Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sitting Around the Campfire...All Night Long

I've been out in the field for quite awhile and am in town just long enough to resupply, so will do a post. Autumn is definitely in the air, and the nights are getting chilly. I had something walk around my tent all night long the other night—maybe it wanted to get inside where it's warm (I have a big cabin tent with a propane catalytic heater). Not sure what it was, but it made the hair on my neck stand up.
Speaking of the hair on your neck standing up, the following story had that effect on me. It's from my first book, Bigfoot Campfire Stories, and was told by a fellow named Brian:

This happened to me and some friends about five years ago, in a national park in Washington. The park has a backcountry permit system—you can’t camp without a permit, and we had to apply for this way ahead of time. 
We thought we’d see lots of people, as it’s a popular park, but we saw almost no one the entire time we were there.
At the time, I worked for a high-tech company in Seattle. A group of us decided to go backpacking together. We were all pretty avid outdoorsmen, some were hikers and a couple of the guys were serious climbers. We were all seasoned and experienced outdoorsmen. There were seven of us, all told.
So, we finally got the permit and made our plans and were soon camped in a high alpine basin deep within the park. I’d rather not say exactly where this happened. 
It took us a good hard day to get in there, carrying all that gear on our backs. We were tired, and after we set up camp, we built a fire and cooked dinner. 
It was soon dark, as it had taken quite awhile to set everything up. We had a great spaghetti dinner and were soon all crashed out in our tents, exhausted.
I’ll add that I was the only one with any kind of weapon. I had a large Bowie knife, and I slept with it under my pillow. I’d had a run-in with a black bear in Yellowstone and always carried that knife. The bear hadn’t harmed me, just scared me trying to get into my tent, but I hadn’t had any defense at all, so thus the knife on this trip. This was before you were allowed to carry guns in national parks.
I guessed it to be about 3 a.m. when I woke. I just lay there. Something had awakened me, but I didn’t know what. Then I heard some scuffling noise and some low talking. I crawled out of my tent and found several of the guys up and talking in a whisper. 
I didn’t even have time to ask when I heard it. From way off in the distance, I mean several miles away, we could hear a sound that, for lack of better description, sounded like an air-raid siren. It was the weirdest thing you can imagine, being way up there in the wilderness, to hear a siren. 
But what was even weirder, and what left me with a knot in the pit of my stomach, was the fact that the noise was moving, was gradually getting closer. And whatever was making it had lungs like a freight train, if a train had lungs. Whatever it was had a huge set of lungs, it sounded miles away and yet was so distinct. It really filled the air, it had vibrations to it.
By now the rest of the guys were up, and everyone looked concerned. It was a unique situation for all of us. 
And remember, I was the only one armed, and not very well, at that. A Bowie knife isn’t really much of a weapon in a deal like that.
We kind of ended up bunched together, and someone said we should build a fire. So we ended up grabbing some wood from the forest around us, and put it with the bit of wood from our earlier fire.
We built a fire, and some of the guys continued to gather wood, but no one would get far from camp. We used our headlamps, and it was kind of eerie seeing all the lights nervously moving around the forest while that noise just got closer and closer. 
By the time it was near us, it actually shook the forest. It was the most intense sound I’ve ever heard, and it brought shivers to the back of my neck, literally. 
Before long it was really close to our camp, and it was so loud it made my ears ring, you could actually feel the sound waves going through the air. 
It was just this intense siren sound, it would go from low pitch to high and drop back down again. Everyone stood with their backs to the fire, and we all had big sticks, except for me, and I had my knife in my hand.
When the creature got to the edge of our camp, it just went crazy. It stopped making the siren sound and started with a high-pitched screaming, then it would stop and growl, then go back to the screaming. 
That growl was absolutely terrifying, it was deep and throaty and mean sounding. We were all scared to death. 
Nobody said a word. We all just stood there, white as ghosts. Once in awhile the fire would kind of die down and someone would grab some wood from the pile and get it going again. This seemed to enrage the creature, and it would start screaming again.
It then began circling our camp, and we could hear it breaking through the bushes and trees. It had to be large. 
I swear, I was so scared I don’t remember much except praying and standing there with that big knife held out in front of me.
The creature circled and circled. It knocked down several fairly large trees, a good eight inches in diameter, and one of those nearly fell on us. 
We just continued to stand there in a pitiful circle around the fire. I worried that we would run out of wood, and sure enough, it was about 5 a.m., and the last bit of wood was burning. 
I said to one of the guys that we needed a plan for when the wood ran out. The creature was still circling our camp. It had settled down some and wasn’t screaming any more, but from the way it was breaking trees left and right, it still seemed very angry. 
Once in awhile, it would lob a small tree at us-—trees too green to burn, and you could see the roots. It had ripped them from the ground.
So, we made a plan, though it wasn’t much of one. We hadn’t had our headlights turned on, as we wanted to conserve the batteries. We decided that when the fire was dead, we’d all turn on our lights and shine it at wherever the creature was, and keep shining the lights until dawn. 
We knew we could last because we all had fresh batteries, the trip having just started. If the creature wasn’t afraid of our lights, well, who knows then?
So the fire died out, and we turned on our headlamps and shone them at the creature as it circled the camp. I was amazed at the energy it had, it hadn’t slowed down at all. 
This wasn’t much of a plan, but it was all we had. If it tried to attack, we agreed to light some sticks on fire, we’d go down fighting. A kind of pitiful plan, really.
When we turned on our lights and shone them into the woods, the creature stopped short. We could now see a pair of glowing red eyes looking at us, and the eyes were a good eight feet off the ground. This scared the you-know-what out of me. 
And the eyes had no flicker to them. We hadn’t seen any red eyes before, it was like it had just turned them on at will.
It stood there, eyes glowing, just out of the circle of our lights, then just disappeared.
The quiet, the silence, its disappearance, were all really scary because we had no idea what was going on. Was it sneaking up on us? The uncertainty factor was really chilling. 
If I tried to describe the fear of that night in detail, it would be a mixture of hopelessness, chilling terror, and astonishment.
Finally, I could see the first light of dawn as the sky to the east began to turn a pale blue. It was still a good hour before it was really light enough to see much, and by then we had all pretty much collapsed around the cold fire ring. 
The night had taken its toll on us all, but not one of us went to sleep sitting there, we just sat in shock.
As soon as it was light enough to see, everyone got up and began breaking camp. There was no discussion about it, it just happened. Everyone was exhausted, but we put on our packs and headed back the way we’d come in.
It was only a few hours later when we got to the trailhead and our cars. Going downhill and pushed by fear, we got out really fast. 
At that point, the sun was bright and the night seemed like a weird dream. We sat down on some rocks and began talking for the first time. I made some coffee, and someone else broke out some granola bars and cheese, and we ate like famished men, which we were.
No one had any idea what to make of any of this except one guy who had been raised in the Northwest, and he said he knew what it was. He said it was a Bigfoot, and a very angry one, probably because we had invaded its territory. 
Would it have harmed us? Yes, he was sure of it, as angry as it was, it wasn’t bluffing.
After a bit of talking about all this, we left and went to our respective homes. I don’t think any of us have been back in the park since then. I know I’ve given up camping completely and have no desire to be out in the woods.
I still have an interest in the park and read the news about that area, and strangely enough, several hikers have disappeared in that part of the park since then. 
A couple of years later, I took it upon myself to contact a park ranger and tell her of our experience that night. 
She was very quiet, then told me what she was going to say was strictly off the record, but that the park service had quit issuing permits for that section of the park and knew something strange was afoot. 
They weren’t sure how to address the situation. Strange tracks had been found, and she, herself, had something black and huge stalk her while on horseback patrol not too far from where our camp had been. 
She won’t go into that area alone, and the park service has now prohibited anyone from going in there at all. She told me they’ve had two rangers transfer and a couple of seasonals quit, and she was trying to transfer also.
I told her I understood how she feels. I myself have no desire to ever go there again.

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