Thursday, May 27, 2010

Right at the Fork

Whenever I'm in Denver (Centennial) on business I like to go to DeKoevend Park and run the Big Dry Creek Trail. I found the route last year and it has since come to be a comfortable, familiar place to go. It certainly beats running on sidewalks around the hotel, so I make the 10-minute drive, park the rental car and venture off to the left. The trail is a little wider than a sidewalk and meanders about three miles through various neighborhoods. A nice little out-and-back.

But Tuesday when I was running Big Dry Creek it occurred to me that something was missing. The trail felt closed in. Houses lined the trail along each side a good deal, and the trees I'd come to love made it feel confined. I then realized I wasn't able to see much more than an occasional glimpse of the mountains as I ran on it, so I started wondering what else in the area might provide that. Surely there had to be some trails nearby that reflected the open nature of Colorado.

Last night I stopped at the Boulder Running Company store in Littleton to see if I could get some tips. I ended up talking with Michael, who, by the sounds of his accent, was either an Aussie or a Kiwi. Experience has taught me not to ask which. When I told him what I was looking for he got excited and said I needed to check out the High Line Canal Trail in Greenwood Village. "Yeah, mate, just go down Arapahoe, turn right on University and there's a parking lot on the left about 200 meters up the road!"

I smiled and told him that's where I always go, but that I thought it was called Big Dry Creek Trail. He snickered in a way that wasn't condescending, and said "No, no - you need to go right, not left!" He became animated and started telling me about the trail, making me want to go right then and there. It sounded really nice, but would it be that much better than Big Dry Creek?

This morning I left the hotel at 5:00 and drove down to the park. Sure enough, off to the right was a trail I'd never noticed before. It was 55° and clear - perfect weather for a run. I started my Garmin and my new adventure. Was it going to live up to expectations?

The first thing I encountered on High Line was rabbits. Lots of them. I'd seen one or two over on Big Dry Creek, but on this side they were everywhere. A good sign, I thought. I continued down the perfectly maintained trail and quickly came to a clearing that afforded me a beautiful view of the Rockies. The sun was just peaking over the horizon, and the rays shining on the snow caps was a treat.

The trail traveled past back yards (not all nice houses in Colorado back up to a golf course), horse farms and the occasional wide-open field. A couple of miles into the run I saw a coyote cross the trail about 50m in front of me, and not long after that a couple of small mule deer. Everyone was minding their business, including me. Harmony.

After yesterday's hard intervals I'd intended to go only 3-4 easy miles, but High Line kept coaxing me along. Finally, I had to turn around at about the 3.5 mile mark and head back. I was running out of time..

On the back half I stopped in my tracks when I caught the scent of something familiar. How did I miss this on the way out, I wondered? I spun around and noticed some purple lilac on the edge of the trail. One of my fondest childhood memories is that of the huge purple lilac outside our kitchen window on Beech Street. It smelled so good in the spring, and it was a treat to find some this morning. Comfort.

As I got closer to the end I was again treated to some of the open fields and more views of the Rockies. Horses were still bedded down in the field, but this time a thin layer of fog hovered just off the ground. Spectacular.

Up ahead I noticed another man running ahead of me. Slowly I caught up to him.

"Is this great, or what?" I said as I passed by.

"This is really nice," he said without missing a beat.