Kona and I celebrated the first day of Winter yesterday by returning to a trail we haven't seen in months. The creek trail we usually follow starts in a scary parking lot, so I decided to find the trail entrance further up the road. I found it without a problem. The ten foot tall, barbed wire topped, security camera monitored, closed with six locks gate was hard to miss. I had heard rumors about this entrance to the forest. The gatekeeper was a mystery. Tales circulated about hikers getting locked out at dusk, having to make the two and a half mile trek through a different exit as the forest spirits emerged with the darkness. Sure enough, a big sign hovered above the entrance: "The city does not have the keys to this gate. If you get locked out, you will have to use the other exit."
Lucky for Kona and I, dawn was barely breaking, so we couldn't get locked out in the dark.
As we started down the trail, I was glad to see Kona loose and relaxed, examining the morning scents. At least one of us felt welcomed. I looked toward the grey slopes and canyon ahead and wondered if the forest spirits were still prowling.
I tried to shake the spooks away as I watched the sliver moon hold it's post before sunrise.
Not two minutes past before I heard two men chatting as they ran down the trail behind us. I picked up my pace, wanting to keep some space between us and our fellow runners. As we passed the first trail junction, a man with his husky swung around the corner in front of us. On another day, I may have been bothered by being sandwiched between two parties on the trail, but in the minutes before daybreak, I didn't mind. The husky and his human would clear the path of spooky forest spirits. We were safe.
With Kona traveling at her typical stop, smell, then go fast pace, I began to feel like the live show of the Tortoise and the Hare. The men behind us kept a slow, steady pace. Kona and I shot ahead, only to have the men nearly catch us as Kona stopped to investigate scents. I picked up our pace between sniff stops in an attempt to keep a gap between us and the two joggers.
My lungs heaved in my effort to switch my shuffle to a jog. There wasn't time to take pictures, but when the sun inched over the horizon, I made a sprint to stay ahead and still capture Winter's first sunrise.
We made good time up the fireroad. About halfway to the top, Husky and his human turned around. Kona and I were suddenly in charge of clearing a safe path. But, with the sun up, everything spooky suddenly vanished.
We whisked around the last bend before the top when an eerie cry groaned above us. I heard the wind for several moments before it hit us. 70 mile per hour gusts were forecasted for the mountains, but the sky had been calm. Despite the shadow of the slopes above us, I put on my sunglasses as sand flew up from the trail.
When we reached our turn around point, we didn't stick around long. Kona handles wind fine, but swooshing air gives me the hebegebees.
The descent brought both shelter from the wind and exposure to the gusts, depending on which bend of the trail we found ourselves. Dusty haze covered the city below. Toward the mountains, lonely cloud puffs dotted the sky.
As we approached the curve of a switchback, wind kicked sand into a towered wave that spiralled as it flew around the corner towards us. Kona slid into a hockey stop, spooked by the sudden outburst. I half expected a genie to round the corner on the coat tails of the dust cloud.
When all settled, we continued down the trail. No wind would stop Kona from her lizard patrolling. She trotted along, a happy dog. I was pretty happy too.