Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paving the way

I’ve been thinking about roads lately, and for a long time. For running, I’ve come to realize, is largely about them. At least in the modern world. Often what I see, and think about, while on the jog, is no further than their shoulders.


This evening, at the tail end of some thunderstorms, I set off on the sandy jeep trail on the bluff south of Mono City, across Mill Creek. I had some idea where it would take me. My notion turned out not to be wrong, just far more efficient.

I started heading East, but the road had a mind of its own and turned in large arc across a flat, ancient lake bed, back toward 395, passing a bounding mule deer in the greasewood, and a pile of bleached bones in a shallow, unnoticed wash. Eventually it sidled up to the fence aside the great avenue of mountains, and commerce, that is 395.

Aside this nameless road, 395 is monumental, in every way. So wide and loud. An impassable river, to some animals, I bet. A place where the Sierra’s wind is subsumed, at least on occasion, by that of trucks. And to think 395 was once a jeep trail—a wagon road.


What I'll remember from this run, I think, is that, at the apex of this nameless road, I watched a FedEx truck roll down the grade of the highway in the distance. Or rather, it seemed to slide down the sage horizon. The semi’s white shape was striking, small and pill-like, before the looming, irregular foothills that ascend to the Mt. Warren. And its purple Fed and green Ex reminded me of the lupine I had to dodge constantly, because they were colonizing the road under my feet.


Have you ever noticed the arrow hidden in FedEx? Look closely. And what to make of the fact that it points in the direction opposite its travels?


Around here, it seems, lupine is the first to reclaim. In a burn area off the shoulder of 395 near June Lake, lupine sprawls. It’s a regal carpet. And further on, when I left the 4WD trails for Cemetery Road, there was lupine, still on the shoulder, though this road is graded yearly I suspect.

In spots, it had crept forward, a small animal that had dashed out, then suddenly stopped in tracks. And I thought to myself, I bet they’re spared by dirt road drivers, who surely like to squash things, because they’re so colorful. For some drivers, perhaps it's only subconscious.


Lupine is a conqueror, I've learned, not just of roads. It handles stress, and is the first, relative simple wave of sage-steppe.

On the skirt of Mount Saint Helens, a similar environment in many ways to this volcanic basin, it was discovered that lupine inhibit the growth of other seedlings, but that those others that take hold ultimately do unusually well, because lupine plumbs the soil with nitrogen.

In other words, it hogs the road initially, but paves the way.


10 mi, 70 min; Mono City-Cemetery Road loop via unnumbered road

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