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I almost don’t want to mention the words “Museum Fire” in the hope that I can pretend it never happened. However, I know the fire’s brutal reality will hit hard when we’re allowed into the area again to see what were once some of our most cherished trails.

Like many of my neighbors, I felt helpless witnessing firsthand the burning of those forests, feeling sick to the stomach but unable to take my eyes off the billowing smoke coming from our mountains while hearing the constant thrumming of aircraft overhead as they battled against the fire. All the while, we knew our amazing first responders were out there, facing off the flames hour after hour, working their hearts out to protect our beloved outdoors and our town. One of the most difficult things was feeling like there was nothing I could do to help.

When I came to Flagstaff two years ago for one of Rob Krar’s running camps, I experienced for the first time what it felt like to be part of something, a community, somewhere I belonged. I had found my people. This feeling was so profound that I decided to move to Flagstaff only a month after the camp.

I am constantly amazed by the positivity that flows through our little town. It lifts my spirits to see everyone pull together when we’re faced with challenges such as these. It makes me want to be a better person in the hope that I can impact other lives as this community has mine.

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So, while it may be some time before it’s safe enough for us to begin restoration work on those recently damaged trails, we can make steps to restore the hole left in our hearts by channeling our grief and our energy into doing something positive. In conjunction with the Arizona Trail Association, I have organized a trail day on Sunday, Sept. 15, where we will build a section of the nearly 13 miles of brand-new trail needed to get the Babbitt Ranch passage off ranch roads and onto new singletrack.

We’ll meet near Cedar Ranch trailhead that morning and hike between 1 and 2 miles to the work area. There will be something for everyone to do, from the experienced trail dog to someone who's never seen a pick before.

For me, I hope knowing I’m building something for the future will bring some comfort when I think about the trails and wilderness that have been lost. Won’t you join me?

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Runner Helen Galerakis (who blogs at www.livehappyrunfree.com) will attempt to set the fastest known time on the 803.5-mile Arizona Trail starting on Oct. 17. To complete it in under 15 days, 13 hours and 10 minutes will mean averaging 50 miles a day.

Julie Hammonds is the coordinating editor of High Country Running. She invites columns on any aspect of the local running scene. Send tips and ideas to runner@juliehammonds.com or via Twitter @highcountry_run.

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