Chapter 3: A Walk on the Wild Side
We got out of bed and cooked our breakfast using Kris’s camp stove. I don’t really remember what we had. It was mid to late morning, probably about 9:00 am. I had never slept that late while camping before. Heck, I don’t sleep that late at home.
While Kris was cooking and finishing his breakfast, I walked down the trail we had been on last night. It was a beautiful morning. The sun shone brightly on the new green foliage around me. Even in the bright morning light, I still couldn’t see more than a few feet into the woods. Despite the bright morning, I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling of being watched from the night before. It still felt like we were not alone. I chocked it up to nerves and imagination and proceeded down to the muddy patch. On rounding the corner, I instantly noticed that the apples were not there. I called to Kris and hastened to the patch. The apples were gone. There was no mess as one would expect if a deer or bear had eaten them. There were also no tracks in the mud. There were no tracks anywhere around the area, save for the matted down grass where I had kneeled the night before when placing the apples.
Kris came up behind me and scanned the area.
“Am I going nuts?” I asked, “What could have taken them without leaving tracks?”
He shrugged, “Something with long arms. You’ve got monkey arms, Andy. I doubt I could have taken them without stepping in the mud.”
We both got pretty excited at that and headed back to camp discussing it and wondering over what it seemed had happened.
I broke out my sling chair and set it down across from the now cold fire pit, in order to write everything that had happened so far in my trip journal. Kris brought his chair over and sat down to my left. I was facing the swamp side of the clearing and he was facing the road that lead down to the next camp. I started writing and he watched the woods, absorbing himself into the sounds and feeling of the woods.
“It is too quiet here,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied, “It’s June, the birds should be going nuts, but they are barely singing at all. The only ones I hear are behind me and a long ways off. It’s creepy.”
The high school guys came walking out of the woods at that point.
“So, how’d you guys do?” asked Kris, looking around at them.
“We didn’t see or hear anything.” one said.
“Really!” I exclaimed sitting up. “We expected you to have a lot of activity last night, given what happened to us on the way back and the fact that you were out there alone on the trail.”
“Yeah, well…” said one, sheepishly looking down at the ground, “we kind of got scared after you left and went in the tent. We sat back to back in the middle and ate our chips until we fell asleep.”
“You’re kidding,” Kris laughed, “You spent the whole time IN your tent, with the tarp on it?”
“Yeah, we were pretty un-nerved. What do you mean ‘given what happened to you.’ What happened to you?”
Kris and I proceeded to relate the story of our walk back last night and the tale of the missing apples this morning.
“Cool!” one said. The other two looked like they were about to break and run. “Well, we’re heading back to the campground to clean up and eat. See you there.”
“Yeah,” replied, wondering why we’d see them there. “See you later.” Both Kris and I had forgotten that we were supposed to return to the campground for the morning meeting at 11:00 am. It was now about 9:30 am.
They walked out of camp, heading to the car that was parked a mile up the trail at the original clearing where we had all congregated the day before.
I relaxed back in my sling chair and continued documenting my account of what I had witnessed so far. Kris sat down as well, though I really can’t remember what he was doing. I think he may have been finishing his breakfast. We sat there in silence for a while, soaking in the morning sun and enjoying the day, when suddenly a loud CRACK broke the silence of the forest. It came from the woods on the swamp side of the camp, just near the entrance to the road that ran down to Century 21 camp (the next camp down the road, so called because there was a Century 21 sign next to their camp).
I looked at the spot, not moving anything by my eyes. I could see nothing but the thick brush that lined the clearing.
“You heard that, right?” I asked Kris with a slight tremor in my voice.
“Yeah,” he replied, “You see anything?”
“No. What should we do?”
I thought for a second and recalled the training materials on the forum, then replied, “Well Matt says we aren’t supposed to respond if they are trying to get our attention, they might then escalate.”
“Do we want them to escalate?” We both chuckled nervously.
Suddenly, from the same spot and moving to the left around the perimeter of our camp came four loud, crashing footsteps, deliberate and spaced about a second apart each. It sounded as if a very large man was walking around the camp, trying to step on as many branches as possible as he went. Along with the breaking sticks, came a loud thud each time it stepped as if it was very heavy.
We both watched the woods looking for a sign of its passing, but the brush was so thick we couldn’t see anything save for the swaying of a small tree tops behind the wall of brush. It moved about ten feet in four steps and then stopped. Everything went very quiet. We both sat there, in stunned silence. It was right there. I could tell exactly where it was by where the sound had stopped, even though I couldn’t see it. It wasn’t more than twenty yards from us. It was definitely bipedal.
We continued to watch the spot for any sign of it for the next few minutes, when suddenly it started walking again, taking three more thunderous steps around the camp site, covering another ten feet or so. Several trees behind the brush line swayed as it went past. Whatever it was, it was very large. Then it stopped again. My heart was in my mouth by this time. I scanned ahead, now thinking that it might continue around the camp, and noticed that if it moved another ten feet or so, it would pass an opening in the brush. The opening wasn’t large, only about a foot or so in diameter, but through this opening, I could see the tree trunks beyond the brush wall. This opening was about six to seven feet above the ground, so if whatever it was, was taller than six feet, I should get a glimpse of it as it goes past this window.
“Crunch, crash, thud, snap,” it moved again, slowly going in the same direction. I held my breath, watching the opening in the brush and waiting. I didn’t have my camera with me, it was in the car, and I didn’t dare move to go get it now. Then the opening went completely dark as it moved behind it. It COMPLETELY filled and blocked out the entire view through the opening from six to seven feet above the ground. And just as fast as it came, it passed on, leaving the opening clear. All I could see had been a mass of dark brown hair. I couldn’t make out any other details as it had passed. That means that it was considerably taller than seven feet. I had figured I might see a face or head or something like that, but I think it was its body that had passed at that height. This thing was huge.
It stopped again after passing the opening and silence fell again.
“Did you see that,” I asked Kris, quietly, not really knowing why I was being quiet.
“No, what,” he said in the same hushed tone.
I realized that he was sitting at too much of an angle to the opening to have seen through it.
“From my vantage point, there is an opening in the brush and I can see back into the woods.” I said.
“Really, what did you see?” He asked excitedly.
“Just dark hair. A wall of dark hair passed in front of it and moved on as it passed. The opening is six to seven feet up.”
Just then it walked again, taking another five, noisy steps to the left, swaying trees as it went. When it stopped again, it was behind our tent. This time it paused for about thirty seconds, and then took three more steps, around behind our tent towards the entrance to the trail we had followed the previous night. It paused again, then grunted in a deep, guttural voice, and proceeded to walk casually straight away from us through the woods towards the bog. This time is wasn’t as loud, but it wasn’t trying to sneak either, it just sounded like a very, very large man walking away through the woods. We sat there listening until we were sure it was gone.
“Wow,” I said letting out a breath.
“Yeah, wow,” Kris echoed. “Hey, what’s that?” He said, sitting up and pointed at the far side of last night’s fire pit.
“What’s what?” I asked, not seeing what he was pointing at.
He got up and moved over to the far side of the fire. “There’s a hand/knuckle print right here.”
“What!” I exclaimed getting up and going over to stand beside him. We crouched down and looked at the soft sand that was next to the fire pit. In it, we could clearly see four large sausage like marks side by side, and a large round thumb print as if someone had braced themselves by the fire, leaning on their knuckles and thumb with their left hand. In the ashes of the fire, we could see drag marks through the ash as if someone had dragged a very large finger through the ash. I pressed my own knuckles in the sand to the side of the original print and could replicate the print almost perfectly, only mine was less than half the size and my thumb print was not as perfectly round.
“That’s awesome,” Kris said.
“Yeah,” I agreed. We spent the next few minutes discussing the details of the print and the encounter we had just had. I ran to the car and got my camera, taking several pictures of the print. (The photos do not do it justice. The print was much clearer in person.)
“We need to tell someone what just happened. They’ll want to see this.” I said grabbing my two-way radio. Pressing the talk button, I said into the radio, “Hello, this is red van camp, does anyone copy? We just had an encounter and found a print.”
Silence. I repeated my transmission. Silence.
“Weren’t we supposed to go to the campground for a meeting?” Kris asked.
“Yeah, at eleven,” I answered testily, annoyed that no one was answering me.
“Umm…Andy, it’s eleven now.” Kris said, smirking a bit.
“What?” I snapped looking up, “Shit….Shit, Shit, Shit.” I said scrambling around picking up the camp and getting things ready to go. Kris, in a stroke of clear-headed genius, put the Frisbees around the print so no one would accidentally step on it.
“So,” I said as we got into the car, “we’ve been completely alone out here for the last couple of hours.”
“So it would seem.” Kris said with a wry grin.
“Great!” I grumbled, shutting the van door and starting the engine. I put it into gear and we started the half hour drive into the campground.