Four years ago, I started this column, “From My Doorstep,” with the intent of writing about local experiences around my home in Gold Hill, Colorado. Little did I know back then that this idea would extend far beyond the confines of a monthly page of writing and have a distinct influence in shaping my interests and work to this day.
In the summer of 2015, I took part in the Colorado Trail Race, an underground bikepacking time trial, where riders bike the length of the trail following a DIY ethic. There was something raw and profoundly uplifting about that experience. It laid the foundation for the Tour de 14ers, a much bigger project I took on the following year.
I literally set off from my doorstep in Gold Hill and biked to all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains, summiting each one on foot, in a one-month period. It took me several years to absorb the breadth of that journey, but it further established my commitment to explore the general thematic of home in its many facets.
It fueled my motivation to attempt Nolan’s 14, and deepened my connection to the Hardrock 100 which I’d been attending as a runner or volunteer since 2011. I felt a stronger tie to the community and to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and relished in that sense of belonging.
While undertaking projects close to home has been a central focus, I’ve also had the great fortune and privilege to travel further afield. My interpretation of “From My Doorstep” often blurred from literal to a more figurative concept.
Recently, I found myself in Northern Thailand for a 100 miler, the Pong Yaeng Trail race.
I was running along a ridge 12 hours into the race under a rising red velvet moon. The trail disappeared into a section of dense jungle, its canopy so thick it muted the lunar brilliance. The jungle track lead to a paved road that wound down into a valley. A peculiar sight appeared up ahead. I was approaching large, lit-up, hexagonal domes organized in terraced rows. As I got closer, I realized the eclectic edifices were heavy canvas tents, dozens of them, mounted on wooden porch-like structures.
People were gathered, sitting around fires, eating, drinking, singing, and playing music. The atmosphere was joyous, festive.
“Where am I?” I asked myself out loud.
It felt as if I’d entered some parallel universe and come across a utopian society of bon vivants.
That morning, I’d woken up 8,000 miles from home in a country I’d never been to before. I’d set off from that doorstep with an open mind and no expectations, just a genuine curiosity about what might unfold. Then, in the middle of the night, depleted from running all day, I happened upon this whimsical futuristic camp. In context, it seemed so bizarre that I didn’t quite know what to make of it. But, therein lies the simple beauty of running. Whether I’m rambling along some local trails in Colorado learning the nuances of home, or halfway across the world washing down crickets with coconut water, running invariably catalyzes a sense of wonder and curiosity. And, for that I’m deeply grateful.
As this is the last installment of “From My Doorstep” on iRunFar, I’d like to sincerely thank Meghan and Bryon for the opportunity to share my musings on this platform for the past four years. While writing a page a month might not seem like much to some, it’s been a challenging exercise for me from which I’ve learned a great deal. Thank you.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you ever committed to physical and/or intellectual pursuits that were more localized and closer to home?
- When was the last time a place far away felt figuratively like your home for some reason?
- What have been your favorite essays and photographs of Joe’s over the years of his “From My Doorstep” column?