Of all my runs here I've only been nervous a couple of times.
A few months ago I was getting ready to run the Maunawili trail, a 22 mile out and back. I'd just parked my car, gotten my pack on and was getting everything ready. When I say parking 'lot' I mean small stretch of gravel on the side of a rural road in the country. A very large black truck did a slow cruise past the lot. Boar-hunters. Locals packed into large trucks, with guns, and about a dozen barking dogs in the back. I didn't think too much of it at the time, they're pretty frequent sights around the trails.
I started walking to the trail head and I noticed the truck coming back. The driver called out to me.
"Hey! Where you going?" He was a late twenty-something local guy. He didn't sound angry, but there was a weird tone to his voice which kind of put me on edge. There's a lot of stories that go around about people having problems with locals, but the only guys I have ever personally known who had problems were the kind of people that tended to create problems. I'm really easy going and I'd never had any sort of issues.
"Up there," I replied and waved at the trail.
He stared at me for a moment. "Is there anyone else up there?"
I tried to hide how nervous that question suddenly made me. His stare was seriously creeping me out and the cold way he asked the question was borderline threatening. It would be like a woman answering the door in the middle of the night to find a stranger there, who then asks if there's anyone else in the house...
"I guess, there's a couple of other cars here." I was quick to point out that there were other people on the trail.
He stared at me for a minute, then slowly took his foot off the brake and the car idled down the road.
I went up the trail and started my run. Logically, I knew the guy and his buddies were probably just frustrated and trying to find a place to go hunting. If there were hikers and trail runners than there probably wouldn't be any boars around to go after. They'd probably been cruising around for hours trying to find a quiet place to set up.
But as I ran the scene kept playing over and over in my head. There was just something off about it. The vibe was wrong. Logic kept saying one thing but in the back of my mind some animal part of me was freaking out. Here I was, in the middle of nowhere, no witnesses and spotty cell coverage. If something happened to me I would probably never be found. What if on my way back I ran into the middle of a real life version of The Most Dangerous Game? Dogs, guns, creepy local guy, in the middle of the woods... there's too many pop-culture references to make here. It's like the beginning of every creepy movie ever made in the woods.
At that point I actually got out my cell phone and called up my ex. I told her it was probably nothing but to take down a description of these guys and the exchange. Basically, if I disappeared I wanted someone to look at it as more than just a lost runner.
The entire run I kept my eyes and ears pealed for any sign of them.
I never saw those guys again and obviously nothing happened to me on the way back but to this day I still get creeped out just thinking about it. I'll never look at all those boar hunters the same.
So when I was doing a practice run at Peacock flats a couple months later I was a little unnerved to find myself again in the middle of nowhere, on a dirt road, that was apparently in prime boar-hunting territory.
Every half hour or so as I was running I would hear the distant roar of a massive diesel engine. I'd grab Abby, my Ex's dog and my constant running companion, and get off to the side of the small road. There were a lot of sharp, blind corners, so it seemed safer to just get out of the way when we heard them. The roar would get louder and a big truck full of guys with guns in the front and barking dogs in the back would come around the corner and cruise slowly past us. A couple of them would give us a brief wave, most of them seemed to ignore us.
Then as we were headed back we heard the now familiar sound of a truck coming. Abby was getting used to the ritual and ran over to me. We got off the road and waited.
The truck came crawling around the corner ahead of us. As it drew closer it started to slow down until it stopped even with me. Something cold settled into the bottom of my gut. One of the passengers asked something but I couldn't make it out.
"What?" I asked.
"You need any water?" He repeated. I'm sure I looked startled by the question. I felt my camelbak which was still half full.
"No, I'm good." I replied.
"Alright," he said, waved, and they pulled away.
Yes, I felt like an idiot.
Before my first encounter with the creepy hunter I'd never felt threatened in Hawaii, and nothing came of it, so I realized how stupid it was to cling to the feeling when all of the evidence was to the contrary.
So, thank you to the Good-Samaritan boar hunters for reminding me of all the reasons that I love Hawaii and it's perfect trail running.