On The Road To The Trail, Eagle River

It was 4 hours of sleep, 6 and a half hours of driving over 340 miles to get here to Eagle River and the Eagle River Campground. I finally found a camp site, reserved it and was back in the car to find the trail head of the South Fork Trail of the Eagle River. Winding my way up the narrow road and holding a guidebook in one hand was almost as bad as one of those texting driver people…almost. I had been here once before you know, a lifetime ago during a depression released road trip to avoid or purge the aftermath of my divorce, ruin was all my life was at the time and I vaguely remember being here say for a memory picture of this or that.

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It was kind of like going back to your hometown and visiting the house you grew up in, just to leave right out of high school never to return again, and now your 50 sitting in your car in the street below the driveway staring at a house that has completely changed and your brain regurgitates memories that only bring about fleeting moments of familiarity.

At the trailhead there are so many cars I scoff at the potential of having a private moment on the trail. Running up the trail, it was dusty, dry and hot like 85 degrees hot with no Ozone hot! After a mile and a half of dragging along my faithful companion, Equinox has had enough, the heat was baking into his black coat and he panted for every ounce of coolness he could find, back to the car. After watering him down and having lowered every window in the car I was off again, charging up the first mile and a half like I owned it heat be damned!

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The running was spectacular and wonderful, the people were actually so spread out you would barely notice them. Knowing I had a cooling headwind on the way back down reassured me that this was going to be a very good day, then before I knew it I was on the boulder field of the moraine, ugh the boulder hopping seemingly would never end! But it did. On a ridgeline separating two lakes, Eagle and Symphony Lakes I stood panting like my friend Equinox, no memories of having done this before but I had, maybe the medication I was on at the time suppressed the memories or something, hmmm.

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I wandered around a bit, talked to some people a bit, savored the moment a bit, breathed a bit. Turning and finding my way back down the moraine and the boulder field I hopped and jumped like a child, it was magical. Running back down out of the valley was beautiful and fast! Hikers were stepping off the trail slack jawed to let the crazy trail runner bonsai his way past and down out of sight. I was back at the trailhead relieved, satisfied and overwhelmed, I needed to sit and reflect on this place.

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It’s seems ridiculous to sit at a campsite in the wilderness with no campfire eating out of styrofoam containers filled with Thai food, but there I was sipping a beer, chowing on Tofu Phad Thai and loving the moment. Walking along the Eagle River after dinner with my bud, enjoying the waining daylight and cooling air was the most magical moment of the day, left alone to my thoughts of todays run and feeling the exhaustion finally setting in.

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The next day I was up sipping coffee, having some granola for breakfast and contemplating the days run up the Eagle River Trail. I have never been on this trail and had no idea what to expect. I was hoping to get in somewhere between 22 to 24 miles in on the trail but that all changed rather abruply. The 12 mile drive up the valley to the nature preserve and trailhead was wonderful, I could drive that road every day and never get tired of it.

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The trail started out buffed out just like yesterday but this time it went down hill to start, it scared me, I wasn’t use to starting out a trail run on a downhill, something was a foot! After a mile of buffed out trail and constantly swiveling my head on the lookout for bears I relaxed, it was going to be a fun day. I should define fun better next time because right after thinking this the trail got crazy technical rock filled, tree root crossing steep pitches of climbing to decend back down crazy polished rock and tree root filled sections that wind there way to the rivers edge seemly trying to pitch you right into the river, but man look at the views! At Echo Bend we stopped so Equinox could get in a swim and drink up, it was perfect.

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The running was sporadic at best with the trail turning to an insane obstical coarse at every turn but this was after all a hiking trail, not a running trail so reminding myself that made it so much better. We crossed shallow streams, took pictures, savored the amazing land we were in and occassionally got a little running in. When we got to Icicle Creek things changed for the dark, Equinox had had enough and let me know that that was as far as he would go, no way in hell was he crossing the 6 inch wide log that laid across a very angry and swollen river, stream, creek whatever you wanted to call it, his ass wasn’t budging.

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Let me preface this by letting you know that several years ago while backacking into a wonderful world, we were attempting to cross over a river that was also very swollen, angry and moving very fast. There was a tree down across the “creek”that was strong enough to support me for  crossing but Equinox thought he would cross with me. Well he slipped and went in, his doggiepack had trapped him under the tree to be beaten by the current and almost drowned if I hadn’t jumped in supported by the same tree to pull him out both of us beaten up, cut up and bloody from the ravages of an angry “creek”.

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So in this show of defiance, I totally understood and smiled the smile of a guy who knew when right was right. We headed back laughing and playing, running when we could hiking when we couldn’t run, it was marvelous and unique. The unpredictablitiy of trail running is a lure and fresh every time, every time I step on the trail I never know what kind of adventure I’m going to step into.

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