An Ode to the Home Trail

Blind Man’s Loop
The Natural Trail
Glover Archibald and Battery Kemble
Potomac Overlook
Masonic Hill
Four-Mile Hill
Mushroom Trail

For most, these might as well be place names on a map in some Wes Anderson film. To me, they’re some of my favorite spots in the world. They’re connection to the land. They’re how I’ve experienced the seasons. They’re where I’ve learned about myself. They’re home. Through the years and as I’ve moved around the U.S., each has been my home trail and each means so much to me.

This realization came to me this past week when I decided to once again run what I call the Mushroom Trail, a 1.7-mile stretch of singletrack carved out of the hillside above Cement Creek here in Silverton, Colorado. It’s all of a half mile via the town’s dirt streets to the trail’s southern end or closer to two-an-a-half miles if I take the country road out of town in order to run the trail in the “easy,” more generally downhill direction starting from its northern end.

These days, I’m drawn to the trail for the cacophonous explosion of beauty in the form of the brilliant orange columbines, delicate purple fairy slipper orchids, and supporting casts of white and yellow and blue flowers as the trail sidehills the steep, conifer-covered east flank of Anvil Mountain.

Western red columbine - Aquilegia elegantula

With its thick stands of spruces only occasionally interrupted by an aspen grove, the Mushroom Trail and its two-mile tunnel offer a microclimate I don’t often otherwise encounter on the trails and roads around Silverton. It’s always shaded. If not distinctly humid, then it’s at least not as starkly dry as the surrounding area, and that humidity supports a carpet of mosses, lichens, and, for a few weeks some years, its namesake mushrooms. Heck, I’ve named the trail for myself. Some locals call it the Three Creek Trail. Others, the Soda Creek Trail. Not me. As the singletrack nearest my house (and without an official name), I feel a strong enough bond to affix my own moniker to it.

Along the Mushroom Trail

With frequent late-spring runnings of the trail the past three years, I’ve come to know the order in which flowers will bloom, not only their temporal order as the season progresses, but the order that they bloom along the length of the trail itself. Over its short distance, it climbs 500 feet from south to north, meaning the deep winter snows gradually melt out starting with the lower elevations closer to town and ending at the trail’s northern terminus at Niagara Gulch. As a result, the length of the trail yields three weeks of wildflower progression simultaneously, at least during spring and early summer.

Fairy Slipper orchid

Late two summers ago, I made the frequent acquaintance of a porcupine on the Mushroom Trail. I knew that if I headed out in the early evening, there was a good chance I’d spot this plodder within a short span of trail. Sometimes, it’d be moseying along the trail. Other times, I’d stop and look and listen and quickly enough pick up its prickly shape in the trees.

Mushroom Trail porcupine

So, too, have I become familiar with the rhythm of the twists and turns, the punchy little climbs, the flowy traverses. In either direction, the trail now plays out like a song. Or maybe a music video, as I know where open vistas will warrant a few seconds’ stop at which I absorb that time and day’s take on a particular scene.

Boulder Mountain view

As the seasons change, I marvel at the few stands of aspens as they first leaf out in a riveting yellow green, move on to their rich green leafquakes, turn a vibrant yellow, and, lastly, lose their leaves upon the ground. And so, too, do I observe the grasses, the flowers, the creek, and myriad other natural aspects along the trail.

I could write similarly about each location I mentioned at the outset. At one time or another, they’ve been my home trail. I’ve watched as they’ve presented nature’s rhythms through the seasons and been the concert hall in which I’ve played out the rhythms of my running and my life. We all have a nearby trail, no matter how seemingly ordinary, on which we can witness and play out wondrous music in our own beautiful call and response.

Call for Comments
What does or has your “home trail” meant to you? What have you witnessed about nature or yourself there?

A porcupine blaze

Kendall Mountain View - Mushroom Trail

There are 8 comments

  1. Ben Keefe

    When I go to a new race or an old one, I like to ask people, “what’s your home trail?” Most people have one and there is usually something other than just proximity that gave it that label. As you wrote, my home trail will change depending on where home is at that moment. I travel for work occasionally and I have “home” trails at all those spots. Each one has something unique to it’s landscape that I enjoyed running on, looking at, or being surrounded by. Repetition breeds familiarity and a home trail also provides safety, confidence, and a little more peace of mind. Maybe it’s a settling of the mind or a quieting of the mind that my home trail provides. I can think less and flow more. My home trail provides what I like to call a moving meditation. In general, we often associate meditation with stillness, solitude, and sitting. I find two of those three things when I’m running on my home trail. I might not getting the sitting part but it’s quiet, I can hear my footfalls, the birds, the little critters scrambling around, and sometimes something bigger on the trail. Contemplative running is what I can do on the home trail and I love it.

  2. Natasha Sankovitch

    Like yours, Byron, my home trail doesn’t have an official name. In my log book, I call it the trail above the aquarium. It is both utterly familiar and yet new and different every time so I never ever get tired of running there. Because it is not well known, most of the time, I have it to myself. And because of that, I feel like it’s “my” trail. I guess that’s my other name for it – my trail.

  3. Kenny Fraser

    Thanks for sharing. Great inspiration. I am lucky enough to have some great home trails where I live near Glasgow. But your article made me think of the beach at Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, about 15 miles North of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its where my mother grew up and although she passed in 2010 we still have a house there. Of course we can’t travel there during the COVID crisis but the best memories. 6 miles of beach, rocks, links turf and hard cliff climbs with the North Sea for company. Otters, dolphins, seals and a myriad of wild birds. Wish I could add a picture.

  4. Eli Driscoll

    My home trail is the five km loop out from my house- I live at the end of a dirt track, so I’m on trail and gravel straight away- The main, dead straight gravel road runs up to the nearest town here, on the outskirts of Madrid. Side trails lead of into holm oak woods or through fields, or along by the river, or past horse farms , or Civil War bunkers. There are enough permutations that I can run 10 miles or more without having to go along the same stretch, and all the hills I can handle. I started out run/walking here years ago, in my first attempts at running (a couch-to-fivekm when I was obese) and recently it has seen my return to some kind of fitness after a two-year slump. The views of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains and the changes as the year wheels round keep me wanting to go out every day.

  5. Ryan Montalvo

    I think the home trail is like a happy place for every runner. The way you connect to your trail in this article is inspiring. Knowing every piece of the trail and watching it change over time. Your story brings the trail to life. And great pictures too. My home trail is great network of trails in and on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest. When I moved here there had just been a fire that had burned a whole mountain side. It was eerie place to run, especially at dusk. Over the past three years I have got to see the life return to the forest. It really gives you that amazing connection to the land. Thanks.

  6. John Andersen

    Great “ode”! My home trail is “Carlos”, named after the Colombian man who made it. I’ve climbed and descended it over 200 times over the years and it never gets old, rather becomes meditative and offers whatever you need that day – an escape, new sights/sounds/smells, a workout – the familiarity and changing of the seasons allows it to be so many different things depending on your needs and that “relationship” is really the sweetest thing about the home trail.

  7. Danniger Smith

    I guess I’ve never used the “home trail” phrase much, but it is a trail running reality that I have come to love wherever I have lived. Watching the forest change across the seasons, knowing exactly which rocks teeter and which are solid, and seeing the same raccoon getting a drink each morning – the familiarity gives me joy and comfort. Thanks for giving it a name, Byron.
    Officially my home trails only have numbers, no names; from now on #206 is called “Big Locusts”.

  8. Adrian

    My wife and I are lucky enough to live a few feet from the trails that run throughout our town. They have some official names but to us, they have developed names that describe how they stack for the distance we want and all of the exciting bits get special mention.

    Bottom loop
    Top loop
    Cricket pitch
    Out and back
    The singletrack
    Bridge and back
    The tree
    The canal
    Lap of the woods
    The back way
    The Savannah
    The hill
    The woods
    Back of the house

    Each one seems so mundane when written down like this, but each one is just as special as the next in its own secret way. Each one changes every day and every hour within the day. Living so close to Toronto we realize how lucky we are to have these trails and the trees and plants and skunks, racoons, coyotes, birds, butterflies and insects that we see along them. Even the snake from Sunday’s run!

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