Some years ago now, but still flashbulb vivid in my mind, I’d just turned my car into the lot off Stratford Drive under the Mopac bridge, preparing to run the Trail, when I got the call that my dear friend had passed. The news was not unexpected but it still took my breath away, and I sat there for several minutes, numb.
Despite a reflective urge to drive home, I felt a pull toward the trail, and somehow managed to get out of my car and move my feet. As I started running I started crying, and never more grateful for my sunglasses, let it flow. The tears kept coming as I passed the solo musician, a fixture at that time, strumming guitar on the rocks near Lou Neff point, then on my left squealing toddlers throwing bread to the ducks.
At some point after I crossed the river to the north side, something caught my eye (amazing that I could see much of anything by then). It was a small heart-shaped stone right smack in the middle of the gravel path, a message and a comfort from my rock-loving friend. The treasure went straight into my pocket.
I left that morning still sad of course, but the emotional catharsis of trail time was exactly what I needed in that moment. There have been so many occasions when our Trail has gifted me peace or heightened my joy. I can only imagine how many in our community have, or will someday share, this spiritual connection to Austin’s Trail.