First I heard a plastic bottle fall to the ground, which is not a sound one expects on an empty trail devoid of humans. Then, slightly confused, I approached the familiar log on this favorite, deserted trail, a tree that fell long ago and was never removed. As I sped up and prepared to jump over it without breaking my stride, I saw the raccoon to my right on the log.
He looked threatening and ready to engage. Or she.
Thoughts of bloody thighs, or worse, flashed through my mind. I had been warned about possible rabid raccoons in Central Park. But here, in Riverside Park, less a mile from my home? I thought of my friend Andy, whose nether regions and legs were once attacked by a wild squirrel, not far from here. I thought of the bear in Alaska I once enountered, then escaped from, on a freezing run.
The raccoon alternately eyed me and the half-filled bottle he was apparently trying to open. As I backed away from the crime scene, he growled, if that’s what these animals do. I raised my hands, the inter-species sign to indicate one’s peaceful intent.
I slowly turned around as I heard the raccoon continue his efforts to somehow open the bottle of Poland Spring Water. I couldn’t blame him – it was 90 degrees and humid, not a good day for a raccoon or a running Dutchman in the wooded area in my favorite park along the Hudson.