Vidakovich Column: Groundhog Day | PostIndependent.com

Vidakovich Column: Groundhog Day

Mike Vidakovich
IMAGELOADER |

  “Wish we could turn back time, to the gold old days.”                                     

— Twenty One Pilots

For the past 18 years, I have tried to start my unofficial training for the annual Sequoia Glen 5K run on Groundhog Day.

My regimen has never been very structured or intense, but I do try to get up the long hill that stretches from the base of Mitchell Creek Road to a quaint little spot high above the Glenwood Fish Hatchery known as Sequoia Glen, as often as time and energy will allow.

Bob Willey and Joe Mollica christened the beautiful backwoods sanctuary along Mitchell Creek’s waterfalls as Sequoia Glen over two decades ago.

It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since the first race in early February of the year 2000. Seven or eight of us gathered on a snowy afternoon that day to run together up the hill, and then celebrate the end of winter party at Mollica’s house afterward.

For more years than I can remember, the summit celebration was held at Kenny Cline’s cabin, which is tucked away near the hillside just below Sequoia Glen. Feeling like we had been swallowed by the forest, we followed the ritual of the day by dipping our heads in the icy creek, hugging towering pine trees — and each other — and gawking breathlessly at the spirit-lifting scenery.

We then all ambled to Kenny’s, where we were greeted with a warm fire, and all the snacks and beverages a voracious running appetite could handle.

It was good mojo at Kenny’s, and we all felt like we had our own mountaintop witch doctor.

With festivities wrapping up just prior to darkness, we would head from the cozy warmth of the cabin back to the trail, where Kenny would fire off his hunting rifle into the air to start us back down the hill, and the party would continue at my house.

The casual observer would surely have deemed us all crazy people. But one thing about crazy people — they see things other people don’t.

Now in its 19th year, there is no stopping at the top of the hill to view the surroundings and contemplate your existence — unless you want to.

Michele Willey was, for countless years, our very capable, congenial and cute greeter and time recorder at the turnaround point. Without a hint of a smile, Michele reported many Bigfoot sightings in her time stationed at the halfway checkpoint.

Ben Sarno, who now mans the same spot, and encourages runners as they huffle and puffle to the top, has reported similar encounters with the hairy beast known as Sasquatch.

This year’s Sequoia Glen 5K Run/Walk will take place on St. Paddy’s morning, March 17th, at 10 a.m. in West Glenwood, with the entry fee being a scant $15.

If you wear green that morning, race organizers will let you run for just $10.

All race proceeds are divided up among Colorado Animal Rescue, Rifle Animal Shelter, Valley Dog Rescue, Lucky Day Animal Rescue, and the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation. This year, the kind folks at the Two Rivers Community School are letting racers use their school lot for extra parking. For more race information, call (970) 945-0979.

Many of the people who founded the Sequoia Glen race, and who were staunch regulars on the hill and at the “End of Winter Party,” are no longer with us. We pay tribute each year to their lives — and memories — at the race that is a rite of spring.

Hope to see you in green on the 17th. You’ll need some hill training, and a little luck of the Irish to get to the top of that big mountain, but the journey will be well worth it.