My first trail run in Oregon was anything but magical. The setting was pretty enough: quiet river, jagged hills, misty and cool. But these were not running trails. Old 4WD roads long since forgotten slashed in the memories of Native American hunting trails make for a lot of stops and starts.
I set off from the Lonesome Duck, a fishing lodge cum B&B in southeast Oregon owned by a business partner. I ran along the river on a gravel road, breaking in my new Saucony trail running shoes, their second adventure after my run in Tahoe two days ago. And as I determined today, these minimalist shoes, while achieving my stated goal of feeling like I was running in my road shoes, are a two-wheel drive version of my rugged Salomons.
My feet were almost instantly wet -- and maybe they would have been in any shoe, hacking through bushes, hiking up embankments and trudging through wilderness where the trails had disappeared into history. But I made the most of it, finding a solid dirt road leading south to the Jeld Wen window and door factory. Rolling hills and not a soul for miles.
The air was crisp and thin, though not as thin as Tahoe. I didn't have much spring in my step, and wasn't sure why. Maybe it was the cold, or the fact that I barely ate the day before. Or maybe I was just out of my element, up in Oregon for a big work meeting and nervous as hell.
I came back along the river where there definitely wasn't a trail. But ironically it was my favorite part of the trek. High stepping over cow patties and gopher mounds, the minimalist shoe forced me to dance more than run. You have to place each step carefully, gingerly, since the lack of support isn't forgiving of bumps and turns.
And running without a trail, so close to "civilization" as it was, felt free in many ways. It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty, but not having to follow a proscribed route, out along the quiet river, was refreshing all the same.