Blow Down

Saturday, January 21st. Days of being stuck close to home because of snow finally get to me. And Finn. We both need to run.

The recent snow is now coated with thick ice as the result of a relatively rare ice storm that hit the area over the previous two days, causing massive power outages as trees already burdened with snow now break under the weight of the ice and rain, nudged by strong winds. Local streets are an ice rink, so we're not running in town. Too dangerous.

Overnight, the wind howled, with gusts over 40 MPH, making my bedroom windows rattle - pretty rare, here. The plan was to meet Mike and his dog Alice for a run at Cougar Mountain at 8 am, but listening to the wind continue to howl just before daybreak, I cancel, texting that I'm going to wait for the winds to subside. I wouldn't forgive myself if Finn got hurt by a tree trunk or flying tree limb felled by the wind. It can be very dangerous, running under trees, when the wind is gusting over 30 MPH. The wind advisory predicts the storm will subside by 10 am.

Here at home, the winds do subside by 9 am, so I load Finn into the car and off we go. Thinking there will be less iced/snow-covered trails at Tiger, where there's more tree cover, we head there. At the trail head, the winds are still strong.

Finn on Swamp Trail, Tiger Mtn, at tail end of wind storm.

With YakTrax on my shoes, the snow is actually easy to run on; not too crusty with ice. But oh my, the wind debris covering the trail is incredible. Finn and I barely go 100 yards before we come to these scenes. I think about turning back, but convince myself that those trees and limbs that were likely to fall because of wind have already done so. Besides, Finn is beside himself with joy - off leash for the first time in a week! In snow! He's rarely this excited. We continue on.

Looking back along Swamp Trail; trees and branches down everywhere.

I quickly fall into a pattern: run a few yards, then...scramble over, under, through or around newly downed trees, limbs or branches. I quickly realize this is going to be very slow going, more of a hike than a run. But that's fine; we're out in the woods, so it's all good. Or it would be if the wind weren't still blowing so hard. It makes me a little nervous. But so far, no branches are falling on us.

Finn provides scale for big downed tree on...Big Tree Trail. I went under this one. So did Finn - much more elegantly than I.

Finn treats the downed grees like an agility course, launching himself over tree trunks or dashing up hillsides to go around. Often, I follow him, as he tends to find the path of least resistance. He frequently stops to sniff the evergreen branches now splayed on the snow. I can only imagine all the critter smells he's zoning in on. His joy at being out here is infectious. Despite all the obstacles, I'm also glad we're out here.

A relatively clear - and all too short - section of trail.

Entrance to Wetlands/Round Lake trail - almost impassable, but we pass.

It takes a lot to discourage me and Finn. This is oddly fun; it's so different than our usual run. It makes me appreciate having well groomed and maintained trails most of the year. 

Round Lake, frozen over.

We're having fun, but the wind seems to be picking up, getting stronger and louder; I can hear the trees straining against it. I decide we should call it a day, even though we're covering only about three miles instead of the usual five to six. Tt's slow going, yet we've both gotten a decent workout clambering over all the debris. It's taking us an hour to cover just three miles.

Just before we reach the parking lot, I see friends just starting their run. After telling them about conditions I've seen, they're convinced they should wear their YakTrax. They follow us back to the parking lot, where Finn gets to know Mika.

Finn enjoying some attention while Mika gets a little jealous.

The amount of debris blown down onto local trails is significant; it's been years since I've seen so much damage from one storm. I did what I could, tossing branches. In subsequent days, I learn that local hikers and trail runners are already out with their hand saws, cutting through the smaller trees and limbs; eventually the park and forest service crews will come through with the chain saws to remove the big trees. It will quickly return to normal. Finn, I suspect, would prefer it stay the way it is, so he can keep leaping over trees.

Here's what I learned: check expectations at the door (or trail head), and simply enjoy what you find. Some might have quit right at the start, seeing all the debris on the trail. They would have missed a Nature-made agility course for human and canine that slowed us down enough to truly appreciate Her power and whim, and treasure how good we usually have it.
Rebecca WallickComment