Find a spot to park among the scattered ice and snow. It is nice and sunny down in town, but the hollers cut out by the river still have spots of snow hidden in all the shade. I hit the trail running. Running to find the rhythm of the rocks, running to find the freedom of the trail, and mainly running to find the warmth as my blood starts pumping. The river to my left and the wet cold air burns my throat. The crunch and squish of the mix of frozen and wet thawed out leaves under my feet. The brown and orange leaf often giving way and betraying the hidden rocks and roots hiding underneath. Keep the steps light and fast to avoid the slip of a foot or the twist of an ankle.
I try to quiet my thoughts seeping through in the back of my mind. "Will the water be too high with the melting snow? Am I willing to put up with how cold this river is going to be?" I get to the first crossing and brace myself. As my feet sink in and in an instant the bitter chill flashes up my body. I keep going. The water is higher than usual. I've had to turn back before, but it was higher and faster then. Over my mid-thigh this time and I let out the involuntary "Wooooo! FuuUuuUUuuuck thats cold!" that your body screams when you have water crossings in December.
When I get to the other side I keep moving. Moving from the rush and moving to get the warm blood back to the stinging and numb toes. By the time I warm up it'll be time to cross the river again. The comfort and odd warmth of wet feet welcomes you back to the chilling water. And so it goes. But I do so knowing that all this will be for me today. Not a person to be seen out this way this time of year.