Trail Safe Encounters on the Trail
Let's expand this into some general rules:
- When someone says, "Come here," don't. If you are in Condition Yellow, do not come close with another person or group of people. Keep your distance. In general, I don't think it's a good idea to respond to a verbal command from anyone you don't know while out on the trail, unless it's clearly an emergency situation. "Come here," "Slow down," and "Stop" are generally best dealt with by a friendly wave. Maybe point to your ear as if you can't hear. Then put some distance between you and whoever is talking.
- In Condition Yellow, do not let anyone close with you. This is the converse of our first point. I think of this point as sort of a Charlie Chaplin dance stepyou take a step toward me; I take a step back.
- Slowing down is often more effective than speeding up. Unless you've got your cell phone and can reach the Psychic Friends Network, you don't know who's on the trail in front of you. But you do know who's on the trail behind you. As I've mentioned, my partner and I tend to be really fast hikers; part of the fun of being outdoors is the exercise aspect. However, on more than one occasion, we've slowed down and let ourselves fall among (or directly behind) a larger group of hikers.
- Herds can be good things. You'll notice I haven't said much about hiking by yourself. Hiking alone is a personal choice. I've spent many happy hours alone in the wilderness. Nevertheless, please understand that hiking alone merits more attention in your risk assessment, especially if you're a woman. If you're on a popular trail or in a heavily populated recreational area, joining a herd, even briefly, is a solid safety tactic. I've used it many times.
- A solid object between thee and me makes me harder to get to. Trees and boulders are definitely solid objects. If I can step in such a way that a large impediment stands between whatever has bumped me into Condition Yellow, I'll always do so. It doesn't cost me anything, and the other person merely considers me cautious or crazya perception that suits me fine. Your outdoor gear will work as a solid object too. For example, during a heated discussion over trail access recently, my mountain bike was always between the other person and me.
Let's recap here before we press on. Retreat remains a perpetual option throughout your self-defense strategy, but is easier to accomplish earlier in the process; we might think of an early retreat as a late avoidance. Integral to this early escape is paying attention to your awareness and trusting in your intuition. If you feel like the situation is hinky, bail, because from here on out, the situations get tougher to deal with.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication