Last week I took a serene, solo ten-mile hike on a trail through Point Reyes National Seashore. The park was fairly empty and the path I chose wound through lush forest for miles before it popped out on cliffs overlooking the sea. I was relieved to take a rest break when I reached my chosen perch near the Pacific. Sitting in such stunning beauty with no people around is an undeniably rare moment.
Just minutes after I’d sat on the edge of this cliff and took a few swigs from my water bottle, another hiker meandered down the path. And kept walking towards me. And then sat down about five feet to my right on the very same cliff. Now, I realize I’d chosen an optimal stopping point for its views, and perhaps it has a well-known (unbeknownst-to-me) reputation as such, but you can imagine my subtle confusion when the only other hiker I’d encountered on the shore chose to sit within feet of me on this expansive path.
“Hi,” he said. “How are you?”
“Hi, I’m good, how are you?”
“I’m good, it’s beautiful out here!”
Oh what, so now we’re old buddies? Thankfully, the conversation then slipped back into silence, but he was sitting too close for me to comfortably pursue the journaling I’d hoped to do amidst such inspirational beauty. Eventually I took a bag of almonds out and started snacking, ever-conscious of the volume at which I chewed.
“Want an almond?” I hoped my gesture would ease the tension of his closeness.
“Suuure.” He reached for a few, then we both fell back into silence, looking seaward.
When I packed up and started trekking onward, I threw him an awkward, “Enjoy the day, it really is beautiful out here!” as I sidled past him on the edge of the cliff.
Maybe it was coincidence or maybe it was the universe in action—having humanity pop up so close in an unexpected place. Or maybe the spot I chose to sit was actually that guy’s spot and he was just too polite to let me know. In any case, whenever I look back on that hike, it won’t be “the day I took a ten mile solo hike to the sea,” it’ll be “the day I took a solo ten mile hike to the sea and the only person I saw shared almonds with me at the edge of a cliff.”
And I’m probably better off for it.