Monday, October 19, 2009

New Trails; Old Fears

I've noticed something whenever we set out on new hiking trails: I experience a sense of dread and fear. It's an interesting sensation. It could have something to do with the trailhead signage. We know that there really are plenty of mountain lions and rattlers in this neck of the woods, but that's not what sets my heart thumping. It more likely has something to do with my own personal history. My fear is almost always about other humans, and getting lost.
The trails along the south fork of the Yuba River are really quite beautiful. There is a wild, quintessential western ruggedness about this terrain. Although, this land has yielded itself to the greatest assaults in search of gold, it still demands careful attention for almost every footstep along its ore-rich paths. Every now and then when I do chance a glance upward at a towering granite boulder, the perfect launch for a hunting mountain lion, the dizzying drop off to the river below can literally spin my head around.

But the thing that keeps me most alert are the fellow hikers. The few we've encountered have all been as cheerful and friendly as any other place we've ever wandered. But, some nagging part of me conflates the unknown trail with an unknown entity that I am sure is there only to hurt us. Is that not sad? I think it's very sad. I haven't told this to Roger yet, but half the time when I'm hiking along, I'm wishing he'd carry a giant walking stick, big enough to club some mountain stranger who lurks behind every tree like a storybook ogre, that old boogeyman.
Yet, despite this fear, and my ongoing rant about trails not being properly marked (and signs that show up in the middle of nowhere with no worthwhile information, or signs that announce we are leaving the park boundary without any indication of what the obvious continuing trail actually becomes or where it goes...) I still have enough free attention to spot the wildlife flying, sauntering, and crawling by. Even this pretty well-camouflaged gopher snake (doing a good imitation of a rattler) sunning itself on a south-facing rock catches my eye. I almost always have a great time out on the trails, but most especially when we're hiking back, and I've exhaled a crazy sigh of relief.

No comments:

Post a Comment