CARBONDALE, Colorado - Authorities say there has been no sign of violence linked to reports of a naked man confronting female hikers on local trails.
But at least one incident is believed to have involved an encounter with a man carrying a stick that, in the eyes of two local women, verged on violence.
And those women say they are increasingly concerned.
The women interviewed by the Post Independent have all spoken of a need for greater public awareness of the matter. They declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation by the man or men involved.
Authorities are looking into a rising number of reports from the middle Roaring Fork Valley area, going back to 2008, about a naked white male exposing himself to women hiking along certain local trails.
In separate interviews, two local women said two recent incidents along the Red Hill/Mushroom Rock trail, north of Highway 82 near Carbondale, involved a naked man carrying a large stick.
In at least one of those incidents, on April 26, the man is believed to have frightened a woman so badly that she ran back downhill, even though she was hiking with a fairly large dog.
A woman who witnessed the end of the April 26 incident, and spoke with others at the scene, said she saw the victim talking with Garfield County Sheriff's Office deputies in a vehicle.
The woman in the patrol car has not been identified, and the sheriff's office has released only minimal details regarding that incident.
"No one chased anyone with a stick," wrote sheriff's office spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis in an email, responding to a reporter's questions about the incident.
A statement issued by McGinnis tells of an April 29 report in which "a citizen observed a naked man running near the top of Red Hill trail," but does not mention a stick.
"I think what happened at Mushroom Rock is probably more serious," said a Carbondale area woman, comparing the Mushroom Rock incident with her own recent encounter with a naked man masturbating on a trail near the Blue Creek subdivision.
"But this guy could escalate," the Blue Creek victim said about the man she saw, explaining that any escalation in tactics might turn into a physical attack.
"He's obviously a creepy guy," she said. "He's missing a chip up there."
The man was white, in his 50s or older, with shoulder-length, salt-and-pepper hair, the Blue Creek victim said.
Describing his build, she said, "He's fit, like broad-shouldered and fit."
"Why haven't they been putting this out there?" asked the woman who came upon the Red Hill incident, referring to the fact that the reports date back to 2008 while the first news account was published on May 4.
"What are we going to wait for, until one of these guys rapes or murders a woman?" asked the Blue Creek victim. "I used to be afraid of bears and mountain lions on the trails. Now I'm afraid of a naked man with a stick."
The sheriff's office currently is investigating at least 15 reports of a naked man confronting women in the middle Roaring Fork Valley area, according to McGinnis.
The reports deal with encounters over the past five years on or near the Red Hill/Mushroom Rock trails, the Rio Grande Trail and the Lorax Trail, all near Carbondale.
The men involved were reported in every incident to be white, but with hair that ran a gamut from red to gray to brown, and of different lengths.
In only one incident, on May 2 on the Lorax Trail, was the suspect described as having a beard.
In three cases he was said to have a "runner's" or "athletic" build, and in once case "a medium to thick build."
Countywide, just in the unincorporated areas, there have been 67 reports of indecent exposure over the past five years, McGinnis reported.
"These calls range from urinating in public to masturbating on a public trail," McGinnis wrote in a press release, adding, "As we continue to review and investigate similar sightings in the Carbondale area, The Garfield County Sheriff's office is asking citizens to be vigilant with their safety and report any suspicious occurrences immediately" by calling 911.