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Lost in the woods, or stolen?

There was a time, not too long ago, that you could leave anything in the woods short of a bottle of whiskey; and nobody would bother with it. Woodland travelers, it has always seemed, operate on a different standard. We respect each other and the sacredness of our surroundings. This isn't a cityscape where everyone views the other with a jaded eye or a second glance.

I've never given a second thought to setting up a camp and leaving it unattended all day. Nor have I ever considered hiding gear while I took a quick shuttle up the road to retrieve a vehicle after a long river float.

Maybe, I'm just too trusting. I know of many that used to be that way as well. But, in the past few years, I've heard my share of stories. Canoes stolen, oars missing, rods ripped off and even motors and batteries taken from boathouses.

Cars have been pilfered at trailheads and gas tanks siphoned. Hikers have returned from a day's journey to vacant campsites, where their $500 tents used to stand. Backpacks and even snowshoes missing after taking one last quick ski around the loop.

In reality, we really don't know all of our neighbors anymore and despite what we'd like to believe, Andy of Mayberry was just television fiction and Aunt Bee doesn't really bake pies.

In fact, that creepy looking guy, who you thought only hung out at the mall, may actually be the guy that's tromping down the trail in front of you.

Cars idling in the parking lot and purses left at the store, no more! That special innocence has been violated, more than once.

Although it's been a few years since a thief grabbed packbaskets, PFD's and paddles out of our canoe while we shuttled vehicles, a more recent incident robbed my faith in fellow outdoor travelers.

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