Monday, July 8, 2013

Trail Tales

Its been an interesting and busy month in the park. Most of the 5k's and half marathons have wrapped up until fall. The Quick n Dirty summer mountain bike racing series has come to an end and the oppressive California heat has started to settle in. I have also launched the SDRP Mountain Bike Patrol and have trained 12 patrollers. Since I a haven't written in here in awhile I decided it was high time for some stories from the trail.

For the most part I don't run into many issues on the trail. Most people come out to the park enjoy the outdoors, go for a hike, a run or a bike ride then go on about there day content. A chosen few seem to have other plans. Usually the culprit of most of my encounters on the trails are those visitors that come to the park with their four legged friends. I've heard it a thousand times, my dog is the best behaved dog in the world, it's an open space park right, he stays by my side the whole time, he's a hunting dog, whatever the reason the rule still states that "Dogs must be on trail and leashed at all times."

That brings me to my first tale or should I say tail. One afternoon I was out on foot patrol on one of the parks more popular trails with people with dogs. It's proximity to the community just plain makes it easy for people to take their dogs for a walk after work and I think that's great as long as they are leashed. I was walking towards one of the parks kiosks when I noticed what I thought were two dogs off leash running on the trail. I started to approach the owner and when I got closer I noticed that these were not dogs and in fact the were goats. I called the owner over and explained to him that he needed his goats on a leash in the park. His first answer was "I heard that hoofed animals don't need to be leashed." not sure where he got that from but it is sadly not true. I told him that in this park you do. His second statement was that "They are very obedient and would never go off trail."  I continued to tell him that for the safety of his animals and other trail users I would need to insist that he now put his goats on a leash. No sooner had I said that, another user was making their way down the trail towards us, as soon as those goats saw him they took off down the trail right at him scaring the living daylights out of him. The whole scene was comical and unfortunate at the same time. I turned to the gentleman and said "That's exactly why I need you to put your goats on a leash." After apologizing to the other trail user he did.

Occasionally I get calls on lost pets, more than likely because there animal was not on a leash and their well-trained dog took off on them. This a however was a strange call. I received a call about a small dog that was stuck in a porta poty in one of our staging areas. My first thought was man this is gonna be nasty. All I could picture was a little dog stuck in the porta poty covered with blue dye (referring to the blue liquid they use in most porta poty)  and who knows what else. I prepared for the worst, latex gloves, baggies and a couple towels. I gathered all the gear and headed out to rescue this porta pooch, all the while the B52's song Quiche Loraine played in my head, "has anybody seen a dog dyed bright green?" or blue. When I got there the door was closed and I approached with caution again expecting the worst case scenario. I opened the door to find a little Chihuahua snarling and heading straight for me. I quickly shut the door. "Thank god it was not in the actual toilet." I got a little water for him and put that and a towel inside and proceeded to call animal control. After a little while they showed up to rescue him and all was good in the world.

Some people think it's perfectly fine to camp in the park. It is an open space preserve and we do have plenty of space. But not for camping! Usually I spot the camp, talk with the people, then they pack up and move on. One lady in particular decided she was gonna stay and stay she did for almost two years. The first time I meet her was on the trail as she was setting up her "camp", this loose term describes the rock wall and tarp she was using to live in. When I approached her to introduce myself and ask her what she was doing I was meet with fury and venom. While she stood about 5'4" and weighed about 110 lbs the language and hate that she spewed towards me would have made a sailor pause. That was enough for me and SDPD was called. They arrived talked with her for awhile and she decided to move on. End of story right? No sir, a couple months later while on patrol I passed by the (at the time) newly constructed bike bridge path over Lake Hodges and noticed the smell of a campfire. I went underneath the bridge to investigate only to find the same lady ready to do battle. I tried to explain the reason she could not live underneath the bridge or anywhere in the park (one big reason was the fact that she had an open non-contained fire) and again she would have none of it. I departed and SDPD arrived this time she was taken away.

This sad saga played out off and on for months, different Rangers had dealt with her and all refused to do so again because of her demeanor towards them. One time I went to try and talk to her and was attacked with a random cup filled with liquid (you do the math) that was thrown at me. If it were not for my ninja like skills she would have connected. Push finally came to shove and I was again tasked with "fixing" the problem. The plan was I would go one last time, try and talk to her and see if I could maybe get her some help, if not at least inform her that she again was illegally trespassing, she could not stay there and the we the SDRP were going to block off the access to underneath the bridge to stop anyone trespassing. When I started to talk with her she now insisted that I didn't work for the SDRP that in fact I worked for the Wild Animal Park so I had no jurisdiction. I told her that was not the case and that I had talked with her many times before. This lead to the most vicious attack yet. As she started to come out from under the bridge swear words a blazing she decided to step it up a notch and hurled whatever rocks she could find at me, (most were softball size and bigger). She also made it very clear to me that her son lived not to far away and when she told him of me he would "Kill me and bury me in a shallow grave!" I retreated to my park vehicle as she continued the verbal and physical assaulthitting the vehicle before I got out of there.

SDPD was called, this time charges were pressed and off to jail she went. I immediately got on the phone with the fence contractor and they built a cage underneath the bridge to stop any further incursions. So far this has worked and from my knowledge we don't have anyone else living in the park. I do however still see this lady from time to time on the outskirts of the preserve and if you ride the trails you probably have too. All I was trying to do was my job which included trying to help this person, unfortunately not everyone can be helped or even want to be helped.

I would never give this job up, for me it's a way of life and a passion but not all days at the office are fun and games. Some days are just truly bizarre!

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