We had the pleasure of meeting running legend and raw vegan ultrarunner Tim VanOrden while hiking Bald Mountain near Bennington, Vermont with our friend Grace and her boyfriend, Patrick. It was a chance encounter that proved strangely fortuitous at the exact moment when what we really needed was a knowledgeable stranger to intervene in our lives.
But first, some housecleaning! Sheila and I had talked many times about getting rid of the 3rd party email service, Blogtrottr, we had used to keep people informed about our new blog posts as they occurred. When we launched She & Jim in April we also were firm believers in fast and light iteration; getting updates to people without writing any code seemed a worthwhile sacrifice. The fact that Blogtrottr served ads in their emails continued to irk us, though. Over the past week, we’ve seized the chance with a little bit more computer time to set up our own subscription service; if you’ve been receiving email updates from Blogtrottr for She & Jim, please head to our Chase Us page to resubscribe (and unsub from the Blogtrottr emails)! OK, back to the blog post …
Meeting Tim VanOrden on Bald Mountain
The hike itself was beautiful, wonderfully shaded on a day where the temp was a bit high. Pulling into the parking area, or grass pullout, was quite welcome in comparison to a parking lot, as was the cool shade beneath the verdant canopy of trees. The trail was well maintained and allowed for excellent conversation as we hiked upward.
- At a steady but unrushed pace, the average hiker can expect to take 1.5 hours to reach the summit of Bald Mountain.
- Going down will prove faster — 45 minutes or so back to the car
It was with some surprise, and an inkling that perhaps something extraordinary was about to happen, that we saw a slightly older man running down the path towards us. With just one other car in the parking grass, it seemed only appropriate that the mountain would bring the only people on it together. As he hurtled past, he somehow managed to articulate: coming back up! See you soon! — all in one breath.
When we got to the top, we admired the surroundings with glee. Tim VanOrden would soon be articulating to us that we were looking at a very special slice of the East Coast: from the top of Bald Mountain, you can see peaks in Vermont, Massachusetts (Mt. Greylock looms in the distance) and New York (the Catskills, and Hunter Mountain in particular, can also be seen).
After taking some pictures, we finally met the mountain runner for real as we were about to begin the hike down. As he casually name dropped ultrarunning legends like Scott Jurek and Karl Meltzer (as well as the uber-famous tri-athlete and founder of Vega Athletics, Brendan Brazier), Sheila and I followed the now introduced Tim VanOrden’s narrative with increasing awe; we’re huge fans of Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run recipes, and coming across a raw vegan ultrarunner talking about the power of compassion in running, and across your life, was very appealing. It became apparent early on in our conversation that we had a lot to discuss with this guy, and that the hike down would have to wait.
When he heard that we were interested in moving out West, he sized us up. Without us even saying anything, he began: I look at you two and I’m thinking mountain towns. Now, you might at first be thinking about places like Bend, Flagstaff, Boulder … our jaws dropped. These were indeed towns that we had been investigating. Was this guy a mind reader?
Tim VanOrden went on to describe to us the three towns he thought were still affordable for young people, without the hype of the ones that’d made up his preface:
- Ashland, Oregon
- Santa Cruz, California
- Bennington, Vermont
The best thing about the whole encounter? Sheila had just been telling me that she could feel things falling into place for us. Before the end of the month, she predicted, we’d have a wedding venue picked out, an excellent sense of where we’d be moving to, and more. She was right! Sheila manifested the appearance of Tim VanOrden, I’m sure of it. Tim, if you’re out there reading this — thanks for the recs! They’re very much appreciated and have given us plenty to think about.
We’ve been silent on the home front, but not for much longer! Stay tuned for more from Sheila and myself in the coming days as we bring you all up to date on what life’s been like back in the States. 👋