Getting back more than you give

Ellen and Alan were real worker bees on the cleanup and maintenance day at Turkey Mountain.

Ellen and Alan were real worker bees on the cleanup and maintenance day at Turkey Mountain.

One of the great things about being involved in the trail running community is hearing their stories. This happens even when you’re not actually running.

Saturday was a semi-annual cleanup and trail maintenance day at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness, the favorite haunt for Tulsa-area trail runners, mountain bikers and hikers. It’s my local happy place, a feeling shared by a lot of other people.

But being in a city, it’s going to get some abuse from people who may not care for it as much as I do. Being in the Southern Plains, it’s also going to get slammed by nature in the form of ice, wind and storms.

About 25 of us gathered at the trailhead and took off armed with trash bags, tree trimmers and axes. We scattered all over the park looking for ways to make the trails a little cleaner and free of obstructions.

I teamed up with a pair of folks I didn’t know, but found to be good company. Alan is a veteran trail runner while Ellen an avid hiker. In the midst of picking up trash and cutting back on overhanging limbs, we talked mountain hikes, trail races and marathons. As it turns out, I actually worked with Alan a year before on another cleanup day. He was on the same crew as me when we cleared out an abandoned homeless guy’s campsite.

We filled a couple sacks with discarded water bottles, cups, clothes (really?) and broken glass. There were even the remains of a shattered toilet out there. I have found stranger things, but those were the highlights this time around.

Wind storms and ice have taken their toll on the trails. Busted limbs, overhanging branches and other hazards have partially or even fully blocked some side trails. All we had were tree trimmers, but an axe or saw would have been helpful. Where we lacked tools, we just used elbow grease instead. Hopefully winter and spring rains will help shore up a somewhat battered forest.

When we got done, a few of us gathered for tacos and shot the breeze over a wide range of topics, but they all had a common thread of the outdoors. We talked mountains (one guy there had recently climbed Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak, so we swapped thoughts on that amazing route). Mountain biking in Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma was another big topic. As was geocaching.

There are times when you’re hanging with friends and you have a good time learning about the diverse interests they all have. But there are other times when you’re around like-minded people, and that has a whole other vibe. It’s something akin to being within your tribe.

The day started out as a time to pitch in to take care of the place that’s been taking care of me. But it ended being a lot more. We hiked about 5 miles under blue skies in mild temps cleaning and clearing those trails, and the fellowship was awesome.

Sometimes even when you give back, you end up getting far more.

Bob Doucette


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