Risk Management

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Two women hikers have been found dead on Mt. Tam recently. Although officials say there's no sign of foul play, my Facebook feed crackles with alarm. "Creepy!" the posts warn. "Women: Please don't hike alone!!!"

I hike alone most days in our local watershed. Its miles from Mt. Tam, but the rugged peak dominates my view. How far away does danger lurk? It's hard not to succumb to fear's contagion.

My hike starts at the cafe where I get my daily dose of caffeine and news from the local paper. There's more coverage of the unfortunate hikers; a story about a stowaway who survived a flight to Hawaii in the jet's wheel well; a report that 75 percent of homes in the area are vulnerable to landslides. Two women dead, one boy improbably alive, our house at the base of a steep hill. What are the chances?

Where the pavement turns into fire road, there's a sign about mountain lions in the watershed. I glance up at the treetops, quicken my pace.

Today I have extra time, so I decide to vary my route. If I head deeper into the wilderness, I'll avoid the mountain bikers who whiz by, forcing me to scramble to safety on the edge of the fire road. Besides, I want to defy Facebook's panic.


I pause, thinking of mountain lions and trailside killers. The likelier dangers are ticks and poison oak. I can handle those, so I stride on through the dense trees.

I come upon a meadow purple with lupine, framed by the rugged ridge across the valley. Clumps of white and amethyst iris dot the nearby banks; monkey flower and Scotch Broom run riot down the slopes. The air is clear. So is my head.

Some may seek peace of mind by staying off the trails. But I'll continue to find mine on my daily treks.

With a Perspective, I'm Lorrie Goldin.

Lorrie Goldin is a psychotherapist practicing in San Rafael and Berkeley.