A running trail through the woods within walking distance of where you live is a true luxury in our urbanized world. Hickory Hill in Iowa City was that place for us, a small piece of woods by some standards, yes, but you can map out a 3+ mile run without having to repeat a loop and the setting was always visually beautiful and full of change and surprises. The bird population alone had enough activity and variation to attract groups of local birders regularly to monitor not only the migrating visitors but the resident population that ranged from the tiny kinglets to the large raptors and water birds.
My own personal list of bird sightings grew significantly because of these woods and sometimes it was hard to not get distracted in the middle of a run, like the days we saw a cooper’s hawk bringing food for nestlings then repeatedly flying off into the distance to hunt. The sudden appearance of the brown thrashers with their prominent lovely and varied song was one of my favorite events. In the spring the appearance of new buds, then leaves and flowers was a special kind of excitement and the fall colors created a spectacular beauty to accompany the suddenly chilly temperatures.
Hickory Hill has some great hills to build leg strength and test your endurance. The trails twist and turn meandering around and across tiny streams. I counted 19 bridge crossings on my favorite route, some as small as a few boards, others more elaborate and substantial. One bridge, perhaps the longest, an old sagging wooden structure that had been pushed off its footings presumably by the creek overflowing its banks, bounced up and down as you ran across it. The biggest and most pleasant surprise to me however was how much I grew to love running in the winter. It became a challenge to see how much cold I could handle and the feeling of running in fresh snow might be my favorite running experience of all. The only negative aspect was that many of the paths, a lot of them just narrow foot paths used by runners and deer turn to a sloppy muddy mess when the weather gets wet so there were quite a few days we had to seek another exercise option.
You get attached to places you run in regularly. By running there I think you see it and experience it in a way you would not know otherwise.