Running With Heather, Volume 2

Ah! Another run with your imaginary friend? Another lake? Argh! Sorry, kids, a girl’s gotta do…! And let me just fill us in (and by us, I mean me; I’m still getting used to the idea) how killer it is that I could run around a new lake every day for the next year. Hooray, new home!

I’ve wanted to venture out to Anacortes Community Forest Land for some time–in fact, it was were I attempted to take you when we saw all those deer, remember–so when I woke up and saw the glorious sunshine on Saturday, I knew it was the day. We even dared capri leggings!

We got a bit lost finding H Street–it’s the one off the round about as you head into Anacortes, not the dead-end H off Highway 20. We giggle at round abouts, about how there’s a new one in town every week, and how we should christen them by driving–some arbitrary number, we decide…five! Yes, five times around it, honking the whole way. Perhaps we’ll call in some snow geese.

Lap five and we’re off again (did I mention we got lost. It was the dizziness, right?) A minute or two past homes and we’re into forest. A sign points us to Heart Lake, our afternoon destination. We’ve come with three goals: find a quick loop trail, hit up Mount Erie for the blue-bird sunset and grab a pint and pizza at Rockfish Brewery. A delicious day, to be sure.

A mountain biker points the way to the ’round the lake trail, and we take off, stopping to peer at the idyllic lake–we’ll come back and swim it in the summer, we say–and wind around trees on the narrow trail.

The path is well-kept and marked, as many seem to be in the area. We consult each other a few times, secretly wishing we had a map of the 2,800 acres. We’ve been known to get lost once or twice. But we keep to the shallows, by the banks of the lake when we can, and climb a bit, sail down a bit, toes turning over and our breath drawing shallow. Must. Run. Trails. More. we pant.

Despite Friday’s rain, the footing is not mucky and I only partially twist my ankle three times. You only slip on slick rocks twice. Our pounding feet spook lazy Mallards into flight, and we notice how the setting light almost throws itself across the lake: Here, take what’s left of me, I’m yours, the sun pleads.

We dance over roots and skip logs and stop to poke some fungi. I dare you to eat it, you challenge, and I make a mental note to buy a guide to foraging. The trail meanders away from the lake, and I check my watch–will we make it back for the sunset? The path ripples like a set of waves and I’m up while you’re down, you’re up while I’m down, us, ribbioning our way through the forest.

We spit out at the road, and we have to take it the rest of the way around, as the mountain biker instructed us to do. From here, we notice the cracked mirrored-ness of the slightly frozen lake. More mallards jump.

Back at the trail head, we find a group of runners–Skagit Runners–just setting out for a 55k, they mention, ever so causally; said it as if they were taking a shower. “You joining us?” They ask. We giggle. Nope, just finished (our dinky 5k–if that.) But maybe one day we’ll be hard-core enough to run a 55k in the forest in the dark. I said I hope they’d brought extra batteries for their headlamps. (Remember that time we were lost around the Mission Valley “lake” on the hash? One headlamp and a headful of creepy thoughts?)

We find the road up, up, up to Mount Erie, the highest peak in Skagit and get to the top just in time to see a lavender Mount Baker. On the other side of the summit, we scramble down rocks to watch the sky and its Technicolor dreamcoat spin through the sky, over the San Juan Islands.

I remark about how different the sunset is here. How the sun falls behind landscapes, not just into the Pacific. How it fits into the pocket of the Olympics, how it projects amethysts and lilacs and violets onto far-off, snow-capped peaks, how the whole valley awashes in the lingering light, how westward facing barns cast a glittering haziness I thought only possible in The Great Gatsby. How sometimes the islands look like the clouds like the water like the sky and how could you separate one realm from the other? About how we must look so different in the light: softer, diffused, our best, most subtle selves. When our tangerines and mulberries and periwinkles dance for just a few last seconds before the lights go out.

The last few seconds we sit in silence, our butts growing cold and tingly on the granite rock. “Okay. Beer?”

And you simply nod. Because anything else, in this sanctuary, seems irreverent.

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