June 28, 2009

On the Oregon Trail

It is Sunday and I like to use this day for my longer runs if I possibly can. I have had a longer than usual mileage week mainly because I added a extra long run this week with a friend in town that is here doing a sabbatical from the Univ of Missouri. He runs quite slow and steady and that was a good thing to take advantage of in this time of aerobic base training. Regardless, I could feel it in my legs after our run out to Bald Hill and back.

So I wanted to come up with a different route today .... partly to freshen my view but also in comradeship with the daring bunch of ultra runners who just completed the Western States 100 mile run. It is probably the granddaddy of ultra runs and there is much lore about the trail and those who have completed it. Basically, it boils down to running from Squaw Valley to Auburn CA in the Sierra Nevada over peaks, descending into canyons and fording the American River in 100+ degree heat and hoping you get done in 24 hours so that you can get .... a belt buckle! Not to mention losing your toe nails, hypo and/or hyperthermia, various kinds of trauma from falling as you run through the night with a flashlight as your sole source of visibility, and not to mention the possibility of becoming cougar bait. The whole thing started as a horse race many years ago until someone took up the challenge to run it on foot in the 70's. Incidentally, there is a man vs horse 50 mile race in Prescott.

So in my own spirit of adventure I decided on a route that I had been thinking about but not quite yet come to the degree of fitness to feel comfortable about taking on. But after completing an 8K trail run race at the end of May and the continuing mileage I have put in, the challenge was on. So off I went with my little fanny bag and camera to record my outing "On the Oregon Trail".
Heading north into the hills and woodland

It was a perfect morning for heading out into the woods. It was sunny, cool and a mild wind was coming from the north. At this time of year the students have vamoosed home and the streets were even quieter than they normally are on an early Sunday morning. I was feeling comfortable as I headed out on Highland and slowly warming up for the first challenge that would be coming - the climb up that leads to Chip Ross Park Rd.

The cemetery at the edge of town is a reminder of the dangers
that lie ahead

This a beautiful little cemetery that seems like it was tucked into the outskirts of a neighborhood. But a closer look at the sign lets you know that it is 100 years old and everything else was built around it. Corvallis has some interesting cemeteries placed here and there throughout town. Lydia and I always enjoy going to the different ones particularly because of their age. As I ventured closer to the gate, I spotted a young buck grazing around the tombstones. It looked askance at me and slowly meandered out of range for my camera to capture.

The climb up to the ridge before heading into Crescent Valley wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Possibly, because I had to stay focused when the sidewalk ended and I was in the bike lane on that curvy part of the road. You never know what someone will be engaged with while they are driving these days. But your mind will wander off occasionally to things like escape routes and how much further till I crest this hill.

I turn off the road and head towards Chip Ross Park along a road that has become as developed as the property that it leads towards. It is a nice little stetch of rolling hills that offers some nice views west towards Mary's Peak.

A pioneer's new settlement out in the wilderness

The quaint forms of entertainment the Oregonians have developed
Along with the small chapel carved out of the woods

The amount of development in this area always comes as some sort of shock whenever I go out there. Mostly because the impact of moving here and seeing these areas untouched created such strong memories for me. Even though I have seen these new monstrosities here before several times, it just doesn't reside in my brain like my first impressions.

The trail back into the wild

From the Chip Ross parking lot I followed a single track trail that goes over a hill and back down to Walnut. I have only run this trail once ... right after we moved here and it was pretty well traveled by bicycles and others. Evidently it isn't used as much these days as it was overgrown with briars which tore at my legs and almost took my cap off in one location. But just like being out on the road, it became a point of focus. Particularly, when I kept seeing what I imagined to be poison oak. Even then a random thought would take away from my vigilant steps - "I wonder if they ever trapped that cougar that was hanging out over here".
Back to civilization

Eventually, I untangled myself from the trail and stumbled down to Walnut Blvd. and Kings. From here it was gentle downhill or level sidewalk to the house. I felt good at the end and was keeping a nice relaxed pace for this stretch. I ended up being out for probably an hour and thirty minutes or so. It was a good combination of working up some hills, looking around, taking pictures and revisiting a place and memories along the way.

Who knows, maybe I'll keeping moving west into the McDonald forest next time I venture out this way!

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