(The following incidents really happened to me. Only two required trips to the emergency room.)
It is a beautiful day, and you are out enjoying a walk or a bike ride on the trail. What could possibly go wrong?
How about getting whacked in the face by low hanging branches? Maybe an uninsured bumble bee collides with your nose or a yellow-jacket with anger issues finds its way down your shirt.
Spring also brings the out the protective parents. Red-winged blackbirds are notorious for attempting to chase off almost anything that enters their territory. They dive at your head but only occasionally make contact. Geese will hiss if you get too close to the goslings. Some will even attempt a chase. I have had two aerial attacks and took a goose to the side of the head once. Turns out it is better to stand your ground and spread your arms to show who is bigger. This only works if you are bigger than the goose.
Then there are the chipmunks. So cute! So extraordinarily bad at evading bicycles!
In fact, chipmunks will run out from perfectly safe hiding spots and zigzag across the trail just to get run over. No other animal will go so far out of its way to fling itself into traffic when surprised. When bicycling, I no longer apply the brakes or swerve when a chipmunk runs out since such actions will not avoid the determined rodent and only increase my probability of crashing.*
Physics Quiz Time: A chipmunk runs out and gets caught in the rear spokes of a bicycle. It rides one quarter revolution of the wheel and is launched vertically. The cyclist continues at constant speed and observes the bicycle travels 20 feet before the chipmunk lands. What is the speed of the bicycle? How high does the chipmunk go?
Extra Credit: If a different chipmunk does the same maneuver but in the spokes of the front wheel, describe the expression on the chipmunk's face as it passes the rider's face.
I have almost been trampled by a deer but that was only because we were heading in roughly the same direction at the same speed. She wanted to cross the trail, and I was in the way.
And now to the human-created hazards. After the obvious ones of ear bud wearing pedestrians and high speed cyclists riding through weekend crowds are users of retractable dog leashes. A busy trail is not a good place to spool out the dog like some furry low altitude stunt kite. A well trained dog will heel. An untrained dog should probably be on a short leash (or perhaps the untrained owner should be on a short leash). Stretching a nearly invisible thin black line across the trail connecting you with your dog will likely snare unsuspecting cyclists and pedestrians. Luckily I ducked just in the nick of time. Also please pick up after your dog. Leaving a pile in the middle of the path is just bad manners and it is messy to step in or ride through. Darn slippery too. I was glad to fall clear of the dog poop.
Not all hazards occur on the trails. Our local festival is a golden opportunity for the bane of sidewalks; the double-wide stroller. We all know your beautiful children are so very special but do they need to occupy the full width of the city sidewalk? Even parents of twins may recall one of them popping out slightly ahead of the other. Give the second one a chance to see things first and put them in the front seat of a nice narrow tandem stroller. Front seat assignments could also be by odd-even days, by scores on a physics quiz or by the child paying a bit extra for "Stroller Plus" seating.
Remember, you may meet another double-wide stroller on the sidewalk of the State Street bridge and then what will you do? Yes, you will provide virtually endless entertainment for the hundreds of onlookers as both parties try to maneuver past each other. Will your children ever overcome the embarrassment?
So be careful out there. Stay narrow, watch out for goose and flying squirrel, and always carry a towel.
*An effective way to clear chipmunks from the trail is to flap one's arms like a large bird. This triggers some deep-seated evasion response in the chipmunks. They will sound an alarm call and leap for cover. This can work up to 50 yards away. Unfortunately, it requires the ability to ride a bike no-handed for a few seconds and assumes the chipmunks are actually paying attention. Some clueless chipmunks appear to be listening to iPods or texting.