Slog

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Slog. (verb)

  1. Work hard—toil, labor, grind, slave.
  2. Walk or move with difficulty or effort—trudge, tramp, traipse, trek, plod.

Slow going. No, really, I mean slow! Two miles uphill. At first, I ran. A mile, maybe less. The hill steepens; I start my slog. My son Eli and I tried to bike this trail two weeks ago. Already deep in our ride, tired when we started, we bailed a quarter way up. He and Sophie returned the next day, they rode the hill first. They got halfway, possibly a little more. The grade turns comical, absurd, so I walk. Sucking at my water, consulting my map. It can’t go up forever.

Three ATVs barrel down the path. I step aside, thankful for the break. The second rider slows, he stops next to me. I wait to hear some shit. A stupid joke. A suggestion that I find a different trail. We aren’t the same. I don’t expect them to understand me. “Be careful up there, we just saw a rattlesnake.” They ride off. I begin to run. Slog.

Eyes glued to the path. This happened once before. A Utah desert. Hiking in sandals and shorts over sandstone rocks. Susan screamed “Stop!” It was a foot away, coiled to strike. Now, every stick, every rock impersonates a snake. At one point, running through deep grass, my ankles obscured, I count on luck. I step next to a discarded bungee cord faded black and tan. My heart skips.

As I top the hill, I enjoy a brief flat. What goes up… My turn appears, Log Sled Trail. The name tells me what I need to know. Five hundred feet, all the altitude I worked so hard to gain, wiped away in a half mile. I turn a corner, a U-turn really, I start to climb again.

The trail narrows. ATVs don’t ride this one. Too many rocks, loose rocks, small boulders. Rattlesnakes make dens in rocks. This is stupid. No cell reception, people don’t hike this trail. Spiderwebs crisscross, thick ones, unmarred since when? Who last traveled here? The webs glob onto my face at regular intervals. If I fall hard or get bitten by that snake I keep expecting, I’m going to die alone.

This trail is straight up. No running this. I start to worry about the time. I’m not even halfway done. I said an hour, maybe a little more. I pull out my map and find my trail. This hill is going to be a long hike. I always undershoot my time estimate, always late getting home. I wonder if I can pick up some speed on the second half.

Eventually, the trail levels, there are fewer rocks. My heart slows down, I catch my breath. This is the first time I’ve run a comfortable stride since that first mile. The terrain starts to roll, up and down, but it’s all runnable. I’m still freaked out by the remoteness of this path, but I begin to think this run is a good idea. I’m on top of a mountain. It’s all downhill from here.

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

This story first appeared in Like the Wind Magazine

11 thoughts on “Slog

  1. I’ve happened across a couple of snakes on my runs through the years – not rattlesnakes, but they slithered so I was still scared sh**less – and surprisingly, seeing the snakes caused me to use a lot of profanity I was so scared. ONCE I ran directly into a spider web – I was swatting my face and checking my clothes until I was done and for the whole day, certain the spider was on me. I laugh now, because I saw a of other runners that day and they must have wondered why I kept screeching and hitting myself.

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    • I run and bike through spiderwebs all the time. Luckily they don’t really freak me out. Snakes make me uncomfortable because I can’t identify them when I see them They all look the same to me. Hence, I steer clear of them all. I really need a running partner for safety. The only person who makes sense, I can’t keep up with.

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