‘Speaking truth to Fear’
I left the comfort of the hostel and these lovely hikers this morning but not before enjoying an outdoor breakfast together. We made our own pancakes and drank seemingly bottomless cups of coffee. Perhaps trying to postpone the reality of the hill and hiking that lay ahead.
I was really happy to be reunited with my friend Trees (second photo above) after a couple of weeks. We had lots to catch up on so the first few miles flew. By mile 18 my ankle was a bit sore again so I slowed down, I’d long lost Trees. Day light was fading by mile 21 so I found a place to set up camp by a dirt road.
I love the solitude of camping alone and as I sat on a mat in the dust outside my tent whilst cooking mac and cheese I felt absolute contentment.
Later, lying in my tent in the dark I heard a loud noise above the familiar cricket call. It was breaking branches under its feet and it was close.
“Hello?” I called, thinking it was a human. No reply. My mind and my heart were racing. The former urging the latter on. Was it a bear? Or a mountain lion? Why had i camped alone? Was this the way it was going to end? I breathed deeply and made “shoo” yells.
With my torch I saw a deer run by. But then a few minutes later more crunching of branches, this time louder.
Fear is a very powerful emotion, fed by the stories we tell ourselves and by images we store. I’ve a crazy imagination and am careful what I feed it.
At breakfast I’d asked a hiker who was also a hunter about mountain lions. He’d share how shy they are and how rare it is for them to attack humans. He spoke with such a tender respect for them it changed my view of them. I knew the same was true of bears here – they are timid and are after berries not bodies.
As far as my research has shown me, no PCT hiker has died from mountain lion not bear attack. The biggest cause of death is drowning. The most dangerous predators are other humans not animals. Sounds of life and movement carried on in the woods but speaking truth to fear changed their meaning. I drifted off and slept deeply and I’ve been woken up by the sound of an early morning hiker!