Should I tell them about the sex toy?
This is my first thought whenever I’m asked to share the strangest thing I’ve ever seen while hiking.
It depends on the audience, of course. Such a thing isn’t usually a topic for polite company.
Then, I think, they’re probably asking because they want to tell me about something really strange they saw on the trail. It would be rude to upstage them before they even shared their story.
It just seems like good manners to start with something less shocking and work your way up to the sex toy.
So that’s what I’ll do here:
THE HIGH-HEEL HIKER
The strangest stuff you’ll see on the trail can typically be found within a mile of the trailhead. Especially on popular trails.
During a 2012 family trip to Glacier National Park, a ranger recommended a quick hike to Avalanche Lake. We weren’t the only ones to get this advice.
The short trail looked like a line at Disneyland. I was surprised — and thoroughly entertained — by one hiker.
As we briskly made our way to the lake, a woman in a dress came into view. She was carrying a purse, wearing high heels and looking down.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the heels that slowed her down. As we passed, I noticed she was reading People magazine.
I give her credit for reading though. During a recent trip to Sedona, Arizona, we saw a less-inspired kid sitting in the middle of a trail playing video games on his phone.
IGUANA GO HIKING
Finishing up a hike earlier this month on Umtanum Ridge near Yakima, we noticed a couple out for a walk with their pet iguana.
The woman scooped up the tan lizard as we got closer.
“That is the coolest hiking partner I’ve ever seen,” I said, unintentionally slighting my wife and daughter who were hiking with me.
“I’ve got one too,” the man said, gently patting his chest. “He’s in here.”
His iguana had crawled inside his jacket.
Turns out iguanas like hiking, especially on sunny days.
OH NO, SPEEDO
As luck often has it on trails in tourist destinations, we met several hikers from the Puget Sound area last winter while hiking in Arizona.
During our last day in Phoenix, my wife and I found ourselves engulfed in a lengthy conversation with a University of Washington student and her dad at the base of Piestewa Peak.
We were discussing her intent to transfer to the University of Arizona when she abruptly stopped.
“Oh no,” she said.
Perplexed at first, I soon realized what distracted her. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man probably in his 80s with an impressive bronze tan, a brisk pace and a pair of trekking poles.
He wore only boots and a yellow Speedo.
Almost 10 years ago, my son and I were hiking in Washington’s portions of the Blue Mountains when Alex found himself in urgent need of a vault toilet.
Seconds after he entered the outhouse, he sprinted back out.
“Dad,” Alex screamed, terror magnifying his already piercing 6-year-old voice. “There’s something in the toilet and it has cat eyes.”
I grabbed my camera, flicked up the toilet lid with my foot and snapped a photo of the ferocious beast.
Staring up at me weren’t cat eyes, but rather the sad, weary eyes of an owl that clearly managed to get itself up a certain creek without a paddle.
Clearly, the little guy needed help if he was going to survive his epically crappy luck.
We enlisted the help of a hunter who’d brought a rake along to do a little trail maintenance. He lowered it into the abyss in hopes of lifting the owl to safety. Unfortunately, the not-so-wise owl didn’t seem to follow the finer points of this plan.
It was time to call in reinforcements. Using the hunter’s radio, we contacted nearby Umatilla National Forest rangers.
We waited for a while, my son sending words of encouragement down into the depth, before we had to leave. The last we heard, rangers were on their way for the rescue.
We weren’t able to verifying how the story ended, but we like to think the owl returned to the wild and told his buddies about his harrowing tale. And to watch their step around outhouses.
THE SEX TOY
I was finishing a quick run up Hugo Peak near Eatonville a few years ago when I noticed what looked like a body lying near the trailhead.
I dropped my pack and approached the body. I need only a step or two before I felt a sense of relief.
“Oh, it’s not a body,” I remember thinking. “It’s just a plastic doll.”
The doll was facedown, so I grabbed it by the ankle with a hand I instantly wished was gloved. When I flipped it over, I realized this wasn’t just an inflatable toy. It was an anatomically correct balloon man with a face that looked like a cross between Ryan Gosling and Tim Tebow.
It was about this time that I noticed the pickup in the corner of the parking that I previously thought was empty, was not.
“Is this yours?” I hollered at the guy.
“Nope,” he said.
I’m not sure what Leave No Trace principals say about encounters with sex dolls, but leaving him seemed wrong. I decided to deflate it and toss it in the parking lot trash. Then I noticed where the air valve was located.
Plan B: I tried to pop the doll by stomping on it. No luck. I tried jumping on it. He was tougher than he looked.
Finally, another stomp to his perfect, screen-printed abs and I could hear the air leaving his body. I picked him up with a stick and deposited him in the trash.
Then, I waved to the man in the pickup and drove away.