Big Bear, CA--Zener and I met up for a couple of runs this past Thanksgiving holiday up in Big Bear Lake. Day one featured a nice 3.7 ditty in below 40 degree weather, with wind, and a disappearing sun. Oh, yeah, and we were at 7,000 feet above sea level.
Day two saw us completing sprint intervals with push ups and sit ups at Eagle's point. Day three--Zener discovers a trail.
So, we're on this awesome trail that is deep into the woods. You have no idea that you are in Big Bear. The trail is challenging, uphill, downhill, jumping rocks and crevices. We're a good 25-plus minutes into the run and come across three choices for trail continuance. We select one and we're off. Five to ten minutes into this, we see an incredible view of Big Bear Lake and forge on. We then come around a bend and see the silhouette of a man, wearing a backpack, sweatshirt hood over his head, and a wild red beard. He calls out to us, "My dog may run up on you, but he won't bite." Zener knows I have a childhood fear of dogs, so he takes the lead by about ten feet. We approach the mountain main, and I note that he is barely over five feet tall. Then, in the distance I see it. A gray pitbull, running full speed towards us, tongue hanging out, and it is wearing a bandana around its neck like a cowboy. I say to the man, "You're dog's coming." He doesn't look up. "Yeah, keep running, he likes it when you do that." Zener stops and the dog is on him, skids to a stop, gives a low bark, and is ready for play. I swallow the boulder of fear in my throat and give a feeble, "Hey, boy" and pat its head. We then turn to the man and Zener says, "Hey, do you know where this trail ends?" He chortles. Not a laugh, not a giggle, but a low, guttural chortle. "You keep going and you'll end up in Sugarloaf. Two skinny guys like you in Sugarloaf'll stand out." And he laughs this time. Z and I look at each other. I say, "What about getting back to Bear Mountain or Moonridge?" He leans back and says, "I'm going to get into Sugarloaf in about 45 minutes. You keep running you'll get there in twenty-five. You go back the way you came, shoot, it'll take you an hour and twenty minutes to get back." Z and I thank him and turn to head back. He seems disappointed that we aren't going in the same direction. We have no desire to be in Sugarloaf. We get 30 yards away and he yells for us. "Hey, come back and I'll show you a short cut." Zener says quietly, "Deliverance. Deliverance." I think of a hatchet coming out from his jacket or a knife. I"Come on, I'm just a hillbilly." I turn to Z and say, "Come on, let's check it out," and jog towards him. He leans in and says, "See that mound of dirt right there?" It looks about seven or eight feet in length and is about two feet high--the perfect dimensions of a covered body. "Take that direction and you'll hit a trail back to Moonridge. " It is then that I notice what I thought were brown leather gloves, worn from the rugged elements, are actually his hands. The nails were black and gnawed. His gnarled knuckles bore the scars of foraging for roots or, at least, digging in the dirt. We thank him and turn towards the trail. I look back at him and ask, "What's your dog's name?" He pauses a moment, looks at the ground, and then up at me and says, "His name is God." With that, we near the mound of dirt, cross it and disappear down the declivity and race towards civilization. When we silently ponder what we're headed towards, we're both quietly jealous of Hillbilly Bob.