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A Cranky Response to an OC Register article about “Staying Safe on the Trail,” with some Fabulous Wild Writing by Kelly Anderson to Calm Me Down + Some Photos from a Frosty Good Time in Black Star Canyon

February 10, 2013

Last week my local newspaper (the Orange County Register) published an article titled “Staying Safe on the Trail.” It stuck in my head all week, to the point that I still feel annoyed six days after reading it.

Thus this blog post as a sort of rebuttal.

People do NOT need any more excuses to stay on the couch and not get out into our beautiful local wildlands. And I can picture this article—full of tips about self-defense moves and proper use of pepper spray—framed on the living room wall of someone with a remote in one hand and a fistful of french fries in the other.

What the author probably meant as a plausible hook for the story, I see as fear-mongering: “In the last few weeks, there have been a couple of local incidents both involving individuals who were walking alone and were attacked.”

What about all the “local incidents” of car accidents in the last few weeks? Every day as I drive to work, I hear traffic reporters recite litanies of fender-benders and multi-vehicle pile-ups and even fatalities. It seems the odds of getting hurt or killed are far greater on the freeways than on the trails, but I haven’t seen any recent full-page articles titled “Staying Safe on the Freeway.” (Hmmm…that actually might not be a bad idea.)

What probably chapped my hide the most in the hiking article was the #1 item on the accompanying “top ten list”: “Don’t hike, jog, bike, ride or walk alone.”

Even a quick perusal of my blog will reveal that that is exactly what I love to do: hike and trail run alone, solo, and by myself. While there are many logistical and philosophical and personality-ical reasons why I do this, I’ll go with my own #1 answer (which also applies to why I do this all shoe-less-ly): It’s fun.

Another reason the OC Register article got my shorts in a bunch, perhaps, was that a couple of weeks ago I corresponded about the same topic with a local writer-hiker-friend via email. Here’s what Kelly Anderson had to say:

“In the new year, I realized I’d forsaken hiking for my sofa because I lacked the courage to hike alone.

“I was afraid to hike alone because ‘something bad could happen.’ What if I fell or had a heart attack or was attacked by a weirdo or animal?

“But something clicked in me the other day and I decided right then that I would rather face those fears in beauty than die on my sofa watching reruns of Downtown Abbey.

“That sounds more morbid than it is, but it came down to wanting to choose beauty over fear.”

Right on, Kelly! I’ll take beauty over fear any day.

Speaking of which: when Kelly is out hiking, beautiful writing happens. Here’s some of her observations that she sent me in response to my poem about invasive plants wrecking our native landscapes: “As I walked Serrano a couple days ago, I had the same wish: what did it look like before roads and wires and weeds? Even on the ridge, the symphony of songbirds was accompanied by the shuush of traffic and I was never out of sight of the towers that bring electricity to my home.

“But oh! the rain brought out the perfume of earth and white sage. And oh! the mud brought out deep footprints: bobcats, coyotes, deer, and raccoons had walked and run the same trail as me. So I shut my mind to manmade things and gave thanks to be walking where the wild things still are.”

You rock, Kelly! Keep hiking and writing with your wild friends!

Speaking of hitting the trails alone and barefoot: here are some photos from yesterday’s morning adventure in Black Star Canyon.

As the frost shows, it was pretty chilly, so I reluctantly wore socks and sandals until the trail warmed up.

Frosty sunrise in Black Star Canyon

Frosty sunrise in Black Star Canyon

Frosty barbed wire

Frosty barbed wire

Frosty Yerba Santa

Frosty Yerba Santa

Frosty log

Frosty log

An un-frosty puddle. Still beautiful.

An un-frosty puddle. Still beautiful.

De-frosting hawk

De-frosting hawk

Finally warm and barefoot on Black Star Canyon's dirt road.

Finally warm and barefoot on Black Star Canyon’s dirt road.

Santa Ana Mountain views on the way up Black Star Canyon road

Santa Ana Mountain views on the way up Black Star Canyon road

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 11, 2013 1:44 am

    I love your rant. I too love to run alone. My theory is that if some weirdo jumps out, I’ll have to say, come on, I’m going to keep running – if you can catch me by 20km then we can talk. My other theory has always been that I’ll run down a river bed where the crazies won’t follow. Choosing life over fear: brilliant!

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