Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

I wrote this essay for NPR’s “This I Believe,” but I haven’t submitted it yet. I don’t know if I’m going to. Tell me what you think.

The sun was settling comfortably into the western sky as Andrew and I turned our feet 180 degrees and started down the mountain. The breathtaking view of all the grandeur around us made it impossible to proceed without admiring it. As we gazed at nature’s artwork, Andrew drew my attention to a tiny dark blob at the apparent bottom of the painting. “Look,” he said, “a moose! Let’s make sure to steer clear of that one.”

As we neared the trail head, I heard a grunting through the bushes. My fear of being stomped to death by a bull moose had been lingering in the foreground of my mind, so I was quick to assume waht the source of the sound was. Sure enough, I saw a massive something looming through the leaves. I squinted, catching sight of a pair of antlers, huge and terrible to behold. I froze up, and, after uttering a string of profanity, flew up the trail into the safety of a boulder.

Despite my panicked response that day, I believe that thinking rationally will considerably improve the outcome of any situation.

Unfortunately, rational thinking in stressful situations has never been my strong point. Imagine for a moment that I had not been with my friend that fateful day. Me, emerging from my hiding place only to come face-to-face with a brown mass of anger. The sounds of my shrieks as the moose deemed me an enemy and pursued with violence in mind. To spare the graphic nature of this story, I will stop there. It would not be a pretty sight had I chosen to hike alone that day.

Fortunately, here iwas what really happened.

Andrew followed me to the cover of the boulder calmly, in contrast to my crazed getaway. All I could see in my head was the Antlered Fury–as I had come to call him in the long seconds since we encountered him–while Andrew was forming an escape route in his head.

He pried two dead branches from the ground and handed me one. This didn’t make me feel safe as much as it made me feel like a hysterical woman with a weapon. We eased our way down the trail with clubs in hand, stepping silently as Andrew had instructed. To my despair, the Antlered Fury was at the next switchback, staring us in the eyes, waiting to devour us. Biting back another round of swears, I abandoned all sanity, flung my branch to the side of the trail, and bolted.

Andrew hurried after me, hissing under his breat: “Stop running. You’ll make it anxious.” He then continued to give me simple commands in a hushed voice, which I tried my best to follow reasonably until I could stand it no longer. Finally, when we were out of sight of the beast, he ordered me to run. Sensing that the Antlered Fury was on our tails and knowing I was soon to run out of breath, I pressed on. After tripping while running downhill, I finally set foot onto pavement and saw my glorious, dirty chariot waiting for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a minivan in my life.

I have been fortunate to have someone with me in every “crisis” situation: Being chased by a train, drinking gasoline, stabbing myself, losing the can opener… Without them, I would not have been thinking clearly enough to do the necessary things to suvive, since I lack the talent of breathing and calming down before making a decision. Someday I hope to gain that talent, and when I do, I won’t need to be rescued nearly as much.

Ugh. Reading over that, it sounds lame. Especially the end. I’m always horrible at concluding anything.

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