America’s Scariest Trails: Really, I Saw it Myself

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Chilling. Really.

I wish I had not read Jonathan Dorn’s story. And, yes, I’m going to do what I can to forget that story. If you have experienced the ‘unexplained’ then perhaps you can sympathize with the backpackers, hikers and regular folk telling these stories. If you think they’re pulling your leg…well, go see for yourself.

See you on the trail! Scary!

Really, I Saw it Myself

True tales from BACKPACKER editors and readers

“Deep in the Andes my cousin and I saw someone–shrouded in fog and holding a staff–standing on a too-steep slope at 15,000 feet. Our guide told us that spirits–some evil–roam the Peruvian mountains.”
–Anthony Cerretani, editor

 “On a trip to Lake Powell, we saw a figure looking down at us from across the lake atop the opposite cliff. We took a picture and–of course–the figure did not show up.”

–Linda Bokros, reader

“When you see a fairy, it’s just like seeing something out of the corner of your eye–but it doesn’t go away. I know because I saw one for a long minute on the Torridon Hills in Scotland. It was the size of a toddler, and passed so close I could feel the air swirl around my knees. The sky was clear and there wasn’t a hint of wind. Or Scotch.”
–Dennis Lewon, executive editor

“One January morning in the Bisti Badlands Wilderness, I woke in my tent just before sunrise. Suddenly, there was an exchange of dialogue between two voices, just outside the tent and to my right. Very close. I was surprised that anyone else would be out in this region before sunrise. I unzipped the sleeping bag, yanked my pants on and stood up, expecting to greet my visitors. There was no one there. I climbed to the top of the arroyo for a better view. I was completely alone. The only footprints I could find were my own.”
–Mark Blanchfield, Farmington, NM

“I’ve been stalked by bears, circled by wolves, and sniffed by coyotes while laying under a tarp, but none of those encounters unnerved me as much as a discovery I made a few years ago in the Catskills. I was almost two miles off-trail in a spot I’d found the previous year while bushwhacking. No obvious human signs of any sort. As always, I scouted my surroundings for bear tracks before settling down to dinner. But as I got up to hang my food, I suddenly saw a small hand-woven stick figure hanging from a tree–like those in The Blair Witch Project–then another, and another, until I realized that the very spot I’d selected for cooking was surrounded by them.”                                                                                                                         –Jonathan Dorn, editor-in-chief


Supernatural Sights

november 09 mystery package conductor 445x260Illustration by Dushan Milic

Maco Light, North Carolina
Is train conductor Joe Baldwin still looking for his head? According to a legend that dates back to 1867, he was the sole occupant of a caboose that accidentally uncoupled from its engine and became a hazard to a train following behind. Baldwin waved his lantern frantically–but in vain–to warn the oncoming train. He continued to signal even as the trains collided–and the crash decapitated him. Soon after, locals reported seeing a light along the tracks; they surmised it was Baldwin swinging his lantern, searching for his head.

Brown Mountain Lights, North Carolina
For 800 years, native Cherokees and later, settlers, have reported seeing spirit lights on this 1.5-mile ridge in western North Carolina. According to legend, dead warriors–or the heartsick maidens searching for them–inhabit the woods. Observers still report the lights today, but dense foliage makes it difficult to see the glow from local trails. Find the best vantage points at several overlooks, including Lost Cove Cliffs on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Wiseman’s View on Linville Mountain, and Brown Mountain Overlook on NC 181.

Silver Cliff Ghost Lights, Colorado
No theory explains the origin of the lights that appear in the cemetery of this former boomtown. Miners saw silver-blue balls of light as early as 1882, and visitors report seeing them regularly ever since. Not even a 1969 National Geographic investigation could explain their origin.

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