, because they all suddenly turned together and flew away.  I could see some of their reflections in the standing water on the trail as they left.  It was really dark when I saw Kings Mountain Road through the trees.  Just then, another runner went past me, heading out on the trail.  Godspeed, sir.

Finally made it back to the car, where I opened a Thermos of coffee.  Glad I brought that along – it was cold up here!  In the low 40’s, according to the car.  The coffee was a strong motivator in the late stage of the run.  While I was enjoying my java in the Purisima Creek parking lot, a family (parents, a kid) came up the trail, returning to their car.  I said “hi”.  No response. What gives?  Probably they just wanted to get home where it’s warm.  But Dad was one of these fussy guys, and was taking a long time to change shoes so that he wouldn’t track dirt into his car.  It did look like a nice car – it said “hybrid” on the side, but otherwise looked like a nice, expensive car.  I would have asked him about it, but since my “hi” gambit failed, I decided against it.  Then I took the cool, rainy, winding, windy Kings Mountain Road back down the hill.

You think about a lot of things on a long run like this.  Music.  Guy who drove past me on Skyline.  The history of logging in San Mateo County.  Stupid work stuff.   The correlation between extended drought periods and global economic collapse.  But mostly you think about what you’re doing, running along a forest trail in a rainstorm.

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