Friday afternoon means one thing to the runner in me… Trail Therapy! There is nothing like leaving the problems of the week behind in small clouds of dusty steps along one of the many varied miles of single track here in the High Country. This is a truly effective method of entering the weekend completely relaxed.
Most recently I headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a late afternoon trail run on the Boone Fork Trail. Beginning from Price Park Picnic Area (Blue Ridge Parkway mile post 296.4) this loop is marked at 4.9 miles- but runs more like a 6.5 to 7 miler. The technical aspects of the trail include many roots, lots of big boulders and small stepping stones which make this a perfect trail to sit back and relax as you experience this run. You could try to move quickly, but there are better places for that. My favorite style to cover this loop is to flow with the lay of the land with light, gentle steps.
The BFT passes through several types of landscapes offering a vast array of natural experiences with trailside scenery ranging from small creek crossings to rivers with rapids and calm swimming pools for the summer months. The attitude of the trail itself consists of moderate climbs and tricky descents linked together with mostly rolling and sometimes very wet portions of trail! Most likely, you will get muddy as you wind through tight rhodo-tunnels, open meadows and the fall colors of Blue Ridge hardwoods in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain.
Of course, BFT’s loop can be run in either direction. This run (counter-clockwise) made me think about how perspective plays such an important role in our day to day experience. Depending on which direction we face a trail it is a completely new world. Though a GPS would tell us we were in the “same place” we know a climb becomes a downhill, a tripping hazard is taken out of play as the terrain alters the foot placements. With the season change the sun shines on your face to warm you on a crisp day; when just a few weeks ago you jumped in the creek to escape the heat!
As I ran out of trail the sun was getting low and the deer were out munching in the thicket. I ran up on a doe that stood there startled, frozen and still. The deep darkness of her eyes pierced mine and the moment was burned into me. Just as I consciously realized what was staring at me in the dusk, she bounded away disappearing but for the dry crunching of her light steps into the woods.
On I moved beyond the beaver dam and weaving left and right into the open, flat, grassy fields of the final half mile.
I trotted, slowly winding down my effort and allowing myself to be immersed in this perfect scene. With Price Park Picnic Area in sight, the last warming rays of the day lent hints to what promises to be a long winter season to come.
For now, we still have our autumn runs ahead of us so let’s promise ourselves to not rush through them. Let’s enjoy this calming season for what it is and let’s take it all in gentle, smooth strides.
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