Looking Danger Square In the Eye

Good morning from Buckeye Flats

Good, Vibrant Morning! by Marybeth Haydon

TRAVELING ALONG THIS IMPRESSIVE RIVER, WHICH IS FLOWING NORTHWEST, paralleling the coast, I scramble up a hill for a photo op. Standing as close to the edge of my perch as safely possible, I hesitate to begin shooting. The awe and power of the river is complimented by the fantastic diversity of the rock walls and it is commanding my full attention. Clearly, iron dominates the rock canyon, leaving a fantastic rusty patina which is frequently interrupted with dark green trees and shrub. Gray to black mudstones, siltstones and sandstones further the pleasant variations. Even a swipe of golden brown color to complete the picture.

Rough pallet of color

Rugged Pallet of Color by Marybeth Haydon

The river’s edge cuts a raw, white, jagged saw tooth line, the salt-crusted shoreline and boulders that rise above the water, where the natural water’s pulse and current spray have frequently misted the protruding boulders, scatter these highlights throughout the landscape. The current is intense, furious whenever the canyon walls insinuate upon the channel.
There is an odd, captivating rock formation close to the more turbulent section of the channel. It appears as though molten gray rock has spilled from the canyon wall with a round, spoon-shaped end closest to the water’s edge with its wide handle, ladle-like, balancing on the upper riverbank.  This salmon-frequented river flows primarily northeast before changing course to southern pastures and wetlands.

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Interesting Color Contrast by Marybeth Haydon

Only a few hours into the trek and I’m met with dry-grass contrasting a man-made path with lush forests of oak and pines and other trees that I can’t distinguish, looming into its distant future. This revs my energy level, the promise of cooler, green pastures is inviting.

It doesn’t take long to leave signs of civilization behind and soon the hushed, fog-covered forest embraces my curious nature.  Every step is soft, debris-mulched and fragrant under my boot.

This is true paradise.

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Lush Greenery Abounds by Marybeth Haydon

On up the trail I continue, not knowing just why I feel I should get really deep into the forest today but I am very happy to be here, doing what I’m doing.  The scenery never gets old, thank You God. The wildflowers are in full bloom and some are exceedingly fragrant. Their youth is renewed every spring, man, what a thrill that must be! I continue to scan the ubiquitous plant life and deeply inhale the surrounding scents. The perfume of the forest, nothing can beat it. The fragrances change as I proceed, pine mingling with wild licorice, licorice mingling with bay, bay mingling with mustard … I’m not sure if the oak trees have a scent but their dropped acorns are like marbles under my boots.

There is a spot reserved for me under a very large sequoia, its branches outstretched in a welcoming, “Come hither, under my canopy and rest.”  I oblige.  I remove my pack, habitually snapping the belt closed and settle down for a snack.  The sound of rusting paper from my energy bar has apparently alerted many creatures, the most forward and aggressive of which is the scrub jay in front of me.  Not far behind are a few squirrels & chipmunks in various stages of anticipation and wariness, and I’m beginning to wonder where Thumper and Bambi are.

I ignore the advancing blue jay and tip my head back to see if I can see any sky.  What I do see sends my heart racing and my hands shaking.

My head now on a swivel, I check my surroundings more thoroughly, then up again into the trees.  I begin to rise, keeping my eyes on the trees above me, moving ever so carefully, forcing slow and deliberate movement.

Where is mama bear?

Two curious black bear cubs are peeking down and over the foliage of the pine that is right next to the big sequoia that I am against.  Still looking up, I reach for my pack, once again thankful for my habit of cinching the belt, and toss my power bar over past the oak that holds the cubs. Backing away, thankful for the soft, cushy debris and needle-carpeted ground I am looking everywhere. Seriously everywhere. Behind me, above me, beside me. No longer does my immediate forest hold a critter audience, the animals have left town.

I just can not even believe this is happening.

cubs in monrovia

Black bear cubs. courtesy Google images

My heart ratchets yet another level as I swing my eyes towards the scraping, then soft thump sound.  NO WAY! Those cubs are heading towards me, SNAP! I speak firmly to them, “No bear!” but apparently they don’t understand English. The larger of the two is still, although a bit hesitant, coming forward. I am nearly paralyzed with fear. WHERE IS MAMA BEAR?

Lord, please

I bump into a bush, maybe a tree I don’t really care and could not afford to be distracted with finding out. My entire body is shaking, my muscles feel weak, defenseless  and inadequate. I sneak a look and find the path I came in on still backing away. Both cubs seem to be very perplexed, the smaller a bit distracted with a flying insect of sorts, the other looking from its sibling then to me, sizing up the situation.  Thankfully they are remaining grounded where they are.  But for how long, and the million dollar question: Where’s mama bear?!

I need not wonder any longer.

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Angry bear courtesy Google images

Emerging from the underbrush, sending a fleeting glance toward my power bar, is protective mama bear!  She brawls at her cubs like a mother admonishing her children for straying beyond the yard, then gives her full, very direct attention to me.  Somehow I continue to back away, averting eye contact, wild and insane thoughts swirling through my mind. Out of the corner of my eye I see the cubs scrambling up a tree to safety.  Obedient children now that mom’s back.

Realizing that I have been shaking my head in a “no, no, no!” while retreating further, I force every cell, every adrenalin dump into sniper-concentrated focus.  I know the choices on what to do, now how on earth do I choose which avenue to take?  “Read the body language” comes back to memory and I continue backing away, not saying a word, my hands needlessly out in a “stay away” gesture.

Mama grunts threats, her sounds deep and quite menacing, then makes a swipe at the ground in front of her, sending dust and sticks flying into the air, shaking her lowered head. I’m reminded of a bull about to charge and I’m certain I’m going to lose it completely, right here. Right now.  She has not charged me, I take this as a very good sign.  I am still backing away when suddenly I’m falling, and I still haven’t landed yet!

Tangled in brush and briars, I look up the hill to see if she has decided to follow, then end me.  Piece by piece, Marybeth-mulch nourishing the forest. At this point I have lost all reason, tearing my clothes and skin as I thrash through the sticky under brush in full panic mode. I don’t see her, I have lost my pack somewhere along the fall and I no longer care. I am completely overcome with irrational fear as I begin to run down the trail.  DO NOT RUN FROM A PREDATOR but I figure after the fall that I’m far enough away and I’m around the bend so that she can’t see me? Panic trumps reason, it really does.

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Paradise behind me. Courtesy Google images

I am back to the manmade pathway, out of the dense forest and I have not heard any movement or growl behind me since the fall but every fiber of my being is still at high alert. I collapse in a sobbing heap, then I begin to laugh. I think perhaps I’m hysterical, just a thought.

Once I recovered and was shakily on my way home I was first, exceedingly grateful that I was reasonably unharmed. Physically. Emotionally I’ll probably never be the same. I thought about the good habit of keeping my keys and phone separate from my pack and for the habit of always fastening my pack belt. Even though I lost my pack, had I not fallen, I would have had it for minute protection or for the first aid kit inside it.

Establishing good hiking habits and knowing how to interpret and react to animal behavior goes a very long way. Even when you mess up the best laid plans.

red daisy

For information on safety, signs of presence, and first aid please click: 

Pt 1    http://ow.ly/gY1Yn    Pt 2  http://ow.ly/gY1UB      Pt 3    http://ow.ly/gY1Og    Fight or Flight

Visit me on Facebook  http://ow.ly/hycIm    or at Twitter  http://twitter.com/MarybethHaydon

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The Inspiration Behind the Wilderness Training Series

Wilderness Training is relevant to people of all faiths.

Tranquil Imagination

Let Your Light Shine

Wilderness Training’s purpose is to inspire hope to readers of all faiths and to encourage a fuller appreciation of life and ones purpose, while being entertained and involved with the events and sights from the desert, valleys, mountains, the coast and forests. My stories are woven with a Christian thread, but one doesn’t need to be declared a saint in order to appreciate the rich, full experiences and resulting edification. I share how I’m being trained physically, mentally and spiritually while I’m in the wilderness. The revelations mixed with the inexperienced, crackerjack battles of learning-on-the-fly can be enjoyed and appreciated by all. I didn’t understand or realize the joy and benefits in setting higher physical goals before. Not only are my muscles being stretched and developed in the process but my imagination is as well. There are life lessons to be learned simply by walking out one’s front door, or through a forest, listening to the melodious birdsongs, or trudging through deep snow only to encounter a bewildered and large buck, or the thrill of being up close and personal with a raging river; the power it discharges is infectious! Even experiencing the change of seasons brings new insights and pleasure. Just the push to get to the days destination, the accomplishments are so empowering.

ReflectionDiscovery and revelation is quite thrilling, but best when well-prepared since you are out in the wild, which is where my wilderness leadership and safety training came into play. Those who aren’t and can’t be, who are, or have been, or plan to be, “outdoorsy folks” will appreciate the dangers, the beauty, the sightings, the discoveries, the challenges as well as helpful tips, all wrapped up in an entertaining, illuminating and often perilous read, always seasoned with humorous incidents.

Somehow the discipline of prayer, acknowledging that there is One greater than myself, and the expression of uninhibited gratitude has integrated into my conditioning walks as well as the more challenging treks. I’m not even sure how it got started, but it certainly did.  Through my deepest appreciation and admiration of my surroundings I knew I needed to give the credit to where credit was due. Knowing the Lord created the heavens and the earth, and all that is within them cultivated a closer relationship with the Lord. For me to witness breath-taking vistas and to know that God created this spectacular world, I instinctively began to verbally thank Him and to praise Him, right then and there.

Here I had this precious alone time, and with a friend of mine who was going through a very difficult physiHiking in Sol Duc River Valleycal condition, it occurred to me that I could use this time to pray and intercede for her. I had no one knocking at my door, calling on the phone, or other “urban pressures” to interrupt, so I used part of my time while exploring as prayer time. The Lord, faithfully reaching out to His people, opened my heart towards Him. It’s somewhat similar to developing relationships with family and friends. Just by talking to Him, or asking for direction such as, ‘do I take this sidetrail, will it be safe’, He’d respond to my spirit and a viable relationship blossomed. I felt safe, regardless where I traveled, as long as I invited His presence and allowed His intervention. My expeditions are more complete with Jesus sharing the experience with me.

 I doubted my relationship with God many times throughout my life, particularly during the battering: “how could this happen to me?” mindset was triggered by the cancer diagnosis. Actually, even before then, as I was giving God barely a thought, I wondered at the validity of my faith. It was so empty; zero on the relationship scale. I wondered why I couldn’t be a better person, why did I have to struggle with so much; there was a huge void in my life that nothing seemed to satisfy it. Why? I think because I contributed absolutely nothing towards developing a relationship with God, and only prayed when I needed something or if something had gone wrong. I treated God like a spiritutal Santa Claus.

Raised as a Catholic, I always knew there was a God, but never, not once did I think of Him as a personal God, as my personal Savior. In my youth and teen years, attending mass/church was so unfulfilling due to the bulk of the prayers were spoken by the priest in Latin, a language absolutely foreign to me. So, I think since understanding was non-existent, relationship was non-existent.

Later, through some friends at my place of work, I was invited to a non-denominational church and found that God is actually a people-Person, Personally involved in each individual’s life, all anyone needs to do is invite Him in. I called out to Him with the faintest of faith and faithfully, He revealed Himself and captured my heart.

Now, I have absolute assurance that He is an intimate part of my life and He has demonstrated His love and power in mind-blowing, obvious ways. The times He has spared my life, (yet again), are described in my books because He is such a part of me now that it’s like a sturdy braid: wilderness, hiking and God, reliant upon one another.  Seriously, I’d be dead or maimed for life if He had not intervened during the more dangerous hikes and circumstances. Integrating His presence into my hikes has freed me from trepidation and danger; I can go forward with the assurance that this day’s travel will indeed lead to a happy ending.