The fourteenth Eagle Run was a great success. Snow-covered trails, little wind, temperature not too cold, hot pizza, cold beer, and eagles. Gary Knipling was, again, a wonderful host.
One of Life's Big Mistakes: One has to feel sorry for the many who awoke on Eagle Run Sunday morning, looked outside, and said, "Boy that weather sucks. I will stay home, drink coffee, and read the Sunday newspaper." They missed it. Yes, the drive down to Mason Neck was a bit scary at times, but everyone seemed to make it fine. Those who made the drive were rewarded with a great day.
The Event: As usual, Gary had provided everything for us. Due to some park closures, Gary had to find new trail to run on. The new first loop was great and got us down to the river on the bank across from the old way. On this first chance at eagles, there were none to be seen. The water was covered by ice. Would this be the first year we were skunked at the Eagle Run? Would the headline be, "Eagles and Runners Stay Home"?
As we went past the Knipling house and our cars, most shed clothing. The temperature was in the low 30's and there was little wind. By recent standards, this was warm. After the house, we went on the BLM horse farm and immediately saw the support vehicle for what was the first of many times. Gary was everywhere with aid. You couldn't complain about the support we got. Of course, we did complain anyway. But Gary knows we were just joking!
The First Eagles: After the horses and crossing the road, we go down the hill to Pohick Bay. This is the prime eagle viewing area. We were not to be disappointed. The eagles did not stay home. (Or maybe they did stay home, and we were visiting!) This reporter spotted one all by himself -- a rare event. There were two eagles conveniently perched on the tallest tree across the bay. There were several others.
Down here, Gary's support vehicle again came by. It looks as if one could drive the Eagle Run if he wanted to! After running through the campground, the "short," "middle," and "long" courses got a little confused. At one point a "short" group ran right into a "long" group. But we all regrouped and made it to the parking lot. From there is as a short run to Gunston Hall.
More Eagles: Since we were a bit early getting to Gunston Hall, there was plenty of time to do the Barn Wharf Trail. The run down to the river was well worth it. Out on the point we saw an eagle perched on a tree that was not more than 30 yards away. Additionally, we saw several eagles fly by.
Back up at Gunston Hall, we again received an insider's view of George Mason and his historic home. As all Eagle Run veterans know, after the briefing would be the highlight of the run -- the pizza.
The Pizza Screw-Up: This is when the mutiny occurred. The pizza started many years ago as a great surprise by Gary for a small group of folks on a training run. Now it is a required part of a long tradition. The pizza was late. What is this? We paid good money for this run! Well, we hadn't paid any money for this run, but we could complain anyway.
As always, Gary recovered. Those of us running longer, went off to the Wood Marsh Trail, Gary searched for the pizza. It turned out that the pizza was there all the time. It had been inside the Visitor's Center. Gary, bless his heart, brought it to us at the Wood Marsh Trailhead. What a guy.
Respects to George: On the way out of Gunston Hall, some of us stopped by the cemetary to pay our respects to George Mason. This used to be an Eagle Run tradition but this year, most just ran by the path to the cemetary. That is not right.
The way to the Wood Marsh Trail let us use the new bike trail. We couldn't really see the trail as it was covered with snow, but it was great to be off the road. The traffic can be pretty scary, even way down there in Mason Neck.
The rest of the run was uneventful. At the finish line, the party had started. This is what the Eagle Run is all about.
The Party: This reporter saw it as his role to document the party in pictures. This is needed for posterity and the blackmail money will help pay the outrageous heating bills that will come from the last few weeks of Canadian weather. As I started my photo journalism, I right away missed a good picture. "I wanted to get a picture of Gary with that woman," I said. Another party goer noted to me, "That would not be the last chance to get a picture like that." And of course, it wasn't.
The party pretty much followed the usual form. Beer, Knob, and conversation. What more could you want? Yes, you could want a fire. Gary provided a fire this year. Added to the warmth of the fire was the thrill of watching Gary chainsaw a log. It was so impressive to see Gary's woodsman skills. I am not sure, however, who would have torn himself away from the beer to drive Gary to the hospital when the saw slipped and went through flesh. Fortunately, we did not have to answer that question.
Major and Moseby: We were lucky that the true owner of the estate, Major, allowed us to party in his yard. Major was entertaining his guest, Moseby. Major, older and wiser, didn't get very excited about things. He was probably going to kick us all out until he realized what was in it for him. Pizza.
Now, you have to feel sorry for a dog who is owned by a vet. Such a dog never gets to eat the "good" food. So neither Major nor Moseby were getting any of this politically incorrect pizza from this reporter. That is, until the good doctor said it was ok. At this point, Major and Moseby went into full beg mode. You know how a dog looks at you with that look that says, "I am a nice guy. I won't whine or bother you, but please, please, please give me some food. Please?" Each got a bit of wonderful, cold pizza.
All good things must come to an end, and Eagle Run Sunday is no exception. This reporter was one of the last to go, but he was not the last. Did JT ever get out of there? Are there any cars left in the parking lot? Well, if so, Gary surely took care of it.
As usual, there is no way to thank Gary enough. There are others in his family to thank including Kristen, Justin, Major, and Moseby. Additionally, many of Gary's neighbors either helped or foolishly let us cross their land. But a special thanks goes to Charlotte, Gary's lovely wife, for putting up with all of this nonsense each year.
If you did not attend Eagle Run XIV, but are considering Eagle Run XV, please realize this is just a very skillfully written humor piece. None of this happened. Actually, it was cold, we were all miserable, and, while we did see eagles, they just look like geese to me. So don't come next year. You will be tired, cold, hungry, and, especially, thirsty. You will hate it. I will drink your beer. Don't worry.