Determined to find the trail promised to go "all the way back into the canyon," my feet were soaked within a quarter mile. Maura on my back, I crossed the river and hit the sand running.
But the trail didn't last, it petered out and all that was left was Texas thicket and the tail edge of a paintball range. And water. Alone, perhaps I would have charged ahead to see if the trail reemerged around the bend, but looking back at my wife and her two brothers, I thought better of it.
We backtracked to the trail we knew, past the house across the crossing and out towards the main part of the lake. The trail ended again and this time Maura turned back. It wasn't wise, the risk reward just wasn't there. So Miguel, Luchi and I pushed on, a rare moment when all three of us could just be guys, out in the open air testing each other and pushing the others ever so slightly.
I held back of course, we were out for a run not racing, and I've learned enough times that if you want people to enjoy running with you, you can't leave them in the dust. Ego anyone?
And we had a blast. A week ago I did my first snow run, and today I did my first true cross country, off-trail trek replete with river crossings, cliff shimmying and dying light. We crisscrossed the sad dry lake bed, doubling back numerous times when the "trail" we were following disappeared into the brush or over a cliff.
I longed for my worn Salomons but my Sauconys performed admirably and forced me to dance through the weeds and plants, dodging rocks with prudence.
Turning around at the resort, we struck a new path back cliffside, scurrying down rocks that were anything but stable. When we hit the path, legs scraped and adrenaline pumping, our wet shoes felt light in the evening air.
We picked up the pace a bit, a quick gait home. Miguel and I led Luchi back, and I think we all thought forward to May when the three of us would be running in Bear Mountain, 50 long Ks in upstate New York.
Coasting across the final meadow and scampering up the steep steps to the house, I couldn't help but feel like I had just finished one of those runs you'll never forget. The terrain, the company and the place -- just a special hour. Oh, and Merry Christmas.