The park is big and my trail, one of several, covers about three miles of hilly forest.
I stopped after a short warm up trek to take my first picture for the Chronicle. As I did, I thought I heard some shuffling in the trees off to my right.
It was overcast and I couldn't see much through the branches. Standing still, I could only hear the rain drops, hitting and falling off leaves, trickling in streams at my feet.
I listened again...nothing.
"Probably a bird," I shrugged and pulled my hoodie back on.
Starting up again, I began thinking of what I needed to get done for the day and forgot about the shuffling.
A few feet later, I heard it again. I kept walking and tried to cock my head and ear to get a better hearing.
Rain drops. Traffic in the distance. My breathing. My footsteps.
Yet every other beat, a shuffle...
Barely noticeable, but just enough to cause me to look over my shoulder. Maybe there was a jogger back a ways, moving up to pass?
But, no. There was no one else on the trail behind me.
I started thinking about the lone car in the lot when I pulled up. Had it been a truck? Was it a van? What color was it?
I thought as I hiked. And listened.
Up at the top, I climbed the tower. The view far off is of a quarry. And further, of the highway and cars. Closer, however, only tree tops. I listened and looked.
Just me. My breathing, and the rain drops.
As I made my way from the tower and into the narrow tree-lined path something fell behind me. Startled, I turned and saw a handkerchief, balled up and listing in the breeze. It was dry, but dampening quickly.
I looked around quickly and a niggling thought crept into my head...there was something familiar about that handkerchief.
As I knelt to pick it up, a rock fell out. And I saw the familiar purple and yellow flowers of the cloth I'd put in my jacket pocket on Saturday.
It was my grandmother's handkerchief. The same one I'd wiped Emily's brow with during our walk this weekend. The same one she'd used to wrap up the rock she'd found and wanted to save.
Neither of which I could find when I started my walk this morning, but which had apparently worked itself out of my pocket, shuffling up against me with each step, as I hiked. Until it finally worked itself out and fell.
No 10-foot bears.
And the rain drops.