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November 25, 2005

Sanctuary

Thursday morning found me lacing up my shoes in the morning darkness, then heading out the door for a long trail run.

What better day than Thanksgiving to ponder the place I run most frequently: Garland Ranch Regional Park, a 4500-acre open space of oak forests, maple and redwood canyons, with rugged trails stretching up and down the ridge lines of Carmel Valley, and access points less than two miles from my house.

I've spent more hours and run more miles than I can count on these trails over the past ten years, yet instead of growing complacent, I seem to appreciate it more and more each year.
Thursday morning stared cool (low 40s) for our standards, with wisps of fog drifting down the valley and dancing around the trees and hilltops throughout the park. I set out at a cautious pace to prevent aggravating some nagging injuries, but once I tiptoed my way across the rocks to ford the Carmel River, my body settled into a comfortable rhythm - a little slower on the hills, a little faster on the level portions - like the forest was coaxing me to leave my concerns behind and just run.

Before long, I didn't give my soreness a second thought, and was able to take in the surroundings. Climbing up and down single track switchbacks, I spotted animals through the tree cover, and heard birds calling and taking flight overhead. The soft crunch of pine nedles and fallen leaves was the perfect accompaniment to the rustling of smaller critters in the brush, or swaying of branches high above.

Two hours into the run, I still hadn't seen another soul. It was like this 4500 acres were my own sanctuary, available for me anytime I choose. Finally, reluctantly, it was time to head for home, but I reassured myself that it wouldn't be long before I returned.

I'm thankful for crisp autumn mornings, and for long rugged trail runs that leave me physically drained but emotionally content. I'm thankful that a place where I can escape from the complexities around me to find peace of body and mind lies within running distance of my front door.

But most of all, I'm thankful for the ability and the opportunity to experience mornings such as these.

6 comments:

Jeff Pioquinto,SJ 11/25/05, 9:08 PM  

nice article and nice blog too. thanks

Jon in Michigan 11/26/05, 5:56 AM  

Sounds like a great place to run, Donald. Low 40's is just perfect running weather. Warm enough for shorts but not too hot so you are dehydrating fast. Nice.

Uh, there aren't any, like, big people-eating wild animals out there, are there?

Stacey Teague 11/26/05, 7:43 AM  

Wonderful post! Do you take a small digital with you on all of your runs???

Donald 11/26/05, 10:03 AM  

I'm actually a cold-weather wimp, so 40 is long pants weather for me.

As far as the critters go...yes, there are dangerous ones, but luckily they keep to themselves most of the time and I've never seen one.

Occasionally there will be mountain lion sightings, or we'll hear about people's pets mysteriously disappearing, but that's the worst it's been so far. A few years back we actually had a bear wander out of the hills and into a shopping center about 10 miles away!

Mostly though, it's deer, skunks, raccoons, squirrels and other little guys.

Downhillnut 11/26/05, 3:46 PM  

Bee-yOO-tiful! I would love running there. Thanks for sharing it with us here!

Oldman 11/29/05, 12:09 PM  

i love running thru the woods alone although my woods are not as nice as Garland Ranch...

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