I had a good run on a new mountain trail today. I did about 8 miles on a challenging route, and came away with only a few scratches and a minor rolled ankle. Oh, and I didn’t get shot.
I was well into the run when I first thought about the possibility of hunters sharing the woods with me. I had been focused on making it to the top of Wolfpit Mountain, trying to avoid tripping or spraining an ankle on the roots and rocks that were lurking underneath a thick covering of fallen leaves. But, once I got to the top and was running along the relatively level ridgeline, I was able to turn my attention to things other than the patch of trail where I was going to place my next couple of steps. Things like the tree stand just off the trail. I stopped in my tracks and stared at it, and remembered a friend telling me that his son had gotten his first deer last weekend. Yikes. I might not be alone in the woods after all.
I started off again, reasoning that my crunching through the fallen leaves was making enough noise to alert any hunters that I was a runner and not a deer. I took some comfort in that, until I flushed out a big doe that bounded away through the woods, crashing through the underbrush and fallen leaves. She made even more noise than I did. So much for that theory.
About an hour in, the ridgeline trail started to drift off to the other side of the mountain. I didn’t want to take it too far, as any downhill on the way out would mean uphill on the way back. It was a nice stretch of trail, though, so I followed it for a few minutes. Then, I heard a rifle shot. It sounded like it was a good distance away, but that was little consolation, given the range of a deer rifle. I turned around. Another shot echoed through the trees. Adrenaline helped me pick up the pace, so I didn’t even notice the uphill. My goal was to put the mountain between me and the hunter.
I crested the top, and felt better once I made it to the other side of the ridgeline. I was running a good pace, and before I knew it I was headed back down the mountain. I was still enjoying the run, but was feeling more than a little dumb about running a remote mountain trail during the second week of hunting season. Then, as if I needed any confirmation, my eyes locked with those of a camoflauge-wearing, rifle toting, deer hunter about 30 yards away. I stopped dead in my tracks. I should have called out, I suppose, but instead I slowly raised my hand and waved, looking for a response that he saw me and realized that I didn’t have antlers. He waved back, looking none too pleased, and we walked toward each other.
“Sorry about all the noise,” I said. No response.
“Are there any more of you out here?” “One down there,” he said, motioning down the mountain, “and another on the other side of the ridge.”
“Um, yeah, I heard him.” I guess the rifle shots had been closer than I thought. “Well, I’m sorry for making such a ruckus. Good luck today.”
“Yeah,” he said with a smirk, and I continued back down the trail. It wasn’t long before I met up with his buddy, who was slowly walking up the trail, cradling his rifle. He stared at me, looking a bit incredulous, and said “You ought not to be out here runnin’ where people are huntin’.”
Resisting the temptation to suggest that maybe he ought not to be out huntin’ where people are runnin’, I nodded. He was the one with the rifle, after all. I apologized for the noise, and set off again. A bit later I came upon their camoflauged ATV, and a bit later still some houses came into view. Realizing that I was finally out of the hunting zone, I’d say that I was able to breathe easily at this point, but I was spent, so breathing easily was out of the question.
A good run, but a little more excitement than I had bargained for.