Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tourism on foot

Running has given me many gifts, and you’ll never be able to convince me otherwise.  One of my favorites is the ability to sight-see on two feet.  I love running in new places and have learned so much about other cities via running on their streets.  Whenever I travel, I map out safe routes in advance, and I’m definitely guilty of choosing hotels based on proximity to good running spots.  I’ve even gone on a City Running Tour in New York City: seven miles all over Manhattan and Brooklyn with a guide telling me stories and trivia tidbits about the neighborhoods.  (Check out this company if this sounds remotely fun to you--they’re wonderful and operate tours in several cities around the U.S.)  

Of course, there are miscues, when a neighborhood is less appealing in person or a road ends in a construction site. I try to be as safe as possible via precautions like wearing my Road ID and texting or writing down my route before I leave.  (At least one of my readers appreciates this--hi, Mom!) But good route or less-good route, it’s just thrilling to me to explore places on foot.

Anyway, hello from Washington!  You may have noticed that my posts about basil, etc., have dwindled this week.  It’s because I’m on vacation!  (Much, much, much more text to come on this later.)  After a few days in the San Juan Islands and then central Washington for a wedding, Josh and I are now back in Seattle for a short visit before we fly home.  The wedding was in the Cascades, and it was an absolutely gorgeous part of the country.  One morning, I headed out with the intention of checking out the main streets to scope out shopping spots and also to consider stretching out a longer run, if my mood allowed.

See, although I love running in new cities, I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to rack up miles this week.  After all, it’s vacation.  It turns out that it’s actually quite easy to fit in miles when you wake up every day between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. feeling 100 percent ready to start the day.  It’s even easier when your partner isn’t afflicted by this Central Time curse and prefers luxurious wake-ups at times like 7:00 or 7:30. (The envy should be practically dripping off  of my words!)  So, I’ve been running more than I expected.  It feels great and the weather has been perfectly cool.  It doesn’t hurt, either, that Washington is a heavenly beautiful state.

As I was running through town that morning, I noticed a winding road up in the hills and made it my mission to find that road.  I found it!  It started going up and up and then leveled off way above town.  I noticed an unfamiliar smell that I couldn’t identify, but the terrain was just so lush that I figured it could have been anything.  Then I saw one tree, and then another, and I realized the road was taking me past more apple orchards than I ever expect to see again in my lifetime: thousands of trees in meticulous rows, all giving off this delicate apple smell that’s related to a Bath and Body Works scent, except 1,000 times better.  Then the terrain gave way to a ratio of one vineyard for every five or six apple orchards, and all along, each time I looked to the right, there were the big, severe, snow-capped mountain peaks.  The sun had been up the whole time, but tucked behind a dark ridge of pine trees.  After a few miles, it peaked over the top and cast bright yellow light all over the orchards. 

I ran and ran, feeling unbelievably lucky to have stumbled on this route.  I made my way back to the hotel with the goal of driving back there to grab some photos later in the weekend.  But even before I headed back the next day, I knew the experience couldn't be replicated, especially not by retracing the route in a car.  Runs are some of my very best souvenirs.

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