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Along the trail

Area has a wealth of outdoor options

You find a lot of things along a trail. Sometimes they are tangible things, like a turtle. Sometimes they are a little more abstract, like a clear head. Sometimes you find yourself.

A little over a year ago my doctor gave me a wake-up call to drop some pounds or face the consequences of having a body that can’t burn off sugar quickly enough. I chose the former and so far have lost about 25 percent of my former self.

I did it the old fashioned way. Diet and exercise. Eat less and move more has worked for me.

The moving has meant that I spend a lot of time running and walking. At the start it was mainly walking, walking became running because as you add miles you don’t want to necessarily add time.

Twenty-five to forty miles per week has been the average number of miles covered. All of it has not been solo. Much of it was completed with the encouragement of friends Chip Allman and Sharon Marks.

Allman and Marks began doing the trails at the McDonough Nature Preserve with me last September. Marks taught me how to walk faster, Allman how to run past the point where it was comfortable to do so and in conditions that were less than ideal. Both have run hundreds of races and I am grateful they have shared their running knowledge with me. I have always enjoyed hiking — trail running is little more than fast hiking.

When it got cold we put more clothes on, when it got dark, we put head lamps on.

My other partner in hitting the trails has been my wife Lori, who has also done hundreds of miles with me. Together we have covered the network of streets and trails around Marietta, connecting the beginning and end of our workout with an eclectic collection of sidewalks, paths and trails.

The Mid-Ohio Valley is blessed with an abundance of trails. The big ones like Marietta’s River Trail and Vienna’s McDonough Preserve are just part of what is available. Marietta for instance has 30-plus miles of trails that, if you are creative, can be linked together to travel long distances with hardly a human in sight.

Early one recent Sunday morning, I started near Giant Eagle in Marietta and took North Hills Trail to the Cisler Trail. Crossing just two streets, this got me to Marietta High School, where after a short walk down Mill Creek Road I picked up the Mill Creek Trail and eventually ended up at The Broughton Nature amd Wildlife Area on Ohio 821. On the way back I made a wrong turn, added a few miles and ended up with around 14 miles for the day. A new mileage high, and as a co-worker called it, an accidental half marathon.

You see things along the trail. Turtles seem abundant on the trails near Marietta Middle School. Deer fill McDonough Wildlife Refuge, if you are lucky, as we were in October, they will leap over the trail while you are running on it. You also see things that tie the area to the past. Daffodils along a old fence far from any houses on the Cisler Trail. Steps leading up to long gone homes on the Old Walnut Trail in Norwood. A chimney without a house, on the Chimney Trail, or the tunnels without a train at North Bend. McDonough has an old well derrick off in the woods that I likely went by 20 times before I saw it. It is next to what is one of the hardest hill climbs in the area.

You also find odd things along the trail. The tea kettle on top of a stump, an office chair in the woods, a desk on a hillside. If nothing else they make you stop and wonder why.

Mud is everywhere, lots and lots of mud. I have yet to be on a trail that didn’t have mud some place. If you are going to do trails, get some trail shoes, even if you do not plan on running. It will help you not fall. You will fall, you will just fall less with the proper footwear.

I have fallen so many times I have lost count. Roots and mud are not your friends. They will turn you sideways very quickly. Several weeks ago I went airborne on the Zig Zag Trail at McDonough. Running full speed down a steep hill may not have been my smartest move. I had the odd sensation of the earth turning sideways just before my left shoulder hit ground and I slid several feet down the hill. Somehow I have managed to not get hurt, or even bruised what many have pointed out is an aging body.

The trails in our area are for many a hidden treasure. Some are well marked, others you have to look to find the entrance to them. I have completed five miles on trails before and not seen another person. If injured, this could put me literally in a bad spot.

Trails have no minimum speed limit, go out and enjoy the outdoors. You never know who or what you will see down the path.