“Did you see the angels?” My wife asked when I was back in cell phone range.
“Excuse me?” I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly. I’ve run on trails before, but she’s never mentioned any angels.
“Did you see the angels I sent to guide you?” She said.
The thing was that, while I didn’t see any angels, I had a profound peace about reaching my goal: The Tesuque Creek. I had tried to find it on at least three prior runs, but either got too tired, or took wrong turns, or got too freaked out by approaching thunderstorms. However, on this particular run, I was more prepared. I bought and studied a map and memorized the directions and distances along the Chamisa Trail that led to the Tesuque Creek.
Though I’ve lived in Santa Fe all my life, I’ve never run the trails that lead from Hyde Park Road to various campgrounds and to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. I’ve always hiked and run the trails in the Pecos Wilderness, but I’d never even parked at any of the trailheads along Hyde Park Road. But one Saturday a few weeks ago, I read about an ultramarathon within the Santa Fe National Forest that begins at the lodge at the Santa Fe Ski Basin and continues through the trails for up to 50 miles (there is a 30 mile and a 13 mile course, as well). “I think I could do the 13 mile course,” I said to my wife. She shrugged her head and suggested that I try running those trails to get a sense of the difficulty involved.
Which then brought me to the Chamisa Trail. I chose that one first simply because it was the first trailhead that had a map and a parking area. I saw the Tesuque Creek on the map, but I admit that I didn’t quite understand how far I’d have to run to get there. The first time I tried to run to it, I was grossly unprepared. I had no water and didn’t use any sunscreen; plus, I was unfamiliar with the climb in altitude. I made it exactly one mile up the Chamisa Trail, turned around, and headed back to my car.
The next two visits were only marginally better. On one, I made it to a ridge that had two paths and a sign that said, “You are here,” but it was getting late and a thunderstorm threatened to unload an epic amount of rain, so I turned around. On another, I made it to the ridge, but decided to turn left at the “You are here” sign and continued running for another mile and a half before I realized that I was still climbing. Though I the Tesuque Creek was 2.25 miles from the trailhead, I had reached 2.5 miles and had neither seen nor heard any signs of a creek. I assumed that I would have to be heading downhill in order to reach a creek. Since I overran the distance and was getting a bit tired, I once again turned around and headed back to my car.
Because of my failures to find the creek, I decided that I would prepare like I would for any other goal I want to meet: I planned. I went to REI and bought a map of the entire trail system. I marked the distances and made a note that went I reached the “You are here” sign, I would turn right, which led downhill. I checked the weather to make sure that I wouldn’t get drenched by another monsoon, picked a day that had the least likely chance of rain and etched the route, distances, and topology I’d encounter into my mind. I even planned my pacing so that I can finish the 4.5 mile loop within a projected time, just so I can be certain how long I’d be in the mountains (my wife worries way too much).
When the day came, I headed out, armed with knowledge, water, and mental fortitude. Each step simply felt right; it was like there was a force carrying me to the Tesuque Creek. When I got to the “You are here” sign, I turned right, just as I had planned and headed down a steep grade hill for about 1.1 miles. I was scared; I was deep within a canyon and couldn’t shake the feeling that some mountain lion or bear was stalking from one of the canyon walls. But in the midst of my mind playing tricks on me, I heard a calming message, “just keep running, you’re on the right path and all is well.”
When I got to the creek, I felt a surge of joy. In a way, I felt like I had arrived at a kept promise. I splashed my sweat-drenched face with the cool creek water and prayed in thanks that I found the Creek. When my prayer was finished, I headed up the trail and returned to my car. I ran with a supply of energy that I shouldn’t have had, though. As I had throughout my time on the Chamisa Trail, I felt like something was with me and I was protected and strong.
So, I didn’t see any angels, but without any doubt in my mind, I knew there were with me. I said to my wife, “Yes, my love, I saw and felt the angels. They carried me to the Creek and brought my out of the canyon safely and with a strength I hadn’t felt in quite a while. Thank you for sending them….”