A crackling in the brush makes me look up. Seven pairs of glowing green eyes, close-set, gleam down from the hillside, retroreflecting flashlight beams. Deer, no doubt, waiting for me to move along so they can amble down to get a drink. The paved path is covered with patches of ice from seepages that have frozen into über-slick sheets. They crunch underfoot as I slow to tentatively walk across them, slipping but not quite falling several times. At the two major tributary stream crossings I step too far to the side and wet my right foot to the ankle during the outbound run, and on the way back do the same to the left foot. Sewage smells waft up from the pipes that parallel the creek. A tree fallen across the trail almost trips me near the county line but I catch sight of it just in time.
It's 7pm on a Wednesday evening, temperature ~32°F, and the first Prince George's Philharmonic orchestra rehearsal of the year is tonight. After I drop daughter Gray off at Northwestern High School I return to the cricket field near University Blvd and park on the street close to milepost 4.5 of the Northwest Branch Trail. The first mile heading upstream is dry, but then wet and icy spots appear, accompanied by frost-heave ridges on the asphalt. Mile splits slow accordingly: 8:40 ⇒ 9:59 ⇒ 11:06 with the third one on the big hill climb to Oakview Dr. Returning is a trifle faster, now that I've already seen where the most treacherous zones are: 10:29 ⇒ 9:28 ⇒ 8:09 — the final mile with an extra out-and-back to make the GPS total come up to snuff.
"Good evening!" I say through numb lips to a group of walkers I startle near milepost 5. Besides headlamp and flashlight I've got a bright red LED bicycle flasher, gift from brother Keith, clipped to the collar of my windshirt. Back to the start, visit the bushes behind the locked porta-john, up the road to Taco Bell for a quick recovery meal, then return to NWHS and await the end of orchestra practice. Take off wet shoes and socks, then wrap sweaty self in beach towels for warmth as I sit in the car and finish reading Robin's Civil War history book Team of Rivals.
(cf. GPS trackfile, 2007-09-12 - Oakview Hill Work, 2007-11-28 - Northwest Branch Tempo Run and Hill Work, 2008-09-11 - NWB Hill Work, 2010-04-01 - Northwest Branch Trail, 2010-10-11 - Northwest Branch Trail, 2011-08-18 - Northwest Branch Thunder Run, 2011-08-22 - Northwest Branch Trail with Rebecca, ...) - ^z - 2012-01-16