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Out Our Backdoor: Winter running, mtb trails and more 

Kaleidoscope Run

Trail running: Bend's instant outdoor experienceOminous clouds loomed overhead as I set out for a run this past week at a park on the west side of town. The sun's rays were hidden behind clouds and my eyes and ears were on autopilot, looking and listening but not seeing and hearing. This can easily happen in the fast-paced world in which we live. We rush through a day's work, then off to sneak in a quick outdoor workout before speeding home to spend time with the family. Cooking, cleaning, chores, a quick read and off to bed before getting up to repeat another day. It is easy to fall into the trap of not taking the time to truly appreciate our surroundings.

Just a few minutes into my run, things began to change. Dime-sized snowflakes began falling from the sky. The view in front of me began to swirl as the flakes blew to the west, then to the east just like looking into a kaleidoscope in my youth. The kaleidoscope turned once again as the brilliant evening sunlight began peeking through the clouds. Wonderful trees, plants, and animals came alive. My eyes began to open and truly see. Orange bark glowed on the towering ponderosa pines. Symmetrical, bright green manzanita bushes juxtaposed with their bark's deep red skin lit up in the distance. Light yellow native grasses intertwined with maroon bitter brush just beginning to show tiny, mint-green buds of spring. I stopped my run and took a few minutes to soak up the sun's warmth, energy, and highlighted surroundings. As I started to run, the kaleidoscope turned again, tuning into my sense of hearing. An owl called off in the distance. Who? Who, Who, WHO? Their neighboring partner quickly replied. Who? WHO, WHO! "What a special place this is," I thought as I stopped again to listen and hear the owl's conversation. Later, as my run was about to end, the scope turned again. A red-shafted flicker caught my eye. I followed his flight, and watched as he gracefully perched on a dead snag. The light beautifully reflected off the red throat as the flicker called out to be heard. I stopped again and listened. Off in the distance, another flicker called back. The snowflakes had transformed into water droplets, clinging underneath pine needles in a desperate struggle between the opposing forces of surface tension and gravity. My eyes and ears were fully engaged, seeing and hearing the magnificent sights and sounds in the park.

Birds, Turtles, and Badlands

The book Walking Down the Wild by Gary Ferguson reminds us how connected we are to nature: "The man killed the bird, and with the bird he killed the song, and with the song, himself" - from a Pygmy Legend. A film at reSource's Telluride MountainFilm Festival the other weekend documented one man's quest to save Lora Sea Turtles on the coast of Mexico. Not long ago, millions of turtles came ashore to lay eggs and propagate their species. After much human devastation - killing the turtles and their eggs - the Lora Turtles became nearly extinct. Fernando Manzano has tirelessly worked to protect and bring this magnificent species back through protection, intervention, and education.

Badlands hiking offers a great chance to see and hear high desert wildlife. Oregon Natural Desert Association has rekindled their effort to protect the Badlands and create a 30,000-acre wilderness area 15 miles east of Bend. You may have seen large, bright yellow signs popping up again around town. Currently a wilderness study area, ONDA believes that with enough interest and enthusiasm from residents in our area, the Badlands Wilderness can become a reality. To bring awareness to these issues, they are hosting a pub-crawl on Thursday, March 27 and a series of hikes in the Badlands on March 29 and 30. To learn more about the Badlands, go to www.ONDA.org.

Mountain Bike Trails/COTA

It's just about that time of year to dust off the mountain bike, inflate the tires, and get out for a spring ride. Hardcore bike enthusiast and trail working guru, Chris Kratsch, encourages people to avoid the trails west of town (Phil's complex) this time of year.

"Riding west of town means mud, and mud means widening trails and ruts that firm up and last throughout the season. There will be plenty of time to ride the west side trails in the coming months, now is not the time," said Kratsch.

Check out the new Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) website www.cotamtb.com to learn more about current trail conditions - including trails that are in shape for riding this time of year, projects, and to update your membership.

Trail Building Website

A few weeks back I mentioned two spring trail building seminars. The website for more information is: http://tiny.cc/trailbuilding.

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