by Isabel Brennan
It was the Arcadians very first shot at free time and they were ready to explore. All 12 of them stood by the sign-out whiteboard as they frantically grabbed markers and maps and began to familiarize themselves with the trails.
Behind trees, over stumps, and across boardwalks, the students flew in every direction: some went north, others went south, and a few may have gone in circles. The white, yellow, blue and orange trails were soon covered in tracks of all different shapes and sizes: big feet, little feet, mountain bikes, chacos, and the occasional croc.
Kim and Dan waited at Arcadia for the students to return, for they knew that the beauty and mystery in these trails was a likely excuse for them to return later than the 6:30 dinner bell. Luckily, full of stories to tell and jokes to crack, each of the Arcadians made it back on time for a hearty dinner.
If you set off on any of these trails, you will quickly notice two common themes: gnarly roots and unpredictable boardwalks. Whether on two wheels or two feet, these obstacles challenge any traveler’s coordination. In just this first week they have become notorious for claiming Arcadian ankles. A distracted runner gazing out upon the peaceful waters of Lake Massawepie becomes an easy target for the many roots that snake across the trails. When the ground turns to a soggy mush the boardwalks begin. At first what seems like a friendly gesture to keep your feet dry soon turns into a bucking bronco ride. While they may look inviting, the boardwalks rarely let you stay for too long. Hop on too close to either edge and the slippery boards provide you with the same traction as an ice skating rink. Too close to the front or the back and it turns into a teeter-totter. If you step just right the board acts like a trampoline propelling one through the air. If the board is older and more rotten, then the trampoline effect is replaced with a loud crack. I experienced the latter on my 1980s pink mountain bike. After failing to mount the boardwalk properly, I went sailing over my handlebars. I managed to get my feet under me only to smash them right through the boards. These elements add a little extra excitement to our daily runs, walks, or rides. It requires the utmost focus just to stay on your feet. If each stride or pedal stroke is not carried out with careful and thoughtful intention, these roots and boardwalks are likely to throw you head over heels in a radically different direction.
While the roots and boardwalks sent the uncoordinated Caleb flying in various directions, Isabel, as the more attentive runner, enjoyed the trails while staying on her feet.
“Beep, beep, beep, beep.”
With heavy eyelids I glanced at my purple Timex watch, 5:10 a.m. My sleeping bag was molded to me, warm and comforting; it made the thought of getting up seem close to impossible. But then I remembered, I remembered the beautiful sunrise, the welcoming trails, and the light morning dew that made the early rise worth it the previous day. I laced up my sneakers, threw on a few layers, signed out on the whiteboard (Isabel, running, white trail, return: 6:30ish) and I was on my way.
Through dense woods, dawn dirt roads, along the water’s edge, and over a bridge I ran, following the white blazes. At any point on the trail, I could look one way or another knowing there was a picturesque view calling for my attention. The morning fog on the lake added thick layers of mystery as it closed in on all edges. Along these trails, I encountered only animals: the humans must have all still been sleeping. As I ran by, various squirrels, toads, and salamanders changed their routes in an effort to not cross mine. I attempted to not disturb the peaceful silence of the early morning for these sleepy creatures, but at 6’ tall running silently does not come naturally.