A friend from my writers' group rented a cabin in the Hocking Hills, the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains here in southern Ohio.
I kept going, surrounded by the hum of cicadas waking up, and turned down the path to the Rock Stalls.
I'd only gone a little way when I heard a sound like a horse snorting out. Three times that huffing sound came from some place close.
I froze and realized I was a mile and a half from our cabin and utterly alone in the woods.
When I heard the sound, I'd imagined a stag pawing the ground, and wondered if he'd run at me.
I called my husband.
I told him the situation and he said, "It could be a bear."
Gulp. I hadn't thought about a bear.
"Some people say you should try to look big if a bear comes at you, but I don't think that would work for you." Really? Short jokes-- now?
He suggested I turn around but I really wanted to be brave and hike the trail alone.
"It could be a person paralleling you in the woods," he suggested.
"There are definitely no people around," I assured him. At 7:30 in the morning on an isolated trail, animals were my bigger worry.
"How dense are the woods? Can you see into them?" he asked. But I had stopped by some thick bushes.
"I'm going to keep hiking," I told him.
So I continued down the path. The woods thinned out, but after a few minutes, I heard the snorting noise again. Three times. An asthmatic bear?
I stood on the trail, the dappled sunshine struck me, and I began to sing: "My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An endless changing vision of an ever changing view"
The song helped me be brave and I continued.
The woods thinned out even more and I felt comfortable taking a few selfies.
But I figure I could be one of those people who later inspects pictures and sees a bear or bobcat hanging out in the trees above me.
The path intersected with the one we'd taken the day before and I felt more comfortable as I revisited the ancient spaces there.