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The Jogger

Still Hiking


Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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There is a hiking trail that begins just to the right of my driveway and winds up into the lovely Santa Ynez mountains. The trail is paved in asphalt beside my driveway, then turns to dust and rocks then when the trail splits in two, about a half mile up. One side leads east to Rattlesnake Canyon; the other goes north to Inspiration Point.

The path to Inspiration Point is a narrow, sandy track bordered on both edges by a short, steep incline, above which the chaparral grows. In some places, the path is too narrow to allow two people to pass.

I have lived in this location for almost four decades, and when I first moved here I thought of the trail as an extension of my own property. I would hike it for a few miles every day, grateful for the easy recreation, grateful to live so close to Los Padres National Forest that I would frequently see deer crossing my driveway, possums hanging from the trees, racoons trying to get into my trash, and several different kinds of snakes. As the years wore on, however, I found that the trail grew increasingly popular with joggers, dog walkers, baby carriers, and just plain folks out for a recreational hike, as I was. The wildlife creatures that, to me, made each hike an adventure, were gradually disappearing.

Do I need to add that as the years passed, I changed as well? In place of my rapid one-two stride I now shuffled a bit, found it harder to raise my right leg as high as it needed to be, and generally slowed down. My hands had changed to wrinkled, bat-like appendages and my hair had turned gray. After tripping several times over rocks or roots that left me bloody (but unbroken), I watched carefully where I planted my feet. The gentle noises of the forest had long since been replaced by people shouting on their cell phones, groups of young people screaming and laughing, and iPods playing. I kept hiking.

One day, as I huffed up the trail, I heard the sounds of feet beating a regular rhythm behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a jogger coming up on me swiftly, with no indication that he was going to slow down as he approached. We happened to be on the part of the trail which is very narrow, with room for a single person to walk only if he or she puts one foot directly in front of the other. Panicking as the rapid footsteps grew closer, I scrambled up the sandy side of the trail and lost my balance, slipping down to land on my left side in the dust. The jogger leaped over me as if I were a fallen log.

“Sorry,” I heard him mutter as I crawled up to standing position on my hands and knees, and then he was out of sight around a curve. I picked myself up, somewhat scraped, a bit dusty, and brushed myself off as well as I could. I kept hiking. But at some point, I was huffing and puffing badly and crying tears of indignation at the indifference of the young man who didn’t even stop to see if I was hurt, or offer me a

Without making a conscious decision, I turned around and started back down the trail towards home. In southern California in August, the trails are treacherous; with no rain in three or four months, it is easy to slip on the loose dirt and small pebbles that line our steep tracks. Walking down the trail is more difficult than walking up. Afraid of falling again, I moved slowly and carefully, holding on to occasional tree trunks where I could. Where the trail looked impossible, I turned sideways and moved crab-like.

About a hundred yards before the pavement, the trail widens out and people can stride vigorously again. Walking through this section, I heard the thudding of footsteps again.

“Ah, well,” I thought, “if it’s him already on his way down from Inspiration Point, he can pass me easily enough.” But as the footsteps grew nearer, they grew slower, until they were echoing my own as I walked.

“I’m sorry that you fell because of me,” he said.

I kept hiking.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, “that I didn’t stop. I should have.”

I kept hiking. In a few minutes we were on the paved part of the trail.

Again the voice from behind me: “I’m really sorry. Do you think you can forgive me?”

As we walked down the asphalt, one behind the other, I realized that we would come to my driveway soon. I desperately did not want this man to know where I live. I came to a stop and turned slightly. “Okay,” I said. “I forgive you. Now will you please leave me alone?”

“Thank you. It’s all right now,” he said. He bounded around me and continued jogging down the road.

In a few minutes I turned in at my driveway and was home. But I was still angry, and now I also felt guilty for telling him I forgave him when I did not feel the slightest bit of forgiveness. I thought about it for some days, and became involved with other events, and the unfortunate walk faded from importance. Yet now, more than a dozen years since it happened, I still remember the jogger and how he craved forgiveness.

I often wonder what happened to the jogger between the place I fell and the top of Inspiration Point. Or perhaps nothing happened. Perhaps it wasn’t until he drew close to me on my way down that he realized my small figure was human, after all; admittedly slow, admittedly old, but human and more in need of help than he had been willing to offer. Or perhaps he was reminded of his own mother during the journey, and hoped that if such a thing happened to her, the offending party would stop, excuse him or her self, and try to make amends.

Meanwhile, I keep hiking.

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I've also been trudging (formerly, running) up and down Rattlesnake Cyn trail for over 3 decades, and it's great to see the increased number of humans using this lovely trail. I also use it in early evening, and occasionally see mountain bikers using it even though it's illegal.
At times it feels like there are really too many dogs on this trail, but really it's just too many careless dog-owners. About March 10 or so a party of 4 with 3 canines were coming up the trail, and one animal -- pitbull of course -- tried to attack me despite my sticks. The older male owner was very slow to restrain his large, snarling animal...kinda chuckled, in fact. Luckily I was't armed like the guy who recently shot and killed Billy the Dog over on Little Pine Mtn.
In the SF Bay area many small wilderness zones BAN the dogs, and Ray Ford and others have inveighed against them. The vast increase in humans, and those bringing their dogs and NOT picking up their feces or NOT controlling them will lead to the eventual banning of all canines on this trail. It is true that the vast amount of dog crap harms this pristine area.
To avoid this, one hopes all dog owners will carry the plastic bags and pick up their dogs' crap.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 9:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I hike Rattlesnake almost every weekend. It's beautiful up there. Most people pick up after their dogs, but the ones that don't spoil it for everyone else.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 9:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ms. Johnson, sorry you knocked over by a jogger. I jog in a Nature Preserve nearby, I pass many older walkers who I either slow down and pass at a quick walk or if room allows, keep my distance as I pass them on by; but always call out that I', either passing on their right or left. I stop and walk for dog walkers, children, families with dogs and / or children, even older joggers who are taking a bent over breather, truly this A-Hole was just selfish and only felt guilty cause you hadn't fallen on down the cliff and had to encounter you again, otherwise he should have stopped his jog/run and made a face to face apology, instead of a nagging passing apology. I use to hike Tunnel, Rattlesnake, and San Ysidro Trails, when I resided in Santa Barbara / Goleta. I hiked, not jogged cause I wanted to enjoy myself and take in the surroundings more than speed through and miss something. I had encountered joggers, bikers (pedal), and horses on the trails, the joggers had to pass me and with warning, cause I wasn't going to move or dodge them, they had to go around me. One such fellow decided to tell me off as he passed, my elbow made contact with him and that was it, he went down and I kept going, though he issued threats of retaliation, he made no attempts to make good on any of them (I 25, 6'2", 200lbs of muscle) kept on going and he remembered that meet cause on three others, he slowed and walked around me with, "Excuse me" said in kind.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
March 26, 2013 at 12:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for sharing your memory, Ms. Johnson, I was touched by it. My history is similar, and my experience of the trails as well. But I'm glad so many people enjoy the trails now, and trust that the contact with what is still wild will have the same effect on them that it has had in my life.

I'm still hiking, like you. Cautious now crossing creeks and going downhill when trails are slippery, grateful for the hiking poles I can use now--and also for the cell phone, in case of a serious mishap. Falls have more serious consequences, bones are more brittle, knees creak and hips ache, healing is slow. But just now, the ceanothus and the mountain sunflowers and all the rest make those issues trivial. May you continue to hike.

I hope you have found it in your heart to forgive that jogger by now, for your own heart's sake, not his. One day he too will be older and not so agile and in need of a stranger's hand.

mtndriver (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The problem arises from the lack of Manners and Decorum in polite society, the virtues that must be taught by Parents and reenforced by the Educational Community, both seem to have failed.

Males especially must be trained (educated) in the moral and ethical constructs of social order. Today it is a meme free for all and those of us that try to live by a Code of Conduct are out numbered by those who don't.

I remember talking to my daughter, if she dated, in college and her reply was that they didn't even bother to buy you dinner these days, so why bother. In her last year she finally found a gentleman to spend time with.

Its more than a jogging trail or dog poop issue, its please and thank you to those who pass food at the fast food window, holding the door open for others, chilling out when someone mistakingly cuts you off in traffic, yielding to the pedestrian on the street or parking lot, society has taken on the trailer trash mentality and No Law, Regulation or Prohibition is going to make it better, it has to come from within.

Society has lost it's Moral Compass.

Perhaps the OP jogged some childhood brain cells in the joggers past but was it just a moment or did the jogger learn a lesson that he could keep and expand?

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 10:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What was that idiot jogger thinking? I bet he drove a Beemer (nice cars, but among the most rude & impatient drivers I've encountered).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 27, 2013 at 9:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OT @howgreenwasmyvalley

"I remember talking to my daughter, if she dated, in college and her reply was that they didn't even bother to buy you dinner these days, so why bother."

Welcome, to gender/sexual equality--where women are supposed to be independent, and pay there own way. The woman paying for everything even happens once in awhile!

"Going Dutch" is still an option as well. :)

equus_posteriori (anonymous profile)
April 3, 2013 at 7:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

yes, HGWMV (not by Richard Llewellyn), it is sad and manners and lots of other ways have decayed or disappeared...but equus nails it, welcome to new standards of equality.
Perhaps you could consider how "we've lost our moral compass" when decades of Americans have witnessed (and suffered in) immoral and reckless wars, the rates in INequality in income and wealth have skyrocketed (at least since 1970), our country incarcerates FAR more humans than even police states like China, Iran, & the old USSR...when murder and suicide rates go way way UP under Republican Presidents (without fail, dude) then fall as dramatically under Democrat Presidents.... hey, how did you vote? Feel any responsibility?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 3, 2013 at 7:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry Danny, I don't play Republican and Democrat - it is a game were everyone eventually losses in the Moral Decay.

As Brother Neil puts it,

So all you critics sit alone
You're no better than me
For what you've shown.
With your stomach pump and
Your hook and ladder dreams
We could get together
For some scenes.

Well, I'm up in T.O.
Keepin' jive alive,
And out on the corner
It's half past five.
But the subways are empty
And so are the cafes.

Except for the Farmer's Market
And I still can hear him say:
You're all just pissin'
In the wind
You don't know it but you are.

And there ain't nothin'
Like a friend
Who can tell you
You're just pissin'
In the wind.

Neil Young

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
April 4, 2013 at 9:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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