I hunt. Mostly big game like deer and elk, occasionally birds and small game. I grew up hunting, and since the hunting seasons were relatively short compared to the rest of the year, I spent even more time dreaming of hunting. Hunting excursions with my dad and brothers were my first exposure to the ridges, valleys and trails in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains. As I grew older and more independent, I found myself exploring more and more of the terrain around Millcreek and Parleys Canyons, in search of the perfect place to find that big buck deer or bull elk that I dreamt of. Every now and then, I would come across some one RUNNING the trails that I was struggling to hike up. And while it seemed crazy and beyond my abilities to run such ridiculous terrain, it was slightly intriguing. Fast forward a few years, and I had actually grown to enjoy, and (gasp) even crave running. I ran a marathon or two a year to stay in shape, and to give me a goal to focus on. Fast forward a couple more years, I was finished with graduate school, had moved back to Salt Lake City to begin a career and raise a family, and I was focused on hunting again, and running those trails I had thought were un-runnable to stay in shape for hunting season. One September afternoon in 2004, I pulled up to a trailhead I had been frequenting, to bow-hunt for elk. Instead of the usual 3-4 trucks parked there, it was overflowing with cars, tents, plastic pink flamingos, spectators blowing horns and ringing cowbells, and runners. Lots of runners. Yes, it was the Big Mountain Aid Station for the Wasatch 100 mile Endurance Run. Dressed in camouflage, I joined the spectators for a while and watched the runners come through the aid station. I talked to crew, and pacers. I watched the struggles some of the runners were already having just 40 miles into the run. Some dropped out, but most persevered. After hunting along the Great Western Trail the rest of the afternoon and evening, I woke up the next morning absolutely fascinated by what I had seen the day before, and couldn’t get the thought of those runners, STILL running, out of my mind. So, I drove up to the Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah, the Finish of the Wasatch 100, and I watched as these amazing, tenacious, gritty and absolutely unbelievable runners of all shapes, age and size ran, walked, and stumbled across the Finish Line. And I was hooked, I knew that the Wasatch 100 was something I needed to do. The following September, I was one of the lucky ones that were able to run, walk and stumble my through the Wasatch Mountains and across the Finish Line at the Homestead Resort.
What was to be a one and done type of event, has turned into a huge part of my life, helping define who I am, what is important to me, and how I spend a large portion of my recreational time. While hunting was still part of who I was and what I identified with, instead of moving slowly through the woods, or sitting on a ridge top with a pair of binoculars waiting to see what would step out of the trees, I was seeing how efficiently I could move along those trails, and how fast I could get from ridge-top to ridge-top.
The past few years, however, as the seasons transition from Summer to Fall, I have felt the cravings of moving stealthily through stands of golden aspen, of smelling the rich musky odor of rutting bull elk, and listening to those bulls screaming their challenge into the frosty September air. The majority of my bow-hunts this year have been quick affairs before work or over a lunch break, and I have needed my fitness to get from one spot to the other as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I’m still moving as fast as I can, but once I get to the ridgeline or peak I am focused on, the game changes from speed to patience. It’s proven to be a fun way to combine my running and hunting passions, and I have started to call it “Runting”. While my runting excursions have not yet been successful from the perspective of harvesting a deer or elk with my bow and arrow, they have been rewarding in beautiful sunrises and sunsets, in close encounters with wildlife that are easy to run by if you’re not paying attention, and in gaining an intimate connection with some of the land and mountains I have “sped” through in years past.
Whatever your preferred method of travel, or reason to spend time outside, it’s good for the soul to change things up now and then. What a wonderful Fall it’s been.