The setting for the Last Trail Run: Ashland, Oregon's Watershed
Move as much as I have and you'd of seen a lot of country. Run as much as I've run and you'd of seen a lot of that same country up close and personal. So personal, in fact, that you would have become just as much attached to it as I've become.
You have your favorite running routes. You know every twist, turn, rock, root, tree and mailbox. But what if you knew this would be the last time you might run this route of yours again? The run would take on another meaning entirely. It'd be like saying good-bye to an old friend, one that's always been there without question...just waiting for you.
When you run by that big tree at the top of the hill, have you ever touched it? Ever made that connection? Would you miss that tree? How about the view? Will you miss that view, the one of the mountain across the valley or of the city far below? That hill you climb on this run has always been an obstacle, perhaps something to curse, dread, or simply something to power over. Today, on this final run, you succumb without complaint and let the legs fill with the burn of effort. In essence you let your old friend have its way...
Descending the BTI Trail
Today was one of those days for me. From my house on Iowa Street the ascent starts immediately, as I weave my way through Ashland's back streets. Up the paved, steep and snaking Toleman Creek Road, past the driveway of Jenn, Erik and Leland's house on the hill. At five and a half miles I finally reach the dirt and single-track. The Toothpick Trail ascends to the steeper Cat Walk Trail and the crux occurs when I reach the final push up Stump Jumper. At eight miles I've reached the highest point (roughly 4,500') on my run; the infamous Four Corners (aid station location for the Mt Ashland Hill Climb and Lithia Loop Trail Marathon.) After my pulse quiets I start moving again.
Upper White Rabbit Trail Head
Much quicker is the decent moving back down Cat Walk, returning to Toothpick, hanging a left and traversing to Lamb's Gap at ten miles. The views of Ashland and distant Mt. McLaughlin are easier to see now that my head isn't turned down to the ground. The descent continues across the switchbacks on the Caterpillar Trail, through the Upper White Rabbit Trail Head parking area and onto Alice In Wonderland. The final mile of single track on the BTI Trail steepens, twits and turns. Mile thirteen arrives as I reach the dirt road above Lithia Park. Two and half miles of dirt road and alley way return me to home...
Snow covered Mt. McLaughlin
Hopefully that's not it and I'll return to test myself on my favorite loop in Ashland's Watershed once again. But for now, the memory is ingrained and it'll stay with me forever.
As I leave you with some of my other "last trail runs," I'll say this: None of them have ever been final (that'd be a sad day), in fact, for most, I've returned to visit them in subsequent years only to re-live that one time I thought would be my last.
2007- Before moving from to Flagstaff, AZ to Ashland, OR: Mars Hill and A-1 Mountain Loop
2006 - Before moving from Boulder City, NV to Flagstaff, AZ: Bootleg Canyon
2004- Before moving from Moab, UT back to Boulder City, NV: Amasa Back Trail
2001- Before moving from Seattle, WA to Moab, UT: Discovery Park
2000 - Before moving from Boulder City, NV to Seattle, WA: Red Rock Canyon