Two Sides to Every Story

There are two sides to every story, right?

Today, we decided to hike in the Smoky Mountains. For our first hike, we picked out a reasonably short 4-mile roundtrip trail that led to a waterfall. As we were leaving, Beth asked, “Did you check to make sure it’s okay to bring Bradley (our dog)?” To which I answered, “I didn’t see anything that said he couldn’t go, so let’s go!”

This was man speak for “I forgot to check and I sure hope it’s alright.” 

Arriving at the parking lot, we started our walk to the trailhead. Along the way, a car full of people and two dogs stopped to chat with us. They were coming from the trailhead and they wanted to warn us that a sign said, “no dogs.”

Shit. Those folks were going home and we were at the crossroads.

“Do you want to turn around, Beth?” I asked. “I’m okay either way.”

“Yeah, I guess so, ” she replied somewhat angrily.

I’m in trouble, now.

As we turned around, another car full of hikers stopped and said, “We saw that you stopped the other car. Do you have a question?”

What nice folks!

“We’re okay, but since you stopped,” I said. “What’s the deal with dogs?”

“Well,” the mother and driver of the group replied, “We see dogs on the trail all the time. I know that the rule is ‘no dogs’ but lots of people bring them to the waterfalls and other places in the park. I’m not telling you what to do, but that’s just how it is.”

Two sides to every story. You’ve got your rule-followers and your rule-breakers. Generally speaking, I only follow the rules that I like and Beth follows them almost all of them. I’m the rebel and my wife is the good girl.

“It’s up to you, Hon,” I said.

“Oh, we’re here. I guess we’ll just go on, ” Beth answered.

We’ll make a rule-breaker out of her before this trip is done

When we were on the trail for less than 10 minutes, three horseback riders clip-clopped up behind us sending Bradley into a bark fest. I could swear that the lead rider smirked, but that might just be my dog-owner guilt.

Beth and I scratched our heads. No dogs? But horses are okay? What’s up with that?

Knowing next to nothing about bears, the woods and trail rules, we discussed all the possible reasons why this discrepancy might exist. As to suburban dwellers for most of our lives, we could only guess.

After a few moments of silence, Beth said, “If a bear comes at us and it’s Bradley or us, I hope you’ll know the right thing to do, Scott.”

Beth was making sure that I knew that if the bear was hungry, she didn’t want us to be eaten. Bradley, however, was in the unenviable position of being bear food if it came to that.

“Got it,” I answered.

Two miles later, we came upon the horseback riders. They had dismounted and were looking at the waterfalls.

Here’s a video we shot after talking with the leader of the pack.

It looks like I’m making lots of silly faces and having a grand old time while filming this video, right?  Please do not be fooled. Underneath that false bravado was the beating heart of someone who knew he had to walk back two miles in killer bear country with Bradley, a fine piece of meat that would attract hungry bears from all around. Yikes!

We walked in silence for a half-mile. I glanced left and right at the woods and I think our pace quickened to match our heartbeats.

Coming to a nice watering hole, we pulled off the trail to soak our feet in the cool water and rest our bodies and our minds. Bradley was thirsty and we needed a break.

Getting back on the trail…

I hope this ends soon

…we came upon a group of four people who stopped to let us pass. As is the case with most Tennesseans, they wanted to talk and we NEEDED to talk.

This group of four were native to the area (except one man who moved here from Ohio) and avid hikers. Beth, not knowing their native pedigree yet, began to warn them about the dangers of the killer bears. And they all but laughed.

“Oh, no!” they said. “That’s not true at all. We’ve been hiking in these woods are whole lives and not once have we ever had a problem with a bear. Please – just enjoy our woods and don’t give that stuff another thought.”

Sensing our fear and interest, they spent another ten minutes regaling us with story after story about how black bears were not in the least bit interested in people. One of the women said that she had been peeing in the forest and a bear came within ten feet of her and then turned tail when he saw her. The man from Ohio said that he worked at a local spa with outdoor hot tubs. The bears loved to jump in the tubs to clean themselves off but never bothered the guests. In fact, the proprietors of the spa had names for each of the bears.

I felt like I had just seen the movie “Jaws” (horseback guy) and then watched a Disney movie ten minutes later about how very cuddly sharks can be. My mind was saying, “Holy Cow! How can these two different groups of native Tennesseans have completely opposite perspectives on this issue?”

Evidently, there are two, equally good sides to every story and ya’ll can believe whoever you want.

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