Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lions and Coyotes and Bears, Oh My!

Yesterday, I pulled the car into the little remote pull off where I have been parking to gain access to the tote roads and trails of the Leavitt Plantation. Scout was sitting in the passenger seat beside me. Normally, he would be ready to get out to run the minute I stopped the car. This time he just sat with his head forward, snout against the windshield, staring down the trail intently. His body was shaking all over. He was letting out a long low growl with every exhalation. I'd never heard him growl like that before and never seen him scared of anything. I looked where Scout was looking, but saw nothing. I left the key in the ignition and the doors locked, and sat waiting for whatever had him so upset to come into view. We sat there for perhaps five minutes. I didn't see anything. Scout continued shaking, growling, and staring throughout this wait.

He likely smelled a coyote or black bear. I have seen lots of sign from both in the area. There are also moose. Whatever it was, I wasn't about to get out of the car! You couldn't have forced me to get out. I am not afraid of wildlife. I've seen plenty of bears, coyotes, and moose in the woods. But there was something about Scout's behavior that sent a shiver up my spine. I always listen to my intuition, and my intuition said to get out of there. I backed out and drove away. I parked at another access about a mile down the road. As soon as I pulled in, Scout started wagging his tail and ringing his cowbell. He was ready to go! We had a wonderful two hour run over the trails.

I woke up at about two o'clock this morning from a nightmare about a greasy haired mountain man with fangs and a big bloody knife. He had been hiding and waiting for me on the tote road where I had originally parked. In my dream, Scout opted to wait in the car (coward) and I had gone down the trail alone despite his warnings. After awakening, I lay for a long time thinking about how much I enjoy the woods and wondering why I would risk mountain man attack, bear mauling, and moose trampling to pursue this passion. All I could come up with is that it's in my blood. I can't help it.

I know a lot of women who are afraid to venture into the woods alone. I also know a lot of men and women who think I am crazy to do so. Not in an admirable sort of way, like "you must be crazy to run ultra marathons!" It is more of a "you are an irresponsible idiot for venturing out into the woods alone, you crazy bitch" sort of way. All I can say is that being alone in the woods feels right and makes me happy. I haven't met a single greasy haired mountain man with fangs in the woods, but I did meet a weirdo in leisure clothes who spooked me on the Jewel Trail once. I kept my distance and warned women heading up the trail that he seemed weird and out of place. He was probably harmless. I have been leery of a couple of black bears who seemed too comfortable around me (one on the Lower Nanamocomuck and another in Virginia,) and I had a bull moose make a bluff charge at me once (there was no incontinence, so I think the whole thing about sh*ting yourself is a myth.) Those were three times out of hundreds of wildlife encounters, and I reacted correctly each time and was unharmed. So after spending thousands of days in the woods alone, I can name four incidents in which I felt a little threatened. I've had many many more close calls running on the roads!

My friend, Mary has an unreasonable fear of meeting a mountain lion on the New England trails. I tease her about it and she teases back, saying I will change my tune if I ever get attacked by one while I'm out running. I promise her that if it ever happens I will use my last dying moment to scratch into the dirt with my finger, "Mary was right." Laying awake this morning I decided that I would add to that if I had time, "...but it was worth it!"


  1. People are silly! Your safer in the woods then in the city anyday. At least with the animals (the ones who habitate the woods) you pretty much know what to expect. Whats that..... There going to run from a human if they can! KC

  2. Hope you don't run into the naturist/nudist a friend I crossed path with a few years ago while fast hiking the Isolation Ridge area near Giant Stairs in the White Mountains. He only had a small daypack and hiking shoes on!