Don’t Forget Your Orange Vest (I Hate Hunting Season)

Every year at this time, hunters are out in the woods shooting at stuff.  Ideally they only shoot at what they can clearly see are deer.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I read this article in the Worcester Telegram on Tuesday morning, and ran on the road instead of in the woods (that was short-lived).

There is no hunting allowed on Sundays, so we don’t even have to think about not running that day.  The rest of the time, there is no hunting allowed on the east side of the river.  That theoretically means that running on the east side is safe. But during the whole run, I wonder how far a bullet (piece of shotgun shell?) can travel.  In some places the river isn’t very wide, and a hunter would never even know they shot someone on the other side.

I’m trying to be charitable, and think that hunters only have the woods for a few weeks, while the rest of us have the other eleven months.  Turns out I was wrong about that.  I found this chart from Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife that lists hunting seasons for all sorts of things.  There is hunting allowed for something almost all year long.

Some of these things make perfect sense to hunt.  Deer are good to eat, and so are wild turkeys.  I suppose that other birds like quail, ducks, and pheasant would also make good eating.  Rabbits too, but I’d have to be awfully hungry to eat a squirrel. But I don’t like the idea of killing stuff just for trophies, that’s sort of like killing trees to be Christmas decorations.  It just seems wrong.  But why else would someone hunt a fox, coyote, raccoon,  beavers, or opossum? Doesn’t seem like they would be good to eat.

And then there are seasons to hunt some really weird things. Crows can be hunted for most of the year, except during the early summer. Frogs can be hunted at the end of the summer, and snapping turtles can be hunted all year long. What does one do with a bunch of dead crows or turtles.  Not eat them I hope!

Most things are hunted with some sort of gun (rifle, shotgun, or primitive firearms).  Deer can also be hunted with a bow, and you can use a falcon to hunt for crows (I didn’t realize people still did that!) That seems a little more fair.  After all, the deer or turkeys can’t shoot back. There was an article in this morning’s Telegram about a guy who harvested (killed, not harvested.  Let’s not be mincing words here) a record size deer with a bow in Rutland last week. That’s sportsmanship!

But now that I know that some kind of hunting can go on year-round, I’m back to resenting the hunters.  Most of us (except for the dog people) share the trails very nicely.  By the time deer hunting season ends, there may be snow covering the trails.  Snowshoeing is always an option, but it’s not as good as running.  So here’s hoping for a snowless winter. And I’ve invested in a couple of bright orange running tops, and a neon yellow jacket.  One of those combined with purple tights, bright green shoes, and pink gloves, should make it clear that I’m not something to be shot at.

Now go out and run, but stay on the east side of the river, and don’t forget your orange vest!

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A Trail Runner’s Thanksgiving

Some things to be thankful for, not in any particular order:

…Living close to the trails

…Whatever person thought up Merrell Trail Gloves, best running shoe ever

… the people at Inov-8 who designed my mud shoes

…The Wigwam company for making such great socks, and they are black (why would anyone buy white socks?)

…All the polite people I meet out on the trails: hikers, runners, disc golfers, mountain bikers, motorcycle guys, horseback riders, geocachers (but not the dog people because they are rarely polite)

…Hot, hot, hot sunny days, warmish days are okay, too, but not  so much for cold, wet ones

…The new bridge

…The USACE who built the bridge and maintains the project that make the trails possible

…My family who doesn’t care that I disappear to run

…The guys who fly the cool little airplanes in the field

…The gas company for mowing the gas line

…The people who clean the bathroom

…The genius who invented polarfleece and other high-tech fabrics

…Road Id

…Ben’s 100% DEET bug spray

…The person who thought of making a water bottle to wear on a belt

…A job that encourages fitness

…All the people who think it’s weird that I run in the woods (and even more the ones who don’t think it’s weird), maybe they will try it one day

…The organizers of all the events that happen at the dam: running race, bike race, motorcycle races, horseback events, boy scout events (and I’m sure there are more)

Thank you, and go run!

Turkey Time

Almost everyone eats turkey for Thanksgiving.  But , as I think about it, most of the times I’ve seen turkeys in the woods, its been spring or summer. So where did the pilgrims find the turkeys for the supposed first Thanksgiving.  Or did turkeys hang out year-round back then?

So I checked the Massachusetts Wildlife site to see when you are most likely to spot a turkey. In colonial times, turkeys were very common in Massachusetts,  But by the early 1800’s they had become rare, and by 1851, were all but gone.In the 1970’s and 1980’s wildlife workers started re-locating birds from New York.  By 1996, turkeys were again well established throughout the state.Turkeys mate in the spring, and the brood usually hatches at the beginning of June.  Interestingly, turkey hunting season is in May, when there would be eggs in nests, with a week long season added in the fall.  Seems like a really weird time to be hunting anything. (Although turkey hunters tend to be odd birds themselves.  They dress in full camouflage, and sit in the bushes shooting at things that move, and yelling at runners.)

When you approach most birds in the woods (ducks, geese, or songbirds), they fly away.  But I’ve never seen a turkey fly.  They don’t even really run, they just walk surprisingly fast.  I remember being very amused watching a friend chase turkeys a couple of times.  They just keep walking away, and are about impossible to catch!  But they do fly.  How else would they get into trees to roost at night?

Turkeys eat acorns (so they must be fighting the deer for them), nuts, grapes, skunk cabbage, tubers, and bugs. Baby turkeys, called poults, eat mostly bugs because of the high protein content. Turkeys nests are often preyed on by  snakes, crows, raccoons , and skunks.  And predators of the birds include fox, coyote, fisher, bobcats, owls, and hawks.

So now you are educated about your Thanksgiving dinner!

No Such Thing As Too Many Shoes

Runners love shoes, but sometimes the relationship is a little bit complicated.  First, you need to have more than one pair of running shoes, in case one is wet.  Putting on wet shoes does not make for happy feet.  Then you need an old pair for stuff like painting or raking leaves.  It’s hard to throw away old shoes, this lengthens their life a bit. And you need a pair that’s sort of waterproof  for wet days.  And once your feet have experienced the comfort of running shoes, you never want to wear anything else, so you need at least one pair of neat ones in case you have to pretend to be a grown-up. If you have a favorite shoe, the company will always discontinue it, so you have to have  one pair waiting in a box for when you need it. And then there are lucky shoes for racing that must be protected at all costs.

My journey to shoe minimalism started about a year ago.  (That means shoes that are less, NOT fewer shoes!!) The first pair I tried was Fila Skele-toes.  I decided I definitely don’t like toe shoes.  Then I bought a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves, and fell in shoe love.  Like the name says, these shoes fit like a glove.  They are low to the ground, have good ground feel, and wrap securely around the top of your feet.  These have become my go-to shoes.  I have a couple of pairs for running, a couple of variations for walking around in, and a clean, indoor pair for wearing on the floor at work. I even have some Merrell flip-flops that stay secure on my feet (I hate it when my shoes slide around).

However, much as I love my Merrells, they are not a great shoes when the trails are muddy or covered in wet leaves.  So last spring I tried a pair of Vivobarefoot  Breatho Trail shoes. They have a very barefoot feel, and the soles are very grippy, but I really don’t like them.  Like I said before, there is nothing more aggravating than shoes that slide around on your feet.  These slide, a lot.  I can’t lace them up tight enough to fit well on the middle part of my feet.  And a size smaller would be too short.  So I guess they will just live in the closet.  If anybody wants to try minimalist shoes, and has wider feet than me, let me know, and you can have them.

One problem with wearing minimalist shoes, is that you feet get used to them, and don’t want to wear anything else.  Anna thinks this is great, and has been shoe shopping in my closet!  I guess this could also bee seen as an opportunity to get more new shoes 😉   ( Check out my previous post to read about my discovery of Inov-8 boots.)  Finding Inov-8 solved the problem of running in mud and wet.  These shoes are called Bare Grip 200.  They have no midsole at all and no drop, but have an almost cleat-like bottom.  They grip securely in the mud, wet leaves, loose rocks, and snow.  The last two days have been my best runs since the leaves fell down this fall!  Minimalist shoes are very low to the ground and if there is any wet on the trail, you end up with soggy feet. That’s fine in the summer, but cold, wet feet in the winter is not  very nice.  So the next project is to find some kind of waterproof socks.  Challenge accepted!!

New Snow

Yesterday was the first snow of the season.  The ride into work was not very good, and the one home was even worse.  The roads had not been plowed or sanded, and I was glad to get home and wrap up in fleece.  Of course, when it got to be today, I had to get out to the trails and see what they looked like.

Running shoes didn’t seem like a good idea today, but that’s okay because I have new boots.  Now that I wear minimalist shoes full-time, I had to find boots that didn’t feel like walking on stilts. While there are plenty of minimalist shoes out there, boots are much harder to find.  I found a few models, but one was reviewed as not very waterproof, and another was too high and had to be ordered from overseas.  So when I found these boots from Inov-8, they seemed like a good compromise. They have a little bit of midsole, and a 6mm drop, but they are light and flexible, and made with Gore-tex. They’re actually made for mountain running, so they don’t slide on my feet at all.  They should be good with snowshoes, too, if we get more snow.  (I hope we don’t.  Last winter was really nice.)

Often, in the middle of the day, I have the woods to myself, but not today.  Right at the dam, I ran into a guy who was geo-caching.  He said he tried to come out yesterday, but the roads were too bad and he went right home. And there was a very polite dog person with a big dog on a leash not far from the new bridge.  I made sure to thank him for leashing the dog. There were some cross country ski tracks near the parking lot.  It took me a while to figure out what made the tracks.  There really isn’t enough snow for snowshoes, so I figured it would be the same for skis.  And at many places on the trail, I came across a set of big footprints accompanied by dog prints.  They were not on the trail, but all over the woods.  I wonder if that person always walks off the trails, but nobody notices when there aren’t footprints in the snow.

I need to check the beaver dam regularly.  The water level seems to change very fast.  It was high today, and there seems to be a lot more water upstream on the east side (top left of this picture). There seemed to be a lot of ducks in the river, and every time I passed a bunch, they flew away with much quacking and splashing.  I wonder where they all came from?

The new bridge is another place I need to check often.  It was still up high out of the water.  There was a flock of panicked ducks right near it.  When the bridge was built, the guy driving the construction equipment cut a path thru the woods for access.  There are big piles of wood at both ends, probably to prevent the motorcycle guys from using it as a trail. There are always a few cars parked up at the dam: a silver Xterra, a green Corolla, and a green CRV.  I assume they belong to people who work there, but I have never seen a ranger out on the trails.  They only seem to drive vehicles around the project.  Seems like a waste of what could be a really cool job.  Well, the weather is supposed to be warm this weekend.  I’ll be glad to see the snow melt.  I hope it stays gone!