I found this post in my drafts folder from four months ago, written and ready to go. How or why I lost it for this long is one for the X-Files…

Yesterday I went hiking alone. I needed to really clear my mind, so I hit the trail beyond the trail to Horsetail Falls up by my home. Just trust me when I tell you it’s a doozy.

When I hike alone, I never do so unprepared. I always make sure at least one person knows where I’m going, usually two. I always bring enough water for the hike and plenty extra in case I get lost or stuck somewhere. I bring plenty of the right energy food. I stretch really well before and during the hike. I wear shoes and clothing that are meant to take the trail’s beating so that my body doesn’t have to. I am a hiker, and I know the routine. I have the right gear.

And yesterday was no different. I slept-in, got ready, and headed to the trailhead. I cranked up a playlist with a serious beat and decided to make record time to the top of the trail. With a mile left, I began running and made it to the top. When I got there I was hurting. Bad. Running up a steep mountain is not without its consequences.

I stayed and sat on the edge of a steep lookout for the better part of an hour, doing my thing. Eventually my body started telling me that I better get moving or it was going to start stiffening up on me. I listened and headed back down the trail. About a mile down I got a serious charley horse. About a mile after that I found myself taping my toes to keep the blisters from worsening. The trip down was about four miles. With a mile to go, my body was ready to give in. I was questioning whether I would make it the rest of the way or not. I had pushed it way too hard.

And that’s when I met her on the trail.

The old woman.

And when I say old, I’m talking 80-90 years old.

I rounded a switchback and followed the path into an open meadow. An old woman was hobbling her way up toward me from the other side. Even though I’d seen almost nobody on the trail that day, I’d hiked that trail many times and seeing people wasn’t anything new.

The woman was dripping in sweat. The look on her face paralleled the way I was currently feeling.

“Are you okay?” I asked her, anxious to keep moving down the trail before I couldn’t move at all.

She just looked at me and didn’t say anything for the longest time. “How much further up are the waterfalls?” she finally asked.

I had passed the falls about a mile up. I looked at her and shook my head.”They’re about a mile up the trail. And the trail gets way harder from here on out,” I said, using my tone to purposefully try and discourage her from continuing. She looked like she was about to keel over.

She let out a loud sigh. “Please tell me I’ve come more than a mile already.”

I knew she hadn’t. “You haven’t.” I said matter of factly. “You’ve come about a mile and that first mile is the easiest.”

She looked at me and said nothing. After a few moments, she picked up her walking stick, jammed it into the ground in front of her, and made her way past me.

That was weird. I thought, and started down the trail again.

She disappeared into the trees above me. I disappeared into the trees below her. My legs were not happy that I had stopped as long as I had. One mile to go, I kept telling myself.

Over the next quarter mile I got to thinking about the old woman. I replayed the scene in my mind over and over.

Did she not have any water?

She didn’t have any water with her.

How did I not notice that?

Was she wearing regular everyday clothes?

She was wearing the kind of clothes I assume she wears every day. No proper shoes. No proper clothing.

How did I not notice that?

A surge of anxiety came over me as I thought to myself that she might be in way over her head, she might not have all her mental faculties in place to make a proper decision for herself, or she might get hurt as she continues up the trail.

I stopped and turned around. I couldn’t leave her there. To do so would be irresponsible.

After about ten steps, my right leg seized on me once again and I found myself kneeling on the trail, desperate to find any position that would alleviate the spasms. It took ten minutes to be able to walk again.

She’ll be fine.┬áI thought, and started back down the mountain, this time walking more gingerly than before.

But she didn’t have any water with her.

How did I not notice that?

She was wearing the kind of clothes I assume she wears every day. No proper shoes. No proper clothing.

How did I not notice that?

This woman was going to be seriously hurt.

She might… die.

Continued on next page.

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Dan Pearce is an American-born author, app developer, photographer, and artist. This blog, Single Dad Laughing, is what he’s most known for, with more than 2 million daily subscribers as of 2017. Pearce writes mostly humorous and introspective works, as well as his musings which span from fatherhood, to dating, to life, to the people and dynamics of society. Single Dad Laughing is much more than a blog. It’s an incredible community of people just being real and awesome together!