Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tuned out

Last weekend making my final descent down the Lost Lake Trail I saw something that ticked me off quite a bit.
This says a lot since after 6 hours in the saddle I shouldn't have felt anything other than hurt and hungry.
Flying through the canyon section, I spotted a runner in front of me maybe a 100 feet or so.
I try and make a lot of noise on my way down that and other windy trails to avoid collisions.
Seeing the runner up ahead I called out a "hey-oh" at a pitch I knew he would hear.
I watched, and in the fractions of a second it took me to close half the distance he didn't respond.
I was close enough now to see the wires coming up from his shirt to his ears.
Son of a.... "HEY OH" I yelled, this time making sure my call got through as I squeezed down on the levers.
The guy's head turned around and he kindly moved off to the side as I rolled up.
As I went by I thanked him, but I noticed as I continued past he gave me a slightly irritated look, and as gravity took back over with my fingers off the levers, I saw his head snap back up the trail to see if anyone else was coming.
I've got a deep rooted bad habit of not telling people I'm alone.
When I'm in a group, I'm pretty quick to yell how many more are to come if I'm up front.When I was young and went off hiking and biking by myself though, keeping my solo status was a good thing.
Now its obnoxious, and I realize it's left more than one group of hikers, equestrians and other riders standing around or moving on tenuously waiting for others to come tearing after me.
So I felt bad for a second that this guy was going to spend the next five to ten minutes wondering if another two wheeled devil was bearing down on him, especially as he entered the switchbacks ahead.
Then I thought about the situation more fully.
First and foremost, forget that this is Alaska for a moment.
This guy was running on a very popular trail on a Friday evening with headphones.
Lost Lake is a favorite for mountain runners, hikers and mountain bikers alike. Even in the off season it still sees a fair amount of use.
Bike paths see lots of use too, but most bike paths don't run along precipitous drops or make narrow switchbacks through dark boreal rain forests.
It's just not ideal for wearing headphones, no matter how awesome they make you feel.
Ok, Alaska factor.
It's not just disrespectful and dangerous to other trail user to be running around on Lost Lake tuned out to the world, but with only an hour to go to sunset on a stormy fall evening, it's an invitation to get seriously chewed up or worse.
I already feel that running alone in the backcountry here is really putting yourself in harms way.
Admittedly, so is mountain biking, but so far, fewer riders have been caught between the jaws of a bruin than runners.
I would say the same thing about a plugged in mountain biker though.
As nice as it might be to enjoy the awe inspiring scenery of the mountains with a favorite sound track playing through your ears, there's real danger out there that requires attention.
My stance on the bear threat has relaxed greatly since I first came here, but I still like to have all my senses about me, especially when I'm on my own.
In my frank opinion, this guy might just as well have been carrying a few salmon carcasses with him instead of wearing headphones.
So as I rolled away, wondering if I should yell back so he could enjoy the rest of his run without that eerie feeling that something was coming up from behind him, I decided, no.
It might do him some good after all.
On Wednesday I had that point driven home.
While I wait for snow, I've moved into a pre-ski training mode that involved more running, as much as I dislike it.
Wednesday evening I was out for a run on a loop I call the "Juniors Loop" after a fishing hole it goes by.
Not 10 minutes out of camp on a stretch of dirt road that parallels the river, I spotted two fuzzy objects several hundred feet up the road.
Two brown bear cubs, likely two-year olds, though perhaps smaller three year olds had been mulling about and were now watching me.
I watched them and vice versa for a few minutes before they started to amble off towards the woods.
To mom?
I wasn't going to hang around and find out, not many people live on the particular dead end stretch this time of year.
In the course of a half an hour my run was rerouted again by two more times by two separate moose.
I straight out refuse to run in the woods here, but I do feel comfortable on the side of dirt roads or in the right of way alongside the highway.
That doesn't mean I won't see wildlife obviously, and the situation did get me thinking about whether headphones are even safe in these places where I'm more likely to get mauled by the tires of a truck.
Not too long after I made it back down in the parking lot at Lost Lake, the bike loaded, feeling warm and dry in real clothes and about to hit the road for the scenic drive home, I heard the "pat-pat-pat" of the runner coming down the last stretch.
He jogged into the lot headed for a Prius at the far end. As he entered the open he shot me a look that said, "Hey, F-you you Mountain Dew extreme sport punk."
OK maybe I read "in between between" the lines, but it wasn't a pleasant look.
Fired up with adrenaline from the long descent, I just wanted the guy to say something so I could unleash.
He just hit the remote unlock button and I was deprived, probably for the better on my part, perhaps not he.

A friend sent me this picture. Click to enlarge.

1 comment:

rach said...

Aww, no reason to get all concerned about that runner's safety. Didn't you notice the little noisy bells he was wearing?