We live near the Mt. Hood National forest and the Columbia River Gorge so there are numerous hiking trails available to use for a day hike. We try to hike a different trail each outing and this time we selected a trail that follows along the Salmon River near Welches. The map showed a waterfall about five miles from the trail head so we intended to hike up there and have a picnic lunch, enjoy the view of the waterfall, then return.
There weren’t any other cars parked at the trailhead so we thought we would have the trail to ourselves. That didn’t worry us, in fact we preferred it. We have spent many pleasurable hours on lonely trails. The trail followed the river for about a mile before climbing the forested hillside. We enjoyed hearing the rush of swift water on the rocky stream bed and seeing the lush green foilage of the riparian area before entering the solitude of the forest. We moved steadily along the trail toward the waterfall.
About two miles from trailhead we were passed by four bearded, long haired young men dressed in scruffy clothes… best described perhaps as hippies. They were walking much faster than we were and greeted us politely as they passed.
About ten minutes later they passed us again! That was cause for some alarm on my part because we had not seen any fork in the trail where they might have detoured. Not much farther up the trail I noticed someone off to the side of the trail, trying to hide behind a tree, and watching us pass by. A few minutes later the four young men again marched quickly past. Now I was alarmed. They were playing some kind of game with us that I didn’t like. Several possible outcomes came to mind and few had pleasant endings.
It was one of the few times I had gone hiking without the 357 magnum that I usually carry as a concealed weapon and I certainly wished I had it on that walk. I wouldn’t have felt so vulnerable. I have packed the 357 on literally hundreds of hikes and never felt the need for it. After so many hikes without a hint of trouble I began to feel a bit foolish and wondered if I was suffering from paranoia. The extra weight and aggravation started to become a bother so I gave in to complacency and left the magnum behind. If we got back from this hike in one piece I vowed to never leave it home again!
As the four men moved out of sight ahead of us we turned around and headed back to the car as fast as we could go. If the four continued their crazy game I was hoping that they might wait long enough for us to pass by that we would have time to make it back to the car.
At the Car
All of us arrived back at the trail head practically simultaneously. I walked quickly to the trunk of our car and opened it… thinking that if attacked I could grab a tire wrench to use as an equalizer. The four men again exchanged pleasantries with us and continued to their vehicle which was parked a short distance away. I thought their smiles were a bit forced and smug.