I’m writing from the Hewnoaks Artist Colony where I’m immersed in a week long residency. In addition to drawing bees, frogs, maps, and experimenting with new compositional strategies, I’ve been reading, writing, and enjoying the reflective time that artistic solitude can bring. Last week I resigned from my full-time teaching job, a decision I’ve been crunching away on for months, and this week of creative focus has underlined the importance of my decision to shift my energy to creative projects and other institutions.
Building on my farm-running project of last year, my plan for the Hewnoaks residency was to experience and map plots of land around Kezar Lake and then to translate the maps and experiences into drawings. I’ve had a few outings since I arrived on Saturday, but the most interesting work so far was inspired by the day I got lost searching for a trail, discovered a glorious expanse of wetland, and ended up doing a run in the New Hampshire mountains.
On route to find the Lord Hill network of trails, I navigated a series of small dirt roads north of Kezar Lake. As I meandered the back roads, I saw a number of small trails that seemed to head toward Horseshoe Pond, but I wanted a slightly longer run. I was surprised at how quickly the residential land on the east side of the lake turned into wilderness on the west. Driving along the deserted road, I suddenly saw an expanse of lime green to my left and hit the brakes. My run would have to wait; the most lush wetland, thick with lily pads and life, stretched out on my left. A symphony of frogs, toads and other critters echoed over the water: Wetlands Video
The day was fleeting and my run was calling, so after taking a few shots of the view, I pulled myself away. A short distance down the road, I found the trail I’d been looking for. Unfortunately, it was much more isolated than I’d anticipated, in addition to being steep, thin, and jammed with rocks and roots. I had no map and only a small bottle of water, so I decided to continue on. I hadn’t found my run yet, but I was having a blast getting the lay of the land.
After leaving the National Forest land, I hit Route 113. My plan had been to go out for an hour long trail run and then head back to Hewnoaks, but at this point, I submitted to a longer adventure. I’d been looking across Kezar Lake from my cabin, trying to identify the mountains, and now I was figuring it out by car. I eventually spotted a sign for a trail head and pulled into a parking lot with a number of other cars. Next to the info sign, a woman was sitting on the ground next to her motorcycle, smoking a cigarette and organizing her gear. She told me that she “rides and hikes alone,” and that she’d hiked these trails before. We chatted about hiking and running, and she told me that she started running Tough Mudders in order to quit smoking, but that smoking had just become part of her routine. Hard for me to imagine, but she lights up before and after a race. She showed me her trail map, and I figured I’d just do a short out and back on the Baldface Circle trail. Last week I ran my second half marathon (more on that soon) and next week I run the Beach to Beacon, so this week I’m taking it easy on my legs!
Sticking to the plan, I ran 35 minutes in, cutting back and forth across the brook a few times. Throughout the run, I realized that I wasn’t wearing the right sneakers for trail running. I had on my Mizunos, which I love for distance road running, but they felt clunky on the trails. Could it be possible that I need another pair of sneakers?!
The day was heating up, and I was eager to take a dip in Emerald Pool on my way out. I meandered back down, having one slip on a rock that looked secure, smacking my shin, and ditching both feet into the brook. I got away with just a scrape, but the slip confirmed my choice not to head into isolated trails alone and unprepared. In the future, I’ll bring my running pack with a map, layer, snack, water, and my phone. I arrived at the pool, pulled off my wet sneakers, and soaked my legs in the glowing green water. After a quick dip in the icy brook, I ran the short stretch back to the trail head.
My head was filled with green–frogs, moss, emerald pools of water–and I was eager to get back to my studio. Still, as I got into the car, I figured I had to be pretty close to Evans Notch, and it would be a shame not to have a quick look! I decided on a short detour on my way back to Lovell. I wrapped up in my towel (always remember a full change of clothes when heading out on running adventures!) and drove the meandering, paved road up the mountain. I pulled over in the notch, chatted with a family of bikers, took in the view, and then cruised back to Hewnoaks around the south end of Kezar lake. I’d filled my head with images and ideas that will fuel my work well past the residency!