I spend a lot of time on the trails in Anchorage. I see a lot of people. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, Olympians. Lots of people. And, as the days grow warmer and longer, more and more people make their way to these trails.
And as a regular user of the trails I am often asked if I just love the summertime on the trail.
And every summer I realize that no, I really don’t.
Here’s the thing, I’m from the Midwest. In the Midwest people smile and wave to each other when driving down a lonely highway or even a not-so-lonely highway. Doesn’t matter if you know each other or not. On bike tails people will wave and smile. Even say hi.
Yes, if you’re in the zone it can get a touch annoying. But it makes the entire experience so much better. You feel like there are others who notice you and who would come to your aid if something happened.
This is why I love using the trails in the winter. Yeah, folks are out there training and recreating, both, but those of us who are out there are just a bit crazy and, as we all know, like calls to like, so there’s a sense of camaraderie there. The briefest of nods or a quick wave. Just a little act to say “I see you there. I acknowledge I am not the only person on this planet. Have a good day.”
And then we’re off.
The warmer it gets, the less and less trail users give each other the time of day.
I get it, on one hand. If you acknowledge everyone on the trail, you’ll quickly do nothing but acknowledge people on the trail. Our trails are amazing in Anchorage and people take advantage of this resource. Lots of people.
Anchorage seems to have a bit of an identify crisis that is evidenced by how trail users interact with each other. This city ain’t that big. The city I came from in the Midwest was about the same size. Maybe a bit smaller. But it was much, much friendlier. Maybe it is just the Garrison Keillor thing, but in the Midwest, there is always someone who will give you a smile and a wave or spend five minutes with you shooting the shit about the weather or whatever.
You find the same thing in the smaller communities here in Alaska — people who are willing to expend a bit of effort to connect with others; connect with their community.
Why should our trails be any different? Let me clue you in. 90 percent of you who are using the trails aren’t training for the Olympics. 90 percent of you will never be more than a club racer or middle of the pack finisher. And that’s cool. I’ll never even be a middle of the pack finisher. Just don’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t spare a half calorie and a half second to acknowledge that there are other people out there enjoying the same resource you are.
It might just make Anchorage an even better place to live. Big, wild life and all.