Meeting folks on the trail

We were hiking up a forest trail yesterday. It wasn’t one of the wide community paths where it is easy to pass another person, but a narrow, single-person trail that winds through the trees. We don’t encounter too many people on those paths, but when we do, we pull our masks up over our faces and try to find a place to step a few feet off of the path to allow the other to pass. It is not a problem and we feel that we can safely walk on these paths that are close to town without undue risk. Yesterday as we walked up the path we encountered a woman who was walking a pet pig. This wasn’t any miniature creature, but a full-sized animal. It wasn’t the biggest hog like you might encounter at the state fair, but a substantial creature nonetheless. I mean there was enough pig there for ham dinners for a couple of families, with enough left over for enough bacon for a softball team breakfast, and probably enough remaining for bratwurst for the company picnic, if you know what I mean. Of course this particular pig didn’t appear headed for the meat packing plant anytime soon. We could tell by the way the woman crouched down to calm the animal as we passed that the creature in the harness on a short leash was precious to her. “You’ve got a fine pig there,” I commented. She thanked me for the compliment. I suppose the woman is able to pick up the pig to put it in her car, but I think that would be a significant challenge for her.

Farther along our walk, in a place that was closer to the parking lot we saw another woman. This woman had two dogs. These were not big animals. We have a couple of different friends who have chihuahuas, so I know a little about the breed. These were at least part chihuahua. Chihuahuas come in short har and long hair. These had long hair, but they were really small dogs. You know what I mean. These dogs were smaller than the tom cat who used to curl up on my lap when our kids were teenagers. The woman walking the two dogs was, to be blunt, larger than the woman who was walking her pet pig. I don’t mean to be crude, but lets just say that although the woman with the two little dogs was technically complying with the leash rules by having leashes attached to the collars of her dogs, she would have been challenged were she to need to bend over and actually grab the other end of the leashes. On the other hand, the substantial woman probably would have no problem picking up a dog under each arm. The dogs were keeping close to the owner and posed no threat to others walking on the trail.

We see lots of non-human animals on our walks. We frequently see rabbits alongside the trail and we’ve glimpsed foxes and deer and wild turkeys. We see squirrels and chipmunks and lots of different birds as we walk. This time of the year we know to be alert for rattlesnakes in the area, though we haven’t encountered any this year. We enjoy seeing butterflies and beetles and and spiderwebs and a variety of different insects. Certainly pet dogs are very common on the trails we hike. Dogs, for the most part, haven’t heard about the novel coronavirus and don’t feel compelled to practice physical distancing. They strain at their leashes to great each oncoming walker. I’m not afraid of dogs and usually appreciate the friendly greetings, often bending over to give them a pat on the head of a scratch behind the ears.

I’m no expert on pigs, so I don’t know if the pig was expecting a greeting from me as I passed. At any rate I didn’t offer my hand as I went by. The chihuahuas were a bit farther away and moving in a different direction, so I didn’t have a chance to greet them. I would, however, have been reluctant. Those yappy, snappy little dogs are difficult to read and they have sharp teeth.

It was a beautiful evening last night and there were a lot of people out enjoying the various trails and walks in the city. With the crush of people from the motorcycle rally, we are being very careful to consider where we go for our daily walks and, for the most part, it isn’t difficult to find places where there are not very many people. I learned early on, growing up near Yellowstone National Park that despite the crush of crowds, you rarely have to walk more than a half mile off of the road in order to be alone. And it appears that the majority of the bikers who have come to the hills didn’t come for the opportunity to hike on some of our lovely forest trails.

We, on the other hand, haven’t felt much of a pull to get our wrist bands and head out to the Buffalo Chip for the “Best Party Anywhere.” Somehow a 10-day party with copious amounts of alcohol just isn’t on our list of things to do this year. We’ll miss the concerts, races, rides, motorcycle shows, vendor shops, food stalls, beauty pageant, and contests that are a part of the event this year. Come to think of it, we’ve missed all of those things that 25 other summers that we’ve lived in the hills. At least we’re consistent.

We didn’t move to the hills for the crowds, but we do enjoy a bit of people watching, so when the hills fill up with guests, we often get a kick out of observing the folks who come. The rally often attracts a very diverse crowd and some fairly wild beards and haircuts as well as some rather innovative costumes.

This year, however, one of the most memorable encounters was with a lady and her hog on the hiking trail. it is, after all, the annual gathering of Hogs in Sturgis.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!