Some days you just need some fresh air, a change of scenery, and alone time with your thoughts. After dropping my husband off at work so he could have some human interaction with someone other than myself for the first time in almost a week, I decided to head out to one of my favorite places in Central Oregon for a much needed trail run. I wasn’t concerned about speed, time, distance, etc. This was the type of run where you forget that you are training for a race or for any sort of extrinsic reason. I just wanted to put one foot in front of the other and run.
I started on the trail along the rim of the canyon, with fall colored shrubs and grass surrounding the trail and views of enormous rocks in the forefront of the clouds. The swish-swoosh of the water in my Camelbak provided a steady rhythm as I settled into a comfortable pace.
After contouring along the rim of the canyon, the trail soon leads to an open viewpoint with some of the most breathtaking views one can imagine. The Crooked River. The red and orange hued cliffs. The palette of colors. The commanding sky. They all converge perfectly in this one location to create something truly magical. This is a very popular location for people to put their photography skills to good use. Even the most amateur photographers could capture a masterpiece.
It wasn’t in my original plan, but I decided that the view on top of Misery Ridge could not be missed, so I took on the challenge of running to the top of these magnificent rocks. Most people take their time hiking to the top of this 1,000ft ascent, as it is steep and unforgiving. There are several sections with built in stairs to help ease the climb. I caught myself smiling on several occasions, realizing that my body was holding up well and doing things that were once unimaginable.
It seemed like only moments had passed before I was standing on top of what felt like the highest point Central Oregon. Once you reach the top, there are several smaller trails that spread about in every direction. I was actually hopping and skipping around from rock to rock, trying to find the perfect vantage from which to look down at the extensive drop below. I sat on a large rock that pretty much reached out into oblivion, while enjoying my fruit punch Shot Bloks and water from my Camelbak.
Once I felt fueled and recharged, it was time to take on the descent. I decided to run down the switchbacks on the backside of Misery Ridge because it is not as steep and would allow me to run a solid loop once I reached the bottom. Plus, there is a rock formation known as Monkey Face that provided some exceptional views on the way down.
I actually found myself a bit more apprehensive and conservative on the downhill because, A) there were steep sections and I didn’t want to reach a speed that felt out of my control, and B) parts of the trail had loose rocks and dirt, which can instantly lead to falling and injury. This was probably the only part of my run where thoughts of my upcoming marathon entered my mind and prevented me from doing anything irrational. Have you ever been on a trail that triggered a sense of fear? This segment did exactly that.
After reaching the river from the switchback decent, I ran at a pace that felt good while admiring the autumn shades painted around me. There were a few people walking this section of the trail and everyone was friendly, acknowledging me as I ran by. Not once did I see another runner.
The trail is spacious but does have some technical components in areas. There were sections that were flat and easy, and areas with quick steep gradients covered in half buried rocks that required full attentiveness.
My pace was all over the board on this run. There were moments when I was running so slow one might believe I could walk faster if I tried. There were moments when I was running so fast that the rapid wind couldn’t even keep up. It’s kind of fun creating your own wind.
I followed the trail along the river for five miles before making my way back up the last ascent to where my car was parked. By this time the sky and clouds were growing darker and it felt like a fall storm was brewing.
It’s hard to define the “perfect” run these days, because every run has its own meaning and purpose. But, for everything going on in my life right now and the monotony of running very similar routes around Bend, this run was as close to perfect as any run has been in a long time.
My heart is full.