Sunday, August 23, 2015

Upstate Magic

I wanted to see the Hudson River. And I figured the only way that was going to happen on my work trip to Albany was to hitch a ride on the 'ol shoe leather express, if I can borrow a phrase from an old running friend of mine.

So I plotted a route using the map function on my I-phone and headed out the hotel doors a little before 6pm... unsure of just how far away my destination was, or if I'd even have time to make it there and back before nightfall.

After about a half mile running on the main commercial drag we were staying on, I took a right and headed down Albany Shaker Road towards the Hudson River where it would pass a bit north of the downtown area.

I ran through several middle to upper-middle class residential neighborhoods, sort of digging the scenes around me as I passed through.  I always enjoy the sensation of discovery when running in new places. Not knowing what's around the next bend in the road. Was also afforded occasional views to the west of a far off mountain range looking so diminutive beneath the big fiery setting sun... but otherwise I couldn't see much around me beyond the next few peoples' yards upcoming alongside the road.

I kept hoping for more of a clearing so I could perhaps catch a view of the downtown skyline, or even the river itself so I could get some sense as to how close or far away I was from my objective. Around 40 minutes or so into the run (wore my cheap wristwatch and not the garmin), I about gave up on the expedition... and was ready to turn around and head back towards the hotel.

But as I came upon the next stretch of road it was like someone pulled back the curtains and the show began. There was the Hudson River Valley stretching east into the far distance like an unfurling painting. I could see rolling hills and mountains on the other side of where the river bottom must lie. And as I rounded the next turn I could also see the valley extending northward, with more hills, and more mountains beyond them some 20, 30, 40? miles into the distance.

The grandeur of the Hudson River Valley and all its natural majesty in upstate New York was now mine for the viewing, as my cadence quickened on the long downhill sweep towards the river. I thought of a scene in Dharma Bums where Kerouac writes "...and suddenly it was like jazz," hiking down trails in the mountains of California.

For it was all breathtaking and lyrical... as I kept rolling and rolling faster and faster down the steep ascension to the valley's floor.  I felt wildly spiritual and even a tad religious...for at that point I was a believer. I felt like someone discovering that God had been with them all long, and loved them, and would always love them...and everything would be alight in this big complicated and messy world of ours. Because right then and there it was all so simple, and tangible. I was free. I was running. And I felt joy in my heart.

And I did eventually make it to Hudson River. I stopped and stood quietly on her bank and gazed out across her mighty waters and gave thanks for such a wonderful evening. For there was a bit of magic in the late summer air...I could feel it tingling my skin as I bade goodbye.