My wife and I were celebrating our 43rd anniversary – now five years ago – and had spent a delightful day at Pacific Beach on the Washington Coast where we built not one but two sea creatures; floated a drift-wood sailboat – complete with seagull feathers for spinnaker and main – down the stream emptying into the crashing waves, and otherwise just goofed off with no responsibilities which is true most of the time.
Since the Quinault Trail Head to Enchanted Valley – known to locals as “The Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls” – was a mere 75 or so miles away and my wife had never been there but I had 45 years previous with my dad who hiked and fished with me up one side of the mountains and down the other, and where deep in that wilderness I had carved my to-be-wife’s initials – complete with a heart – into a post supporting one of the infrequent shelters: we went.
We ‘hiked’ – actually, truth be told, it was more of a short walk – the first 100 feet of the 13-mile trail promising ourselves we’d come back some day and do the whole thing.
At the trail head there is a warning about cougars before you take off into the unknown. Two steps I remember to take when facing a cougar according to the ‘you’ll-never-see-them-but-if-you-do’ colorful graphic: (1) grab up your little ones; (2) do not lose eye contact.
I can just see myself in a stare-down.
We retraced our steps – the first few walking backwards – toward the safety of our car and almost tripped over a roughhewn walking stick. On an adjoining rock there was an empty plastic backpacking water jug. And next to the nearest car a pair of hiking boots.
Apparently, the hiker had collapsed in the back seat of the vehicle tired from the exhausting trail just completed and had gone to sleep. We didn’t dare peer in to see if that was the case.
Of course, the other alternative is that he/she didn’t maintain eye contact.
Which brings me to this wonderful truth to remember when facing the cougars prowling our quickly changing cultural landscape:
Hold close your family members; maintain your focus on what matters.