December 21, 2011

Cougars vs dead body route

My worst fears as a runner include discovering a dead body - as it's often the runners who do - and encountering a cougar. And these are not as farfetched as one might think or hope.

As I headed out for my recovery 10km this morning, following yesterday's 14km, it was a chilly but sunny day. I hadn't decided where to run yet as I headed out. We live on a street that is a dead end, except for pedestrians and cyclists, or in case of emergency when a gate closing a narrow road linking this part of Valleycliffe with the neighbourhood of Hospital Hill can be opened for vehicles.

In the three years we have lived here, an emergency that prompted the opening of the gate for traffic has happened only once to my knowledge. That was about a year ago, when a house burned down on Westway Avenue, the only way we and everyone else on our street, and one other sub-division, can take by car to access the rest of Squamish - or the world for that matter.

No one was hurt in the fire by the way, though the home was destroyed; a gorgeous brandnew one looks almost ready for occupation, which is hopefully some consolation to the family involved.    

Today, I decided to head right, following our street as we would by car. While I had started the time on Mr Garmin, it took a while for the display to appear as it was looking for GPS signals. By the time I reached the end of our street, a distance I know to be about 800 metres, Mr Garmin said I'd done about 335.

I didn't feel like running along the streets as I usually do. While there are hundreds of kilometres of trails to run on near Squamish, I've spent most of the year on the road. While the views are great, sometimes I tire of following the same old route.

I throw in plenty of small variations, but the bottomline is that I run from our neighbourhood of Valleycliffe, the most southern one of Squamish, to the north where Brackendale is the other end of town. Beyond that, there's Whistler about 60km north.

In between are options to head downtown, though running there has its limitations for a marathoner looking for distance, so I rarely run there; I prefer to take Luka for the beautiful walk along the 2.5km circular trail at Nexen Beach where views of the Howe Sound, the Stawamus Chief, and the surrounding mountains, prominently those of Garibaldi Park are the reward. In fact, Luka and I did just that late afternoon today.

Since I tend to do most of my runs as out and back sessions, a 10km means I need to only find a 5km route. I didn't feel like a two-lap run around the neighbourhood, as I so often do. Neither did I feel like heading north, as I always do for my longer road runs. So, instead I decided to venture onto a dirt road I have run a lot but haven't been on for several months because it's in an area that had a few cougar incidents this summer.

There have been plenty of cougar encounters in Squamish this year. Thankfully everyone escaped unharmed (aside from the big cats unfortunately) but it was the reason I barely ventured onto the trails since I usually take doggy Luka for company, not a great idea when these big cats are around.

Today I decided it was time to leave the road, the paved ones that is. As I headed for Garibaldi Park Road today, first following Stawamus River FSR (Forest Service Road) I felt uneasy. It was quiet. Too quiet, I thought for a second and considered turning around but decided against it. It was a beautiful December day, and no word on any cougars recently.

Sometimes - often - we can spook ourselves, like swimming in Australian waters while thinking about sharks, considering every shadow or wetsuit-clad fellow triathlete a potential Jaws scenario, as I have done often in the past. I wasn't in the mood to be spooked today, didn't feel like being driven back to the roads I so often run. There's nothing wrong with those roads, I just didn't want to pound them today.

So I kept going along the quiet dirt road and didn't come across a single person or predatory animal. Thankfully I didn't discover a dead body either, though earlier this summer the Stawamus River FSR was used as the dumping ground for one by Vancouver gangsters and some poor hikers had just that experience. I am glad I didn't run that route that day.

Since Mr Garmin didn't pick up on the first 500 metres I ran, I ran a kilometre longer than I was meant to. The compulsive obsessive part of me didn't want to turn around until Mr Garmin showed I had covered 5.00km.

That's OK, as I ran easy, very easy, with my heart rate staying well below 130, even as my mind drifted off to crazy scenarios, except for a few hill climbs I am still so familiar with on this route. It was nice to be somewhat back on the trails today.

Click here to view the route I ran in Google Maps.

1 comment:

Tina said...

iYes! I worry about those things too. Not the predatory animal as much since I run on the city streets of Vancouver. But in the summers when I run in the Okanagan, I worry about black bears mostly and sometimes cougars.