Sunday, July 8, 2007

Adventures in Forest Park

Usually, when I go to the park to jog, I stick to the track. Running in a circle is nice and reassuring, because I can judge how far I've gone, and I can just stop at anytime and walk home. But sometimes, it's just nice to jog without knowing exactly how far you've gone, or even really where you are. Today was one of those times.

I decided to go past the track and down a closed off road that I frequently saw people biking, jogging or strolling down. I figured that if everybody goes that way, there must be something to it. Most people were just sticking to the actual road, but there were paths along the side, so I decided to take one. Soon the blacktop was covered in dead leaves and twigs, and then it was broken in spots and a bit bumpy. I think my legs deserve a good challenge from time to time, so I stuck to the path, even when it veered away from the street and started looking more like a simple dirt path. The pathway even undulated more than the street, so that I was looking down on the people in the street at some points. That also meant that I had to climb up and down more small hills, but once again, I decided my muscles and ankles and knees were up to the challenge.

Eventually, the path I was on broke completely with the road, so I followed it. From time to time there would be a wider path that seemed to be made of blacktop, but I stuck with the narrow brown and green paths. Sometimes that meant that I was in the middle of a peaceful forest, almost as if I there weren't cars driving past the park less than a mile away. Then, the bright blue mark of someone who likes to tag innocent trees would bring me back to reality. Mostly, the paths were quiet and empty of other people, but I made a turn at one point only to see a couple walking their dog and smoking some pot (at least it smelled like it to me).

By the way, this is not the actual pot couple that I saw, just a hazy picture of a couple walking a dog. The pot couple might have kicked my butt for taking their picture.

It turned out that sticking to the narrow trails was not always the right move. Once, a narrow path led me right to some railroad tracks.

And I was not about to find out that they were active in the middle of crossing them.

But at least the narrow tracks weren't wide enough for horses. It would turn out that there were many wide tracks lined by low wooden rails that were set up for horses. These paths were covered with sand, or some other soft material, for the benefit of the animal whose shoes are permanently attached to it's feet. For the rest of us, there was a blacktop path alongside it. Well, before I realized what was what, I was running through lovely, soft sand... filled with horse droppings! In a hypocritcal fashion, there was a sign posted to the wooden rails where they tie up the horses telling people that it is the law that they clean up after their pets.

So, I was excited to be jogging on a trail on a par with those I visited in the Pyrenees in 2002, only this time I was jogging and last time I could barely walk it. At one point, I found myself running straight everytime I came to an intersection of paths without thinking which direction to take. I was running without stopping, as if I had suddenly realized that the pot couple that I'd seen earlier were actually a couple of Russian spies coming after me. I jumped over logs and gracefully adjusted my steps when I landed on stones sticking out of the pathway. My knees might dislike me a bit tomorrow, but I was feeling good while I was in the moment.

Suddenly, I realized that I was lost. I came to the end of a path, and even though I could clearly see that I was at 71st Rd. and Union Turnpike, I had no idea how to get back from whence I came. So, I continued on inside the park, rather than cop out and follow the sidewalk around the outskirts. I ran into a bridge I couldn't cross, those damned railway tracks again, and horse trails that took me nowhere. Finally, I found trails that led upward, and I ran on until I could run no more. Just when I was afeared that the pixies and ogres were going to appear from behind the trees surrounding me, I reached the top of a path at the peak of which was a Mountain of Mulch. After scaling the Mountain and crowning myself Queen of the Mulch, I saw the road that had originally lead me to the pathway that took me to the hiking trails that lost me in the woods. The road was wide and welcoming, and I reached the soccer fields and track once again about an hour and fifteen minutes after passing them by for the more adventurous part of the park that was awaiting me.

My Mountain of Mulch

No comments: