The Foothills Life

On October 31, 2008, in Lifestyle, Running, by Meghan

Three or four times a week, I awake around sunrise (You might recall that my previous work schedule had me falling asleep as the sun rose, so this morning running business is an independently miraculous and celebratory occurrence.), without the assistance of any time-keeping device. I make coffee as I don running shoes, shorts, and a t-shirt, occasionally adding a long sleeve for the cooler mornings. October was warm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, though, and some of these morning runs were so hot that the dog drained the water bowl upon returning from a one-hour adventure.

I sip a few swallows of coffee to clear the overnight cobwebs, and I head out to the back of the three acres upon which I’m living. There, I hop the fence and lift the dog over after me, as it’s too high for her to jump in her nearing-elderly status. From there, an old mining trail (These hills are, or rather were, filled with silver and vigorously mined over 100 years ago.) climbs gently from the property, lacing into a few dozen other mining trails and fire roads on Bureau of Land Manglement (Er, Management.) land. Most of these routes go almost nowhere, petering out just as the running gets good. Over the course of a month’s exploration, I’ve now found just short of two hours worth of run-able terrain in the hills behind the house, and there’s still more to discover.

Junebug the Border Collie waits patiently to be lifted over the fence.

An old mining trail, I think, inclines kindly from just beyond the property line and through a Manzanita forest.

Near-perfect singletrack climbs out of the property's shady gulch and onto a ridgeline.

I would guess that it’s about 300 vertical feet from the property line up to the small ridgeline above it. From there, the view of the rural, rugged Sierra Nevada foothills is indisputably dramatic.

The going out there is rough, steep, and occasionally technical, but it makes a perfect location for recovery running or just plain playing with the Junebug. I haven’t yet crossed paths with another human being up there, though I do see their infrequent sign, an occasional new footprint or all-terrain vehicle track. Once, I did spy three wildland firefighters who appeared to be patrolling a fire road, but from a long distance away.

The ridgeline view inspires emotional responses, I suppose. Junebug and I bid you peace from this ridge top.

Once you gain the ridgeline, you have 2 choices: run on a wide fire road, or explore the singletrack network of old mining trails.

Another old mining trail wends its way through the hills.

Much of the singletrack peters out into what seems to be old mining sites, or at least exploratory mining sites. A few of the trails extend for a few miles before they end, connecting with other roads or trails first. It will take months to explore the entire network.

The hills are likely alive at night with playful gray foxes (Many nights, I spy a darling pair of such foxes frolicking in my yard.) because their sign is everywhere in the morning. Junebug has quickly become obsessed with sniffing (and peeing upon) the same spots along the trails that must be vital locations for fox territory marking. I wonder what the foxes think of the Border Collie’s daily markings, whether they are inclined to play the cat-and-mouse marking and re-marking game that Junebug has initiated, or if they are just plain nonplussed.

The views are commanding; my routes are people-less; the terrain is rugged and rough. No doubt, playing on the Manzanita-dominated foothills in the long, soft, morning light is a brilliant way to begin one’s day. Almost as good as the run, though, is stretching on the porch with a contented Border Collie and hot cup of coffee afterward.

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12 Responses to “The Foothills Life”

  1. Rick Gaston says:

    Ah no more night shifts, the life! Well it’s good to know you’ve found some running trails close to home, done a little exploring and all that. Dramatic views of the hills. I’m sure June is the talk of the fox community. Interesting how some trails peter out and how some continue. Makes me think of the friendships I’m privileged to have and the ones I let go or never taken care of.

    Must be the colder air, dark skies and warm cup of coffee that’s got me thinking like this:) A little reflection with your coffee Mr. Gaston. Happy Halloween Meghan and I too, like you, will indulge in a little bit of sugar. Just a wee bit.

  2. JeffO says:

    You have a very nice back yard, Meghan.

    I hope that some day I can meet June.
    The reason I don’t have a dog myself is I don’t believe in “owning” a dog, which is what you do in a city. Dogs are like a perpetual 2yr-old. They need room to run around in and things to sniff.

    Since foxes are said to be more closely related to cats than dogs, I’m not sure how “pissy” they get. It’s funny how, after weeks of studying – or sniffing – the sign of another, without ever laying eyes upon each other, a slim sort of relationship can develop. It’s almost like scent is the blogging-internet of the cannine world. Hiking a leg is a way of posting a comment.
    At first, covering a scent with a new one is somewhat confrontational – a challenge. It may stay that way. Other times, it seems after several weeks, they may get to know each other – again without ever seeing each other.
    I wonder if they can get a sense of each other’s personalities in the scent?

    Happy running, and good luck with the new job.

  3. gosonja says:

    I just happened upon your blog several weeks ago and I have really been enjoying it. I look forward to reading about your future escapades!

    Keep up the great writing!

    Oh, and AWESOME back yard!

  4. Beth says:

    This is a whole new definition of “back yard”!!! So amazing!! Before I die, I must visit you and run in your beautiful home… 🙂

  5. Hart says:

    sounds like the next location for the invite only running camp. meissner and i are in (yes i can speak for sean).

  6. Trail Goat says:

    If Hart and Meissner are in, count me in, too!

  7. Sunshine Girl says:

    Keith and are are going this week to enjoy the finest Yosemite has to offer! (Meghan that is!!) 🙂

  8. WynnMan says:

    Sierra Nevada landscape is as beautiful as their beer. Looks like you had a grand time. The trails outside your crib look splendid! I’m looking forward to that when I move.

  9. saschasdad says:

    Ah Hart, that’s so nice of you. I…lo#e…you…man…

    I hope June is having as much fun as you are.

  10. kelly says:

    Meghan, your new home sounds great. I am happy that you and June have a nice place to run right outside your backyard. You are such a good writer and it is always so nice to catch up on what you have been up to. I hope your running is going well.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How come you don’t write in your blog much?

  12. CoyoteGirl says:

    Beautiful! Be sure to look out for the mine shafts though…seriously. Fall is wonderful out here, isn’t it?

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