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A Trip in the Hazardous Woods

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There really is nothing like a weekend getaway to the mountains. After an early morning of coffee and coffee, I decided to go on one of the many hikes this community boasted. Because I am an overachiever and think I’m a triathlete, despite never having attempted one, I headed to the most difficult trail. It read on the complex map “MOST DIFFICULT.” Well, that was for me.

I walked to the hike entrance, not far from the cabin, wearing a tank top, shorts, slider shoes, covered in sunscreen.

It was completely empty, and I just assumed everyone was still sleeping, it was just 10:00 a.m. After a couple miles or so of steep inclines, rocky footing, and no sunlight, as it had been blotted out by the 87,000 acres of various pine and fir trees, I started to get a little concerned. I picked up a tree branch.

To my delight I came upon a huge opening through the trees, a magnificent view, so I whipped out my iPhone. I wanted to text friends but realized I had no signal. Hmmm. I picked up a bigger twig.

I pushed forward, side stepping what I can only assume was lion poop. Enormous piles. Were they watching me? Just as fear was setting in, I heard vague noises. A lion. I’m doomed.

But alas it was three backpackers. Relief. Clearly I am not the only dumbass on the most difficult hike. I really should have brought water.

But these guys were descending the hike, having spent the night at the very top. They had hiking poles, back packs, camping gear; not to mention they were in their twenties and smelled like pot.

“Hey guys, how much further until I get to the top. I really want to see the view.”

They looked at me, then each other and stifled giggles.

“It’s so awesome! You can see, like, all the way to the ocean. “

“It’s totally sick. Our tent had flaps. Yeah, you have another two miles or so.”

“How far do you think I have come?”

“About a mile.”

“Lady, you need hiking boots and like, water.”

“Duh . . . you won’t find an actual lake up there and you can only see the ocean.”

More giggles.

One of the boys handed his water jug, but I have a fear of being drugged.

“No . . . I’m good.”

“Well, good luck. It’s the bomb up there.”

Just as I was about to turn back, I came face to face with a park ranger.

“Roger that. Heading up to Skunk Meadow now.”

He approaches me.

“Can I see your permit?”

“Permit?”

“You need a permit to be on this trail.” He talked with a drawl, a skinny guy with a glass eye carrying a five-foot tree saw. So this would be it. Not a lion or a rattlesnake. My end would come in the form of bits and pieces, chopped up and tossed about the pines by an unattractive Dexter.

“Miss, you need a permit. Where’s your walkie-talkie? These parts can be very dangerous.”

The build-up. He moved closer.

“Ain’t you seen the sign when you entered? Kind of hard for folks to miss.”

“What does it say?”

“It’s an awfully darn big sign before you enter telling folks not to proceed without a permit and to enter at your own risk. These parts have bears, lions, rattle snakes, skeevers, you could fall. It’s happened. We had a gal last week that tripped and fell to her death. When you get the needed permit, they equip you with polls, a walkie-talkie, all kinds of important stuff.” I was stuck on what the heck a skeever was.

His walkie-talkie went off:

“Read that. Suspicious substance activity at Skunk Meadow.”

“Do they call it Skunk Meadow because it smells like pot?”

“Huh? The meadow areas are where them hikers sleep the night. Sounds like one group’s tent is parked under an unstable tree.”

He held up his saw.

“If you plan to sleep up there you’re gonna have to head back down and get yourself over to the station and get whatchya need.”
“Thanks.”

As if I would ever sleep in a tent. The three-bedroom cabin overlooking a babbling brook is pretty much what I consider camping. For some reason this cabin also had an old white horse, a hag, that just stood around.

“You take care now ya hear little lady?”

I started my descent down, I was starving.

“Hey, ranger, what’s all this lion dung? Do they actually come down from the mountains to relieve themselves?”

“Oh, that’s from the horses we bring up here time to time.”

“How can a horse fit on this little trail?”

But he was gone. I didn’t believe him anyway. Perhaps it was from bears. I was glad I hadn’t brought any food.

The way down was much harder than going up and the trail was suddenly forking all over the place. I was crawling over rocks, stepping over creek water, and slipping on all the poop which caused me to bang my head. My hands and legs were torn up by now, I felt faint from hunger. I get a little crazy when I’m hungry. Bring on the damn bear. I’d have it out with the beast, tear his fur off and eat him.

Somehow I made my way down. I recognized a marker, another warning sign I did not bother to read. It was actually huge, red and white. Too much to read, but I caught the part that read, “many people have died on this trail.”

I finally made it to the entrance . . . quite a few people, all with permits, polls, gear, dressed like they were going skiing, all smiles, pulling tents and coolers out of their SUVs.

I looked for the GIANT sign I had apparently missed. The ranger was right. It was enormous. I must have been looking at the splendor around me. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK. MUST HAVE PERMIT. RATTLE SNAKES. MOUNTAIN LIONS. BEARS. FALLING ROCKS. SKEEVERS. DANGEROUS DROPS OFFS.

I have to say I took some pride in my adventure, given I went a mile, dressed in beach wear carrying a twig. But one day I will make it up to Skunk Meadow. I hear the view is the bomb.

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