A Foolish (but Glorious) River Run

I started work a few hours early yesterday so I could take some time off in the afternoon to go for a run (one of the nice things about working from home). Around 1:30 in the afternoon I threw on my running gear and headed towards the closest mountain. On the way there I saw it was still covered in snow.

Not a big deal, because just a little ways south of the mountain is a nice river trail I like to run. It's great because you cross the same river three times and that snow run-off cools your feet.
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So there I am, getting out of my car and tying my shoelaces as I cross the road and step on to the horse/hiking/bike trail. I'm really not happy running unless it's on's on dirt. This was dirt. Well.... a good percentage of it was mud. But there was enough dirt to avoid slipping all over the place.

On the way up the path alongside the river there are a few small creeks that connect in, usually these are completely dry, or I can step right over them. In retrospect I maybe should have gotten a hint when I could take none of them in a single bound. 

I came to the first river crossing and the water was moving a little bit more than normal. There was a downed tree covering the path on the other side (maybe a man-man warning?). I pressed through and was surprised to find the water up to my waist and moving a lot faster than I anticipated.

The cold felt great though, and I jumped out, danced around the downed tree and kept going. 

The next river crossing was only slightly worse, but about 1/2 way across it the thought entered my head that this might not be the best idea. I'm not fearing for my life here, if I get washed away the only thing at stake is my iPhone. But that's an expensive device to lose over a boneheaded decision to run through deep water.

I reach the other bank, hop out and stand on the far side to think for a minute about what I'm going to do. If I turn around now, I have to cross back over a pretty sketchy river twice. If I press on, there is only one crossing left. I've never done it before, but I'm pretty sure I can keep running to the reservoir and come back a different way further from the river. So I choose 1 crossing over 2 and I favor the longer run. I really have not run very far yet—just a couple of miles.

The third river crossing is about the same as the previous two, it makes me nervous, but I get across still iPhone-dry and upright. Then I head up the hill towards the top of the reservoir dam. Unfortunately, there is a fence around the top of the dam, which was my exit strategy. I don't remember this from my previous runs, but it wasn't ever really that important before either.

A little farther on I reach the peak and find a biker fixing a tire. So I stop and ask him a few questions about how to get down. He claims I can just run around the fence on the dam. That seems reasonable, but then it's road the whole way home. I hate road. I'm only happy when my feet are on dirt.

The biker also claims that I have six more miles around the reservoir lake if I choose to run all the way around it (it doesn't look that far). Oh, and one other detail...there are two more (different) river crossings, but he's pretty sure there are bridges. I thank him and decide to run a little further ahead thinking, "I can always turn around and run alongside the dam around the fence if this doesn't work out... right?". 

I proceed down the mountain and find a gorgeous trail around the edge of the lake just for hikers and closed off to horses/bikes. My inner monologue has picked up at this point and I tell myself, "This is a nice trail, I'll run it a little ways, what's the worst that could happen? I have to turn around."

A little run on a pretty trail turns in to a longer run, and now I'm starting to come around the edge of the lake, when I spy the river crossing. A new river feeding in, instead of out of the reservoir. The water is moving fast, but it's only about 15 feet across, and there is a large rock in the middle sticking out that I can hold on to. 

With these justifications to myself, I wade in the water. But it gets deep a lot faster than I anticipate. I hold on to the branches of a tree on my side of the water and use it to lean in to the current. The problem is, every time I lift a foot to move it forward, it gets pushed down stream, and it's everything I have to move it back up stream and get it firmly planted.

I should have had red-alerts going off... but I get such wonderful delusions of grandeur when I run. Feelings of invincibility. And that cold water feels so good when you're running. Did I mention adrenaline? That also feels good. 

I get about 1/2 way to the big rock and the water is up to my chest. My arm band carrying my iPhone is up in the air to keep from getting wet. I decide I have to lunge, so I let go of the branches and jump to grab the big rock. I make it, but it's stupid.

Pulling myself over, I find the other 1/2 of the river is shallow enough to be trivial to cross. And now the trails are even better. Gorgeous winding single track through aspen trees along the side of a lake. Wonderful. I'm happy. Again—stupid—but happy.

Eventually I do reach the final river, this time having learned my lesson from the previous crossings. I grab a large branch, a little taller than me and thick. I shove it in the water to check for depth and to stabilize me. Not too bad, just above my knees. The next step is the same, and this is by far the best river crossing yet. 

I'm home free, except for—you know—the whole run home.

The rest of the way around the lake is gorgeous trails, there is even a small creek I jump over (but for some reason this one has a bridge?). It has enough clear water I stop and wash my shoes free of rocks (I wear Merrell's Trail Gloves lately, can't suggest them enough).

I finally get back around to the top of the dam, get lost in a golf course—oops, and continue back down the road towards my car. Along the way I passed the inevitable older-than-me-lady who is moving faster than me and encourages me to pick up the pace so as to not lose face (which I do anyhow—that lady can run). My shame carries me faster than my legs, and I make it back to my car.


The day is cool enough I didn't have much for sweat, but I do have a line of river water across my chest. It's hard to beat smelling like river water when you pick up your kid from pre-school because you ran much longer than anticipated.