It had been raining for most of last week, and just as I was about to pull my hair out, look what happened. The sun came out. It shone so fiercely that I almost think it pulled me out of the house whether I wanted to go or not. I opened the sunroof, rolled down the windows, and drove on back roads through farmland to my destination. I could have turned around and driven back home without even stepping out of the car, that’s how peaceful and invigorating the ride was. And then like a record screeching, the wind whipped hair into my eye and I was ready to get out of the car.
With my left arm already sunburnt from hanging out the window, I charged into the woods. I carried some trail mix, water, and a good read, thinking I would spend the majority of the afternoon lounging on a boulder under an elm tree. That didn’t happen and it has less to do with the weather than with my unfortunate neuroses. A wild imagination coupled with paranoia is so not acceptable when by yourself in the forest. On some level, though, I think I subconsciously do it to keep my life feeling adventurous. Or schizophrenic. You decide. No, don’t decide. I’d like to stay in denial, thank you very much.
As I started my way down, I became obsessed with moss covering anything it could get its hands (leaves?) on. I made a point to touch some at every stage of my descent, from the weather-beaten dry one at the top, to the cool spongy one at the bottom.
I couldn’t see well, but I did see a flash of white fur rustle in the leaves and then move to the side. Now, I know this could have been a deer. But as my sister would say, in our attempt to qualm negative self-thoughts, “Could the opposite be true?” In this case though, the opposite would be the negative thought. Dang, why did R have to tell me that a couple decades ago, mountain lions were released near his hometown in hopes to contain animal populations naturally. Now the thought was in my head and I couldn’t let it go. Mountain lions. The most chilling thing I could imagine was turning my back to those pair of eyes and continuing my way on the trail. So I did just that, if only to prove that I could be the heroine of my own little adventure in the woods.
You would think the further I got away from that ominous bluff, the better off I’d feel. Nuh-uh. Every little thing started to scare me. My hearing sharpened to the point that normal, woodsy sounds tripled in their decibel level. A lizard scurrying into the brush could have easily been an elk during mating season. Vultures circling overhead must also have been able to tell the future, because why else would they be hovering over where I walked? Even shadows startled me. In the photo below, a shadow caused by an overturned tree was surely a bear cub. And if there was a bear cub in the middle of the path, that meant mama bear was close by. Could I squeeze myself into that slit in the bluff?? Why didn’t I do more sit-ups this morning, I thought, otherwise I surely could have if she came charging.
Eventually sunlight dominated the shadows as I climbed my way to the end of the trail. But as if the woods had to give me one last salute, I turned the corner and walked right into this guy. If that doesn’t look like the red dinosaur-monster thing from the new Star Trek movie, I don’t know what else does. Tentacles flying around a mouth waiting for the next unlucky hiker.
I’m starting to think I need to adopt the buddy system on my walks, now. At least then I’ll have someone to trip if I needed to get away. Oh just kidding. Or am I? Anyone up for a hike?