Friday, October 14, 2011

Rattlesnakes, Mountain Lions, and Bears, oh crap.

For some reason I feel the need to toughen myself up. Now I know what you’re thinking “Jamie, we already consider you a man’s man now”. I thank you for your silent accolades. However, there is this spot deep inside of me that is either a primal need to become one with nature or a death wish. It’s hard to tell it’s so dark in there.

So I decided to ignore these warnings posted at the trailhead, and go against my better judgment that states you shouldn’t hike alone on such trials and forged ahead. I asked a local that has been here for some time “Those warnings are just to keep the tourist from wandering off the trails, right?” “No, not really, “ he replied in a matter-of-fact tone. “They’re out there. The rattlers like to sun themselves on the trails this time of year, and bears are getting hungry for winter. And you know how cougars get?” I nodded as if he was telling me about which nozzle on the vacuum to use when cleaning the couch cushions. “Best pay attention to them,” he added.

Rangers. What do they know? They’re just mall cops surrounded by trees.

So off I go. If you recall the last hike was a bit too strenuous. So I chose a new one called Hogback Ridge, which is slightly less elevated, and about the same length. I figured I could handle it. I’m as good a hiker as the next man. Providing the next man is Michael J. Fox. The only problem was I wasn’t on Hogback Trail. I took the wrong turn and found myself on an old miners trail. The Native Americans called it “Crapawa Meoka Hey” which translates to “I Just Soiled My Buckskins”. You see other hikers on the designated trails all the time regardless of the day. No one was on this one.

I went about a mile and a half down the trail and wondered when it would start to loop around the ridge. As it wound its way, turning down into ravines ever so often I realized how alone I really was. I figured I would give it another half mile or so and then head back. I hate not finishing a trail loop once I start it. I looked ahead and saw a rather large ravine, overgrown with brush and bramble. As I got closer I thought, “If this was a movie it would make a good place for an ambush.” As I entered the hollow a small chipmunk ran past. Out loud I murmured, in case it helped, “I guess it’s safe if you’re here, eh?” And then I heard it, only once, but clear, a low, deep, growl. It had to be only a few feet away. It had that staccato sound which you often hear in house cats. But this was deeper and I wasn’t in a house.

I looked deep into the brush but couldn’t see a thing. I raised my walking stick like I could actually do something with it and wished my dog Daisy was there. Not that she could defend me, but I would make my escape while she's being devoured. I slowly backed out, while always peering, straining to see through the branches. A few more steps. Did I really hear it? Yes, I know I did. Now about twenty yards away, I picked up two small rocks and tossed them into where I thought the sound came from. I waited. Nothing. I just know that thing wants to bite my head off. That’s where all the fatty goodness is stored. I picked up the pace, turning every once in a while, expecting to see something leaping after me, but nothing came. When I got back to the trailhead I thought I’d never do that again. At least not for a few weeks anyway.

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