Since late August of this year, I've been slowly reconnecting with the local trails. I used to run the area regularly at least 2-3 times per week a handful of years ago. As life happened over the years since, I really had only been into those woods the odd time throughout the year. Nothing substantial for sure. Since then, there's been new trails created, signage put up and so many more options of where to go. It's just fantastic thanks to the local mountain biker and trail running groups.
As I explore more and more of the new trails, I've spent time both walking and running the trails. I've also spent some time just standing, looking and listening in there, because most of the time it's just me. I've found a time of day that works for me, and best of all it's usually when most people are at work themselves. Having said that, today a mountain biker passed me once up at the top of the hill (that's the first that's happened in my early afternoon adventures).
Today, I explored one of the new trails that took me along the base of the North side of the hill in the woods. You think you're just going to travel along the base and to the other side of the hill... But oh no, no... You end up running a switchback trail that eventually leads to the other side, but the TOP of the other side.
As I type this, I'm actually giggling to myself. I took this pic looking way up the hill from earlier on the trail. It was so peaceful, and the hill was way up there, I wanted to snap a pic to share. Little did I know I was going to be up there on this trail eventually. HAHA!! Well, at least now I know you can get up from more than just the other side from various trails.
When I was at the top of the hill, I snapped another picture looking down the hill.
I'll say it again - It's so peaceful in there. This was just after the mountain biker crossed paths with me. This picture doesn't do the hill justice at all. Trust me, it's high and pretty steep. You can sort of tell how the hill has a ridge and drops down further if you look closely. The original trail I started on is at the base somewhere down there. HA!HA!
Not long after taking this picture, I stumbled over a root on the path almost falling but ever so gracefully regaining my balance and stride (thankfully the mountain biker was on the other side of the hill by now). This was about 3/4 of the way through my run when this happened.
... Then I almost rolled my left ankle on a rock.
... Then almost stumbled again (not quite as much as the first one).
Then I realized why; my mind was wandering.
It's hard not too sometimes in those woods though, look at this picture... Amazing.
This little narrow section was leading me back to the trail I came in on. It was this cool strip of narrow trail with all of these smaller trees all bundled together. Loved it!
As I came out of the woods from my run and walked home, I began thinking about the various reasons why I loved trail running in the past (and why I'm beginning to do so again). These points come into play whether you're trail running or out for a hike:
You're surrounded by Mother Nature.
No noisy cars and trucks, barely any other humans... Just you and nature. My mind immediately settles as I wander. The fresh air, the sunlight coming through the trees, the sound of the breeze, the sound and presence of the wildlife... How awesome is that!?
You have to be PRESENT.
As my words earlier in this post share, as the mind wanders off, bad things can / almost happen. It's totally cool to look around and take in the scenary, but you have to STOP and do it (or at the very least slow down). It's the reminder we all need to hear sometimes; multitasking is NOT healthy (or productive). Slow down. Focus on one thing at a time.
In addition to that, you have to watch where you're going. The trails are constantly changing and you have to be aware of your stride, foot falls and your speed.
In another way (or at least I highly recommend doing this) you have to be present by not having your headphones in. I'm not a fan of trail running or hiking with headphones on. Not only because you eliminate nature's impact on your senses to a degree, but you also decrease your safety. Without headphones you can hear people coming behind you, bikers coming through (especially the narrow sections) and wildlife around you.
*I learned this at least 6-7 years ago, when I was on an early morning trail run (with my music, in this area of the trails) and a deer ran out of nowhere less than 20yds ahead of me. I had no clue it was even there... because I wasn't being fully present. It scared the crap out of me. Had I had been ahead just a few seconds sooner, I would've been smucked big time because it was moving! I've never wore my headphones in the woods since*
**I'll also add that since that year, we typically get a few bear sightings in the area each year as well. Just sayin'... **
The ground is ever-changing on the trails.
Unlike on the roads or sidewalks, the ground under you is changing constantly with each stride. Changing levels, rocks, roots, grass, mud, loose rocks etc... forces your mind and body to be aware and stay within your limits (and it gives you a great workout). It also eliminates the repetitiveness of your stride being relatively the same with each foot fall as you experience on the roads, sidewalks or treadmills.
Today's adventure exploring the trails not only allowed me some physical exercise; it also gave me a wonderful mental release. I was beaming inside and out as I came out of the woods after my time on the trails. There were no expectations of speed, distance or time as I entered and began my adventure either. Which is another reminder from Mother Nature...
AND everything will fall into place.