I enjoyed reading this thread. I am always pleased with the quality responses this forum provides. On most any other website, this would have turned into an ugly debate. I'm happy to see that it did not occur here.
That being said,
I'm a Paramedic and I see, on a regular basis, horrific things that both humans and animals are capable of - unprovoked I might add.
I have a license to carry, and I do - not always but often. Here's something I would like the readers to consider. It might not be YOU that may be in serious need of help. Any female that I care about has most likely received pepper spray from me. Its something I'm known for. Being well trained and careful is a far cry from a nervous nellie.
Have common sense, use hiking poles (liked the post with the paddles, GOOD WORK!!) and forget about your gun even if you have it with you.