Bearbells by Leslie Noonan
Apr. 23, 2023 – I am often asked about how fearful I am in the bush. My honest answer is…rarely. I am genuinely less frightened by the animals out there that I may encounter than I am by encountering another person. If I hear people coming along the trail, I will often move myself off the trail and out of sight. However, I am a firm believer in listening to that internal voice, that lizard brain that still recognizes danger even when my evolved cortex has no idea what is going on. Many times, I have listened to that lizard part of my brain, and I have never regretted it.
Several years ago, I was hiking out on the back end of the Wye Marsh on little used trails. I had been out here multiple times and was very familiar with the area. This time was…different. I started out on a well used path, but within a kilometre or so began to experience intense anxiety. There was no rational reason for me to be so anxious, but I became so terrified that I had to stop myself from running in panic. The terror was intense, yet I could not identify the source. I listened to my lizard brain and quickly headed out of the area. As this was a loop trail, I returned to where I had started, only to find bear scat and evidence that a bear had been following me along the trail. I believe that my subconscious was registering an immediate danger threat that my conscious self was not aware off. Always, always listen to your lizard brain. He is a slippery little fellow, but he knows when there is danger near even when your highly evolved primate brain doesn’t register it.
There is another trail where I always have high anxiety, yet I have no rational reason for it. I love this trail, as it is a beautiful route through hardwood forests, fields and alongside deep cedar forests. Yet, I always feel anxious along the last section of trail. It begins at Flos Road 7 east just west of Base Line Road and ends at Flos Road 4. It starts in an old growth forest of pines and begins a gradual route up a lengthy hill of more than a kilometre. The trail then goes down a steep incline and into a beautiful hard wood forest. It is the next section that my anxiety leaps into high gear.
On my right is a deep cedar forest and on my left is a small field. It is at this point my heart rate begins to accelerate and I plan escape routes if anything should come out of that cedar forest. After all, there is a fence I can clamber over before the zombies get me. As I continue along the trail, I come to a barn. Not your red painted happy barn, but an old, abandoned barn, with a line of crows along its ridge line cawing out their shrill displeasure at my intrusion. There doesn’t seem to be any road or trail to this barn, just an empty field. This is seriously a scene out of the zombie show “walking dead”, and my anxiety arises from what might be in that barn. I have been out here several times and yet still become highly anxious every time. Unfortunately, today’s hike ended in disappointment, as that scary barn is no longer there, probably to hide evidence of the zombies. The crows remain, though they now congregate around a solitary tree in the same field.
Once past the now empty field you head up a steep and water eroded trail. While I continue to check behind me, generally my anxiety disappears at this point. At the top of the hill, you can turn right and eventually head out to Flos road 4 and return by the same trail. If you feel adventurous, the trail also has a left turn that I have never taken, and curious me wonders where this goes. But this is when the crows begin their cacophony and leave their tree to investigate what I am doing. No thanks, as my imagination has me picturing silent people with pitchforks. I would love to hear from anyone that is brave enough to pursue this route.