Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Runnin' the Rock

Indian Rock, that is. This is a small park in Salina, the site of the last white clash with Native Americans in this area. Although surrounded by houses now, the rugged heights of the park's one hill give a good idea of why the battle took place here. The hill is situated along the Smoky Hill River, where a drop-off into the river bed makes further movement east impossible. In nearly every battle, it is preferable to control the high ground, and Indian Rock is the highest ground on the west side of the river. While hiking along the trails, I find it interesting to consider where Indians might have hidden during that battle. I'll never know for sure, of course, but maybe one of my guesses will be right!

For years, I'd driven and bicycled up the roads, hiked the trails, and even scrambled up the steep sides of the hill where there are no trails, but until Saturday morning, I had never tried running those trails. And it was fun! I found myself running longer than usual before needing to walk. I think that's because the scenery is so much better than that along the river levee where I usually run. I liked going up and down, facing the challenge of watching my footing while keeping my stride where possible. I found myself at the top of the hill considerably sooner than I expected, too, since the trail winds around, runs down by the river, and then meanders its way to the top. As opposed to the road, which takes the most direct route--that is, the steepest route--the trail left me pleasantly winded, not exhausted like the road does. The trail carried me from bluffs overlooking the baseball fields of Bill Burke Park to the high banks of the river, around the small fishing pond at the base of the hill, and finally to the highest point, where the cooling breeze was a delight.

Running through the trees was a nice change of pattern, too. Yes, they do block the breeze, but that only makes coming out into the clearings all the more welcome. Spiderwebs are a definite issue, particularly if you're the first one on the trail, as I was that morning. Fortunately, this time I only ran into two, and they were more like single strands left from a web's weaving than the entire webs themselves. I brushed them away and kept going. Several park benches offer accommodating places to sit, should I need one, and there's even a drinking fountain at the north edge of the park. I didn't need the benches on Saturday, but I was more than grateful for the cool water!

I don't have a strong sense of direction, and though I can't get lost in this small park, I did notice myself looking for clues about which trails I'd taken and which ones I hadn't. Sadly, though, the strongest clues were not unusual trees or picturesque views. They were the various pieces of trash lining the paths. Indian Rock patrons, just like the visitors to so many of Salina's other beautiful parks, apparently don't mind tossing their water bottles, candy wrappers, and cigarette boxes to the ground. "Did I run this path already? Yep, must have. I recognize that faded Evian bottle over there." Maybe next time I'm at Indian Rock, I'll do my running, but then, instead of heading right home, I'll do a bit of litter patrol while I'm catching my breath.

Even though Indian Rock is no rural getaway run, for a few minutes while I was huffing and puffing my way along those paths, I could imagine myself a hundred miles from the hustle and bustle of Salina. And that's why I'll be going back soon.
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