1. Are you not afraid of wolves?
Forget Little Red Riding Hood: wolves aren’t after you. They don’t dress up like your grandmother. On the contrary, they shun humans. Odds of being eaten by a wolf are scarce. The only animals in the Italian mountains that can be considered dangerous for men are vipers and wild boars, and the latter only in spring when they have piglets. And no, deer, roe deer and other cud-chewing animals are not something you need to worry about. They are akin to sheep or goats. Not long ago, the news reported the extremely unusual case of a deer charging someone. It probably was a situation where the animal felt “trapped” because there wasn’t much room and it couldn’t see a way out, but it’s something that doesn’t normally happen. They are prey, their instinct is to run.
2. Do you carry a pocket knife for self-defence?
This was a girl’s reaction after hearing my explanation in response to question no.1.
My girl, if a wrathful sow charged you, do you really think you would have the time to search the backpack for your swiss knife, and after that, find the nerve and aim to stick it in a vital part of the boar? In that situation the only sensible thing you can do is climbing a tree, if you are able. Chances are you are not, or you would not be asking such silly questions that prove your complete disconnection with the natural world. Your one and only contact with an angry animal was probably that with your cheesy, spoiled cavalier king throwing a tantrum because you had not given premium dog food to it.
3. What if you are attacked by someone coming out of the bushes?
This one was triggered by our statement that we had taken part in a night hike. Who could be hiding in the bushes on a mountain crest? A thief, a pickpocket, a serial killer, a sexual maniac? A thief is essentially a person who is too lazy to work, so it is unlikely that he/she will want to walk hours in the woods for a few euros and 2 mobile phones, one of which not even a smartphone. And a maniac…we’re not talking about a dodgy suburb. We are talking about a forest, which means a place devoid of houses, bars, shops, means of transports for kilometers. Nothing: just trees. A place where one might be standing and waiting an entire day to see maybe 4-5 people coming up the trail. It’s just irrational to worry about being abused in the woods. If you are afraid of crime in a natural park, how can you find the guts to go into town?
4. What do you go hiking for?
Some people just can’t see the point in it. “If at least you took some mushrooms home”, they add. What does it mean? Is an activity worthwile only if you got paid or rewarded fo it? Well, I would like to know what these people do in their spare time. I guess they spend the weekend in a cornucopia world full of free stuff, and weekday evenings in the land of plenty, where they are in for a complimentary happy hour.
5. Is it going to be uphill all the way?
Once we took part in a guided walk in the dolomites. We had been walking only for a few minutes, when we heard this conversation between a woman and her teenage son:
– I’m exausted! Is this going to be uphill all the way?
– Mom, we’re supposed to climb a mountain: what did you expect?
As expected, the woman gave up a couple kilometers later and walked back to the village.
6. Excuse me, is this the last stop?
A couple years ago, in the dolomites, we took a cable car. It reached the upper station, and this guy with his wife asked the staff if they were supposed to get off. There was a wall in front of us, and no more rope: did he expect the cabin to fly through the concrete and rocket up to the sky?
7. Can’t we just get to the restaurant?
I made the mistake of inviting a couple of friends to a walk we do every year in October in the Casentino Forests. It’s an easy one and the treat is that you can hear deer bellowing during the rut, and maybe even spot some. The trail goes up a ridge for about 6 km, ending at an inn where we usually stop for a gorgeous dinner before going back. It takes about 3 hours and a half, so I estimated about 7 hours for the round trip. They seemed interested at the beginning, but when I said “7 hours” they suddenly looked disappointed, and asked: “Can’t we just end it at the restaurant?”
Breaking news: there is no shuttle bus waiting to take you back to start. If you walk to a place, unless the itinerary is a loop, you normally have to walk back to where you parked your car. You can’t call it quits, it doesn’t matter if your belly is stuffed with ribs and T-bone.
8. Should I wear moon boots with snowshoes?
Wait, this is not a stupid question. Not asking it is. I, too, was not sure what sort of shoes I should have worn the first time I tried snowshoes on. However, it’s not a good idea. Have you ever walked in a pair of those boots a long way? They do an amazing job keeping your feet warm, but become quite tiring for the legs after some time. The foot tends to slip inside the boot, and you can feel that hard horizontal band in the center of the sole. You don’t want to climb a mountain with them.
(Dear Mr. Moon Boots, I didn’t mean to say that your product isn’t good. I actually own one pair and it’s my second one. However, I could be more positive the next time: I have nothing against
funding WRITING positive reviews for equipment I find comfortable or useful. Blogging and working is a hard job and I’m planning an expensive trekking trip to New Zealand doing the Milford Track. Hint, hint…;P)
9. Are they not the same thing?
One morning I was running errands before going to work. At the post office, I stumbled into a woman with whom I had attended a nordic walking class months before. She asked me if I had been practising since the end of the course. I admitted I had not, because of my free time being so limited lately and having to choose between that and hiking, I set for the latter. Just after the course I had planned to buy poles, but in the end I decided I don’t want to spend money on a tool I am not sure I’m going to use on a regular basis.
Her: Oh, so you don’t have them?
Me: No, I only have hiking poles.
Her: Why, can’t you use those? Are they not the same thing?
They even gave us a diploma at the end of that class. “Ms. Blah Blah has completed successfully a basic training of nordic walking”. The basics: at least, you should be aware of the fact that specific poles exist. It doesn’t work with any random stick you picked up from the ground.
10. I am sure there is something else I could add to the list, but it was so foolish I have blanked it out.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I am delighted when asked mountain-related questions. It shows interest from other people on what I do, and I’m eager to share my exciting experience in the outdoors. But it’s so disappointing when I realize that people I deemed intelligent or at least having some common sense, turns out to be so detached from physical reality that they are either scared to death of nature, or completely clueless about the material, tangible, non-computery world.