There is nothing like a spring run in the Blue Ridge Mountains! I prefer finding backwood, dirt roads in rural areas of Carroll County where I am blessed enough to live. There, I am enabled to return to my fondest memories of childhood I enjoyed while growing up in this area. I find people who have maintained a lifestyle most have lost everywhere else I have lived or traveled to. No one seems so concerned about climbing a corporate ladder for more power, more wealth, and more recognition. I find hard work going on at a much slower pace. I know the fulfillment of working hard on your land and caring for a farm… and I loved it.
Lady Godiva, my chocolate lab, and preferred running partner for these runs of solitude, presence are quietly tolerated as we run along observing all I hold dear and find necessary for my sanity. We seem to blend in nicely as we happily run along. Our first couple of miles consists of a paved, rural road with a creek running along both sides. We pass pastures with horses and cattle grazing contently. I am relieved to get away from any traffic as we turn left and begin a gravel road that takes us along a beautiful creek that offers a lot of good trout fishing. Mountain Laurel is plenteous, and I anxiously await it coming into full bloom. I love the sound of swollen creeks from the abundant spring rains. The crystal clear water looks refreshing as Godiva and I are heating up from our run. Often times I indulge and end up in it…more times than not. Godiva goes in several times before the run is over, but today I refrain.
We progress to long steep climbs that top ridges opening up to an incredible panoramic view of lush green mountains with varying shades of green. These mountains are smaller and more intimate as they hover closely surrounding you. The ridges expose green valleys. Wildflowers fill the meadows with cattle grazing peacefully. I pass multiple farms with freshly mown fields. Farmers are putting up hay for the winter. I love the smell of the hay fields! I pass farmers cutting huge loads of wood, again, preparing for the winter. I love that familiar smell also. I am reminded once again of the simple, fulfilling, lifestyle of satisfying hard work that I have an appreciation and respect for.
Godiva and I continue with all my senses so alive! I love the smell of the deep woods we begin to run through. I love the sound of a hawk screeching. I hear the familiar alarm of the redheaded wood pecker as he flies over us. I expect to hear him pecking away as soon as he lands. Birds throughout the woods are singing their introduction choruses of spring. I hear squirrels chattering and scurrying busily through leaves and up and down trees. My ears tune into a different rustling of leaves, and a doe appears with a fawn! My Creator is giving quite the performance today, and I praise and thank Him. He has made me so rich during this run shared only with Him and Lady Godiva.
I recognize the sound of wild turkey scratching in the woods for food as a result of turkey hunting with my son. Sure enough! I was able to distinguish one gobbler among the hens before Godiva sent them to flight. There are birds nesting, and you can hear the young chirps. All of creation screams with new life during springtime and I to feel very much alive as I become a part of it!
My eyes behold majestic, mature hardwoods with thick, leafy canopies which allow me to run ten degrees cooler keeping the sun blocked out. I am around mile nine so it is much appreciated at this point. The woods are cool and damp. Banks are covered in wild ferns and wildflowers. How I enjoy the wildflowers! Wildflowers remind me of people. They seem to reflect their different personalities.
My run in the woods is nearly ending and I am cresting another ridge with the expansive view. I am taken back by the panorama of lush green mountains and wide open rolling pastures with a backdrop of blue only God could paint across the open sky in front and over top of me. His incredible blue sky has scattered clouds of the purest white I have ever seen. What a contrast against the blue! I am reminded no artist comes close to the Master Artist. No one can capture on canvas what our eyes behold…when we have eyes to see.
I am now returning back to civilization. I have hit unwelcomed pavement again as I finish up the last of my thirteen and a half mile run. Thankfully the last mile is downhill. Godiva takes one last plunge in the nearby creek.
I hope my readers have enjoyed reading about my spring run as much as I have enjoyed running and sharing it. May I encourage our local folks not to just read about it, but to go out and take a walk, run, hike, or bike ride, and enjoy all the rich beauty that surrounds us. I invite “outsiders” to come see for yourself the reasons I returned to these mountains.
Staying physically active outdoors has many health benefits. You may go out for a serious run and end up with day of paradise such as I experience on a regular basis. Running outdoors doesn’t just meet a physical need. Most importantly it meets a spiritual need as well as mental and emotional. I implore you; head for the places of solitude and indulge!