The Big Burned Basin


Looking skyward into a canopy of redwood trees is a dangerous proposition for anyone. Intoxication plus distraction equals catastrophe. It’s particularly dangerous for runners being chased by a flock of hornets.  “Watch those roots”, I said, “or the flying menace will have us . . . to say nothing of the rocks.” The wild beauty of nature always comes paired with brutal, surprising dangers.  For weeks, the forest had been warning us that time was short, that there was an invisible door closing and we better take every opportunity to walk through it before she started the long road to rebirth.  Without races on the horizon, a solitary adventure was all that was left for us. We were  abandoned to wallow in our solitude and find radiance in stoic contemplation.

Nature was all around us and crying for visitors; for anyone to say a final sayonara before the breach, family preferred. We dutifully obliged. The sage trees lifted our hearts with each passing foot fall and each metronomic heart beat. Our eyes drifted from the shag carpet of pines to the hollow of trees from fires past. The fire would be here again soon. Not today, though.  Today, we explored tens of miles  and hours of smiles. Today, we pushed up the hills and took gravity for thrills. Today, we got lost in the trees before being brought down to our knees. Today, a thousand years of earth, wood & daylight welcomed us home with a lovely embrace  and an unknowing goodbye.

Four days later, Big Basin National Park would burn to the ground. The lightning storm came in fast with Thor riding clouds well above the speed limit. They said over 10,000 strikes came and went in a flash and with it hopes for anything but a once in a hundred years burn. Homes, lost. Air, unpalatable. Danger, real. How fleeting was our joy and how present was the pain. Nature was supposed to be our salvation from infection. For all that the virus has taken away, surly the deep green thicket would still be a place that would provide the mental clarity and balance the world needs to survive this madness. Nature appears to be taking away one thing after another and at this point it’s best to not be so attached. But we can’t help ourselves. To run over undulating hills over new soil is to fall in love again and again and again.  To almost lose your way , purposefully so, is to find a way back and shock confidence into your psyche for the next batch of wrong turns and unexpected diversions.

These ancient trees have stood for a thousand years and they will stand for a thousand more. Certainly they will be here to sigh a belly of relief; some day. The only question is: will we?

The story above comes after our summer racing adventure in Big Basin, California. The entire preparation, details with some live recording have been captured at The Eat For Endurance Podcast.
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