Today marked the return to our local peak. We abandoned this trail in late spring when the foxtails took over. The narrow single track with steep climbs and drop offs gave little room for Kona to avoid trouble with those barbed seeds.
This morning, I waited until dawn before arriving at the trailhead. I don't like to run alone with Kona in our forest before sun-up. I'm sure the big predators aren't any less active when we arrive at sunrise but having more light gives me peace of mind.
Because the trailhead sits on a street with through traffic, there's always more activity compared to our neighborhood trails. Subsequently, Kona has more trouble moving from the car to the trail. Unfortunately, the street was abuzz with pre-work activity and Kona was a freight train out of the car.
Right after getting off the street we ran into a pack of dogs. Two were still leashed and walking down a different trail and the other three were close to the entrance. I knew right away that the smallest of the off leash dogs was going to be trouble. Poor Kona was stressing and this little dog got all in her face, huffing and puffing. While the two big dogs were no trouble at all, this little guy would not let us move. He got snarly every time I tried to move around them. I gave their human a firm shout out, "Call your dogs."
She did, and not one of them looked up. While the human kept walking away, yelling for her dogs, the little dog kept at Kona. I finally tried body blocking him. When that didn't work, I gave him a strong poke-shove. Voila! He got the picture and moved away enough for us to get by. Yikes. While I don't condone using physical force on a dog. . .well, don't mess with my Kona.
Starting up the trail, I was both peeved and pissed. Why does someone bring a pack of dogs with no off leash skills and questionable social skills and let them run loose in an area with coyotes, mountain lions, deer, not to mention other dogs?
(Deep breath AC. Enjoy the sky.)
I stayed dissociated for awhile, flustered about the dog encounter. Before I knew it, we were at the mile marker. I was shocked how easy those first few minutes felt. At 2.5 miles, the run to the peak isn't especially long but it is all uphill and usually leaves me huffing and puffing. Not today! My legs felt strong and the climb (dare I say) felt easy. I felt a smidgen more confident about my marathon training.
Kona pulled out in front. She always seems nervous on this trail. I knew by her active nose that she wasn't that stressed but she did look all business. When I stopped to take pictures, Kona stood at full alert, sometimes looking worried about movement down canyon.
The ridge above us came closer and closer as we ran each switchback towards our peak. The forest just beyond the ridge was destroyed in last year's massive fire. Kona and I peaked into the burn area earlier in the year and it was truly a sight. Because the forest is so steep and rocky, the burn area will be closed indefinitely to keep hikers safe from landslides. I'm grateful that we still have trails to run.
We continued to make good time and made it to the peak at a record pace. As is tradition on this run, I let Kona pull me around the flat vista. Her nose worked double time, sounding like a vacuum.
Kona zig-zagged around the foundation of an old resort. While fires took the luxury destination years ago, remnants of the past still remain.
Before leaving, Kona stood at the edge of the old entrance steps, the city sprawled below her.
As winds kicked up, Kona stuck her nose in the air, edging too close for my comfort to the drop off just beyond her paw. It was time to get moving again.
As we started our descent, I was reminded how much I enjoyed our peak trail. Running downhill can be miserable, except when the terrain is just steep enough, just technical enough, just fast enough to feel like a rollercoaster! Once I convinced Kona to stay behind me, there was no braking. I turned up my proprioception to save my ankles and let gravity work.
I felt like I had springs in my shoes. We zigged around rocks and snapped around switchbacks. Kona's feet were fast at work behind me. Before I knew it, we passed the trailhead and headed toward the street.
Kona, the poor stressball, started hesitating. I kept running. I've yet to find anything to ease Kona's nerves when we approach streets, so I figured we might as well make it to the safety of the car sooner than later. As soon as I opened the car door, Kona made a flying leap into her crate. Safe!
So the beginning and end of our peak adventure weren't great but there was good stuff smooshed in the middle.