Sometimes during the long winter season, we tend to look for things to add excitement to what might otherwise be a gloomy day.
Such was the case last Sunday when I allowed myself to be talked into going on a 3-mile-plus hike on one of our many trails through the woods of Point Washington State Forest.
For those who know me, you might have noticed that I am pretty adventurous — but, hiking through a forest where there have been bear sightings would not be my cup of tea. In fact, I had been asked, encouraged and needled to take such a hike several times before, but always staunchly refused.
But, who wants to be thought of as a wimp?
"Ok," I finally said, agreeing to the trek. Surely I can do a 3-mile hike, right?
So, I donned a pair of jeans and sneakers and with great trepidation got in the car. When we arrived at the entrance to the Eastern Lake Trail Head, to my delight, I saw other cars in the parking area.
"Maybe we can walk with others?" I asked.
"No," I was told, "we will walk alone as a couple."
Gingerly, I followed my confident companion to the trail's entrance, where there was a nice-looking couple studying the map on the board.
Not able to contain myself, I blurted out "Are you going to walk the trail also?"
The nice couple said "Yes" they were thinking of taking a hike.
"Great!" I said, "Would you like to walk with us?"
I glanced at my companion who was leveling a steady gaze in my direction. But, hey, I was here, out of the car, and going on the hike, so a little humoring might be in order.
"Sure," the couple said.
And as my new friends moved away from the board, I saw for the first time a sheet of paper taped to the glass that said "Caution Bear Sighted."
"Are we going anyway?" I asked.
Sure, I was told. Black bears run from humans.
And that is a documented fact true of all bears? So, why the need for a warning to take caution? And how would one be cautious if we do encounter a black bear on our walk? Would a stick help?
The questions would have to wait as my group was setting out, and there was nothing to do but follow since the car had been locked.
"Should we sing loudly to warn the bear that we are approaching?" I asked.
"Sure," said my wise-guy companion, we should sing "Teddy Bear's Picnic."
But no one began singing, and my new female friend informed me that if we did encounter a bear, it would take me first because they sense fear.
Since I was obviously going to get no comfort from this group of jokers, I resorted to praying as I walked from my chosen spot behind the others, scanning the horizon for patches of black fur.
As the time past, I eventually began to settle down.
Three miles proved to be longer than I had anticipated. I do that distance on the gym's bike pretty easily, but somehow, the 3 miles in rough terrain was a different story.
Toward the end of the walk and as the trail widened, we did see several animal prints and some large scat. The guys said the prints were of several deer, maybe a coyote or two, and indeed a nice-sized bear. At this point though, I was joking that I would welcome the bear appearing and showing me the way out!
During the hike, I made new friends in Mary and Joe, who are staying on 30A for the first time. They are from Traverse City, Mich., have two sons and five grandchildren. A delightful and intelligent couple, and I am glad we met up.
Mary celebrated her birthday last week on 30A. I hope it was a good one!
Deborah Wheeler is a staff writer for The Walton Sun. She may be reached at 654-8443, 687-1239, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @WaltonSunDeb. Her column Personally Yours appears as often as the spirit moves.