Something about being in the woods has always fascinated me.
I found myself on an expedition deep within forest. To be more precise, High peaks wilderness which is an area within the Adirondacks. Brought along a buddy of mine, you can call him “trailmaster” and a friend of mine, call her “nymph”. The trails here are endless. Beautiful mountain ranges filled with mile after mile of dense forest. The true definition of beautiful and dangerous.
After hiking for most of the day, we must have traveled just under 3 1/2 miles. Trailmaster found a good spot for us to settle down for the night. A slight breeze blew from the northeast, as the sun was on the verge of setting. An estimate of 2 ½ of daylight left. Trailmaster set out to gather wood and nymph went to collect water from a nearby creek. I worked on setting up our 3 tents for the night.
All of a sudden, nymph, came running back to camp without the canteens, the sound of her panting followed by her dropping to the dirt on her knees was enough to leave me in awe. Believe me I say I known nymph, and it’s unusual for her to be panting that loud. Nymph? I did my best to calm her down while trying to get answers. “What the matter”? I asked her. Just as trailmaster returned with a bundle of sticks. “What wrong with her”? he asked. This is what nymph told us. She had just arrived at the creek and found a good spot. Just as she was filling, the cliche sound of a twig snapping was heard. The sound wasn’t enough to startle her, but rather the events that followed.
The sound originated from the otherside of the creek. She brushed it aside as an animal probably spooked by her presence and kept filling. Then she heard it again, except the sound was louder and seemed much closer this time. It caught her by surprise and she was forced by instinct to look at the direction the sound came from. What she heard next, was an audible grunting sound. The type a male whitetail-deer might make. The feeling of dread washed upon her. She felt as if she shouldn’t of been there. Followed by the sudden feeling of being watched. It made her extremely uncomfortable almost to the point of being disoriented. She rose to her feet and took a few steps back, What she then saw across the creek. Obstructed by trees, only a pair of antlers and what looked like legs…hind legs followed by loud grunting. She thought it could of been a deer. Her better judgment kicked in and she thought to herself, What deer isn’t afraid of being so close to a human. She ran back to camp when the grunts became louder and started to sound almost threatening.
“Are you sure”? Trailmaster asked with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. Nymph didn’t even answer him, instead shot him a cold stare. “It was most likely a deer, are you afraid of a deer”? Said trailmaster. I on the other hand will give nymph the benefit of the doubt. Nymph, even in her current state, was capable of describing what she saw, heard and felt. It was her senses and a gut feeling that made her runaway. Trailmaster opted to go take a look at the area where nymph had previously been. Nymph was reluctant, she would not go back. So trailmaster set out alone, nymph stayed at camp with myself who was debating on whether we needed to relocate our camp. I needed a report before the decision could be made.
When trailmaster arrived at the area of the creek where nymph had been, this is what he observed. Footprints, which were most likely nymph’s, headed in the direction of our camp and empty canteens on the ground. On the other side of the creek, there were prints resembling an animal. Perhaps a deer. The only problem was the spacing of the prints and how something about them appeared missing. A deer typically walks on all fours, upon closer inspection, trailmaster came up with the conclusion that this “deer” had probably been walking on its hind legs. The prints formed a trail. The trail seems to have emerge from somewhere in the woods, continue for a few meters, stop at the opposite edge of the creek, then turn around and head back in the direction they originated from without overlapping the original set. Trailmaster later admitted that it did spook him and he too felt an uneasy feeling. He arrived back at camp half an hour later with our filled canteens.
Even if we wanted to move, it would be nearly impossible as the sun had already began to set. Fast foward 2 ½ hours. Our tents were pitched, campfire lit and dinners served. We decided that it was best for one of us to be awake at all times until first light, it was just too dark to move at the moment. My tent was only a foot away from nymph’s tent, there was a good reason for that. Trailmaster’s tent had been pitched a good 5 meters away, because he’s a light sleeper. We had to move his tent back closer to ours. The perimeter of our camp was set with a trap which would sound if someone tripped the wire. Some tin cans and fishing line, primitive but effective.
Nymph didn’t say much about the incident that night, and I don’t blame her. She was still a bit shaken from the incident, though I would keep her safe. Trailmaster’s findings at the creek only raised uncertainty. Thinking about what nymph saw and what trailmaster found made me uneasy. The darkness around us, followed by the eerie silence of the woods, and the uncertainty of what’s out there was unsettling. The sound of burning wood was the only sound loud enough to distract us from sudden faint sounds in the distance. The mind can play tricks on you, that night, it seemed like a dark figure was always standing a few meters outside our camp beyond the reach of the fire’s light. Every rustle in the bush was something trying to sneak up on us. Every sound has a source, it’s those sounds that make a night in the woods so magical. Trailmaster and nymph were asleep, I was on watch. The sounds of crickets at night is nature’s lullaby which was on the verge of putting me to sleep, when all of a sudden, it stopped (Insert musical cue).
I had fallen asleep while on watch. Nymph said that she had awoken sometime during the early hours of the morning, around 0400. She found both myself and trailmaster out. The air outside of the tent was filled with a putrid smell. She described it as rotting flesh smell that just seemed to linger. A weeks old carcass already in the stages of decomposition, it was that bad she said. Nymph, alarmed by the smell, woke both of us up. We obviously had not smelled anything hours before. I did a perimeter check and found nothing unusual. We did feel as if we were being watched, which itself is an overwhelming feeling. The smell faded within the hour, after we started to make some noise. It was only during first light about two hours later did we notice it. Prints from what I assumed to be of a deer, just a few meters away. Trailmaster confirmed that these were identical to the prints he found down by the creek yesterday. It could have just been a random deer in the night trailmaster said. Though what I found unusual was the way the prints just seemed to pace back and forth horizontally, then head in a vertical direction. Trailmaster said that they seemed to be missing a pair again, meaning it was just hind legs from the looks of it. I have to agree because these prints seemed odd. The prints were definitely of a deer. What bothered us was the zig zagging pattern of the vertical prints, which were strikingly similar to how a human might walk.
Trailmaster was tempted to follow the set of print which headed in another direction. Nymph was hysterical and had no intention of doing such thing. She said that whole ordeal just seemed odd and down right creepy. A fucking deer creature, weird prints and not to mention the stench. Was this creature stalking us? We had no intention on finding out. I urged trailmaster to forget about it, that we need to keep on moving. Third time’s the charm, I told trailmaster, let’s not be around for it. We were on the move for most of the day. Nymph still felt overwhelmed with dread. Trailmaster did not experience the same feelings, hence why he opted to go investigate the prints before. He seemed fine being on point. Nymph admitted how she thought the creature was following us. I told her to stay close. I don’t know what made her think that, but I knew better than to doubt her. If that creature had been following us, it probably followed at a distance. Nothing would be more terrifying than to suddenly turn around and see a pair of antlers sticking out from behind a tree. Or for one of us to be singled out in the middle of nowhere.
Despite all that had happened, we managed to reach our destination unscathed. All seemed quiet. Any and all feelings of dread vanished as well as the feeling of being watched. The atmosphere felt lighter as we moved out of the area. Perhaps we were in its territory, so it felt the need to make its presence known. We no longer felt threatened. Nothing else significant happened that’s worth mentioning.
Reflection: We got lucky on that trip. Perhaps this creature decided to spare us? Maybe it meant no harm? We simply don’t know. So many questions with very few answers. I’m not a 100% sure what it was we encountered out there, though one name comes to mind the more I think about it. The Wendigo….. I’ve heard stories about the existence of this creature from folklore, I’ve managed to remain a skeptic…until now. What we experienced out there, up in High peaks wilderness, isn’t something we will likely forget. Whatever that creature was, I’d like to think that it’s still out there…. Waiting for the next group of hikes who venture off the trail into the vast unknown. Be Careful out there…in the woods.