Awhile back I had a travel scare…
One of those hair standing up on the back of your neck moments when all of your spidey senses are activated. So, what did I do? Like a bad horror movie, I just plunged right in and opened the proverbial door.
Why, you might ask?
One, because I was not alone. Is there really safety in numbers? And two, I’ve lived in big cities and as a woman, you have to appear confident. You learn to turn your rings inward so as not to be flashy., what streets to avoid etc… You can’t let fear hold you back.
Blessedly, this story had a happy ending. Other than being scared, we were fine. But it got me thinking about what we should have done instead.
I’ll tell you that, along with what I think we should have done differently.
This incident happened while exploring the very, very tips of the California coast in Klamath, California, which is on the Yurok Indian reservation. I highly recommend visiting this pristine, beautiful, part of California that just happens to also be the backdrop of this story.
FUN FACT: Klamath is the location of the computer game Fallout 2
The scare happened on our last morning in the area; we were up very early to continue our drive down the coast. There was one tourist stop that we wanted to hit on the way out of the area. Right on the coast stands a radar station disguised as a farm that was used to look for Japanese invaders during World War II. We so wanted to see the fake farm house and the outbuildings that are still hanging on to the cliff-like hillside above the Pacific Ocean.
So, we parked at the top of the hill and started to hike down the steep, narrow, extremely rutted dirt road that is clearly not meant to be driven down and even has the barriers at the top to remind you of that. As we rounded the first bend, we were startled by a man running towards us. He was disheveled and said something along the lines of, oh, I thought you might be the park police.
We said, nope, we just want to see the radar station. He said, oh is that what this is as he turned to continue down with us. As we went a little further, we were looking at an old camper pickup truck that had been driven down this undriveable road and gotten itself very stuck. He explained that he had backed down with no explanation as to why and got stuck. He had proceeded to remove what looked like all of his worldly possessions from the camper, which were now strewn across the path AND he had tied both ends of the front of the pickup with ropes to trees on the trail in an attempt to pull/drive it up the trail.
We asked if he had called a tow truck as it did not look like it was going to budge. He said he hadn’t but he might need to. We literally climbed over ropes and hiked around a ton of junk in order to continue down to the farm.
Travel Tips: We should have turned around at the top of the path as our instincts were screaming right from the get go that something was not right. We should have had a code word between us that signaled concern and that we needed to immediately get out of there. Next time, we will have a code word that is non-negotiable if either of us say the code word, we get the heck out.
The guy would not stop apologizing to us for the mess and his predicament. I swear I was thinking he had someone tied up in the back of that camper or had buried someone down here on the cliffs. I was beyond creeped out!
We continued our hike down because really, we just wanted to get away from him. He stayed at his truck. We snapped a few pictures, had a few screaming mimi (me) moments while hidden from view from the creep, and then we headed back up.
Travel Tip: Sometimes it’s okay to not worry about being polite. Does it really matter if some stranger thinks you are being rude? No, it absolutely does not matter.
We then hiked back up and we were purposely pretty far apart from each other so I could get past the truck and the creep before my husband. So, if he went for one of us, he would have a hard time getting both of us and I would likely be able to get past him and back up to the car. Yep, that was our grand plan.
I got past the creep and he started walking next to my husband and talking to him a bit. My husband wished him good luck and asked him if he wanted us to call any one for him. He said, you do what you gotta do, I know you are going to call someone anyway.
The minute we hit the bend in the trail, out of site, we sprinted up that trail. Needless to say, we got to the car and we got out of their fast. And, I did call the tribal police department. I really hope they got there fast. And, as we had been on the reservation for a few days, we definitely had the impression that they would not take to kindly to this creep’s predicament and I’m confident they got to the bottom of whatever shenanigans he was up to.
Travel Tips: Talk through some of these types of situations and how to react to increase your chances of staying safe! Always, always, always go with your gut. It does not matter if it seems irrational, learn to quickly trust and act on your instincts.
We were lucky we just had a scare. Definitely turn back quickly, don’t walk through the proverbial door like we did, but definitely do keep exploring this big beautiful world we are on.
Don’t believe me about the radar station? https://www.nps.gov/places/redwoodradarstation.htm