Yesterday could have ended much differently for us, and honestly I am still digesting what happened. By writing about it I hope to get some fear and anxiety that has set in in hindsight while seeing a much bigger picture off of my chest and I will feel better.
It started as a beautiful day, one of those rare mild ones late in the season where Father Winter can make an appearance each and every day. It was my first time out for an extended period since hiking The Wave. I felt good and I was going to go a little further than usual today. It should be no problem after my adventure to The Wave, and although I wasn’t planning to hike 10 miles, I’d be happy if I hit 3. I was breathing deeply and the sun felt nice and warm in the slight breeze. I took Cinnamon to a place, a point on a lake we have hiked several times in the past. Except today we would go beyond the bathroom which is usually our turning point. The path is a gravel road and goes through the woods. It ends at a point of the lake and if it wasn’t too muddy, this would be a great place for Cinnamon to run and burn off some energy. The entire hike to the point was peaceful and I was thinking about thanksgiving and how I felt this feeling of gratitude and giving thanks every day already. Who needed a calendar to dictate as to when you should feel this way, but I get it and understand why.
Arrived at the waterfront 1.7 miles later, Cinnamon walked right in and submerged herself up to her belly in cool bliss. I scanned the area and made out the dry patch of an open field to the left of us. It would provide a great area for her to run wild and free. Further left in quite some distance, I saw a group of three people with a dog. I felt that with any luck, she (Cinnamon) wouldn’t even notice them as they were far enough away. I let her loose and she ran like a maniac across the field. Ears flopping, smiling from ear to ear, mouth open showing teeth in such a delight and happiness that it always makes me laugh. I snapped a few pictures and glanced over to the group of people to see what they were up to. It’s a habit and something I always do, especially when I’m out alone. To be honest, I’d rather encounter no one and I’m sure this mindset stems from an experience many years ago where I was stalked and someone was following me. Strangely this happened at the same lake.
By now the group was breaking up and two out of the tree people with the dog were heading into the woods. The man dressed in all black, wearing a hoodie seemed overdressed for this warm day and was now starting to walk into my direction. Immediately I got a real bad feeling and was trying to make sense of what reason he could possibly have to walk towards me. There was no car parked that he was returning to, there was nothing besides the bathroom and I highly doubted that this is where he was heading to. My intuition and gut feelings were running rampant and I knew that we had to get out of there. I leashed Cinnamon in record time and started to briskly move. My goal was to walk off of the open field towards the trail in the woods. I was grateful having accomplished putting her on leash quickly and that she wasn’t playing any game of catch me if you can that day. In my mind I was trying to calculate of where the man in black would intercept me on the trail, me coming straight and him coming from the side. I was gauging the distance and I had no desire to meet him. I had hurry, hurry, hurry if I was to have chance avoiding him.
I looked over into his direction which was now on my right side to check his progress and where he was. He had disappeared which was even weirder and I knew again that something wasn’t right. I forced myself to move even faster and to get off of this darn open field. Almost there, and at least back into the woods I thought to myself as I saw him reappear and come out from behind a bush of which bare branches were tightly meshed together, reaching towards the sky. Again he was making his way towards me as the distance and the gap between us was closing in. Honestly I didn’t know if I would make it and escape him in time, or if our path would collide, but I knew I had to give it my best shot. And then I heard it and I will never forget that sound of two bullets passing just overhead of me and hitting the waterfront right next to me. He was shooting at us, why, clearly he could make me out as a person with a dog, just as I had made them out before. What reason would he have to shoot at us. I was thinking more about Cinnamon, it couldn’t be that he was mistaken her for a deer. Besides he didn’t look the least bit like a hunter. This was serious and adrenaline and survivals instinct took over. He was shooting at us, he wanted us gone. Cinnamons hair was standing straight up and she was visibly shaken from the gunshots as we continued to move.
We made it into the woods while never stopping to scan the side that was his direction to see if he was coming. “Should I hide and lock myself into the bathroom” I thought, which I quickly dismissed. How could I be sure of when and how it was safe to come out! I immediately knew I’d be there for hours and if he made in somehow and broke the door down, it would be lights out for sure. I had to keep going and follow the path close to the trees instead of walking in the middle of the gravel road which I usually do. Hopefully the trees would provide a “No shot” environment for us. Surely he’ll catch up to me with the RA and me being unable to run I thought, although at one point it felt like the adrenaline was carrying me so much that I might have been able to run. I didn’t try and I didn’t want to make more noise than I had to. Instead I walked as fast as I could. Ever so often Cinnamon stopped and looked back into the direction of the shooter. She will sense someone coming and hear someone long before you ever do and her doing this was even more nerve racking. It left me feeling followed and as if we were being hunted. I knew I had to clear another 1.7 miles to get back to the car. 1.7 miles that were sheer terror. If he was trying to scare us….mission accomplished for sure.
All of a sudden three more shots were fired and came directly from behind us. Not necessarily into our direction but on our heels. By now my feet were aching so badly, but this wasn’t a time to take it easy or even slow down. I managed to send a text message to communicate my where about’s and what had just happened. Luckily I had a signal and I hurried up just saying what I needed to as to not slow down and get distracted. We had to keep moving. FAST!
Eventually we made it back to the car and it must have been the longest 1.7 miles ever. Still looking in anticipation that the shooter was close behind us, I peeled out of there with Cinnamon and couldn’t even wrap my mind around what had just happened. After some distance, I was able to communicate another message that we were safe and had made it back to the car. Back at home, I lost the timeframe of a few hours somehow and I don’t even remember what I did in these few hours. As the adrenaline was wearing off, I felt so exhausted and drained. I was beat and I was so tired. I couldn’t force myself to complete the slightest task and just vegetated away. I don’t think I fell asleep and yet I have no recollection of that time.
Later that evening we were contemplating on what happened and the reality of hindsight set in. How this could have been a much different picture, ending in disaster and in what could have ended my life and Cinnamons. The conclusion we came up with was that that group of people was up to no good and that I became a witness to a potential drug deal. I was merely caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Shooting pictures of Cinnamon, perhaps they thought that I was photographing their interaction, which made me a threat. Why would someone with a gun shoot into the direction of people, me in that case, unless they wanted to eliminate that person? There was such a ruthlessness, such no hesitation in his action, it’s truly scary and puts into focus how far people are willing to go and how little a human life means.
Further we thought that he probably stopped his search once he had reached the bathroom. Few people, if any, park at the Main Street and then walk in 1.7 miles like I did. Out of frustration he fired the additional three shots that we heard behind us. He must have thought that I had driven off and didn’t realize that I was hustling through the woods to get away, still on foot. Had he realized this and known that it was slow going for me, I would have become an easy target for him and I’m most certain he would have pursued me.
Needless to say we are not going back there again. I am grateful Cinnamon cooperated and knew as well that we had to hurry and get ourselves out of there. I am sure she picked up on my own fear and that this was a dangerous situation. I slept little last night and felt cold. I remember feeling like that during a robbery I was held up in and at gunpoint years ago. Same feeling and I think it is the shock wearing off. Today we are just taking it easy and will walk a more populated path for our walk. I am still in awe, but I am grateful for this happy ending and that we are both still here. Today we have a new reason to give thanks and be appreciative that w have both gotten away.