Thursday, July 8, 2010
In the Buff at the Bluffs
The reason I started blogging again is partly because I don't believe in Facebook. I know, I know. I am an avid Facebook user. However, I don't believe in the power of its little "status updates." They don't tell a story, just a headline. I could have made the topic of tonight's blog a status update, but the story is worth the added detail.
Tired of running on the unshaded, sun beaten roads near our family cottage, I decided to drive to the Chimney Bluffs State Park in Huron this morning to hit the trails for today's run. From the waters of Lake Ontario, the bluffs are a beautiful example of the natural land art created by glacial movement and centuries of erosion from one of the Great Lakes. From the land, the bluffs are a weaving, narrow, treacherous and dangerous patch of land where the admirers picnic and walk the dogs and the adventurers hope to come out with both ankles still functioning. With temperatures still reaching into the mid 90s and humidity still soaring, I decided the risk of falling over a downed tree was worth the cooler conditions offered in the shaded trails.
I arrived at the bluffs just before 10 (I have been sleeping in to put some added hours in my sleep bank while I can) and parked in a nearly empty parking lot. The only other vehicle in the lot was a big red van, one that might be used to shuttle a collegiate athletic team to a match. I parked a couple of spots away from the van and got out, removed my shirt and began applying sunscreen. During these pre-run activities, I struck up a conversation with the gentlemen in the van. He was older -- maybe 60 -- plump, and wearing only green shorts. He was sitting on the ledge of the van's side passenger door reading the paper. We made small talk about the unusual heat and he demonstrated that he visited the park a lot. I asked him some simple questions about the trails since it had been some time since I had run on them. Then, he put on a backpack and headed out for presumably, a hike. I finished stretching and then took off in the opposite direction, but on the same circular trail.
As soon as I started running, I knew this was the right choice. While the pace was slow because of all the footwork and the climbing, my legs were thankful for the soft surface and my entire body was thankful for the shade. I took some side trails that brought me to the edge of the cliff, hundreds of feet above the lake. I didn't hesitate to pause and take in the view.
About 15 minutes into the run, I noticed my friend from the parking lot was coming toward me. Only this time, something was different. He still had the backpack on. He still had his sandals on. He did not have the green shorts on. This man was naked. The time between noticing his nakedness and getting close enough to where I would have to have an exchange with the nude man was finite. In those few seconds, a number of thoughts went through my head. Do I talk to him? Do I just run past without saying a word? Is he on a mission? How do I hide my surprise? Do I make some sort of nude joke? Do I know any good nude jokes? And then there I was, passing by. Nude Ned made the first move. He commented on the amount of time it took me to loop this certain part of the trail. I acknowledged with a laugh and just kept running. And that was it. My first encounter with a naked man on a run was brief and painless...not even all that awkward and I immediately thought about the mileage I'd get out of the story.
I spent the rest of the ten mile run trying not to fall and trying to forget about the bear story. At dinner last night my dad remarked that there have been a lot of black bear sightings in the area this summer. Here I was in the woods. That is where bears live (and also shit, so I hear). In my head, every track I saw in the woods was made by a bear. At one point, I saw a big buck emerge from the woods. "I bet he's being chased by a bear," I thought. You see, some of my friends and oft running partners have a debilitating fear of snakes. I don't mind snakes, but I do mind bears. I am frightened by the thought of bears. Fortunately, I made it through the run without ever encountering a bear...although I did encounter a bare.