just a harmless hike?

At around April or May of 2018, my friend and I (who I will be refering to as L) decided to go on a hike at a national park just down the road. Though they aren’t much of a focal point, I’d like to mention we also brought two of her dogs with us, each of us walking one. Now I don’t know much about parks, but based on the ones I’ve been to, they usually have big signs in front of them stating what they are. This park did not. It had a sign, but it was slightly obscured just enough we nearly missed it. We had to travel down a long, dirt road to arrive at the “opening” of the trails, where a map was located. Since we had dogs with us and the only other people around were packing up to leave, we decided to travel down a horse path. We were excited to say the least, happy to get outside and excercise for once. I’d also like to mention that, when I am exploring with one or more people by my side, I pretty much am not concerned about anything around me. My paranoia is basically nonexistant. That is why I find this hike so…creepy. On our way through, nothing seemed to be wrong. We made it maybe only a mile and a half or two miles down the five mile trail, only to come face to face with a giant fallen tree, right across the path. The tree had been fallen long enough that other vines had begun to grow over and around it, making it impossible to get over. We decided that even though it sucked, we had a good time while it lasted, and began to head back. As soon as I turned around to face the trail, absolutely nothing about it seemed familiar. It was as if we had been picked up and plopped down onto another trail. I didn’t mention this to L, because she’s a lot more skiddish than I am. We began to head back, and the entire way I felt uneasy. I felt as if some creature or being much more powerful than me was watching us. L walked ahead of me this time, since we had switched dogs and she had the more hyper one. As a result, I was making constant glances behind us. The trail even looked different the way we originally went. I finally spoke up, worried that maybe we had gone down a wrong fork. L said she wasn’t completely sure, so I simply went down a small hill and continued walking beside her along the forked trail. That definitely wasn’t the right place, so I climbed back up to where L was walking. We had walked almost the entire way back, crossing over wooden planks we had during the first half mile. However, the security I felt in those planks didn’t last long at all. Instead of coming to the parking area, we came to a dead end. I hate to use such a cliché phrase, but my blood absolutely ran cold at the sight of it. I had a feeling an entity was keeping us there, not wanting us to escape. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end and the feeling of being watched was nearly unbearable. I looked to L, expressing my distress. She agreed it was scary. We turned around, looking for any other trails. Nothing. Eventually, I stood by the wooden planks we crossed over with one of the dogs while L walked through a barely cleared path to see if she could find the parking area. I squatted down to pet the dog for comfort, feeling totally vulnerable in my yoga pants and tank top, alone in the woods, supposedly with my back turned on something more powerful than I could ever imagine. After about 5 minutes of waiting, I hear L shout up ahead. I look up, and she waves for me to follow her, because she can see her car. Without hesitation, I get up and begin to speed walk with her dog on my heel. When I make it back to the parking area, I ask L where the original we started on was. She pointed to the only possible trail…but it was in a completely different place. The entrance to the trail we walked seemed to have disappeared completely. As soon as I had stepped into the parking area, my anxiety over the whole situation simmered down, but I still felt like something was horribly wrong. Once we were on the road again, I attempted to tell L about what I believed happened. She, understandably, became uneasy, so I dropped the subject. I haven’t been back to that trail since, but perhaps I will return, and hopefully the fallen tree will have been cleared…so I can fully explore the strange trail.

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Weatherman & The Cuyahago Valley Buzzer (National Park)

This story was not told to me by a hiker like most of my others, but rather was witnessed by myself firsthand. This encounter occurred very close to my home woods of Ohio, way up North in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Cuyahoga Valley is a smaller park, one of the few parks in the East Coast area (comparatively), and doesn’t get near as much love as it should. This being said, it’s somewhat of a private heaven for those of us who take the trip into the valley, escaping the more populous of parks.

To lay some basis for this tale, I will describe its characters. Due to the nature of the sites at the Valley, having two to three people per group can be optimal. I had ached for a return to the forest, as it had been a fair amount of time since my last excursion. So, after some convincing, I managed to call up an old friend of the area and convince him to take the hike with me. He wasn’t a camper at all; 90% of what he carried that weekend was gear borrowed from me.

I was excited to take him on the trip with me. For those less experienced in the world of the outdoors, a big tradition and rite of passage for any novice outdoorsman to earn a “trail name,” a unique nickname given by other, more experienced hikers, usually in reference to an event at a camp out or something like that. My trail name is Spades, due to some card game fun on one of my first long hikes. The reason I am explaining all of this is because I had decided to take it upon myself to find an appropriate trailname for my friend. I had assumed it would be something silly, like a friend of mine who’s name was Ramen-bomben, following his creation of an instant ramen – potato – spam creation.

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