I could head off down a quiet country road.
Or I could plunge into the forest to see what I could see on rocky, leaf strewn trails. For me, it was a no brainer. Into the forest I went. I pretty much always do, when trails are available.
Given my longstanding choice for the wild, a letter in the San Francisco Chronicle last month really annoyed me. The writer was distressed by a story about friends of a missing person looking for her on the trails in Marin County.
Mr. Letter Writer, if I took your advice, I'd never get out on the trails. Of course I run alone -- how else could I explore the places that beckon, galumphing along at my own pace, occasionally turning up an unknown side trail or even stopping to take a photo?
I'm equipped enough by my standards: I carry a water bottle or wear a Camelbak full of liquid if I plan to go longer. Tucked in the latter I'll have a wind shirt. I usually have a paper towel and a pocket camera. If I'm in a new area, I try to have a map, but will admit I sometimes employ some dead reckoning, branching out from familiar paths to find new ones. If I don't know the area, I pay close attention to route finding.
Yes, I've been known to fall over a root or trip over a rock. I'm a 60 year old with occasional skinned elbows and knees to show for my trail addiction -- and not too worried by it. Maybe I should be, but I'd rather just go.
In the wild places, I've never had a really bad encounter with another human being. I know these can happen. For awhile at the beginning of the 1980s, there was a killer in the Marin Hills. And there was this chilling true story.
But I like my odds on the trails a lot better than I like my odds in urban parks. In 30 years of running, it has been in parks that I've encountered human violence. I've been yelled at from passing cars, had a gun pointed at me "as a joke," had guys expose themselves -- all in daylight in city public places.
So, no, Mr. Letter Writer -- I can't take your advice. I worry myself a little at times, but the trails still call and I still rumble along them. Usually alone.