Yesterday I decided to treat myself to a trail run as something different from my usual routes from home. I have heard such great things about the trails here on PEI, and I am admittedly ashamed I have lived here for 24 of my 27 years without exploring these before!
I headed out to the Dromore Nature Trail for some R&R (run & relaxation). My wonderful run turned into a little adventure…
A bit of backstory: in 2008, when I was camping with a friend in Waterton, Alberta, we decided to do the beautiful Crypt Lake Hike (17km round trip) which peakes at a beautiful glacier lake. This was hike was my first hiking experience. The 17 kilometers were no where as daunting as the thought of encountering a bear. There are no bears (or deer, or snakes, or moose, or cougars, or .. etc) here on little ol’ PEI, so I grew up relatively unassuming of the wildlife that inhabits most of the rest of the world. My friend, who had lived in Alberta her entire life, and hiked this exact hike many times through her life, assured me there would be no bears. We reached the lake after 8.5kms, and it was worth every step. Descending, my fear of running into a bear had subsided. I knew there were dozens of people on the mountain that day, and most of us were on our way back to the bottom after a picnic lunch at the lake. The path was narrow, so I hiked ahead of my friend (and her husband). Rounding the turn, bears were the last thing on my mind. Instead, I was soaking in the magnificent view of the Canadian Rockies, and the bubbling brook below us. Then, I turned and saw him:
A Grizzly. Maaaybe 5 meters from me, sitting on his haunches, twig in hand, munching on some wild berries. My heart dropped and the adrenaline screamed through my veins like I have never again experienced in my life. I turned and ran back to my friends (the exact opposite of bear protocol, in case you are wondering!). I was 22 years old, and thought I had met my fate; a Grizzly mauling after a beautiful hike with my wonderful friend, far from home in Alberta, Canada.
The long and short of the story is that the bear couldn’t have cared any less about us. We formed a large group with other hikers who were coming down the mountain, and eventually Mr. Bear sauntered off to better feeding grounds. He wasn’t in the mood for human that day, thankfully!
My take on hiking has never been the same. Even in PEI, where I know our “wildlife” is mostly Woodpeckers, skunks, and bunnies, when I am alone (or in a small group) in the woods I cannot help but feel I am in someone else’s territory.
And that’s how I felt on my run yesterday. It was a last minute idea; I couldn’t think of anyone to call up at the eleventh hour and ask to tag along on this run with me. I was going solo, and after a lazy Sunday morning, half the day had slipped away. I made it to the trail head around 3 p.m. (the sun sets at 4:30 p.m. where I live). “8 kilometers will not be a problem”, I told myself. I had mapped the trail route online, grabbed a trail map from the trail head kiosk, and started in.
There was one vehicle besides mine at the trailhead. Those hikers were on their way out just as I entered the trail. Then I was on my own. It felt so great to be running free! The fallen pine needles crunching under my feet; the soft thump of each foot hitting the mossy dirt below. Wanting to stay aware of my surroundings (there could be bunnies, you know!), I kept my music off and took in the sound of silence. No phones ringing, no e-mails blinking, no alarms, no one to have to make conversation with… just pure, nature bliss.
Two kilometers into my run, my solitude was pleasantly interrupted by a couple of smiling, friendly faces. My friend and fellow triathlete, Kara Grant, and her mom (and my fellow spin coach), Marian. We stopped and had a little chat; Kara described the “Central Route” (the loop I was headed for) to me, and we went our separate ways. I met them again in the same place on my way back.
Happy to have navigated myself through the loop, I relaxed a bit more knowing the trail back to the car was ground I had already covered. According to my watch, I only had 2 kilometers left – easy peasey!
Even stopped to take some pics!
I counted down the meters back to the trail head… 950, 700, 400, 350, 200, 160, 50…
And as my watched beeped, “8.00kms”, the trailhead was nowhere to be found. “Maybe I turned my GPS on a little after I started”, I thought, and kept running… and running… until I hit 9.0kms, and knew for sure I was not where I was supposed to be. Checking the map I had picked up from the trail head, I realized I had started into another 5.7km loop. I did not have time to run 5.7kms in daylight. It was 4:10 p.m. now, and the sun was setting quickly. I had a small moment of fright, reached for my Blackberry (good old Google Maps!) and saw my mistake. I turned right when I should have went straight. I turned and back tracked a kilometer to where my error was made. It was now getting dark. My heart was thumping and I double checked the cursor on my Blackberry map application every few minutes to make sure this time I was actually heading for the car. It was a race against the sun to make it back through the woods to my car at the trailhead. 400, 350, 333m, 287m, 200m… it seemed so much longer than the way in!
But alas, I made it. 10.7km total. I have never been so happy to see my car but looking back.. the detour made the run. I’ll be heading back to the trail as soon as possible for more of this kind of adventure.