I run alone. Not that I would say “no” to someone who volunteered to run with me, especially at night, but I prefer being in nature by myself. It is the only time that I can clear my head, and truly focus on my soul. I prefer to run on trails, with the mountains being truly a place I can feel at home.
I had the opportunity to visit the Indian Peaks Wilderness on Labor Day weekend. I had been wanting to visit Lake Isabelle for a while, so naturally, I chose one of the busiest outdoorsy days of the year to do just that. Still, I was holding on to hope that visiting later in the day would have given time for most visitors to clear the area, allowing me to distance myself from any evidence of civilization.
As we arrived to the parking lot at Long Lake, we found the lot full. Luckily, a pair of hikers were just leaving the area, giving us their spot. I left Alexander and Idenaarin at Long Lake with James, and embarked on the best running/hiking journey of the summer. (It is still summer until September 22nd, you know!)
I started my run in the Long Lake parking lot, venturing around the lake to the fork with the trail leading up to Lake Isabelle. Last time I ran on this trail, I got caught in the rain, so the sun was a welcome companion on my journey. Still, the haze in the air was a sad reminder of the wildfires burning in various surrounding states. People were still present on the trail, but by the time I left Lake Isabelle, I left almost everyone behind. The waterfall behind the lake was the first time I felt an indescribable sense of peace and oneness with nature. I felt safe. (The bear spray I was carrying in my vest pocket probably helped, too.) Running turned to hiking. Hiking turned to stopping in my track to exclaim “oh my God, it’s beautiful!” This seemed to be a recurring theme throughout my trip. I kept thinking “this is what Kilian and Emelie must feel like when they run on the mountain.” The call of the Mountain song by Eluveitie came to mind, which reads:
The call home
The tune in our hearts, the call of the mountains
(The slideshow below might take a few moments to load, as there are a lot of pictures)
I can’t really put into words the feeling of being in the mountains. Nature is beautiful! I am one of those people who will say “hi” to every child and animal to cross my path, and that day was no different. I had never seen a marmot in person, so of course, when I saw the little buddy off the trail, I had to get closer and have a conversation with him for a solid 5 minutes. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Hi, litte buddy!”
Marmot: *confused look*
Me: “Don’t be scared! I’m just saying hi.”
Marmot: *curious and confused look*
*rinse and repeat for five minutes, until marmot got bored of the stare-off*
Once I reassured myself that I was still, in fact, a sane person, and assuring myself that there are many other people on this planet who have conversations with animals, I continued my journey up the trail, towards the glaciers. I had never been near glaciers before. You see, Colorado mountains are significantly taller than the mountains I grew up in.
One of the many benefits of mountain running is that one can explore new areas in a fairly reasonable timeframe. I wanted to cover as much terrain as much terrain as I could in two hours, and I wanted to make it at least to the foot of Apache Peak, the King of the area, sitting at 13442 ft. I kept following the winding, single-track trail through tall grass, tundra bushes and rocky mountain sides, until I reached the bluest body of water I had ever seen. Behind it, the mountain King stood tall, overlooking the area surrounded by the majestic Indian Peaks. I felt so small next to these mountains, and yet, I felt welcome in their presence.
Sadly, I didn’t finish climbing Apache Peak as I had planned due to lack of time. I was sad having to turn around, as I knew that this would likely be my last visit this year. One positive thing about running back was the fact that I was running downhill, and downhill running is my jam. Running downhill gives me a sense of freedom, plus, it’s a lot easier than uphill (for me, at least). It’s almost like Parkour on rocks! At some point during my run I heard a long, drawn-out scream. My first thought was “oh my gosh, is someone getting chased by a bear?!” Luckily, I quickly realized how unfounded my fears had been, when I saw a marmot, bigger than my cat, running away from the trail. Naturally, I spent the next several minutes talking to the little guy, apologizing for rudely ruining his afternoon siesta by running straight through his territory. I was quite disappointed for not seeing moose along the way, despite the fact that they’re usually a common sight in this area, but I did see a few deer, who were clearly so accustomed to people, that they couldn’t have cared less about my presence.
Then, I met people again, bringing me back to reality. Still, I knew that two little people were waiting for me, so I ran to the parking lot as quickly as possible. I found one very tired Idenaarin sleeping in his seat, and Alexander with a few flowers he had picked while waiting for me. Leaving the mountains wasn’t so bad. After all, I have two little boys to brighten my days. While the mountain is my home, my boys are my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am often asked why I run. I run, because I love running. I run, because it maintains my health. I run, because it heals my soul. I run, because it helps me explore. I run, because it gives me courage. I run, because it allows me to do things I never thought I had the ability to do. I run, because it allows me to be an example for my children. I run, because it takes me into the mountains, a place I call Home. Best of all, I run, because it allows me to get into my children’s arms faster.