There are indeed risks ...
Though unlikely in the areas we frequent, Freddie could come face to face with a coyote or a black bear — a showdown in which a Labradoodle isn't likely to fare well.
My blood sugar could crash without any warning signals while Freddie is off sniffing after squirrels.
Despite very good signage (and a Stupidphone equipped with a GPS), I'm entirely capable of getting lost ...
I could slip and sprain an ankle.
A psycho killer could drag me into the forest, where, although someone would very likely hear me scream (and a tree fall), a lot of damage could be done before help arrived.
Apparently Freddie and I could even be electrocuted.
Yes ... some awful-sounding things could happen on a trail walk through the forest — just as awful things could happen on a bicycle, or in a Car2Go, while getting to the forest (and I've fielded the same safety question about those two travel options as well).
So: is it safe? Not 100%. Probably not as safe as a leash walk around the block (depending on traffic).
Is it worth the risks?
I think so. And I don't say that blithely. I care about my dog. I care about myself and the people who care about me. There are plenty of adventures that appeal to me in the abstract (racing in the Iditarod? cycling to Tierra del Fuego with Freddie in a trailer?) that I won't ever do because the risks aren't worth it to me. But to live so close to such natural beauty, to love being out in it and yet not make it a part of my life because of statistically possible dangers would feel like a terrible loss.
So Freddie and I will continue to hike the forests — sometimes with Paul, or Leah & pooches, but often just the two of us. If any of our readers are in the neighbourhood and would like to join us, we'd love to see you. Safety in numbers, after all!
Oh, and my aversion to the dentistry scene in Marathon Man? Nothing at all to do with my own dentist, whom I happened to see this afternoon. She's Dr. Mersedeh Shahabaldine, and she's great. She also tells me that my risk of grinding my teeth down to nothing if I don't get a night guard is pretty high. So I'll be seeing her again soon.
Assess your risks and look after your teeth!