It was our first time staying in a shelter along the Appalachian Trail, and we were going to die.
The scream resonated through the dark November woods, a blood curdling spasm from some poor wretch out there in the Virginian forest. Alone. We were next.
We had spent many miserable miles trudging through mud in a rainfall so fine, you didn’t know you were soaked through until you started shivering. We were backpacking in Grayson Highlands State Park, walking for a few days in the freezing rain and wondering to ourselves if this is “fun”. The four of us had never stayed in a shelter before, and since the night before we cuddled with a puddle in our tent due to a poor site choice, we arrived at the shelter on night two and set up “camp”. At first, we were excited to stay in such a structure that was almost like a cabin in the woods, but as the sun went down the mood became ominous as we realized that the shadows among the trees could very well be Bigfoot himself. Every rustle outside of the shelter caused for brief pause from us and a grumble from our hound. Finally, darkness fell and we snuggled in for the night to the sound of mice licking their chops and preparing to raid our bags.
The scream drew up sharply in the dark, warbled and then fell. Bigfoot was about, and our hound growled knowingly while we cowered in our sleeping bags. Then there was silence.
With no further sounds, we eased back into breathing. But throughout the night the screaming being pranced about the shelter, making a circle around us, probably checking for the best entrance and biding its time before moving in for the kill. At one point when hearing shuffles outside of our drop down tarp in front of the shelter, our trusty hound leaps out to investigate. Vigorous pleading ensues, to which he jauntily comes back in and wags his tail. We figure Bigfoot must love dogs. Hours go by, with little sleep and each cry in the woods becoming more and more mystical. Finally, at the point of exhaustion and ambivalence of dying, there’s sleep.
We had never been more welcoming to the sun. It almost warranted an ancient shag-like dance to bring her forth and give our thanks. Almost. Once back in the car to head home, we did what all millennial children would do. Googled our screaming Bigfoot.
Alas, Bigfoot, the lonely mating Red Fox… probably.
For this hike, I followed Mid-Atlantic Hike’s 3 day Loop that meandered along the Appalachian Trail and through Grayson Higlands State Park. What a great route, and I highly recommend it. Our friend, Kelly, that went with us had never been backpacking before and she ROCKED it. Great for anyone, even first timers.
Lastly: Photos. Of course. Because it didn’t happen if you don’t have proof. All following photos are by Connor Lock, and the featured image was taken by my girl Kelly Finn. Our adventure buddies.
Happy Trails, y’all. And holler at me with any ideas for our next grand adventure.