In 8 Pics: A blog-type series dedicated to narrating the odd collections of photos I gather as I roll through the adventures of my life. Click to enlarge. Or visit the full gallery and respective albums for more.
By some confluence of determination and type-casting, I’ve become on of the de facto route masters for our running group. Simply: I’m the one who gets to find new trails.
Others route-find, of course. Others show up with printed maps or plotted out directions for where we’re going and how far it will take us.
But I’ve become one of those small handful who people look at and ask “So… where are we running today.”
It’s no small responsibility, either.
While many folks are out on the trails for the primary reasons of exercise, socializing, or whatever, the secondary excuse many people will often quote is simply to get outside. Outside is trails and routes, of course, and running the same route over and over again is dull and uninspiring.
See where I’m going with this?
The responsibility of finding new routes is not to be taken lightly. After all, a group with great routes to run brings runners back. People get frustrated running the same loop over and over. Runners tire of treading the same paths again and again.
So I explore.
I take the responsibility seriously. I take the burden of tracking down new asphalt with all the seriousness it deserves.
In fact I’ve been asked on a couple of occasions by fellow runners who live in other parts of the city, co-workers usually who share my interest and want to chat about running after the business part of our meets are done: “Where do you even run down there? It’s all, like, suburbs isn’t it?”
And I chuckle, laugh, and argue: “No! It’s great. We’ve got loads of route mapped through the trails, the river valley, creek valley, utility corridors, foot bridges, asphalt and gravel paths, the off-leash dog park, winding roads through interesting neighborhood, and yeah, even a bit of boring-old suburbia.
I make it my business to know these routes. I take no small effort in ensuring I can rough out distances between here, there and anywhere within the local hundred or so square kilometers of area around our starting point, on the fly, and within a couple hundred meters.
It matters. If people come out for a 10 klick run, they want to run 10 klicks, not 8 and not 12.
So I explore.
I went exploring this morning. I laced up and went out with the intention of chasing down some trails I’d never explored before.
Now, you might be asking: ‘you just claimed to be a local trail guru in the last paragraph, but now you’re saying there are unexplored trails you can still reach on foot?’
Well, it’s complex. See, they’re not great trails. Very often we run this route that has only been asphalt for about two years. It wends through the very south edge of the nearby neighborhood of MacTaggart tracing along the forested border between the Whitemud Creek valley and the suburban development. It’s one of the routes I discovered a while back and it has become a group favorite.
But at one point you come to a four-way fork: three directions are asphalt either (a) continues along a fairly obvious path, (b) shoots back into the neighborhood, or (c) is where you came from. But the fourth is a daunting, slight-washed-out rough gravel path (as pictured in the second photo) that dips into the valley.
And we’ve never taken it. We’ve never known where it went.
I went out running on a single-minded mission: run to that fork and take path number four. Into the valley. Into the unknown.
The results were a mix of interesting, colourful, and frustrating.
Interesting because it seems to be some kind of old service road that has deteriorated into a kind of lost world of “this is where kids hang out and make trouble” kind of decay.
Colourful, because with that same decay came a broad mix of graffiti and sprawling arts, scribbled into almost every nook, cranny, girder, rock, and sidewalk.
Frustrating, because I came to an apparent dead end (though Google maps seems to tell me I should have poked around a little more than I did) and turned back without much in the way for new routes — even for some possibly-adventurous folks. Well, maybe some really adventurous folks, someday.
And if nothing else I finally got to see what was under that bridge I drive over so often. Maybe I’ll go back in the spring again and see where else I can explore to. After all, there’s bound to be some trail, somewhere down there, that needs some runners on it.