For the past few years, a group of women in Bellingham get together to do a Mother’s Day run on Galbraith Mountain, a local trail system that winds through thick forest east of our downtown area. I received the email invitation last week and resolved that this year I was going to join this group of really cool women whom I like and admire and give it a try.

Bill regularly invites me to run with him up on Galbraith, but I always say no. I like trail running, enjoy hopping over roots and dodging mud puddles, but I always feel that running in the woods is a dreary idea. In the winter (you know, between November and June around here) I simply don’t want be deep in the dark foliage where the earth doesn’t thaw. Then in the summer, I don’t wish to miss one second of our rare, precious sunshine.

But increasingly in my life, I want to seize every opportunity to live with oomph and verve. I don’t want the weather or my abhorrence of being cold to stop me from enjoying the natural beauty of the world – or ruin the chance to make new friends. That’s why I decided to join the Mother’s Day run this year. I washed my running gear and laid it all out the night before. Then I set my internal alarm clock for 7:00am. The gals were to meet at the trailhead at 8:00.

When the morning came, however, I chickened out. Even after all the running I’ve done in the past few years, I got scared that I would hold the group up by my slow pace. Or that I would get lost. Bill frequently tells me about being lost up on Galbraith, and I imagined getting up on the mountain that morning and becoming separated from the other women, finding myself wandering around somewhere on the 44 miles of trails, fighting off bears and dying alone curled up under an evergreen tree. Before I’d finished my coffee, I’d talked myself out of the Galbraith Mountain Mother’s Day run.

I was disappointed in myself. Why did I let fear get the better of me? Why did I cave to old feelings of inadequacy and reticence? Instead of suiting up in my running tights and hat and gloves, I slipped on some Levi’s and drove down to Starbucks to read and sip on an overpriced latte. But as I sat there watching clouds float by, occasionally blocking much-welcome sunshine, I realized I missed an opportunity I didn’t really want to miss. And so, because I’m a big believer in the idea that there is usually more than one chance to do what you want to do in this life, I asked Bill if he would take me up on Galbraith that afternoon. I figured he wouldn’t leave me to be eaten alive by wild animals or sacrifice me to the land if I fell and twisted an ankle (not that I honestly believed the group of mothers who’d gone to the mountain in the morning would have abandoned me to such a fate). Bill, I though, would be personally invested in my conquering my aversion to running on Galbraith Mountain and would take the time to show me the map and explain how the trails connected to one another.

So up we went. We parked at the Birch parking lot and started out on the Ridge trail. From there we took Cedar Dust to Rock and Roll. Bill’s plan was to follow the Rock and Roll Trail all the way to the Pipeline Road, but we got sidetracked onto Lost Giant somehow, which met Pipeline further down the road. Pipeline was a nice break from the mud until we caught 1200 and headed back to Cedar Dust and back down the Ridge Trail. That was the route. If you know Galbraith, you’ll recognize the trails. If you don’t, let me tell you my impressions and what I learned from my virgin run on the mountain.

Gailbraith is a mecca for mountain bikers – everyone around here knows this. Everyone also knows that the land used to be owned by the Trillium Group and recently changed hands to Polygon Financial, a logging company who agreed to continue letting mountain bikers and runners use the trails—until recently. A very cool group of bikers called Whatcom Independent Mountain Peddlers (WHIMPS) has voluntarily maintained the trails for years. I was impressed by the bridges, jumps and obstacles that WHIMPS has created for themselves and others who frequent the area. As I said, I enjoy the focus that trail running requires, the variation in terrain and the way one never quite falls into a perfect rhythm of footfall. Galbraith is an interesting place to run. We encountered several groups of mountain bikers while we were up there. Each time we stopped and chatted with them and asked their advice about the trails: Which paths were too muddy to run today? Which ones are off limits due to recent logging?

For almost two hours (only 7 miles, my Garmin said) we wandered Galbraith’s trails. I overcame my fear of being lost indefinitely once I oriented myself to the logging road. If all else failed, I could follow it back to a civilization I recognize. Monday morning, when I went to the track workout with Carol (of the Fit School for Women), I confessed my reasons for not joining her and the other women on the mountain on Sunday. She said there would be another chance to run with the group on Thanksgiving and again next year on Mother’s Day. I won’t chicken out next time, ladies, I promise.

Note: Access to Galbraith Mountain is not a given. Lately, Polygon has said they plan on ending the agreement. Here is some information about the situation and a link to efforts to save the trails for recreational use:

• Bellingham Herald Article about recent developments on Galbraith Mountain

Mike McQuaide’s blog

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