I went for one of my favorite runs yesterday.
It's only three weeks since the marathon so I'm still taking it fairly easy. But the temperature is 50 degrees, positively balmy for New Jersey in January. So I put on my shorts and T-shirt and set off along my road which runs along one side of the largest lake in town. It's only 79 acres but this is where the local sailing club meets, where I sailed Sunfish with my sons for many years, where I tried and failed to teach my wife to enjoy sailing, and where I spent three summers teaching kids to sail. The road winds around the lake and, after a mile or so, crosses the main drag through town and then starts to ascend.
The original 600 or so houses in town were built between 1910 and 1923 by one developer. He was particularly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, at the height of its popularity when he started building, and he used many features of Gustav Stickley's Craftsman architecture and philosophy. The houses are solid and boxy in appearance, good-sized but not ostentatious homes, with variations of colonial or neo-classical detail. There is much use of natural stone and stucco and they fit well into the landscape, located on natural rather than graded terrain with narrow roads curved to fit the contours of the land.
Now a new generation of builders is busy everywhere in town. Renovations, re-modeling, extensions, tear-downs ... It seems that this town must be supporting the businesses of building contractors from a 50 mile radius. Folks that have made their money on Wall Street or in New York law firms, and guys with mysterious businesses in waste management or the like, are moving in and demanding more space in their homes, more modern amenities, whirlpool baths for him and her and the nanny, acres of granite counter tops, media rooms with 200 inch screens ... Little by little the town is being turned into a cluster of huge McMansions fit for Tony Soprano. On the left is one new home just being finished. On the right of the road another new house is being framed. Both replace older homes that were demolished.
I run up the hill and over a dam between two more lakes. Already it is more peaceful and I can hear the birdsong instead of the contractors' saws and hammers. The path over the dam is soft where the borough employees have spread woodchips. There is still some ice covering the surface of the higher lake. These two lakes and the one above them supported a thriving natural ice business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- before the availability of domestic refrigerators put an end to such activities.
Out on to the road again and still climbing. My legs are feeling good. Best run since the marathon. I go past a plumber's van with a sign saying, "Real Men Love Jesus". And then up to the highest lake in town, a popular spot for walking dogs. I see the mother of one of the kids that I taught to sail and wave to her. He was one of the first kids in town that I encouraged to attend junior regattas. I remember taking him when he was about 10 years old to a foggy, cold Sunfish regatta up in the hills of north-west Jersey. He's in college in Boston now.
I approach the highest lake and jog past the town's 911 memorial, a large boulder with simple carving. This small town lost two of its own that day, both workers in the World Trade Center. As chance would have it they were both parents of kids that I taught to sail. Sad and happy memories mixed together.
As I head into the woodlands I pass a notice warning that as part of the town's "deer management program", bow hunters will be in the woods culling the deer. (God forbid that the deer might eat the plants in the gardens of the McMansions.) But I don't think the archers will be aiming their arrows at middle-aged runners puffing along the track so I keep running.
I head into the woods on the trail round the lake. This is where my youngest son won the Trout Derby one brisk spring day and had his photo taken with the mayor and an enormous trout. The trail ascends and I see that there is ice covering about half the lake. In the summer this lake will be covered in water lilies but they are all dormant now. I reach the highest point of the run and start the gentle ascent down the woodland trail to the beach where the swim team meets in the summer. This is also the start and finish point for the town's annual 10K Woods and Lakes Run that I enter most years. Even though it's only January the sun feels amazingly warm on my body as I run out of the woods.
Now I'm retracing my steps. I pass the Jesus loving plumber's van and see that the plumber even looks like Jesus with long hair and a beard. Well, a blonde Jesus. Than as I head back over the dam I hear geese honking and see some Canada geese. Another species for which the town has a "management" program. In a few weeks they will be taking goose eggs from their nests and addling them. And in the summer any geese that survive that will be rounded up into vans and gassed. Got to keep those town beaches clean.
It's relaxing running down the hill and then out on to the main road through town. There is a wide, fairly level, well-surfaced sidewalk separated from the road by a strip of grass. The sidewalk used to be the route of a trolley track in the old days and is a popular spot for runners. A man and a woman running together slowly overtake me but that's OK. I'm still taking it easy. I pass a couple of women walking. One says to the other, "I'll live in it and leave it to you in my will." I pass an elderly lady admiring two small children and talking to their nanny.
Around the north end of the lake and past the school and the town club, two of the older buildings in town. I still have some bounce left in my legs for the final hill in the north-east corner of the main lake and I'm home.
Mmmm. A good run. Just under 5 miles, I'd guess, though I've never measured it. One of my favorite routes.