I’ve heard it countless times: He is really friendly. Or, she just wants to play. Never mind that the subject in question flattens its ears, starts growling, barks and generally looks ready to attack. And even if it is genuinely friendly, I am not. That is, I have no inclination to play with strangers’ dogs. Befriend me first before you expect me to pet your four-legged companion. He’s afraid of your trekking poles. The last one was addressed to Damian who started hiking with poles after a minor skiing injury. I knew trekking poles were a sham but didn’t realize dogs and their owners shared my view. And if that’s the case, dogs with that opinion have no business on a hiking trail, at least not without a leash.
We spent last spring and a good chunk of summer wandering through the deserts in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Almost each trail welcomed us with a familiar snake warning, but we saw just one rattlesnake. It was quite well hidden and tolerated us soundlessly while we were having our lunch admiring the Hovenweep ruins. It only got agitated when we suddenly stood up. Its angry rattle was more surprising than scary, but for a couple of days we took our time choosing a place to picnic. And then we started to hike in California where it seems we come acress a snake or two every day.
We arrive at the Bunny Flat trailhead at the bottom of Mount Shasta. There is a flurry of activity as a small group of 40-something women are trying to make sense of self-issued permits to climb the summit. At $20 dollars per person it may seem expensive but it comes with a large plastic zip-lock bag containing a brown bag, a scoop of kitty litter and a page long instruction. Yes, it is a poop bag - the latest invention in the portable human waste removal technology. The replacement of an outdated small shovel required to dig 6 inch hole to burry your feces (with or without toilet papper depending on a government agency in charge). I always suspected that there are too many people on the planet, but knowing that the forest service removes more than 2 tons of human waste from Mount Shasta trailheads every year drives the message home.
The guy opens his backpack and rather promptly starts removing its content and placing it in the pockets of his cargo pants. What are you doing, I ask. I am taking out all the valuables, so that I can feed my backpack to the bear, he continues his pocket stuffing unfazed. And I am pretty sure that he did actually say: feed. Does he think bears eat backpacks? I wonder. The state of the primary schooling in US is allegedly atrocious nowadays, but he looks like his days of no child left behind were over before 60’s kicked in for good.