Riverside Runs

My scimitar-shaped landscaping tool has a lethal, vaguely Middle Eastern look to it; I’m pleasantly surprised when Border Patrol doesn’t react as I jog by.

Perhaps they ignore me because I’m heading towards the river rather than away from it, the direction of most people they’re chasing. Or maybe they’re used to seeing me. As Executive Director of an organization dedicated to getting people to know, use and care for the Rio Grande, it’s part of my job to do those things too.

Running, bicycling and maintaining the trails along the Rio Grande ought to be easy for me. I have access to everything needed. I live close enough and office out of the Rio Grande Plaza which sits right on the river. And I completely enjoy this means to forget about work, fight off middle age, and counter the effects of a diet that’s leans way too heavily on Stripes and Taco Palenque.

But even with all the advantages I enjoy to leading a healthy life-style … it don’t come easy. Not in this heat.  Not for me and not for many of the 1/4-million+ people who call this oven that is Laredo in summer home.

So I didn’t get too down on myself when interest in the weekly walks and bike rides we began sponsoring last Spring wilted in the summer heat.  School was letting out, we told ourselves.  They’ll be back.

Which is why I am too.  In anticipation of cranking up the program again tomorrow, I’m back, scythe in hand, matando dos Pajaros con sola una Piedra, jogging and clearing vegetation that’s grown in over the past two months.

Where the trail begins.

Just beyond the Kansas City Southern railroad trestle there’s a caliche road that’s open to the non-motorized public. A great little river trail starts there too. Packed dirt. Shady. It leads you to and then along the river’s edge.

I jog on, careful that I’m carrying a large knife. The trail is largely clear and affords great views. Of the river. The Kansas City Southern bridge, its Mexican half painted bright orange. The COMAPA water treatment plant just beyond.

Thorny Retama have popped up in places.  As natives, they deserve some respect.  But every hellish branch that’s gotten a little too cozy with the trail gets whacked.

Across from the Mexican water plant there’s a gorgeous shoal. There must be fish in the water too, because a group of Double Crested Cormorants are perched above the water’s edge. Wild sunflowers completely choke the trail. The rest of the time I’d planned to run is spent chopping a path through them. For every round-house swing a 5-ft tall plant drops. I heave them over the edge or stack them to the side. It yields a clearer view of the river and what everyone will see now that school’s about to start and we ramp activities up again.

Ride or run the river with us next Wednesday. Details here: http://www.facebook.com/events/156415021149795/

Helianthus anuus. Wild Sunflower. Domesticated 4000 years ago in North America, they’re still pretty damned wild.

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About Stephen Kaczor

Co-Founder, Big River Foundation; Writer, Alternative Emerging Investor; Producer, Grandmother Water; Organic Farmer in Panama
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