And If You Close Your Eyes

I’m feeling my age today. Maybe it’s because my baby girl turned 13. Maybe it’s because I took her to her first concert last night, and we had to be there two hours early so she and a friend could reserve their spot against the stage, front and center, as I looked on from the far less crowded parent’s section off to the side. Maybe it’s because I thought her cut-up shirt that showed her belly button was too short, or maybe it’s because I thought she was wearing too much make-up. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t in bed by my normal 9:00 PM, but instead hung out by the guarded tour bus parking lot, waiting in vain for the band to shake hands and take pictures with their fans, waiting until midnight when I finally convinced the girls that they’re just not coming. Or, maybe it’s because the music just wasn’t as good, the energy and the poetry weren’t quite as strong as they were when I was her age.

It doesn’t help that I’m slipping into live music-induced nostalgia, to a time when my life’s meaning depended on the next thing that came out of Kurt Cobain’s mouth. I remember showing up to the show two hours early to secure a spot crushed against the stage in a run-down club in Tijuana, seeing this underground band with a headache-inducing superfuzz sound and a promising name, Nirvana. This was before they were polished, this was when the Marshal stacks blared, the guitars wailed, and Cobain, screaming himself hoarse into the microphone, spoke to us with pure, raw emotion. We climbed onto the stage and dove into the pimply and angst-ridden crowd, riding the manic energy of our tribe.

I walked into the restroom last night and there were a couple of security guards briefing a paramedic who was about my age on the status of the 19-year-old in the stall. All I could see were khaki pants and blue vans kneeling on the piss-covered tile floor. I couldn’t see him draped over the toilet, but judging from the stench, I could only imagine that it wasn’t a pretty sight. “Stay with me, don’t pass out, we’re getting you a wheelchair, and we’re going to get you to an ambulance.” It sounded bad, and I wasn’t in the mood to see some 19-year-old kid have a heart attack and die because of the latest new lavender bath salts that kids are bathing in, or eating, or snorting, or whatever they do with spa products these days. The security guards looked alarmed as they told the paramedic that the boy had half a cup of vodka and some marijuana in his system, and that he was in bad shape. The paramedic looked at me and said “half a cup of vodka and some weed? They sure don’t make them like they used to.”

I occasionally caught glimpses of my daughter, hands raised, watery eyes with too much makeup fixed on Danny, or Billy, or Kevin as they looked into the audience, into the bright lights. In her mind, they were singing to her, and after the show she told me about all the times she made eye contact with Kevin, I think it was Kevin, and how it was the greatest night of her life, and how it touched her, and that I just wouldn’t understand how deep the connection was, I mean, eye contact, EYE CONTACT.

I stood with the other parents for most of the night, necks straining, trying to watch over our kids, to make sure they weren’t crushed, and to walk that fine line between hovering just enough to keep them safe, but still let them feel the independence. Not that I’m ready to let her drive to Tijuana with a friend, walk over the border, take an unmarked taxi to a smoke-filled club to see a couple of punk bands, but there are only so many first concerts, and I wanted her to remember this one, and not remember me standing behind her, glaring at the college boys who were walking around, trying to find a free spot next to a cute girl, and me whispering in the boy’s ear, “she’s 13, and I can break you.”

I moved towards the crowd for the encore, nodding my head to the one song that I knew, mouthing the profound chorus, “eh, eh, oh, eh, oh, eh, eh, oh, eh, oh, eh eh, oh, eh, oh, eh, eh, oh, eh, oh,” and jumping with the crowd’s energy, singing along as Kenny or Dan or Kevin held the mic to the audience and sang “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you've been here before?” And I could have sworn, at that moment, he was singing it only to me.


My Jeep is a gas-guzzling, earth-f%$#ing beast, and if there’s not going to be a zombie apocalypse anytime soon, I should probably prep it for craigslist and trade it in for something more sensible, but I just can’t bring myself to wash the layers of dirt off and bring the military-brown paint to a shine.

It’s not that I have a special place in my heart for poorly designed, American-made cars, but there are just too many memories in the cramped second and third row of seats, kids piling in, pushing against each other and against their own boredom on the way to Zion, falling asleep on each others’ shoulders and then waking up, seeing the ground covered in snow. The Jeep is scarred with small dents and scratches and melted surf wax on the roof, and the sour smell of old sweat, maybe from Joshua Tree a few years ago when we talked music and running after a long, hot day in the beautiful desert.

My shoes are old, too. They have covered hundreds of miles of trail, have holes on the tops and sides, and their permeating dirt makes every sock a slight shade of brown. The padding is worn out, and I’m starting to feel it in my knees and my hips, but these things tell stories, and it’s difficult to trade those stories for something clean, shiny, and perfect. New shoes and new cars will be bought (13 miles per gallon is just not sustainable) and new stories will be written, but it’s that first wear, or that first drive that brings to mind a posed family picture on the beach where everyone is wearing matching outfits and all the smiles are forced.

I remember when I tore the top of my shoes. It was an early morning run, and it was on a steep section of a rocky trail, and the side of my right foot connected with a sharp rock, and it hurt a little, but it was a long steep hill and I had momentum, and the rocks on the trail were the kind of rocks that had to be climbed or jumped on, and if I slowed, it would be a hobbled pace, so I just kept the feet moving, and I knew that in about ten minutes, I would see the view, the sunrise. It had to be earned, and if I stopped, I’d feel that at the end, and the colors wouldn't be as bright, and the lungs and the legs wouldn't feel as good without the struggle, the fire.

I’ll take the worn out shoes, the used, busted up and broken gear, the old car, and the ripped hat because that is where the stories are. It’s in the scars, the bruises, the scratches on my car, and the holes in my shoes. Those are honest. Those are real.

One Epic Summer

A year ago, this week, I hiked and ran through the Sierras on the John Muir Trail, and I'm sure that I used the word epic more than once. It felt like every time I took my camera out, that I was taking a picture of something epic, and each night when I wrote in my journal, I wrote about something that I considered epic. That word has become overused, and has lost a lot of its meaning. When I think about the John Muir Trail now, and what I was doing a year ago, it was really just a lot of slow walking and some light jogging through some amazing scenery. There were some difficult passes at high elevation, but the same bells and alarms start going off in my head when I describe it as epic as when I read about someone's epic 5K or epic morning run, or an epic sunset. The word has lost its meaning.

This summer has been a welcome vacation from long distance running. I have been sleeping in, sometimes joining a friend, or occasionally two on a 5 or 6 mile jog around the neighborhood trails, pausing often to talk (I think we've solved the crisis in the Middle East multiple times over), to catch our breath or to wait for my friend's dog to do its business.

This has freed up my mornings for other things, mainly spending time with my kids and rekindling my love of the ocean. I wore one pair of shorts this summer, and my goal was to wear them out. They are faded, blue Patagonia board shorts, and they smell like the ocean with a hint of the sweet, tropical smell of warm water surf wax. Most mornings I would wear those shorts to the beach, surf in them, swim in them, and then I would sit in them as the kids and I downed Mexican food. By the time I finished my plate of ceviche, they would almost be dry, but still damp around the waistband and near the single zippered pocket. In the evening, I would jump in the shower, rinse the dried salt and the few remaining grains of sand from the shorts, then hang them to dry. By morning, they would almost be dry, almost, but then I would throw them on, strap the boards to the top of the Jeep, grab the kids and a couple towels, and head back to the beach for another day, another few hours of free, pure joy. I don't think those shorts ever had a chance to become completely dry.

This was the summer that my son learned to surf. This was the summer I pushed him into his first real wave, past the breakers, on a clean, smooth face, and this was the summer he popped up, without going to his knees, slid down the face of the wave on his 5’6" red surfboard, turned at the bottom, his back to the wave, pumping the board just like he'd seen in the movies, and riding it ahead of the whitewash, all the way to the shore, falling forward as the three small, plastic fins, dug into the sand. He looked back at me and I can't adequately describe the look on his face, but I knew it, I remember it.

I've been surfing off and on for about 25 years. Way, way more off than on. My friend Ian and I would catch the 305 bus from Village Park in Encinitas, transfer to the 301 south to Cardiff, turning a 10 mile ride into about 45 minutes. We sat on the wide back seat of the bus, holding our surfboards. I remember the first real wave I caught. It was at Pipes in Cardiff, no wind and the swell was 2-3 feet, smooth and glassy. I remember the sound of the wave crashing behind me, the cliffs reflecting on the clear face of the wave and those few seconds that felt like minutes and that smile that didn't leave my face, still smiling as I devoured the post-surf maple bars at VG’s Doughnuts.

I was in Salt Lake City last week at a business conference and I heard from some of the best in the business at getting people motivated. I sat (and stood and jumped around) a few feet away from Tony Robbins as he worked the crowd into a frenzy, close enough to see the sweat pouring off his forehead and the spit flying from his mouth as he created this energy from the thousands of people in the arena, pushing them to celebrate, then to take it up, then to take it up yet again, until the room was shaking from the noise. I tried to play along, but really all I could think of was that morning's adventure.

Jess picked me up at 5:30 AM and we were at the Mt. Olympus trail-head a half hour before sunrise, for what I assumed would be a couple hours of some hiking, scrambling and maybe even a little running. Jess assured me that the slabs were no big deal. It wasn't technical climbing and shouldn't take us more than about 3 hours.

As the morning’s first light spread over the Salt Lake valley, our trail turned into a scramble, climbing over small rocks, then larger ones, and then we hit the 500 foot wall known as the slabs.

I started apprehensively, and was doing okay finding foot and hand holds. I'm not a climber. I've done some gym climbing with my wife, but nothing crazy, maybe some 5.7s and 5.8s, but only after a few weeks of building up hand and arm strength. This wasn't as technical as that, and it wasn't straight up, but it felt like it as I climbed, watching Jess easily navigate the slabs. I felt okay, working up what felt like 100 feet of the 500 foot climb, but was probably much less.

Photo by Jess

Our family would take summer trips to Lake Powell when I was a kid, filling a houseboat and puttering around the lake, finding a vacant alcove to dock the boat each night. After we docked, my brother and I would go explore the canyons. I remember how easy it was to climb the sloped, sandstone walls, and how great it felt to be up so high, but when it was time to descend back to the boat. I remember sitting there, frozen on a ledge, looking down and unable to see a path to get from where I was, shaking on the wall, to the safety of the boat a couple thousand feet below, or so it seemed. It was probably only 100 feet. I can't remember how I got down, only the fear of being there, stuck on the wall, looking down and thinking I could die.

That same feeling came back as I froze on the slabs, looking down to where I would get seriously hurt if I slipped, and up, to what, to me, seemed like an impossible climb. I told Jess I was done, and we climbed a little further to a bailout point, a dirt and rock path along the side of the slabs that still meant a scramble to the top, but did not mean serious injury with a misstep.

For Jess, that climb was basic, something he could do without thinking, something that he may not even call climbing, but for me, that climb was fucking epic. It was a climb I was not prepared for, and a task that elicited enough fear that I had to bail out. As we scrambled along the easier route and did some more nontechnical climbing near the summit, and as I took in the panoramic view of the Salt Lake valley from the summit, all I could think about was how great that feeling was, that excitement, adrenaline, and even the fear.

So, now I'm trying to quiet the alarm in my head when I hear or read the word "epic." For a lot of people, it's the struggle to get out of bed and interact with the world, for others, it's free soloing a climb where the slightest misstep could mean death, and it's really not for me to judge what is epic for them.

In the quest to keep our kids' brains working over the summer, we had them write in daily journals. I read my son's entry the day after that first, magical wave. He wrote about the day, catching the wave and how it felt like he was surfing Mavericks. We watched Chasing Mavericks a few times this summer as it was on HBO’s maximum rotation, catching 20 to 30 minutes at a time until we had seen the whole thing a couple times over. In his 9-year old mind, he had surfed a 30 foot wave on that 2-3 foot day, and that feeling he had, that stoke, and everything that beamed out of that smile was absolutely, undeniably epic.

Lazy Parenting

I want to preface this by saying I’m not the best dad. I’m not the worst dad, either (that honor belongs to this guy), and I feel that I do get it right occasionally, but I’m not looking to show off about what a great dad I am. In fact, I already messed up pretty bad today.

My wife took the Jeep in to get the oil changed (which ended up being a $500 trip for changing all the fluids and an engine tune-up…I’m sure glad they sent us that $24 oil change coupon). So, she’s asking for a loaner car from the dealership and she texts me, but I didn’t know that my 12-year old daughter was also in the group text, and it went something like this:

Wife: Got a loaner for the day…
Me: Sweet. I got a boner for the day…
12-year-old: that’s disgusting.
Me: Sorry. Didn’t know this was a group msg.
12-year-old: sigh
Wife: lolz

The main lesson here is don’t say or text any word that rhymes with “boner” around me.

Now that I think about it, that probably wasn’t even the worst parenting fail that I made this week. But, like I said, sometimes I get it right.

A couple of weeks ago, Saturday, my kids were going after each other, arguing, and snapping at each other, which happened as we were trying to figure out our plans for that Saturday. They quickly responded with movies, Legoland, and Disneyland. None of those sounded great to me, so they threw out some other options, mostly arguing, but some wrestling, too, and an inadvertent elbow was thrown followed by an extremely advertent punch. There’s this trail that I run on quite a bit. We call it Andy’s trail because Andy is the one that first gave us the tour of the single-track that runs along Escondido Creek, crossing it a couple of times, and through the welcome cover of trees. As I watched one of my kids throw a punch at the other, and the crying that followed, all I wanted to do was to get out of the house and head to that trail.

I’ve been wanting to take the kids down there since I first ran it a few years ago, but for some reason it hasn’t happened. That Saturday morning seemed like a perfect time, plus it would save me the hundreds of dollars that would be spent mingling with sweaty tourists in cramped spaces and buying overpriced food. Of course the kids thought this was the worst idea ever, and my oldest daughter announced she wasn’t going. I once read in some parenting blog or maybe it was a book written by a PhD that you should give your kids the freedom to offer a logical explanation for the reasons that they do things, so recalling this information I shouted, “put your damn shoes on and get in the Jeep in the next 10 minutes, or your phone is mine for the next week.” She may have rolled her eyes, but it worked. The Jeep was packed with kids, water and snacks and we were at the trail within 15 minutes.

As we took the first few steps on the trail, all the tension, the stress of the morning, the fighting, and the yelling disappeared. The kids walked, ran, climbed trees, crossed rivers, sometimes holding hands, helping each other over the steep and more technical areas, and within a few minutes of our hike, my oldest daughter exclaimed, “this is the most beautiful trail I have ever seen.”

My daughter and I walked hand in hand behind the rest of the family and we talked. It was about something important, but I don’t remember what it was. All I can remember is that we walked along the trail holding hands, and that hardly happens at all anymore as we navigate the awkward father daughter relationship as she grows into a woman, trying to find her place, and manage hormones, boys, mean girls, and friends, and we’re both new to this, so being out on the trail and talking while she held my hand was just exactly what we both needed.

I sometimes feel like a lazy parent, letting my kids play computer games or watch TV rather than pushing them to go outside and play. But man, there’s really something to be said for getting the kids out to nature. It’s the lazy parents dream. It’s hard getting all the camping shit together and setting up tents, but once you’re out there, it’s cake.

Last weekend, I captained an aid station for the San Diego 100. My wife was working medical for the race, so we decided to make it a family affair. I went up Friday morning and set up a nice site right on Lake Cuyamaca, I sipped a couple of beers and by the time the kids got there, I was content and relaxed. When my wife pulled up with the kids, they immediately ran to the lake and started gathering sticks and feathers. They hooked up with some other kids and played around the lake, out-of-sight, and it was all I could do to not check up on them. Anything can happen out there, but I’m learning to hold back and let nature teach them.

It doesn’t hurt that one of her responsibilities involved sponging off an Italian male model
They helped at the aid station. My oldest had the job of sponging off the hot, tired runners with ice cold water. She did the same thing last year, and she likes the work. It’s great to see the looks on the runners’ faces as the ice water rolls off the back of their necks and down their backs. My two younger kids helped fill up cups with water and coke, and then they helped keep track of the runners’ numbers as they ran into the checkpoint. The kids were out there in the heat for about six hours, and they didn’t complain. No iPads, no TVs, just helping out a lot of tired runners who had the goal of completing 100 miles by foot. These are the people that I want my kids to be around.

That night, as the runners were still out on the course, my wife took the girls to help set up the finish line bags and cots where runners would collapse after their work was done.

My son and I stayed at the campsite where I had promised to break out the fishing rod. I recently bought a Tenkara fly fishing rod, which is basically just a long bamboo stick with line tied to the top, and a fly at the end. It’s a very simple set-up, no reels, just a stick and a line, which works for me, because the fewer moving parts, the better. I taught him how to cast, and how to mimic a bug landing on the lake, hopping lightly on the surface. He caught on pretty quickly, and within an hour, he had pulled out 3 small bass. I showed him how to remove the hook, and we threw the fish back in the lake. By the time we threw the last fish back, it was dark, but he wanted to keep going. It was late, but he wanted to tell his mom about his first fish. I still remember the tug of the line at a small lake in Big Sky, Montana, fishing with my grandpa, my brother and my sister. I remember pulling it in, and the slippery skin. I was surprised that my mom knew how to clean the fish, and I remember the taste of fresh trout fried in butter.

I don’t set out to teach lessons or create these memories. I just love to be in the mountains or on the trails, and I love to share those things with my family, letting nature do the parenting, waking up to the sounds of hungry geese and going to sleep with dirt under their fingers, smelling of fish and fire, and eyes full of beauty and pride. Nature is a good parent.

Scorched Earth

We moved to San Elijo Hills in 2005. At the time, I was training for triathlons and just starting to get into trail running. One of the things that drew me to the area was the extensive trail network. I started with the wide, manicured paths that led to the schools and grocery store, then as the distances grew, I became more adventurous, covering more trail miles and discovering an amazing network of beautiful trails surrounding our dense suburban neighborhood. The wilderness was outside my door, and it became my playground.

Early fires on Double Peak
It has been a particularly dry year in Southern California, so when the fires started, the trails really didn’t stand a chance. When I saw the flames on top of Double Peak, my heart broke. One of the nice things about keeping a blog like this is that it preserves so many good memories. I did a quick search on Double Peak in these pages, and so many good things popped out, Mother’s Day hikes, early morning runs with friends, a run in remembrance of a departed dog, countless sunrises and sunsets, Fourth of July hikes with my oldest daughter for the best vantage point in the county, the start and finish line of our underground trail marathon, and hill repeats that made me throw up. I have an intimate relationship with that hill, and to see it on fire floored me.

At the start of the Inaugural San Elijo Trail Marathon

I didn't want to run up there today. I wanted to ignore it, to wait and experience it with the friends that I have shared so many miles with, but as I sat in my office in the shadow of the Peak, I felt like my heart was being squeezed with cables, and I knew that I had to go see it.

It was what I imagined it to be, skeletons of trees and black earth everywhere, tracks from fire trucks and bulldozers, small patches still smoldering and the smell of burnt wood, but the trail was still there.

I have run in some amazing places, but these trails are home to me. They have made me a better runner, and I have left hundreds of thousands of footprints in their brown dirt, discovering new routes, linking together old ones, and being absolutely crushed by the sun and the steepness, and while the trails may seem insignificant, and rightly so when compared to peoples’ lives and houses, they have a special meaning to me as they fuel my passion and have made me the runner that I am today.

I went solo today, because those have always been my hardest runs, the runs that build fitness, the runs that turn into walks, and eventually incoherent stumbles with not enough water and not enough strength. I have been burned out there to the ground, but those are the runs that make the good ones possible.

During the last race I ran, the Leona Divide 50K, I thought about one of those runs. It was a 28 miler where I started with a couple friends who pulled off one by one, leaving me alone at the end to climb up the back side of Double Peak. I thought of that run whenever I was feeling down in the race, and I remembered how awful that run was, and how it took me to a place that hurt, and I remembered the top of the climb, sitting on a park bench near the telescope on Double Peak, avoiding eye contact with the few other people up there as I sat with my head between my legs, spitting, drooling, and trying to hold it together. I knew that if I could get through a run like that, I could finish the race. Those are the runs that build strength, the runs that burn you to the ground, to your base, and allow you to grow into something better.

The base trails are still out there, and as I made the steep climb, I saw a ribbon tied on a branch. It was probably placed there by a firefighter, an all clear sign, or a line of defense, but to me and to anyone who has ever run a trail race, it’s a trail marker, a sign that everything is going to be okay, and that you are on the right track.

There is something stark and beautiful about the trails now, a fertile ground ready for rebirth. I’ll be out there looking for the change, and the new growth in the hills, and I look forward to being cut down to the base, covering the trails with footprints and sweat, and growing with the trails that are my home.

Leona Divide 50K

It's been a long time since I last raced. I'm pretty sure that the the ill-fated 2013 Miwok 100K was the last time I pinned a freshly crumpled race bib to my shorts. I hadn't signed up for any races this year, but thanks to my friend Chris, who won an entry to the Leona Divide 50K at a charity auction and somewhat uncharitably donated the entry to me, I was racing whether I liked it or not. Chris, by the way, ran the 50 miler and had a great race. He ran right through the finish line and kept going, running into some chairs and a couple of helpful bystanders.

I was very happy with my training coming into the race. The 50K training plan that I set up worked really well for me. It wasn't too much to handle, and I think all the extra stuff helped keep me healthy (MYRTL, foam rolling, cross training on the bike, core work). I feel like all that extra stuff, plus taking rest and recovery seriously, is as important as putting in the miles, especially as I age and the miles add up. I also really appreciate the advice of James Walsh, who suggested I add a fast finish long run every other week. I cursed him while I was running those, and I hope what I said under my breath doesn't hurt his chances to get into heaven. Those workouts were so tough, but I think they really paid dividends during the race.

There's not much in Palmdale. There were clouds covering the mountains to the west, bringing the rain, wind and snow, but by race day the clouds were mostly gone, the wind blew a bit, carrying some snow flurries, but it was crisp and beautiful running weather for most of the day. But yeah, not much in Palmdale and I really wanted sushi the night before the race, and there was this place called Shogun that was a little outside of town, if sprawling flat towns like Palmdale have an outside. It seems that there is no center there, and everything is outside of town, but this sushi place across the street from a few deserted warehouses and a Boys and Girls Club took me right back to Japan. It was some of the best sushi I've ever had. As soon as I opened the door and smelled the oil from the tempura, I knew that we had picked a good place.

My wife joined me for the weekend. It was the first race she has been able to come to in a few years and it was great having her there. Seeing her at the finish was one of the highlights for me, and made the day worth it.

Our marriage is sponsored by Patagonia (#sufferbetter)

The race director, Keira Heninger, found out a few weeks before the race that the course would have to change. The new route was run mostly on the PCT, and I was really worried about that. The PCT is pretty narrow, and this race had two long out and back sections on the PCT, but that really turned out to be one of the best parts. First of all, the sweeping views from the PCT were beautiful, and the other racers were so supportive of each other, offering "good jobs," "nice work," looking good," and "keep it up" as we squeezed by each other. Usually these races are much more solitary, but it was nice to share the trails with fellow racers, especially this group of trail runners.

My race was unspectacular. I passed some people, and I was passed by some people. I had a goal of finishing in between 5 and 6 hours, and I came in at 5:23, so I was happy with that, and I haven't run a lot of 50Ks, but that was my second fastest time, and my fastest time in seven years. Looking back on the race, I feel like I could have run certain sections harder, and that I walked some sections that I should have run, but that's easy to say a week later while sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping a cup of coffee.

My desire to race has been waning, so I don't have any other races on the schedule for this year, but I know racing has its necessary place; it motivates me to get the training in, it pushes me to run faster than I would if I were just out enjoying the trail, but as I take this running journey, I know that my favorite type of running is just getting out on the trails for a stress-free run, not worrying about time or distance, just appreciating the day.

Another benefit of racing: cool race photos

May you be blessed with a grimace that looks like a smile...people will think you're always positive.

Thanks for reading.

Spirit Animal

It’s not uncommon that I see a coyote during a run, but it’s still infrequent enough that I get excited when I see one. I usually see them trotting in the other direction, nonchalant, having already seen or heard my heavy footsteps, not sprinting off scared, more of a saunter, an “I’m faster than you, and I don’t want to be too close, but I don’t need to run very fast either” retreat. I’ll watch as they disappear into the bushes. And even though it takes seconds for me to run to where the coyote left the trail, and the brush isn't very thick, I usually can’t see them, as if they were never there.

I have seen coyotes rip apart a house cat in seconds, then drag it away when they sensed me watching them.

The coyote I found in the middle of the trail was young, and small, about half the size of my dog, who I’m nearly certain has some coyote in her. She walks with the same tall, stiff rear legs, and her face and bushy tail shares something wild with the coyote.

I wasn't sure if it was dead, so I cleared my throat loudly as I approached, and it just lay there, motionless, but no apparent injury that I could see, no blood, except for a worn part of its leg where the ants were starting the decomposition process.

Its eyes were open, and there were no bites, no scratches, no sign of a struggle, just a young dead coyote in the middle of a trail. I made the sign of the cross over it. I’m not religious, and I wasn’t sure I got the order right, so I tried to remember the rhyme about spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch, or was it watch and wallet?

In my head, I thanked the coyote for running the trails, for creating new ones for me to follow, and I apologized to the dead coyote for paving over its trails, and for building houses in its hunting ground.

I ran on, pushing hard up a hill called the Whiptail Loop, and towards the top I saw another coyote, just the head and ears off to the side of the trail about 30 feet away, and I sped up to try to follow it, but by the time I ran to where I had seen it, the coyote was gone.

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