I couldn't tell anyone outside of the hiking community this story because if word got back to my Mom she would have flipped. I still had a lot of trail left at this point and I couldn't let her worry about me for the rest of my trek. Being a solo female hiker out there I experienced a lot more "abnormal" behavior from people... but hey that just leads to better stories right? hahaha Okay, this is the REAL reason I hiked my biggest day of 39 miles...........
It all started at Burney Falls State Park. I was greeted there by Dip and Becky (my amazing trail angels). It was blisteringly hot! A MAJOR heat wave rolled in and I was incapable of hiking out during the day. I waited until night to hit the trail.
Becky loaded me up on about 5 starbucks packets. Needless to say I was WIRED. Perfect! I wondered how many miles I would be able to put in.
With my veins pumping a million miles an hour and a wonderful send off I started walking. Canada was calling.
As I approached the dam I stopped to consult my maps. I took off my pack and began deciphering which way the trail was going to lead me. Next thing I know there's a hand on my shoulder. I jump about 10 feet straight up.
I swing around and there's a man (about mid 20's). He's apologizing for startling me. First off, it's about 10pm. I'm a single female. You ANNOUNCE your presence.
He asked if I needed help finding the trail. I politely decline. I proceed to tell him that a group of us are night hiking and I was just waiting for them to catch up. He asks again if I need help and that he would be happy to show me where the trail goes. I once again decline. I have to wait for my imaginary friends.
I turn my back for a second to put my maps away and as I turn back he's gone. I was so confused. Where did he go? Literally he disappeared. No flashlight. No nothing. Just gone.
I'm fully alert now. Damn, I told him about my buddies.. now I HAVE to wait. About 10 mins go by before I decide it was a decent amount of time. I head on down the road to where the trail should meet up again.
As I approach the end there's a car parked on the side of the road w a person rummaging through it. They're tossing all of their belongings into the street. THIS IS WEIRD! I stay as far away from them as possible. Next thing I know it's the guy from earlier. He dances around his belongings on the ground and runs over to me.
I hold up my hands to nonverbally tell him to stop. He continues. He keeps asking if I need help. To which I reply that I know exactly where I'm going but thank you. He doesn't seem to take this answer. He runs up next to me and places his hand on my backpack (the way you would lead a woman if you're walking w her). I move further away and stop. "I've got it from here. Thank you. " He still doesn't listen. He says he'll walk me to the trail head which is just a couple feet further.
We get there and he proceeds to ask (in a normal situation) the regular questions. However, in our current position this was nothing near normal behavior.
Creep: "How far are you going tonight?"
Me: "I'm not sure. We'll stop when we get tired. Could be 2 miles could be 20."
Creep: "There's a really neat place not too far from here. Rock Creek. Me and my buddies are going up there tonight. It's a great place to stop."
Me: "Okay, you never know when you're traveling w people. Thank you."
Creep: "Okay maybe we'll see you up there."
As I leave I hike w my headlamp off so he won't be able to calculate how fast I hike. Everything about this encounter has me on edge. I ALWAYS trust my instincts. When I was approached by him the first time I had gotten out my knife just in case. I proceeded to walk knife in hand the rest of the night and clear into the morning.
A few miles in I reach what I believe is "Rock Creek." I clearly hear a stream... and something else.... The hikers don't know it but there is a dirt road that is directly above the PCT. I hear the sound of an engine. I immediately turn off my headlamp. It's about 12am now. The second I press the power on my lamp I hear voices. "Did you see that?" Crap.. they saw me. My adrenaline is gushing through my veins now. My knife is in hand. (My knife is pretty legit too... I know there's a pic out there of me licking PB off of it... anyone have it??).
The quad stops right above me. Two people get off. They are RAGING drunk. They're talking about explicit things that would make a female feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable. They keep asking one another, "did you see it?" "Where did it go?" CRAP! My shoes are glowing. Why did I have to get glow in the dark shoes?! I hurry and cover up my feet w dirt. I hope they didn't see! They search the area for awhile looking for me. I'm hidden away behind a tree.
Tress would become my best friend that night.
One of the men gets back on the quad and drives off. But did both? Is one still searching for me? Am I alone? I make a run for the bridge. As I near I hear the howl of the engine again. I sprint for cover under a rock. They're back. I'm crouched, knife in hand, ready to spring. "Did you find it yet?" "I know it's here." "Where did it go?" "Keep looking, we'll get it"
WHY ARE THEY REFERRING TO ME AS IT?!?
Then I remember about the creep at the bridge. He told me he was going to Rock Creek. Right where I was. He said he was going to be w his buddies. Great. More of them. After hearing the conversation his buddies were having.. this was NO PLACE for a female. They're overall, bad people. They get off again and search for "it." I wait them out.
When I hear the quad leave again I start running for a more sheltered spot. I join up w the trail again. I'm about to cross another dirt road when suddenly I see a red truck driving towards me. Shit.
They're 6 men and they're ALL drunk. Even better. My adrenaline is pumping so hard I feel like superman... or better yet, Spiderman (we all know Spidey's better). The truck stops just short of me and the quad pulls up to them. They have obviously been talking about me. "We still can't find it" they tell the truck.
"It" is quite literally feet from them, hiding behind a tree.
The quad leaves again (I presume in search of me). The truck takes off in the opposite direction. I MUST keep moving. I hurry across the intersection to the comfort of the trees. Another dirt road.
(Yes.. I do have butterflies while re telling this story)
As I cross the truck pulled up again. Within feet of me are 6 men, all rip roaring drunk. They're wondering if their friends will be able to catch "it." I feel like prey. Why can't they refer to me as a human? Why can't they acknowledge that? This is bad. Then..... gunshots....
They whiz in my direction! Do I jump out and tell them to stop!? Do I give away my position? If I do, will they take me? Will they shoot me? If I get shot should I just play dead? I know they're looking for me. Do I stay put? ....I'll wait them out.....
How many bullets do they have?! I kid you not it was an endless supply. Right when I thought they'd stop someone else would start shooting.
My only chance was to move further away. I used the trees for cover. I ran from tree to tree. Bullets right next me. I can smell the gunfire. Where are my "imaginary friends" when I need them?
I continue this duck and run method for a LONG time. With each tree I put in between us the safer I feel. Get me out of there. I hate towns. That's where the crazies are.
Finally, I round a mountain (it is now impossible for me to get shot). The bullet must go through the mountain to get me.. which is impossible. Guns are still being fired in the distance. Where are the guys on the quad? Are they still searching for me? Are they still searching for "it?"
I hiked out of that section so fast. My fist was clenched tight around my trusty knife. My headlamp was now only an accessory on my head. I had put so much dirt on my feet to avoid detection I was almost invisible. I was so agile. I moved very quickly and quietly. I didn't stop. I couldn't stop. I kept hiking. I needed to get far away. I was wide awake. I had so much energy I felt like I could go forever... which is exactly what I did.
I was on high alert. I heard everything in the forest that night. Not even an owl could have snuck up on me. Okay.. maybe an owl. haha but not a moth : )
As I hiked the night became lighter. I watched it go from black, to dawn, to daylight. I had no idea how far I'd gone. I was starting to get tired. I was starting to stumble and fall over my own feet. But I still kept my knife out just in case. I didn't take breaks like I normally would. I didn't eat anything for fear of them smelling my food. (I did just leave town on a full stomach though.. and don't forget the coffee!)
I finally came to a spot in the morning tucked away under the bushes. No one could have found me there. I didn't even set up my tyvek (ground cloth) for fear of it making too much sound. I just layed out my sleeping bag and fell asleep.
When I awoke a few hours later I consulted my map. I had gone 39 MILES. 39 MILES!!! I was shocked. I was tired. But I was still very apprehensive about getting out of there. So I packed up and headed North again. A few hours later I realized I NEEDED sleep. Real sleep. I found a place nestled in by a river and drifted off.
I completely switched over to night hiking after that. I became known on trail as the "red sleeping bag." Everyone would pass me during the day and then at night I would hike. Every day they'd continue to pass the "red bag."
I couldn't believe I'd hiked 39 miles. I couldn't believe I was alive. I couldn't believe those guys. 39 Miles! My mom CAN NOT know this!
When I finished the trail I told her the REAL story.. along w MANY of my other just as crazy ones.. She was not pleased. Thank God she didn't know them while I was still out there. Can you imagine how much more she would have worried?
That's the REAL story of why I hiked 39 miles out of Burney. Until next time,