Sunday, March 23, 2008

Feeling unsafe on trails and weapons

Normally when hiking, I am not too concerned about danger to myself. When I am concerned it is mostly about natural hazards, lightening, falls, hypothermia, and occasionally animals. Other than people hiking above me causing rock falls, I rarely worry about dangers from people. Of course I am aware of trailhead car break-ins, many trailheads have warning signs and I've seen the results. But having items stolen while I am absent is different from feeling personally threatened. I also know of people assaulted or murdered on trails but these are relatively rare occurrences although I remember them much more vividly than other reports of violence. And of course I think about drug operations in some areas and the fact I don't want to meet anyone so engaged when hiking.

I've often encountered people with guns along trails who were probably not hunting. In some areas it seems almost routine that many hikers carry pistols or even a rifle or shotgun attached to a pack. If asked (not that I usually ask someone in these circumstances) they usually say they are carrying the gun for protection against animals, especially rattlesnakes, or people. Most of the time these people do not alarm me even though one time I met a lone man on the trail who, when he saw me, rather ostentatiously put his hand on his pistol. Maybe because he seemed more alarmed by me than aggressive I was more amused than otherwise.

Unfortunately, I sometimes meet people on the trail carrying weapons who do alarm me such as hunters with poor gun safety or people taking potshots at unknown objects with no regard to what is beyond their target. I also have met people who frighten me who aren't obviously carrying a gun. I'm not always sure why some alarm me and others do not, I presume it is their demeanor especially their reaction to me. At times I've looked over my shoulder a lot, turned back, or left camping areas because of them. I've also on occasion wished for my own gun. In reflection, after I'm home, I acknowledge to myself that if I had a gun it would probably not increase my safety. First I've never been assaulted in the backcountry. Also someone who was going to attack me would probably not give me time to mentally and physically be prepared. Anyway, guns and ammunition are heavy and I'm trying to reduce my load, not increase it.

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