While I may not be the most "outdoorsy" of ultra-runners, falling closer to the "Green Acres" category than "Man vs Wild," I think I fall pretty high on the scale when it comes to shear appreciation of the great outdoors. So it's been great this year to watch Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea and read Timothy Egan's The Big Burn - both of which trace the creation of the National Parks as well as the field of conservation. Each is filled with quotes from Roosevelt, Pinchot, Muir, and others that capture what so many of us feel when we're cresting Longs, Handies, Catherine's, Devil's Thumb, or Nordoff.
On cue to put a cap on another fantastic, if much too short, summer in the high country, is another typically beautifully written piece by Egan in yesterday's Times online - called My Summer Home - which chronicles his long love affair with the National Parks and public lands across the west.
As all ultra-runners are, I'm asked much too often the question: "why?." I feel strongly that it's really unanswerable - at least to a satisfactory level - since it's so tied up in the motivation, experience and emotion of training for and making it to the finish (or not) of a 50, 100 mile run. But pieces like Egan's and Burn's capture, at least for me, one of the amazing draws of ultra-running, the grandeur of the lonesome outdoors. They don't really answer the full question "why?," but they certainly provide a guidepost in the right direction.
Photo taken in the Salmon-Challis National Forest