Ole’ Zachsquatch’s Top 5 Weirdest Moments on the AT
If you are considering thru-hiking the AT you should be made aware of potential weird things that could happen to you when you are out here. Ole’ Zachsquatch has been on the AT for about a month and a half and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a few strange things already! Here are the stories of my 5 STRANGEST moments on the trail thus far. Enjoy.
5. The Grouse
Walking through the woods is usually a pretty dull activity. Even if you are surrounded by beautiful views, staring at the ground in front of your feet is a MUST or else you risk tripping over a root and cracking your skull. When I walk through the woods I usually stare at the ground and listen to music or the sounds of nature.
One day I was walking and I heard some sort of strange controlled explosion. It was a loud thumping sound I could feel in my chest that started off slow and sped up. I figured since I was in Eastern Tennessee I had just heard some sort of underground coal mining operation. I cursed the bastards who were raping our land and continued walking.
After about 3 weeks of hearing these explosions I found myself sitting at a shelter with a group of people and all of the sudden the explosion happened again. I looked around at all of the people in the shelter and asked if anyone knew what was going on with all of the underground explosions; someone replied, “Oh, that’s not an explosion. It’s a grouse.”
Everyone at the shelter was in shock because apparently we had all made false assumptions about what the noise had been. Some people figured their hearts were about to explode, others thought it was nearby construction and I was beginning to think the government was building an underground civilization to house an alien research project.
After doing a little reading on the topic I found out the grouse does indeed make a really loud thumping noise as a mating call. However, reading descriptions of the grouse mating call hasn’t convinced me of anything. I hold firmly onto the belief that there there is some sort of strange coal mine explosion/government research project going on somewhere underground in the mountains of eastern Tennessee.
I don’t know. . . There is just no way in hell a bird the size of a chicken can make noises as loud as what I heard.
4. A Crack Addict
When you sleep in shelters along the AT you eventually learn that anything can happen at any time.
Sometime before I made it into the Smokys I was sleeping in a full shelter when I was awoken at 2 AM by someone slamming his pack on the ground inside of the shelter and cursing all of us for sleeping in the shelter. After the man threw all of his stuff on the ground he unpacked and re-packed his belongings for about 45 minutes.
After the guy threw his stuff all over the place and woke everyone up he ran off into the woods and started breaking limbs off trees and kicked them into the fire pit. Once the guy got about 5 millions pounds of wood and dragged it to the fire pit he proceeded to build and maintain a fire until the sun came up.
When the sun came out the next morning I peaked my head around the corner to see who in the hell kept me up all night and what I saw disturbed me. I saw this creepy dude hunched over his fire like a gargoyle with no teeth smoking a crack pipe and talking to himself about God knows what.
When you’re out on the AT you will run into numerous crack-heads. Most are harmless. . . but just try to be aware of your surroundings because they can get pretty weird.
3. The Rare Spotted Skunk
The night before I went into Hot Springs I had a bit of a run in with a strange creature.
At 4 AM I heard some leaves rustling outside of my tent so I tossed on my head lamp and saw what looked like an inbred marmot sitting on top of my pack. I started screaming at the creature to get the hell off of my stuff and accidentally woke up all of the people I was camping with. After screaming at the animal I got out of my tent and started throwing rocks and sticks and all kinds of other random objects at the animal hoping it would scare the biologically confused being away from our campsite. . . but I was wrong.
This freaking thing came back to ALL of our tents over and over again throughout the night trying to steal our things. My buddy tried to shoo the animal away and it flipped upside down and did a handstand while it was inside of his tent’s vestibule.
We woke up the next morning in a perplexed stupor wondering what kind of beastly marmot we had encountered and it ended up being a spotted skunk. We narrowly escaped the unforgiving fury of the spotted skunk on this occasion; you may not be so lucky when it comes for you.
2. The Search Party
This one here goes all the way back to day one. . .
Imagine your first night on the AT. You’re confused, exhausted (depending on whether or not you chose to destroy yourself on the Approach Trail), you don’t know anybody and it is so foggy outside you can’t see anything farther than ten feet away.
Now imagine that you’re in a shelter laying in your sleeping bag and began to hear murmurings of “Hey, where’d Dan go?” (Somebody named Dan went looking for firewood 15 minutes earlier without a head lamp and never came back to the shelter)
Upon realizing Dan was lost in the woods at night without a headlamp/jacket when it was 35 degrees outside the entire camp kicked into action and a search party was assembled promptly. People were screaming, blowing whistles and walking around the vicinity of the area trying to find ole’ Dan.
The weird part of this story comes into affect when you find out who lead the search party.
(Flash back to 2 hours prior to Dan’s ordeal)
A strange fellow is sitting on the first floor of the shelter reading Karl Marx and mixing inside of his nalgene the grossest concoction of black shit I have ever seen in my life. When he began to drink the thick, disease ridden beverage I could not stop myself from asking him what the hell he was drinking. He casually answered, “Oh, I’m drinking opiate tea. . .”
(Flash forward to Zachsquatch hearing that Dan was missing while laying in his sleeping back on the second floor of the shelter)
I said to myself; “Well of course Dan got lost! He just drank a shit load of opiate tea!!! Serves him right!!! A man ought to know not to do opiates in in-climate weather such as this!!!”
I just sat outside of the shelter twiddling my thumbs by the fire wondering if this opiate guy was going to die in the woods but it turned out Dan was not the opiate guy. The opiate guy is the person who was leading the search party. After about two hours of searching the area surrounding the shelter I figured the opiate guy would lead his fellow search and rescue team to their own deaths but I was wrong. The opiate guy successfully brought Dan and everyone else back to the shelter safely.
Moral of the story? If you’re ever going to assemble a search party, don’t write off someone just because they drank enough opiate tea to blast them into the next dimension; he may very well be the keystone of the entire search party.
1. The Screamer
In case you didn’t already know, once you reach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park thru-hikers and section-hikers are required to stay in shelters provided by the park. This means that shelters are almost always crowded and you’ll get people sleeping in the shelter who may usually camp out along the AT.
One night in the shelter I was just doing my usual thing. Tossing, turning, listening to mice destroy people’s gear and falling in and out of sleep until all of the sudden I was awoken at 1 AM by an ear deafening scream from somebody on the first floor of the shelter. . . When I say scream I don’t mean it was just a casual yell. I mean it was a REAL scream. The kind if scream you would let out if an axe murderer was pounding away at your door with the intent to chop off your skull.
The very second I heard the screamer my body’s cat-like reflexes told me to spring into action and get the hell out of dodge. I immediately sprang forward and slammed my head into the telephone pole that was mounted to the shelter a foot away from where my face was. . . All I could do was lay back down with pants that were dangerously close to being soiled and a throbbing skull.
WELP! That’s all for now friends and creepers!!! I’ll try a little harder to keep you all updated with my trip. I’m finally starting to get the hang of this crazy thing I’ve chosen to do to myself.
Bring da ruckus,
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