Mountain Peaks…and peaking in the mountains

I admit it – living in the mountains can make you a bit of snob when it comes to people talking about their outdoor experiences.  Living in a place of ‘large features’ is reflected in the passions of the people who live here.  While most are content to hike the trails, even if it means carrying pounds of equipment, tents, food and water for days – there is a rare breed of ‘hiker’ here that prefers to run the trails. These ‘runners’ are able to do the multi day hikes faster and with less equipment.  These folks even eat on the run!

‘There is a guy in the states that has it down to fine art…when he runs he takes a cell phone and maps out where he can call ahead for food.  He’ll tell the pizza guy to meet him in twenty minutes where the highway meets his trail, get his pizza and hold it in one hand and eat it as he continues.  That’s extreme.  We take sandwiches and fruit and have a way of drinking while running…we don’t skimp on food” says Dave MacDowell.

Dave and his team of friends won the infamous Death Race in 2009.  (great story in Jasper’s Fitzhugh http://www.fitzhugh.ca/sports/58-death-defying-race-winners )  The Death Race takes place in the mountains around Grande Cache Alberta.  ‘We are very fortunate here in the Park to have a great trail system’ says MacDowell as he points out the hundreds of kilometres that he has run.  ‘The Death Race trails are nothing like what we have here.  At some points on the trail it’s like they just rolled a barrel down the mountain and expect you to run through the debris.’

As the Library chat went on it was hard not to be infected with Dave’s love of running…the stories of meeting other folks on the trails that have given him snide remarks like ‘slow down and enjoy the mountains’ to cresting a ridge to face a charging bear…all leave the listener with a sense that maybe we (I) haven’t really experienced the mountains!  I like the part about doing a trail in a day – no tents, no dishes – just keep it light and fast.  Alas, I know I am not built for speed…I will have to live vicariously through the stories…

Dave was quick to point out that he doesn’t care to run competitively.  He runs to challenge himself…and to connect to the nature that has been his home all his life.  Growing up in Jasper was one of the reasons we asked him to speak at the Library surrounded by the artwork of Robert Guest.  Guest’s works are presented this month through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts traveling exhibition HIGH ART.

Dave put a whole new twist on the art of being in the mountains and anyone who has heard the man speak about running cannot deny the ‘Rocky Mountain High’ he gets from his sport.

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For more details on the works hanging in the Library check out this site:  http://prairiegallery.com/current-travelling-exhibitions/high-art-passport-to-the-peaks/     The art will hang until the 23rd of January.  They are accompanied by the readings of author Vivian Demuth – a poet who spends summers with Robert Guest in the peaks.  Few things can be expressed as well as when the story tellers themselves read to us…so go the Library and have a listen! (or listen to Vivian on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/leatherpass )   They did bring in some excellent books on the art of Guest as well.

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