Monday, August 8, 2011

Hiking Precautions: You May Not Be Alone

So there I was, to use an inelegant opening, quietly sliding through the trees, pretending I was Daniel Boone, although I doubt Boone had any well-groomed trails like this one to follow. Anyway, the trail was in a State Park in North Carolina; it meandered around an inlet of a sizeable lake, not too far from the parking lot. The weather was perfect for a nice hike and the scenery, if not exactly spectacular, was pleasing to the eyes. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you happen to be a voyeur, my eyes slid across the inlet to a small beach on the other side. Much to my surprise, I saw a young couple, although the distance was a tad far to precisely determine their age group but not too far to guess pretty accurately what they were doing. The man was standing and the woman was kneeling in front of him. It was not precisely a study in still life. Need I say more?

The moral of this story is that what you think is an isolated beach along a deserted trail may not be as isolated or deserted as you think. I guess they didn't realize the trail wound all the way around to the far side where hikers would have a fine view of whatever was happening on that beach.

I wonder if they even would have cared?

Would you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Dangers of Hiking: Getting (almost) trampled by a llama

Now I had known for some time that the lodge on top Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was supplied by a llama pack train. I had actually seen the little critters being loaded back into the horse trailer their owner had one evening as I drove through the parking lot for the Grotto Falls Trail. But one day, as I was hiking down that trail, I came around a bend and almost got run over by the llama train. The unnerving part was the way each one stared at me as it went by on the way up to the lodge. I've never seen any other pack animal stare quite like that, and I've encountered quite a few horses and mules. Their handler/owner brought up the rear. Apparently the little beasties knew the way quite well from having been up and down several times a week for I don't know how many years. Llamas are used for pack animals here because their hooves are easier on the treadway than those of horses or mules, even though llamas can't carry as much. But they are interesting to come across while hiking along, minding your own business. Just don't try to argue who has the right-of-way. You may end up with llama spit on your face. Yuck!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hiking Unemcumbered: Naked Hikers Day

Yeah, certainly at times I feel like throwing off my clothes and prancing in the buff along a remote wilderness trail. It would just be my luck to run into a law enforcement officer of some kind, though. That doesn't seem to stop some people. I once encountered a young couple backpacking along the Appalachian Trail in SW Virginia. Other than their boots and packs, they had narry a stitch on and seemed quite happy with the situation. They claimed it was "naked hikers day." Yeah, right.

Maybe I should declare today as "breaking and entering day." Would that protect me from being prosecuted if I broke into someone's home and got caught? Somehow I doubt it. I can just picture it now: "But officer, today is National Breaking and Entering Day." Maybe we should combine the two and come up with"National Breaking and Entering Naked Hikers Day." That should make the front page. I can just see the photo that would go with a story like that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I think that's a bit too natural!

Interesting sights abound for those of us who enjoy getting out and rubbing shoulders with Mother Nature. The natural world, when not messed up by humans, is a wonder to behold. Even walks that don't lead to spectacular views, impressive waterfalls or fields of wildflowers have enough beauty to satisfy anyone if you just look. Then you have those who believe not only in getting out in nature, but doing so in the most natural way possible - in the buff! I remember the first time I encountered nudity on a trail. It was on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail where it loops around past Asheville, NC. I was just walking along enjoying the wildflowers and other natural features this trail abounds with when, lo and behold, I spy a young man jogging toward me on the trail. He was dressed in jogging shoes and gloves and was working out with a dumbbell in each hand as he jogged. (I guess the gloves were to keep his hands from getting too sweaty. I didn't ask.) And that's all he had on! His body looked just fine. Funny thing, though, I don't remember his face too clearly. Matter of fact, I'm not sure I noticed it at all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

There's a Bear in my Car!

How many of you outdoors people can say that you returned from a hike and found a bear in your vehicle? Not many, I'll bet. But that happened once to me, and once was enough, believe me! I'd gone for a long hike out a trail whose trailhead was near the Visitors Center in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park years ago. Stupid me left an apple in the back seat of my car. You're probably beginning to get the picture already, right? As I was returning, I heard a horn blowing quite stridently, shattering the peace and quiet of this rather unpopulated area. A few minutes later when I reached the parking area, a young man jumped out of his car and ran toward me, pointing to my car. "Is that your car?" he asked.

"Yesss, why?" I asked somewhat suspiciously, although the sight of a young woman seated in the passenger side of his car somewhat allayed my nervousness.

"A bear broke in and is still in it!"

Upon taking a closer look, I saw, first of all, the top of driver's door at a right angle to the body of the car. Second, peering through the window, from a few feet away, of course, I saw a black bear sitting in my back seat. He had smelled the apple through the vent and somehow hooked his claws over the top of the door and bent it down like tin, shattering the glass in the window of course.

As we stood there talking, the bear decided there wasn't anything else to eat there, so he came out while the young man and I beat a hasty retreat to his car.

To make a long story a little shorter, I went with the couple and managed to flag down a park ranger who bent the door up so it wasn't sticking out quite so much.

What really makes me mad is that I had my camera with me, but the shock of seeing a bear in my car totally drove that memory from my mind. Well, live and learn, as they say.