Not many know about this spot. Not even when everything else is closed because the whole world is sick and in mourning. We have lived here ten years and didn’t know about this entrance that didn’t cross any public lands. We aren’t one of those that will dodge ropes or ignore signs. We are those people who are willing to pay for the permits and spend hours looking at map overlays to make sure what we enter is legally open. Judging by the lack of companions out here, not many are willing to do that. Not many people live on the edge of the nothingness like we have chosen to do, gaining us access to these gated roads and trails in our little community.
It is worth it, the research, the money, and the long work commute to be here. Running in and out of swirling shade patterns as branches brush my face, I can’t help grinning. Exhausted but happy. Taking a deep gasping breath at mile 4, the smell of the wood rot, the loamy earth, and the beginning of life blooming out of the mossy depths, fills my heart, as well as my lungs. My partner is laughing about my non-stop grinning face when we enter the clearing at mile 6. He stops in his tracks. I stop in my tracks. Our dogs stop. The frogs are singing. A chorus that is impervious to our entrance. The song crescendos as the breeze picks up, rustling the tall grass in symphonic harmony. We can’t stop smiling. Laughing quietly to ourselves as our dogs prance around in joy at the damp mud and grass beneath their feet. They have missed this freedom too.
For the first time in weeks, I am not daunted by the long run back. Counting the miles in my head, this will be the longest run I have ever done. It doesn’t feel like a slog, though. I don’t need mental tricks to get me home today, because my mind keeps saying “I get another 6 miles in the wilderness.” I get a private moment with nature for a little while I longer. I get to submit my body’s sweat and stamina as an offering to the Earth. It is a meager offer, but the Earth is a mother and like any mother, she is proud of everything her children give her.
As the run comes to end and we pass back through the gate on to cracked pavement. I am oddly not sad. I am still uplifted, pushing my body to run out the last stretch to the car. I know that these few hours with nature will help me endure the next few days of rain, work, and depressing news stories. Every moment with Her strengthens me and for that I am forever grateful.