A babe in the woods is someone who is very inexperienced or naive, and in a position where they might be easily taken advantage of. Also know as out of their league, or in over their head.

Plural would be babes in the woods, not to be confused with babes in the wood, a clever name.

I met a real babe in the woods once. If you were born in New Mexico, and your parents went to a certain liberal arts school, maybe that babe was you. Here is the story.

I came across a baby next to a trail in the forest, two miles away from any road, at 10,000 feet altitude in the mountains. This was bear country. The baby was in a basket with a handle and a little blanket.

The spot was a saddle, the mountaineering term for a low spot where a ridge connects two mountains (really small forested peaks, not the very top of the whole range, which rises to 12,000 feet). There were pine trees all around. It was very quiet. I looked around and didn't see anyone. What to do?

I sat down with the baby, and waited. It was happy, and awake, just laying there cooing. I was around 20 years old and didn't really have any concept of reporting child neglect to the police, but I was pretty flabbergasted.

After about 10 minutes, a young couple came trundling down from one ridge, through the trees. I expressed my surprise (forget my words) and they said they "just" took a little side hike to see what the top of the nearby rise looked like.

Later I've sometimes thought back on this, what I would have done differently. Playing through different scenarios in my mind, there would not have been much else to do (take the baby, racing with the parents to the police? No. Demand ID from the parents, so they could be charged? No. Stalk them on the way back to their car, and get their plate number? well, that would be pretty obsessive.) I think it was probably a unique occurrence for them (hopefully) but if I saw something like this now that I would probably do the same thing, but with a lot more anguish about letting them off the hook.

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