Back in the days before children (BC) my wife and I enjoyed backpacking in Oregon’s wilderness country. One of our favorite packs was into the Eagle Cap Wilderness of NE Oregon, an area widely known for its alpine beauty. At times we would go on the trail for a week or two and not see any other people. We enjoyed the peace and quiet solitude of the high country.
On one such trip we were on the first day out from the trail head near Wallowa Lake. That particular trail was in heavy use by packhorse outfits and we had been commenting on the “barnyard” atmosphere that occasionally nearly overwhelmed us. As we hiked along a particularly narrow section where the trail squeezed between a steep hillside on the left and a steep drop to the Wallowa river on the right two men on horseback caught up with us. There was a little more room on the right so we stepped off the trail as far as we dared to allow the horsemen to pass. We weren’t surprised when they stopped to chat. Usually packers and hikers are a friendly bunch.
Their conversation wasn’t very friendly however, and I got the impression that the two men were intentionally abusive and trying to “pick a fight.” They began to crowd us with their horses and I began to worry about being pushed over the dropoff into the river. The probability of getting seriously injured or even killed in such a fall was high and the fall could easily be called “an accident.”
I decided it was time to display the 357 magnum I carry for use as a peace maker. I don’t like to intimidate people who would be bothered with the sight of a gun so I carry it concealed. When I made it casually obvious that I was armed the two men suddenly got very polite and quickly took their departure without further comment.