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.
My hopes for a jovial, light hearted name never came through, as after the event of that night, he had forever earned the name “Weatherman.” Here’s why.
I and Weatherman’s trip started out perfect, as most trips do. The forecast for the three day trip was all sunny for the first two days, and a rolling storm the last night that we may or may not get hit by, depending on our speed. The trouble didn’t start till the second night. Weatherman had brought along a small radio, to check on said weather, with him. Each night before lights out, we’d listen to the scheduled segment of the calm, serene meteorologist lady predict the upcoming storms. On the first night, it was not a big deal at all, really: light rain on the last night, and not much else. On the second night, the calm lady informed us that a heavy storm was rolling in, and accordingly heavy rain was to be expected.
By the end of the third day’s hike, the clouds above were dark and glum. The intense scent of rain hung over the whole area. Most of the other hikers in the area were smarter than us, and made the choice to skip that night. I, however, wanted to show Weatherman that rain doesn’t always mean a bad time. To remedy the oncoming waters, we strung up the tarp that I usually sleep under above Weatherman’s tent, and both stayed inside that. Around 4 pm was when the water began to trickle on, and only 20 minutes later it was a full deluge of liquid. We were prepared for this and had eaten lunch early, and gotten as prepared for the short walk out in the morning as possible. We hunkered down into the tent as the light outside slowly faded away.
Weatherman, in accordance to his previously nightly actions, flicked on his radio. Rather than the greeting of the soothing weather lady, we were met by the unnerving buzz that national weather service alerts make. You know the ones I mean, the somewhat high-pitched ones that really just shake your nerves a little bit. Listening to the warning, it predicted heavy rains and flash flood possibilities. We were up high in our site, so we both decided to get some sleep early so we could pack it out in the morning quickly.
At around 2 in the morning, both me and Weatherman jolted awake in our sleeping bags. In confusion, we looked at eachother. Hearing the intense rains outside, Weatherman reached down for his radio, and flicked it on. The same, rattling buzz-screech was playing again, this time on loop, meaning stuff was getting serious. The automated voice informed us of tornado warning, and we both knew we could not stay. Immediately we began packing up our things in the tent. All we had left to do was remove the tarp, pack away the tent, and trek out. I went out to grab my tarp first, being that it is an expensive piece of equipment, and we both figured if we had to leave the cheap walmart tent, that’d be ok.
When I had finished with the tarp, I returned to the tent to grab my bag and get oriented on the way out. Sitting down, Weatherman across from me, I looked at my map and started planning a route.
I was lost in my map and compass when that weather alert buzz-screech played again. Startled, I said to Weatherman, “Will you please turn that damn thing off? It’s a little annoying.” There was no response. I looked up at Weatherman, who was white as a ghost and looking me dead in the eyes. “It…wasn’t…me.” he stammered out, and I know he wasn’t joking around. Soon, the buzz happened again. We sat silent, and the buzz came again, and again, more and more unnerving with each buzz.
Some… thing was mimicking the buzz sound from outside our tent.
We both slung our bags in as quite as we could, continuing to sit in silence.
Sudenly, there was a buzz that was louder than ever, obviously coming from right outside our tent. It was loud enough to make my ears ring, and to suppress the screaming I know Weatherman was doing from his agape mouth. Without a word we burst out of the tent, into the blinding rain, and towards the nearest road. We sprinted in the direction of the truck and didn’t stop until we were inside, and on our way home.
When I returned to the site about 3 days later, to recover the tent, to my surprise it was still in excellent condition. The door, still open from our sudden departure, revealed the only thing inside: Weatherman’s radio, smashed to pieces.
To this day, Weatherman shivers like a leaf when he hears that buzzing sound on the radio. Neither of us have stayed the night at the park since, but I may return soon.
Beware of strange weather in Cuyahoga Valley, or in the forest at all. There’s no telling what hides in the cloak of the rain, waiting for thunder to strike to mask its own.