I know. I'll drive around the corner and go hike in that new wild lands park. It'll be perfect.
I drive down the curving country road, surrounded on both sides by expensive mansions. I pull off to the right and follow the new golden texturized pebble drive around to the entrance of the park. Dozens of shiny concrete barriers line the quarter mile road, each one of them emblazoned 'Fire road- No Parking.'
"OK, OK," I think. "I get the message!"
I climb out of the car. Before me I see graceful hills covered with bowing and dipping grasses, illuminated from behind by the slanting rays of the mid- afternoon sun. A small rock house stands in front of me. It is in a style that harks back to the eighteen hundreds. But I know that nothing stood here a year ago. A brand new old house!
I look around for the trail head. Ah, there it is, right next to all those signs and plaques. I can't get to the trail without being assaulted by huge blue signs warning of the danger of wild animals. I read about three kinds of snakes, two of them venomous. There is a warning against mountain lions. There are pictures of poison oak. Having seen all these strident warnings many times before, I move on quickly.
The trail is hard-packed dirt. I wonder if it is concrete. It zigs and zags occasionally as it traverses the valley, leading up toward the hills. I tramp across bridges so new that they could have been picked up at the hardware store this morning.
As I walk, I keep my eyes peeled along the path. I have seen a rattlesnake here once before and don't care to surprise one now. No snakes today, but I see dozens of beetles and spiders who scuttle across my trail. I enjoy the sight of sage- green and rusty- brown lichen covered boulders.
I open my ears as well. Hiking alone gives you the gift of silence. I am free to hear the chirp of the thousands of crickets. I immediately know that there are two woodpeckers working the sycamore tree across the ravine.
I see more and more of my old friends, the plants. Bright green mallow leaves face the sun, their palmate backs letting sun glow through. New mustard plants line the trail. Still too young in most cases to sport flowers, you have to recognize their deep green bumpy leaves. Aah, here they are blooming, looking for all the world like miniature yellow broccoli. I know that if I should want a quick, though stimulating, snack, I could snap off a yellow flower head and pop it in my mouth. This is when you realize why mustard is spicy!
I frequently stare up through the air at the hills. I am always reminded of being underwater whenever I see the bugs and seed pods drifting through the current of the breeze. Randomly they drift upwards and downwards, but make a steady progression to the north. Everywhere the fresh warm air is infused with that yellowish sunshine glow.
Suddenly I become aware of two people walking towards me on the trail. As they approach me, the woman says, "Wow. You're brave!"
I am somewhat confused. Does she mean because I am wearing long blue jeans and it is kind of hot?
"You're out here all alone!" she gushes. "I thought it was scary with just one other person with me!"
Her companion explains that the grasses are taller now than they were the last time they were here, hence the concern.
What, wild lions are going to leap out of the grass to bite them?
I wish them a pleasant afternoon and begin to walk away. Then I stop and turn to share one warning.
"Be careful for the rattlesnakes. I saw one here in the parking lot back on opening day."
Duly warned, they move off.
I continue on my walk. I muse how odd it is that these grassy hills and these wild animals and bugs and flowers have always been here. People have been free to hike like I am doing since the beginning of time. Of course, it is always helpful to be wise to ways of the world. Know where the snakes might be; don't wander blithely through grass where they are minding their own business trying to catch a mouse. They really don't want to waste their time biting your ankle.
Mountain lions like to hide in thick bushes. They will attack if they see something darting through their hunting area. So be aware. Keep your eyes and ears open.
But the powers that be have decided that they had to CREATE a hiking zone. They have built roads and trails and houses to facilitate our walking in nature. Then they had to educate us. We are so removed from the natural lifestyle that we are like babies on the African Savannah.
Isn't that quite a lot like reinventing the wheel? Can we not take some responsibility for our own safety?