Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Horse Heaven

As the trail winds into the hills, I fall into a steady rhythm. From this angle, the peak looks imposing for a jog. Shirtless, I enjoy the light breeze in the privacy of the fading light, away from the main drag. My headlamp is switched off to avoid the bright distraction. The familiar sounds of a summer night; my breath. Besides, this is cow territory, so it's common for them to be on the trail, near the trail, in the grass. At night they are large, static, ever-chewing shadows; and sometimes silhouettes against the lights of the San Francisco Bay.

For this reason, the cow-sized shadow that moves swiftly down the hillside and over the trail warrants attention. Cows don't move like this! A horse - and after crossing the trail it turns and comes directly toward me. I feel vulnerable; the horse could run me over. It stops in front of me and looks, calm and intimate. I stretch out my hand and touch its face and say "Are you OK?"; feels good. I continue my uphill jog, leaving the horse behind.

The trail makes a few winding turns until I leave it for the single track. This part includes switchbacks, and then several steeper sections. I use my headlamp to avoid stumbling over the occasional rocks, and I've recently seen a large tarantula in this area and I'd like to avoid squishing it. Some nice views between the climbs. There's time to let the thoughts wander, and think about the horse I just met, the work day; and whom I care about.

Before the final push, the trail ventures into a little canyon that has more trees, bushes, and moisture than one would expect from this landscape. I've struggled before to find the trail out of here at night because the cows like this area and create their own paths, which naturally don't lead to the summit - cows prefer pasture over views. Today is no exception, but after a couple of false attempts I find the main trail, which traverses along a slope towards the ridge. Headlamp off. This is where the run turns into a celebration of the San Francisco bay, with no holding back. 

Sweeping views over the hills, the city lights and the water, the Santa Cruz mountains and the hint of the Pacific ocean behind all this. Moon and stars. I've seen it so many times, but still, it's intense enough for a moment of grateful emotion for the night jog in this awesome landscape. The summit within reach. What was imposing is now a cruise - the steepest parts are done and my pace is steady and swifter than at the start. Near the ridge, the breeze picks up, and the evaporating sweat works like a cool shower on a hot summer day. The last few steps, jumping over the rocks the near the summit. There's the familiar top with the metal pole, all by itself. I stand for a minute and enjoy the wind and the views. I'll be back.