You know I’ve been walking daily since June 7.
You know I’ve found all sorts of incredible places to explore on foot.
You know my Summer 2021 has made time stand still, what-with me noticing all the beauty around me in relative slow-motion, in comparison to speeding by in my car.
You don’t know this story.
Though you should. I mean, especially if you’re a woman. Especially if you’re a woman who walks (hikes, bikes) alone.
All women share this story.
I have mentioned this phenomenon before, in this post.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
In my quest to discover new parks and trails, I have noticed some markers that lead the way.
- Gravel road
- Small parking area set off from the road
- Bright blue garbage can
And so, I’ve hugged the shores of Lake Ontario, driving down busy streets and through neighborhoods… and I’ve found a dozen trails I’d never known existed. Usually, I see the blue garbage can first.
After I’d walked from pillar-to-post (east to west along the shore), I took my search inward and found myself driving along the Niagara Escarpment, a sheer rock wall that leads to Niagara Falls.
Earlier this week, I was out-and-about, in search of a new trail.
I drove through a valley, next to the escarpment, where there was a campground. Not a lot of people there, being a Monday-and-all.
I saw a large stream and a blue heron wading, his reflection in the water. I stopped to snap a photo.
I went a little further, over a bridge, and as I crossed, I noticed the tell-tale blue garbage can nestled in the corner of a makeshift parking lot. Behind the lot, only trees. Ah yes, I’d found a new woods to trek through!
There was one other car in the lot. Just as I got there, a woman came out from the trees, got into the car and drove away.
Bummer, I thought, as I don’t like to be the only one on a trail that’s new to me.
Had I been in my usual haunts – like a fave woods on the outskirts of my own city – I wouldn’t have thought much about the fact that I was alone.
Make no mistake, I would have *noticed* because women *****always***** notice! Especially older, out-of-shape ones who don’t (or can’t) outrun a person in possible pursuit.
But in my “own” woods, which I now know like the back of my hand, there are nature classes with teachers and children, exits to neighborhood streets along the way, a predictable end on the other side. Familiar things.
This was 100% new to me.
So, I had a conversation with myself.
Should I go?
What are you so afraid of?
That women was in there alone. She’s wasn’t afraid.
Shake it off, Sher!
And so, I decided to put on my big-girl panties and explore this new trail.
Just as I was snapping on my belt – I have this neat belt where I carry water, my phone, asthma inhaler (just in case) – I look out to the street because I feel something weird.
Out on the road, there’s man riding one of those super-quiet bike thingies that’s half-bike, half-motorbike.
A car passes by the other way.
The bike-guy is going slowly, looking at me.
What the hell?
Oh, it’s probably not me, I think. Why would anyone look at me? An old-lady going for a walk?
But I’m nervous.
I walk to the entrance of the trail. Read the sign. Notice it says “No motorized vehicles” and think to myself, yay, at least that guy can’t ride in here, as I turn to watch bike-guy ride away.
I stand there for… like… 3-4 minutes, just to be sure.
I step out a little further.
See bike-guy as he rides around a corner.
“God, Sher,” I say to myself. “Paranoid much?”
Damn, it’s hard being a woman sometimes. Not that men don’t worry sometimes… but ya know… I can’t imagine my husband or any man I know being concerned about some other guy riding by. We woman have been warned our entire lives…
And it seems, with good reason! All you have to do is watch the news.
“Get a grip,” I say to myself. “Let’s do this!”
I walk onto the path and take the photo you see as the featured photo.
It’s a gorgeous trail!
I walk in about 50 feet…
I’m going slow… not to take in the beauty…
I look behind me. Nothing there.
No! Something is WRONG. I feel it! So, I turn around.
I rush, as much as it’s possible, to my car.
I am about two feet away, I’ve clicked my key fob, the car is unlocked…
I reach out…
It is then that I see the bike-guy in my peripheral vision.
He’s in the lot!!!
He’s come back!
I turn to face him – bolstered by the fact that we’re now in the public eye, should anyone drive by.
We make eye-contact. I don’t like what I see.
As I open my door to jump in, he is less than ten feet away from me, smiling, as he says, “Hi!” just normal-as-you-please, as he speeds down the path.
Nothing to see here, folks.
Had I hesitated for even a moment more, he and I would have been alone in the woods and though I have no idea what would have happened, I can imagine.
There was NO REASON at all for him to come back to that exact spot…
I was there. Alone and vulnerable.
You know the moral to the story: Listen to your gut. Pay attention to your surroundings.
And now I have a new rule – Don’t walk alone in unfamiliar places. Well, not ALL of them, since a wide-open path along the lake (next to a neighborhood) is a far cry from a densely-wooded trail in the middle of “nowhere”.
But still. It pisses me off. Kinda royally.
That jerk wanted to scare me, if not hurt me.
I am SO GLAD I listened to my gut. I get chills just thinking about what might have happened.