Thursday. Darn. Woke up at 3 a.m. feeling like a donkey had back-kicked me in the ribs. I have a good idea who that donkey is….. me! Let’s let out a collective owie to the universe. Okay, so lesson learned, I won’t do any running pick-ups for awhile and here is the big lesson — running to the edge of pain and backing off is not the same as taking it easy. I took some Tylenol but I can only find comfort sitting straight up or standing. So I paid my penance today by sitting pencil straight at my desk all day and finishing up the backlog of work on my computer…. Ah well, it was a nice try so they say. Today no running. I’m a little annoyed with myself because I ended up doing exactly what the what the doctor warned me not to do which is muck with my ribs and end up with shallow breathing. If I take any deep breath, I hit my ribs and wince. And now I’m doing that short breathing. Darn. So close…. Sunday is six weeks….
Instead of a run I decided to go for a hike. Our property borders the property of a place called the Roaring Brook Nature Center so it is always a nice hike to walk up there via road and return through the woods. One little problem, I usually don’t return through the woods by myself. Plenty of trails and I know the way, it’s just since they started spotting black bears in our woods (and in our yard!) a couple of years ago, I’ve become a little chicken (okay, okay a BIG chicken.)
My first challenge for the day was to tackle Gracy Road. I’ll admit it, Gracy Road intimidates me. Straight uphill for 3/4 of a mile and it seems to me at points MUCH steeper than Harlem Hill. I can count the number of times I made it up Gracy Road as a kid on the bike (I cannot count the number of times I walked my bike up it), but if we wanted to get to the Nature Center to see the snakes and raccoons and miscellaneous injured animals in temporary captivity, we had to climb Gracy Road. You would think that sometime during Ironman season I would have challenged myself to do it as it is steps from my driveway and it is certainly no Mohonk…. But, it is the kind of road every coach I have ever had would love (yeah, go do a hundred repeats of that hill and don’t come back until you are melted.) I thought of it a couple of times but I never did it all season. What a wimp. So today as I WALKED up Gracy Road for the first time in I don’t know how many years I vowed: This season, I ride Gracy Road AND run Gracy Road at least once.
When I reached the Roaring Brook Nature Center I had SUCH a flashback. We lived at this place as kids. We ran through the woods and trails and climbed trees (of course I read on the Internet that in case I run into a black bear I am to climb a tree higher than 30 feet — I don’t think so….) Black bears have taken up residence in our woods and last summer they were everywhere. As I am now completely citified, the thought of running into a black bear more than terrifies me. There was a big part of me yelling “wimp, wimp, wimp” but I couldn’t help it. I felt like an even bigger wimp when I went into the gift shop (a glass cabinet about three feet long) and asked if they sold bug repellent. I guess that is illegal in Nature Conservancy Land but the staff Naturalist (I’m not making it up, that’s a job) took me outside and showed me a plant called “Sweet Fern” that I can rub on myself to fend off bugs. I was excited about it as it smelled like a soft-powdered soap. It took about ten minutes into the trails to realize that nobody told the Mosquitoes that they were supposed to be repelled by this stuff. Nice thought though…
I headed out onto the trails with great confidence. Walking but watching my footing anyway — lots of rocks, roots and crags. I was confident though, I knew my way, I had walked these trails 1,000 times if not more. I owned these woods. I made it to the pond where we used to ice skate and play hockey every winter (well we took sticks and hit rocks around, kind of hockey). All was well and I was making good time. Now time to cross the road into Old Warner’s field (make sure the bull was NOT in the field) and head on home. Wait a minute, the path to Old Warner’s field was closed off — flowers and trees…. What the heck? Someone had bought the house I guess and my old short cut was no longer avail. No worries, I see up the road the Nature Center has declared a path, I set out on that.
After a little while I realize this path is nowhere near as efficient as my old path. My old path would have cut through three meadows and then took me downhill towards home. This path is leading me downhill, downhill, downhill and then it turns me around and I have to hike all the way back up! I see the sky through the trees and think, whoa not so fun. But I keep on going, I know I’m heading the right direction and eventually I’ll make it through to our “neck” of the woods.
So I’m walking, hiking, climbing, walking and all of a sudden I realize — I’m way out in the middle of the woods and there is nobody to hear me scream and what was that sound? Was that a screech? Was that a bird? Was it a bear killing a bird? All of a sudden I want out of there. Where’s Starbucks? Give me the Westside Highway please!! I wanted the safe trails that I knew as a kid, I didn’t want these unknown routes into bear territory. I thought of what my Dad said to us when we were little kids, if you get lost in the woods, head downhill, eventually you will hit our house, or the brook or some semblance of civilization….. So, that’s what I did, I started to head down the mountain. I found something I thought was a trail but soon enough became just a trail of poison ivy and bushes with thorns. I was swatting my way through when all of a sudden I came across something that really scared me…. OMG, are those bear droppings? All along the trail I see piles of little black pods and I think, that’s it I’m heading right into a bear den or something. Then I looked closely and I see they are just some kind of nut that has fallen from a nearby tree. I laugh nervously at myself and keep going. Bear droppings….. nervous titter…. I’m moving pretty fast now.
Where the heck is the railroad track? It has to be coming soon…. What happened to these woods? They are totally overgrown and I’m picking my way through brush that is taller than me, how can that be? I guess after 35 years even our sledding trails that we had so meticulously maintained had become overgrown. (We used to be able to ride our sleds from the top of the mountain, down the trails and dump into our back yard — okay we crashed more often than we made it but we tried all the time.) I could not believe that I was a stranger in my OWN woods!!!! This was not right. I knew these woods like the back of my hand, now where the heck was I?!?!
Then I heard a rooster crow in the distance. Hmmm… Weird. Why is a rooster crowing at 5 o’clock in the afternoon? A rooster, a rooster, A ROOSTER!! Our neighbors have a rooster, that must be the way!!! So I turned back towards the other direction (I totally overshot my house) and headed toward the sound of the rooster. Good rooster, good rooster, keep crowing….. Then I saw a patch of green through the trees…. Yeah, my house!! My house!!! I was so relieved. The railroad track was totally grown over (it used to be a smooth, clear path you could have ridden a bike down it.) Everything was so overgrown there was no way to see which way was which. I pushed my way past a couple of fallen trees and then voila! There it was — home!! A little over an hour and a half later I had stumbled into my own back yard from, well, my own back yard. Leave it to me to get lost in my own woods….. (There is some HUGE metaphor in there…)
All I could think was “how pathetic.” I have become soooo citified that I couldn’t navigate my own home turf?!?! No cell phone, no GPS, just me, my two feet and my wooden noggin. I certainly got some exercise (my heartrate went up that’s for sure). I didn’t get to swim, bike or run today but let’s just chalk this one up to a little cross-training activity…. lol
Here are my pix from the “trek”
This is the pond where we would ice skate and play hockey every winter. (Okay it wasn’t really hockey, we hurled rocks across the pond with tree branches, but close enough.)
Okay these are NOT bear droppings, they are some kind of nut, but when you see sooo many of them after an hour and half stumbling around the woods…. (Okay, there is no excuse for thinking these are bear droppings…. Take back my Girl Scout Wilderness badge… whatever…)
What happened to my nice groomed trails? Now the workout begins, climbing over trees, around rocks, down craggy footing…..
Finally home!!! It took me long enough but finally found my own backyard…
I snuck over to our neighbor’s house and took a zoom pic of my GPS rooster through the bushes. They had company so I didn’t want to intrude…