I have this trail in Boulder that is my go-to trail. When I’m feeling happy, I rejoice in the feeling of my legs powering me up and down the trail, the fresh smell of the pine trees, and the snow or flowers blanketing the meadows (sometimes both). When I’m sad, confused, or unsure, I lose myself in the steady rhythm of the trail and let my thoughts roam free to bring me peace. When I need a good kick in the butt, I run up the trail. When I need a rest day, I walk casually and take tons of pictures. The trail is the friend that always gives me what I need, even when it’s not what I want.
A couple of weeks ago I returned to my trail after months away. The separation wasn’t intentional. In fact, I visited my trail just a couple days before my back started bothering me and left me unable to move for far too long. In those months, my favorite trail has changed. It’s surface has been smoothed and carefully buffed. Where I used to know each rock, water valley, and rise, they’ve all been wiped away into a clean slate.
At first I was sad. My friend had changed, whether for better or worse has yet to be determined. It was also unexpected. I knew the trail crews were “improving” nearby trails, but I didn’t know my trail was on their list. I loved my trail because of all it’s imperfections, and now they were all gone.
After walking along, I began to appreciate the changes.
This trail is my “go-to” trail to run a fast downhill mile. In fact, my fastest mile ever is a 5:51 mile from the top of the trail to the bottom. As I walked casually along, I began to long for the day when I can run fast again and test myself on the new and improved trail. With all the imperfections gone, my trail should be faster than ever.
When I want to lose myself in my thoughts, it will now be even easier. With a smoothly buffed trail, I can just walk or run without any thought of where I place my feet. While I sometimes crave the full focus required for a technical trail, it doesn’t make for the best “deep thought” atmosphere. My trail was never technical, but it had just enough surprises to keep me on my toes. Now even my toes can lose themselves in the flow of forward motion.
I don’t have any choice but to accept the changes to my trail. I can’t change it back to the way it was, and maybe I won’t even want to. It will take some time to regain the familiarity and comfort with my trail, but at it’s heart it’s still my trail and will still be there to cheer or cry depending on the day. And for that I’ll forever be grateful.
Note: All photos are courtesy of NinetySeventy Photography and none of them are of my actual trail. I guess I’m too lost in thought to take photos on it.