This blog was published in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trailblog on Oct. 26, 2020.
This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and true trail voices around the country, and how trails have impacted the lives of Americans during COVID-19. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
I didn’t grow up as a runner. I was a swimmer for most of my time in college, but it wasn’t until my junior year that I discovered the power of running and how much freedom it gave me. I was lucky enough to go to college in the northern part of New York State, surrounded by nature and beautiful trails.
With running, you’re able to see the world around you. You’re able to watch the seasons change and experience that change first-hand. You’re able to see people from all walks of life enjoying and sharing the same outdoors as you. Since 2010, I’ve gone through hundreds of running shoes and run in over 30 states. I’ve watched the seasons change about 40 times!
As a military spouse, I’m no stranger to uncertainty and things changing at the last minute. For me, exercise and running are something I can control; I can decide for myself when I want to get out the door. Maybe that’s why in 2020, I’ve found myself more consistent with running than ever. Sadly, with the pandemic, 2020 is inconsistent and uncertain for everyone. It’s been a year of turmoil, with everyone being affected in some way.
“We stopped at several rail-trails and went on some of the most beautiful runs I’ve experienced in a decade …. Running on trails was one of the best and most enjoyable ways to see the country safely.”
—Hollie S., Napa Valley, California
In February, before the pandemic, my spouse and I found out that we were moving from New Jersey to California. This was a big move. I had spent most of my 20s in New Jersey and had met some of my closest friends there. A big move across the country was scary enough, and then COVID-19 hit. The uncertainty of moving, paired with the pandemic, was mentally taxing.
Our plans were delayed, and we finally moved in July 2020. Moving across the country during the pandemic was one of the scariest—but also most exciting—things we’ve ever done. Along the way, we stopped at several rail-trails and went on some of the most beautiful runs I’ve experienced in a decade of running. One of my favorites: the Snake River Canyon Rim Trail in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Running on trails was one of the best and most enjoyable ways to see the country safely.
Now, after moving and assimilating in California, my life is back to being uncertain. My spouse is often gone, and I’m currently searching for jobs and looking for ways to make friends safely. But there is one thing that has remained consistent, and that is my love for and enjoyment of running.
I can control when I get up and get out of the door.
Since moving to California, I’ve leaned into the beautiful Napa Valley Vine Trail. This grassroots nonprofit-led rail-trail is still a work in progress. Once it’s complete, the trail will run 47 miles from Vallejo to Calistoga, California. The vision is to build a trail system that connects all of Napa Valley safely.
The Napa Valley Vine Trail provides a safe way for bikers, runners and outdoor enthusiasts to be outside. Unfortunately, Napa County is in California’s top 10 counties for bicycle accidents with vehicles. On the Napa Valley Vine Trail, bikers can safely exercise or commute to work. The trail even has bike shelters and repair stations with maps and local information. During the construction of the trail, there have been over 300 new trees planted to provide shade, as well as a promise not to build on or destroy vineyards.
As of now, they are working on 10 sections. I’m lucky enough to live by a 12.5-mile completed section that runs through the heart of Napa.
I feel so lucky that I have the Napa Valley Vine Trail as a safe place to go out for a run. Did you know 70% of Americans would work out outside if they felt safer?
It doesn’t matter what other life events I have going on; I know I can go out, get a run in and feel like I have some sort of routine. This has become especially important in 2020. In a world of so much uncertainty, I know running is always there for me. This is a similar mentality to that which I’ve taken through most of my adult life. As a military spouse, not much is routine, but I do know I can count on my workout time on the trails as my “me time.”
A huge part of the reason I love trails is I never know who I’ll see out there. There are many fast runners—but there are also families, dogwalkers, bike riders, commuters and people of all ages. The diversity of people you see on the trail is truly beautiful; there is no one “type of person” using the trails. Everyone is out being active.
Even though I’ve only been here a few months, I’ve grown to see familiar faces out. There are morning “hellos,” waves and smiles from people in all walks of life. It’s something I’ve grown to appreciate.
When I’m out for my morning run, I feel a sense of community.
Have you recently discovered trails, or are you a long-time trail enthusiast? Either way, we hope you’ll share your “Trail Moments”—and the stories of how trails have impacted your life during COVID-19. Take the survey below, or share using #TrailMoments on social media.