GET OUT: Popular Pathways

By on May 3, 2016

Now is the time to enjoy familiar stretches of trail and appreciate friendly faces.

The author shifts her perspective from longing looks toward the Tetons to panoramic views from the King; spring is in the air and on the trails. (Photo: bree buckley)

The author shifts her perspective from longing looks toward the Tetons to panoramic views from the King; spring is in the air and on the trails. (Photo: bree buckley)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – We Jacksonites, are completely spoiled by the trail networks that are 15 steps from our front doors, not to mention the magical mountain range that emerges out of flatlands, and the Snake River that flows directly through the center of our cherished little valley. We live here for our easy access to such an outdoor mecca, but when spring skiing conditions leave us feeling tremulous and dirt trails resemble more of an ice luge than a running haven, our outdoor anxiety becomes all-consuming. We retreat, we hide, and we pretend that baking is a newfound passion to replace our need for adrenaline and euphoria.

That is, however, until the first melt reveals minimal remnants of dirt pathways. A revitalized outdoor spirit fuels the resurgence of runners and bikers as opening trails lure athletes and their furry companions to log pavement-free miles. You will see everyone you know (and don’t know) and feel like the most popular girl in the world. But, in fact, we are all squishing our exercise-needy bodies onto the only dry trail in town. Whether or not these are my actual friends zigzagging up and down the Nelson switchbacks, coasting across Putt Putt Trail, and completing their loop on Sidewalk Trail—witnessing our town of shoulder season hermits emerging from their off-season caves reinforces my love for our community. We share a binding eagerness for a change in the season and are plagued with contagious energy.

Phrases often heard during this time include, “I can’t believe you’re already running after your knee surgery,” and “I’ve been needing this vitamin D.” Ample oohs and aahs, akin to the sounds heard on a powder day at the Village, flutter through the air as enthusiasts hustle past each other in a newfound excitement for the spring season.

Trail reports become the new talk of the town, replacing morning coffee shop talk of how Glory is skiing with how far you can climb Snow King until you hit a snowfield. Excitement grows as more trails emerge through rotting snow. The utter hardship of suffering through hill repeats on High School Butte is replaced with the relief that you can now endure only one uphill climb on Josie’s Ridge.

This is, however, until all the trails become dry. May is a month that shows that we are birds of a feather, but soon we will disperse again, migrating in whichever direction the winds take us. The neighbor that you excitedly saw looping the Nelson Switchbacks will travel into deeper woods. The coworker that you caught up with at the top of Josie’s Ridge will disappear into Grand Teton National Park. And the ex that you’ve been wanting to avoid will rally down Teton Pass on their mountain bike.

Before we know it our anxiety to unleash and explore will override our trailside chatter. Squinting in bright summer sun, some of us will reside by a river in the freedom of our sandals; others will drive our fatigued, ambulating bodies into the high peaks week after week; and many will speed their travel road bike down Highway 89 and take in the amalgamation of tectonic plates that are the Tetons.

My advice? Enjoy the May madness of congested trails and appreciate seeing familiar faces around each dry bend. Even if you don’t recognize your fellow trail user, look her in the eyes, and smile. For before we know it, we’ll be in the throes of summer and Jackson will once again morph into a congested destination for the pleasure seeking masses. PJH

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