JUAN DE FUCA TRAIL, Port Renfrew, B.C. Without glancing at my watch, I know it's 7pm.
That's when I start fretting about predators. The "hour of bearing down," I call it.
Solo hiking at dusk is dumb enough. On Vancouver Island amid one of the world's densest concentrations of bears and cougars it smacks of outright idiocy. So does a three-mile-an-hour clip over mossy logs and wet exposed roots with a heavy daypack.
I skid two feet down a algae-slicked plank, twisting desperately out of the fall. Shaken, I freeze. "Accidents happen when you rush," I remind myself. "Slow it down. Be deliberate."
The trail junction finally heaves into view. I ditch my pack and amble towards the outhouse. Only 1.5km to go.
That's when I hear voices.
Drunk male voices.
"Maybe you've been worrying about the wrong mammals entirely," my brain babbles.
But the pot farmers escort me away from their patch with utmost gentility. They even wait in the parking lot's gloom until the trusty, rusty 86' pickup ignites. "You enjoy that drive to Lake Cowichan," they call. "It's mostly paved and really fun."
Maybe logging roads pass for fun in Port Renfrew; Me, I prefer a pinot noir and some sag paneer ...
Still, I pilot the Ford towards the mountains, where the moon silvers the clearcuts. Two-odd hours later, I grind into Nanaimo. My hands shake. So much stupid, all bundled into one day. How did I manage?
The next day, I split early for home. I burrow deep into Miguel's arms and confess, "I got scared. In fact, I'm so scared that you'll have to delay the bollocking I so richly deserve."
Yet he doesn't storm. Instead he breathes deep: "darlin', how about this? Stop doing things you're ashamed to tell your father you pulled off."
How can I even stupid, stupid I argue with that?