January 1981–Balboa Park, San Diego, California At that time, my son’s dad and I lived near Balboa Park in a little section called Hillcrest/University Heights. There was a back way to the south side of Balboa Park through a canyon trail. That was a favorite walk for my two dogs, Sabrina and Beowulf. Sabrina was a Border Collie. Wolfie was an Akita/Malamute mix that I rescued when I was a junior at SDSU and he was about four weeks old. I bottle fed him and took him to classes in a baby front pack. Fully grown, he was over a hundred pounds and stood about thirty inches high. He had no idea how big he was and sat in my lap just like he did when he was a puppy. He was an awesome pet. They both attended graduation ceremonies with me, which got us into the local paper.
In January of 1981 I was seven months pregnant. I was very active, and continued to attend ballet classes and hike with my dogs. On this particular morning, we walked down 10th Avenue
to Robinson and over to the end of Vermont
and wound our way through the canyon trail. It was an enchanted place after a rainy winter with lush green vines, mature trees, and a seasonal creek–not at all desert-y and dry like in this photo.
There was probably tons of poison oak but I must have been lucky and avoided it. I remember there was a hill covered in nasturtiums and my dogs loved to roll around in them. We walked for about thirty minutes and followed the trail toward the park and then turned around. We were halfway to the entrance at Vermont. It was quiet except for the far off hum of Highway 163. I heard a twig crack and ignored it, thinking it was a little critter. My dogs both alerted, ears pricked, hackles rising. More twigs cracked, and I turned around. I will never forget the next few seconds. A man was sneaking up behind me. As soon as he saw me looking at him, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Moving swiftly was not an option being seven months pregnant and fifty pounds heavier, but I tried. I remember trying to be careful that I didn’t trip and fall. The faster I walked, the faster he walked, and he was closing the gap between us. Sabrina turned to growl at him and Wolfie placed himself between me and the man. I simply FROZE. I couldn’t move a muscle. My brain was screaming at me to run away from DANGER, and my legs felt like they were encased in concrete. The adrenaline was pumping, sending the proper primitive signals, but I panicked. Just before the man lunged at me, I picked up Sabrina because I didn’t want her to get hurt. Yes, I picked up my forty-five pound Border Collie, screamed at Wolfie to COME
, and RAN THE WRONG WAY
. I ran–lumbered-
-back into the ravine and NOT toward the street that was full of houses and humans
and safety. I ran as best as I could with my huge baby-filled belly, until thankfully, a group of women came down from the park and the man disappeared. One of the women who lived nearby took me to her house and we called the police from there. I was so entrenched in fear and panic that I wasn’t able to provide them with a good description, other than noticing he was overweight and probably couldn’t run any faster than I could. This was before cell phones, and when the policemen drove us home, I called my mom. She was an RN
and drove over to check my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as delivering a stern lecture about not putting my unborn baby in danger. Needless
to say, there were no more solo canyon adventures. After more than thirty years, the re-telling of this potential rape? murder? robbery? still causes my heart to pound.