Recharged from a lovely hike over the weekend on my favorite trails, with a favorite friend with few ill effects on the knee, I decided to do a mid week, morning solo jaunt. This park is off a two-lane road, not far from my neighborhood. It’s maybe a few hundred acres and it’s hilly, and rocky and heavily wooded. It’s got a clear creek rolling through the bottom half which is a bonus. The creek area is quite popular on the weekends with all sorts, families, kids, dogs, and even a tour of Chinese nationals was visiting last week. This is my park though. I get annoyed when all those people are there. Luckily, I take the high path where few folks know to go.
I parked my car in the parking lot. The rush hour traffic sends a steady stream of cars right by, but there was only one car. Something about it made me nervous. It was a car that had seen better days for sure, but that wasn’t it. I can’t put my finger on it. Intuition maybe? I snapped a photo of it (with license plate) and sent it to the hubs with “one car here, bout to start the trail.” He likes to know when I’m on and off. In fact, he’s even been known to do a find my phone if I took too long! So away I marched into the woods ready to enjoy my morning. About 3 minutes in, I rounded a corner to find a man on a bike. He was not a biker. It wasn’t a mountain bike. He was wearing jeans, work boots and had it parked right in the middle of a narrow part of the trail, and made no attempt to move aside, or move at all. Both feet planted firmly on the ground, a can of beer or soda or something in one hand, a gimme hat, and oozing bad vibes. “Getting that knee moving?” he drawled with a hick accent. Definitely not a biker. This situation is all wrong. Not the kind of guy who comes here for the good and wholesome mother nature fix. Wrong! Oh shit. What do I do? Do I turn right around, and turn my back on him? Do I continue forward, look him in the face, take a snapshot with my brain? Pick up a big assed rock? He’s pointing out my weakness. He wants me to know he’s already noted it. He felt predatory, and he was only feet away. “Yep. Gotta keep it moving” I say with utter confidence while looking hard at him in the face. I didn’t hesitate, though my mind was electric with danger signals. Adrenaline was giving me that tingly feeling and I was ready. I watched him very closely as I went within arms reach of him. I turned my body to look at him as I moved swiftly past. I listened hard, and turned to watch him looking back at me. He hadn’t moved, though. I was 50 yards from the traffic, but it could have been miles. There was not even a gap in the woods to see through. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and called my hubs. I acted like I was talking. I was, but to his *&&^%ing voice mail. I described the scene, where I was on the trail, the man, the bike and explained what I was doing next. This is as stupid as it feels. My mind racing. Exactly like a TV detective show. In my show though, it would be me explaining why there was a man laying in the grass.
I am no dainty flower. I’m athletic and strong and fairly fast (and trust me, my knee would have felt no pain in that moment). I grew up with brothers who taught me to zing a baseball, throw a football and hit hard with my fist. I know I’m a fighter. I fight back until I can take flight. I’m pretty aware of my situation. I watch people closely. Personal safety and being smart are two things I will fuss at my friends about. I am sort of a safety Suzie. Split second decisions, though. Did I make a mistake? Should I have turned around? Should I have had a stand off and not gone around him? Questions…
I immediately hung up on my voicemail call and called my friend who I had just hiked that very trail with. She answered. I explained again what happened and cut straight over to the road. I talked to her the whole way back to my car, with her saying, “I’ll come get you! Stay there!” Oh hell no, I’m tracking my ass back out of here right now. I had to walk about 150 yards on this tight, windy two-lane road, stepping out of the way of cars, so I crossed to the far side opposite of the heavy traffic going out. We talked until I was safely in my locked car and on my way home. She then ordered me to call the cops and report the creepy creep. I did so. They took a suspicious person / suspicious activity report and sent out a patrol to check it out, I guess.
My husband and I drove up to the house at the same time. I was practically in tears as the adrenaline escaped and I retold the whole story of my “almost hike”. And then, well, I was mad, really, really mad. I’ve agreed with my husband and my friend that hiking alone sans my very large and intimidating Weimeraner won’t happen again. I’ll pick partners to hike with. Safety first. I know. That creep stole my hike, though. That asshat jerked my freedom right out of my day. He took my independence and my confidence. Maybe I’m lucky, what if there’d been another dude around the bend waiting. Maybe it was a wake up call. I’m awake, dammit. And I’m pissed!