It's raining now. Drizzling, really.
It's fall in Oregon.
How do I know? When I leave to run, it's dark and most mornings have some amount of fog. This morning there was a bright moon too. I like moonlight; I don't have to crank the flashlight so much to get down the driveway. The silhouettes of trees, deer, fences, houses lie against the bright sky.
Miles 1 and 2 are warm up. As I come nearer the 2.5 mark, I can see them: majestic beasts, the heard of elk that grazes the field at the end of the paved road, where the gravel starts. Simultaneously they stare at me, ears up and hyper-alert.
I wait, but still running, of course.
It's always a game.
Will they stay? Will I scare them? Will they try to jump the fence, or are they too far away from it? Will they cross the road? Will they turn tail, running to the river and the shelter of the trees on the bank?
I move closer. There's at least one bull. He's a spike. There are lots of cows (females) and they all watch me, nervously.
They make their move away from the fence so they have enough room to run and clear it. It's a group decision. Never do they like to leave a member behind. But as they circle back to jump, they are stopped.
An early morning fisherman interrupts our game. Still not dawn yet, the truck and boat trailer are headed downstream toward the public ramp.
Will the driver see them? Will the herd change their course?
I try to signal the driver in his pickup, swaying my light back and forth behind me. He swings wide of me as he passes, but doesn't slow. He probably thinks I am just trying to say, "Hello! I am runner girl here in the reflective vest. Watch out, please."
And then, through the mist, he sees them. Immediately his brake lights flare. No one wants a collision with a herd of elk. It's a lose-lose situation.
The herd changes direction again and runs away from the fence, the road, the truck and me, and into the big open field where they huddle together.
I am past them now; but we will meet again soon.
In a few hundred yards I reach my turn-around and take off my long sleeve shirt. It is a very cool morning- maybe in the 40's. A perfect day to run my tempo. After my shirt is secure around my waist, I proceed noticeably faster than before.
They wait for me at the fence, munching from a blackberry patch.
When I get within 40 yards of them, the elk run away from me and back into the field and the fog. My neighbor's fence is spared today from any damage.
One day soon we will meet again to play our game.