When I set out to thru-run the Long Path in 2013, I received some negative feedback. One person told me that runners should stick to the roads and leave trails to hikers. Another said I should learn to stop and smell the roses.
Boy, that comment irritated me. I still remember it to this day.
Let me explain why.
First of all, roses are difficult. I used to grow them in our garden, but without liberal doses of toxic chemicals, they fell victim to black spot, aphids, caterpillars, Japanese Beetles, and many other pests. If a rose bush survived its first year, the critters soon invited all their friends and relatives and the next year the onslaught was even worse.
Needless to say, when I thru-ran the entire 350-mile Long Path, I didn’t see many roses. There wasn’t much to slow down and smell.
So forgive me if I change the metaphor slightly. By “smelling the roses,” let’s suppose what my friendly critic actually meant was, “examining and admiring nature.”
On my last run in Sam’s Point, I did exactly this. I stopped to count the number of needles growing together in fascicles on the Pitch Pine trees (Pinus rigida) that cover the Shawangunk Mountains in this area. I had thought each fascicle contained two needles, but discovered it was three.
I checked a handful of fascicles. The tree had thousands.
And the mountains were covered with millions of trees.
Out here, you could spend the rest of your life counting Pitch Pine needles. I believe in certain parts of California, where thousands of acres are devoted to growing flowers, you could spend the rest of your life smelling roses.
Instead, by continuing to run — and thus by covering more ground — I was able to take in multiple views of the distant Catskills, admire not only the sweep of the Pitch Pine barrens stretching for miles in every direction, but also hemlock groves, glacier-polished conglomerate rock faces, steep gullies and ravines, sky lakes, water falls, and much more.
Next time someone tells me to “slow down and smell the roses,” I’ll surely smile and nod politely. But I might also say:
Pick up the pace and see what you’re missing!