Hikers Confess To Their Most Chilling Encounters In The Wilderness

September 11, 2019 | Christine Tran

Hikers Confess To Their Most Chilling Encounters In The Wilderness

So much for the calm of nature. Maybe humanity just wasn’t meant to cross the boundaries between us the world of deadly animals and unlit woods. These hikers shared their most chilling brushes with the great wild. Between surprise camp “guests” to the truly unexplainable, we won’t be heading for the hills anytime soon. Gear up for these spine-tingling stories of the creepiest hiking encounters.

1. I’m Off the Edge of Glory

Lost my balance and fell off the trail down a cliff. Broke my left ankle, dislocated my right shoulder and elbow. Came to when it started pouring. Some kind of animal came and sniffed me, but I was face down. I must have startled it when I moaned trying to move, because it took off. I crawled down about 200 yards when I came to a trailhead. A park ranger saw me and radioed for help.

She put my arm in a sling and stabilized my leg. Gave me some water. I was airlifted to a hospital from there. Definitely a memorable hike...

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2. If You Can’t Handle the Heat, Go Back to the Kitchen

I was on an overnight hike in a small wooded valley with lots of smaller connecting valleys coming. I just crested one hill to find out that a grass fire that I thought was small was huge and, even worse, headed my way. I ended up having to run. As I came to the edge, it was about a 100-foot drop, so I was running parallel with the fire looking for a safe way to get down. I eventually got to a slope I could slide down and escape.

Once I got to the bottom, I found out the tarp I was carrying under my pack was actually melted a bit on one side. I left and did not spend the night.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsPixabay

3. Oh Deer!

There’s an old abandoned road behind my house that winds down the mountain beside the ski hills. It was abandoned because no one lived on it and it was costing the town too much money to maintain it, but it’s a cool spot to go hiking now. One day I was hiking down towards the river at the bottom of the road. It was fall, so all the leaves were gone, and it was very bright in the woods. I came around a corner to a section of the road that was washed out, so I was focusing more on my footing than my surroundings. That's when something caught my eye.

I look up, and there’s a cougar frozen in fear about 10 feet away from me. It was probably thinking the same thing I was. “Holy moly, now what do I do?” So, we just sit there staring at each other for a minute or two when suddenly a stick cracks behind me, which makes me jump which scares the cougar. The thing scrambled to turn around and run just like a house cat, quickly disappearing into the trees.

I turned around to see what made the noise and it’s a deer. A freaking deer scared off a cougar by just stepping on a stick. Granted if I wasn’t there to put the cougar on edge already, that deer probably would have died. Similarly, if that deer hadn’t been there, the situation may not have ended as well for me, so we all survived based on sheer luck.

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4. Not an Adventure to Just Shake Off

I was hiking up a VERY steep foothill in Washington state when the dead log next to the trail started vibrating. I stopped like WTF, then the ground started to move. Earthquake incoming! But people don't realize that the creepiest thing about earthquakes is that you’re just minding your own business. and the one thing you take for granted—the solid ground beneath your feet—starts moving. It’s very surreal and disturbing.

I’m in the middle of the woods on a very steep trail. I don’t know how big this earthquake is, I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I think it was maybe 30 seconds, but time went into slow motion. When it started getting really strong and branches and dead trees started coming down, I noped back down to my car. It was potentially pretty dangerous given where I was. I’m glad it stopped when it did.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsPublic Domain Pictures

5. Keep the Looney Tunes at Home

I was hiking down a trail in the dead of winter, along a stream. At one point, the trail narrowed to about four feet wide, with a steep slope on one side and a sheer drop of 10 feet to the creek on the other side. The trail was coated in a sheet of ice. Being cautious, I got down on all fours to crawl across the patch of ice. Not good enough. I felt my body sliding slowly towards the edge. I felt suspended in midair before I fell. It reminded me of Wile E. Coyote from the Roadrunner cartoons, when he looks at the camera and holds up a sign saying "HELP!" before plunging to the bottom of the cliff.

On the way down, I managed to get my feet pointing down. I landed hard in the creek, making a huge splash. My legs acted as shock absorbers. I clawed my way up the bank, back to the trail, and limped the miles back to my car. I felt lucky to get out of that with just a pulled hamstring. I'll never forget that moment suspended in mid-air, where I thought, "I'm about to get really, really hurt."

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6. Man’s Best Friend is No Substitute for Google Maps

I was probably four years old in the dead of winter at my super rural childhood home. My dog, a large German shepherd, wandered off and I trusted him enough to follow him. My mom didn't see me leave the yard, I think she was cooking or something. That day I learned an important lesson: do not bank on your dog being a good hiking guide.

Once we got well out of sight, he stopped being in leader mode and went into protect mode. He just stuck with me and wouldn't take me out of the woods. I was too young to know to follow my footprints back or anything, and it was dangerously cold. I don't know how much time had passed but my mom ended up calling emergency services. Cops and firefighters came out looking for me, and my dog almost mauled a cop that got too close to me.

It wasn't scary at the time, but looking back, I could have easily died in those woods.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsFlickr

7. What Are the Odds of Lightning Striking Twice? Seriously Asking.

I was on a multi-week trip hiking in northern New Mexico, with afternoon showers expected pretty much every day. It was about 75-80 degrees and sunny, but it very quickly turned to dark, rainy, and about 35-40 degrees. We were in a valley on the side of a flat top "mountain" if that makes any sense. Our next campsite was over the top and below this mountain. Pretty soon lightning started striking nearby so we had to assume the lightning position.

We sat on our packs and tossed our hiking poles away. We weren't allowed to continue until the lightning was about one and a half miles away. Pretty soon, it kept getting closer and closer until I literally saw lightning strike about 200 feet away multiple times. We spent an hour and half like this. And as it turns out, the zippers on my rain gear WEREN'T waterproof! Never in my life have I felt the same level of "what the heck am I doing here?”

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8. Almost Flushed Away

I went hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon several years ago. Just my luck, there was a flash flood in the middle of the night. I had to climb up onto a huge boulder on the side of the canyon and tremble in the cold for hours while the campsite was completely swept away in the darkness. A helicopter rescued me the next day.

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9. Don’t Make Waves

A buddy and I were walking along the edge of a small lake one night. As we walked around a corner on the path, we hear a massive splash. We see the tail end of the ripples but nothing or no one ever surfaced. The splash sounded like it was made by something person sized or a large rock. There were no other people around who could have thrown something in. And most animals, like birds or reptiles, will enter the water silently. To this day, we have no idea what caused that splash.

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10. Not Dressed for This

First time camping alone. A shirtless guy with no gear passes by my camp at 8pm and 9pm. Yup. Twice. It’s about 10 miles just to get to a road on either path. So, he went back and forth in the middle of the woods. I have never packed up an entire campsite by myself and left so quickly before. I’m a grown man and I was absolutely freaked out.

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11. A Most Shocking Lesson in Boundaries

I was hiking with my dad as a kid and saw some cute horses that I wanted to go pet. I walked up a grassy bank to the horses' fence, reached over and... POP! I heard an incredibly loud popping sound. At that moment, the horses stood up on their hind legs and bolted. At the same time, I felt like someone punched me seriously hard in the shoulder.

The force knocked me backwards down the bank. Needless to say, my Dad was just as spooked as me. He thought I had been shot! The only explanation was that I was hit by a ghost. We came to the conclusion later that day that I must have touched an electric fence.

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12. A Mutt from Out of This World

One night, I was driving up a local road called Spook Hill Road and telling my girlfriend why it's called Spook Hill Road. I was making up some silly ghost story as I went along, trying to impress her. But, as I pull up to the top of the hill, I see this glowing woman with a six-foot-tall white German shepherd. They're not walking. It's more like they're gliding across the road. My girlfriend didn't see a thing.

A year later, I was talking with some older people in the town. They told me about a ghost lady and her giant ghost dog. Where do these two haunt? Spook Hill Road. Seriously creepy.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsWikimedia Commons, Ebyabe

13. Milking This Scare for All Its Worth

Every year, I went to a summer camp where we spent one night in a cow pasture. One morning, we woke up to a lot of yelling and screaming. The owner forgot we were coming and had let cows into the field. Two of our group were probably scarred for life, because a cow had managed to knock down their tent. They woke up to her standing over their heads.

Common Misconceptions factsPixabay

14. The Mane Point

One of my boots came untied, so I knelt down to retie it. I took a quick glance behind me as I was standing up. There was a mountain lion creeping across the trail about 50 feet back.

Hunters in the Woods factsPixabay

15. Bears Being Bros

A couple years ago, I was hiking and saw three full-grown bears just chilling eating some berries. My adrenaline hit new levels.

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16. I Spy with My Little Eyes

I was hiking in the mountains at night. A pair of eyes followed us for a mile or so but made absolutely no sound. I have not gone night hiking since.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsGetty Images

17. Not the Cuddling Kind

I took my two boys hiking in the Southern Sierras. On our way back to the campsite, I walked with the oldest while my younger son was about 75 yards ahead. Suddenly, I notice the boy ahead has stopped and is making some sort of strange motion. As I get closer, I realize: this is our worst-case scenario. He's mouthing the word "bear." We get to him and there is a creek running along the trail with a bear drinking out of it, about 15 yards from where we stood.

For whatever reason, my first thought was to take a picture, but my camera was in my pack. I tried to quietly take it out, but the sound caught the bear's attention. It looked straight at me and then instantly took off and ran the opposite direction. For whatever reason I was too dumb to be scared when we first saw the bear. But when it ran away, the sheer speed at which it moved and the fact that it was so big that we could hear its feet hitting the ground caused me to realize something terrifying. If it had decided to attack, we'd be dead.

I've seen bears before but never really appreciated their speed and agility until that moment.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsWikipedia, Malene Thyssen

18. Blood is Thicker Than Water, But Bad at Directions

Me, my sister, and one of our cousins went hiking along one of the trails at the campground. We were all really young, no one older than 13. We followed the paved trail for a while, but my cousin got bored and wanted to go off onto one of the dirt paths, and we walked further for like 20 minutes. We could see the confusion and panic on her face when she realized that she didn’t have any idea where we were.

We were lost for over an hour before we finally found the road that led to the campground and flagged a car down. It was a family who stopped to help, and they told us they would give us a ride back, but my cousin (I guess afraid to get us into any more trouble) said we couldn’t accept rides from strangers. I was so relieved to see another person that I didn’t care. Thankfully the woman understood. She got out and walked with us all the way back to camp. So thankful for her to this day. I was so scared that we’d never make it out of those woods.

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19. Head Over Heels in Danger

Every summer my relatives take a big camping trip that involves two portages and a ton of canoeing. All in all, the trip takes around 7 hours starting from the landing until we get to the campsite. We pack pretty heavy, and most of the bags weigh-in from around 50-70lbs. A couple of years ago, we had to go up while it was raining pretty heavily. I slipped forward while carrying one of the massive packs. It was only a split second, but in that moment every single red alert was going off in my head.

I hit my head pretty hard on a rock right on my forehead although it could have been considerably worse. I escaped with only a bruise on my head and a pretty bad scare.

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20. In the Hall of the Mountain Lion King

My mom and I went hiking in the foothills outside of town. We were maybe 15 minutes from town, if that. It was middle of the day and we were walking along a little creek when my mom told me to hold really still. When I stopped, I noted that every single animal was dead quiet, including the birds. I tried to ask my mom what was going on and she just held her finger to her lips.

She then whispered to me that we needed to walk backward very slowly and not make any quick movements. After about five minutes of this, we turn around and speed walk back to the car. We get in the car and I ask my mom what happened. She said that we were being stalked by a mountain lion. I was too busy having fun to have noticed the fresh tracks leading away from the water into the trees. If my mom hadn't noticed the tracks and the silence, we probably wouldn't have made it out of there.

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21. You Are Never Alone

I was camping alone at a nearby lake in my late teens. I grew up hiking and camping so I was used to the noises and calls animals make in the woods at night. Sometime after I fell asleep, long enough for the small fire to die to embers, I woke up with this immediate awareness that I was not alone. I couldn’t hear much over the bug noises of summer, but then I heard voices off behind me.

I slowly threw as much dirt and rock onto what was left of the fire and waited. It sounded like someone whispering or talking low. I strained my ears, but the harder I listened the more everything began to meld together. At one point it sounded like they were to my left, then minutes later, directly to my right. And once it sounded like the voices were tuning in and out like a radio; kinda quiet, then suddenly louder. I laid there motionless for hours.

I fell asleep for a few hours after the sun was starting to come up. When I woke again, I packed up and crept back out of those woods. Just did not feel right. Haven’t felt it since, thankfully.

Disturbing Interactions With Strangers factsPixabay

22. Don’t Answer Call of This Wild

I was camping with a friend at a campground just outside Portland—so well-traveled, fairly urban, lots of RVs around. It was raining and we were both in my tent dozing off. We heard—I kid you not—a LOUD animal scream, very close by. I’m an ecologist and know all the typical campground animal noises and this was not something I could identify at all.

It sounded like it came from something pretty big, but it wasn’t a coyote or a raccoon or anything. My closest guess is maybe a cougar, but I wouldn’t expect them to be so close to people in an urban campground. My friend heard it too and we just waited in silence. A few minutes later, another one screamed back from across the lake. The next morning when we got up, every dog in the campsite was totally terrified. We saw a few that had been leashed outside and were still hiding under RVs. To this day, I maintain it was either Bigfoot or a massive cougar.

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23. The Coroner Takes No Vacations

When I was a kid, my family went camping near a very large lake. The second day we were there, I really wanted to go to the lake, but my younger sister was taking a nap in the tent. My stepdad watched my sister while my mom and I hiked to the lake ourselves.

When we got there, there were camp rangers, cops, and ambulances all pulled up to the side of the lake, and there were a bunch of small boats circling the water. My mom goes up to a ranger to ask what was up while I snuck off to get closer to the water edge. I get maybe 10 or 15 feet from the water's edge when two guys in diving gear start pulling out this big, purple thing from the lake. Just then, my mom lifted me up, shoving my face into her chest, and running away from the lake.

As we walked back to the campsite, my mom tries to distract me by asking if I wanted to make s'mores and catch butterflies with her later. Something didn't feel right to me, so I just said no and stayed silent almost all day. That night, when my sister had gone to bed, she explained me that a man had drowned in the lake before we got there, and the purple thing I saw being pulled out was his dead body.

I only vaguely remember the body; the purple arms being pulled by the divers is what stands out to me most. I don't know how I didn't see the face.

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24. One of the Pack

One night, I was sleeping in my tent up in the Canadian shield. I heard crunching on the rocks near me. It got closer and closer. Then things started brushing against my tent. I was terrified, but also stupidly curious. So, I poked my head out of the tent to see what was going on and guess what I saw? Wolves. A whole pack of wolves, sniffing around the tent. They barely even reacted to me poking my head out. Just stared at me and kept sniffing. I closed the tent back up and hid in my sleeping bag hoping they didn't decide to rip into my tent and eat me.

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25. She’s Seen Enough Scary Movies to Know Where This Goes

My mom used to hike at a forest preserve every day before work. But the last time she went, her blood ran cold. She saw that a man in the distance was following her. He kept getting closer every time she looked back, like a poorly directed horror flick. She instinctively ran to the nearest bathroom and locked the door behind her. Sure enough, the man tried to get in, pounding and yanking at the handle. She held out long enough for a passerby to scare the guy off.

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26. I Smell A Rat

There’s a trail by my house where I go running all the time. Last fall I was out and noticed something hanging from a branch. Somebody made little twine nooses and hung like two or three mice from them. Absolutely chilling.

Abandoned Places FactsGetty Images

27. Silence is Worse Than Screams

I live in southeast Asia and have a distant relative in Sabah who owns a woodshed where our family vacations every year. He always says that jungles are ruled by different spirits, some good and bad ones. He also says that you should never ever track alone and never call anyone by their real names in jungle, because that's how the bad spirits will lure them.

He also says not to ever go into a forest with no sound or noise. Usually in woods there are birds chirping or animal sounds, but if there isn't, it means there is something so dangerous, be it spirits or tigers. It's their territory.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsGetty Images

28. Mommy & Me Terror

When I was in the Boy Scouts, I went to Big Horn leadership camp. On the second last morning of the trip, we woke up to someone screaming at us, imploring everybody in our campsite to stay in our tents. We had no idea what was happening, but I just used it as an excuse to sleep for another 20 minutes.

Right as I was about to pass out, a couple of massive shadows comes closer and closer to our tent. I just remember sitting there in dead silence as this THING comes up to our tent. I see an imprint the size of my torso start pressing into the tent for a second, sniff around the outside of my tent. After that it left just as soon as it came. Turns out there was a mama and baby moose roaming around the camp area. Those creatures are freaky.

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29. You’re The Orange of My Eye

One time I was hiking with a friend when I saw something weird in a tree. It looked like an eyeball surrounded by orange flesh. It made me feel really weird, and I couldn't stop staring and trying to focus on what it was. I hear my friend shout my name and feel her grab my arm. We'd been hiking on a tall ridge and I almost walked right off the trail and tumbled down the side of a mountain. Of course, I look back and the orange thing had vanished.

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30. Get Your Own Tent, Pepe

The first time I went camping by myself, everything seemed to go well. I fished a bit and read some books. When I went to bed, I got in my hammock and passed out. The hammock had a bug net around it but no tarp or anything. Very early in the morning I feel something touch my back. I woke up and was scared gutless since the shotgun was in the car (and thus not with me).

I peaked my head out to see what it was, thinking it was a bear but no... it was a skunk. The damn thing stayed around for like 20 minutes and I obviously didn’t want to get sprayed, so I sat still. Finally, it left. I unhooked everything, threw the hammock back in the car, and went home. Thankfully I didn’t get sprayed since to wanted to sell that car, and ultimately did.

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31. We’ll Always Have Leftovers

My friends and I were coming back to our camp site after a bike ride. The sun was setting so we started to get the fire going. Not too long after, we had a huge fire, dogs running around, cracking beers--it was a good time, until suddenly, my dog was VERY focused on something just below the hilltop's ridge. I knew something was there. My dog was basically standing guard, refusing to take her eyes off the area with all the noise. We promptly put all the dogs in our vehicles, knowing there are dangerous animals in the area. It's not uncommon to see cougar, wolf, and bear tracks, or the animals themselves. Wild horses are even seen in the area and grizzlies have been spotted as well.

As a group we walked towards the animal with lights, and whatever we could possibly defend ourselves and make noise with. We spread out wide, hoping that one of us would get a better view of whatever was making the noise. We walked maybe 30 feet down the ridge only to find that it was a tiny fawn or doe. It nestled itself in some leaves underneath a tree for a night’s sleep. I had shot off a couple of bear bangers in different directions hoping to scare away another animal, mainly for peace of mind.

The next morning, I walked down to see if the fawn had left for the day or was still sleeping. But instead of finding a small deer sleeping in the bushes, I saw pools of dried up blood, a small portion of the animal’s ribs spread about, almost the only thing still intact was the head. Something came through our campsite that night and killed the fawn without making even a whisper. I suspect it was a cougar, possibly tracking the fawn for quite a while.

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32. Under the Eye of the King

I was backpacking on a long weekend in the sierras. Even though it was beautiful, I felt like I was being watched. But I tried to enjoy the hike, took photos, admired the scenery, all that good stuff. As I was settling my pack, I looked up the cliff and saw a full-grown mountain lion, perched and watching.

I almost pissed myself in fear. I backed as far from the cliff as I could and started throwing rocks. It didn’t care about the ricks until I hit it with a golf ball-sized one and then fled. I hustled north on the trail and hiked until well after dark. I slept in a pine tree that night. It was not fun. I don’t hike out west anymore.

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33. Who Let the Dogs Out?

My wife and I were camping in Kentucky for a week. We were just boondocking, meaning we were the only ones around for maybe a mile, just camping where we parked. We had a beautiful site right next to a lake all by ourselves. Anyhow, one night at around 2am, I'm just watching the campfire die, contemplating life. My wife is already in the tent sleeping. All of a sudden, I start to hear sticks and leaves cracking in the woods next to us on both sides. I call out and no one answers.

That's when I see glowing eyes in the dark, three sets. Three big dogs (one looked like a St. Bernard, the other two looked like some type of boxer) come from both sides and stay in the outlying parts of our camp, kinda circling. My wife wakes up, and I tell her to quickly and quietly hand my bag to me. She does, and I grab my pistol out and hold it at low ready. I yelled at the dogs, and they stared for maybe two minutes before wandering off. Freaked the heck out of me.

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34. Only Room for One Family in This Park

My wife, our five kids, and our four dogs were camping at Big Trees State Park in California. We decided to let our youngest boys (eight years old) sleep in their own tent like their older siblings. My wife and I were awoken by our chihuahuas growling, but even though our labs were snoozing, we just couldn't get the little dogs to settle.

Then all of a sudden, I hear sniffing and breathing outside the tent wall, and the tent wall being pushed in. Dogs go nuts. Noise goes away. We scramble out of the tent and get our two eight-year olds and the teenagers and all climb back in the family tent. I laid awake all night long. Next morning the ranger came by our campsite and said a mama bear and cubs were roaming the park the night before. Yep. Right outside our tent.

Dumb Tourist FactsFlickr

35. A Flash of Confusion

I was in the Boy Scouts, camping at a popular summer camp. My buddy and are awake hours after lights out, just talking, when all of a sudden the whole camp lights up like daylight for about two seconds. Now I have no great explanation for this. Logically it's heat lightning (no thunder) but it wasn't flashing. It was like someone turned on a massive florescent bulb and then turned it off. Freaked us out as we're 15 years old and can't explain what we saw.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsShuttterstock

36. Two’s Not Company

I was car camping with my spouse and (two-year-old) son in the Ozark mountains, in a very remote campground on New Years Eve. No one around for miles! So, we settle in the back of our vehicle and watch The Fox and the Hound. We fall asleep. A few hours later, we see and hear a vehicle drive into the campground. They turn their engine off. We can hear talking and then they are quiet. No big deal, fellow campers. We can say hi and be friendly once the sun rises.

Note: there is only one way in and out and we are at the exit/entrance where we will see or hear anything. Also, I'm a very light sleeper.

Morning comes and me and my son “hike” the campground. It suddenly hits me that no one is there except for us. No vehicles or campsites set up... it appears that we were the only ones camping there that night.

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37. A High-Flying BBQ

When I was 16, my buddies and I were having an illicit campout in the woods nearby my village. Two dudes in their 30s turned up with two air rifles and four dead pigeons. They used our fire to cook their pigeons then vanished into the night.

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38. Some Natural Secrets Are Better Left Undiscovered

I was doing an internship and staying in a friend's basement. The house was far from town, in a mostly wooded area. Behind the house, about 50 feet away, was a mile-long path through the woods. I would walk the path on nice days. One night at dinner time, I mentioned to my hosts that I had seen what appeared to be a house in good condition about half a mile away.

It was set back from the path on the opposite side, with no obvious access to any local roads (I didn’t trespass, this was all that I could see from the path). So, I asked about it. One said: "Oh, that’s our neighbor. He’s a hermit and hardly ever comes out. Nice guy, but best to leave him alone." No problem.

A few days later I’m on the path and as I near the section where the hermit lives, something catches my eye: movement. I turned my head and saw a man completely dressed in white (pants, shirt, hat) slowly walking through what looked like a garden in his yard. He stopped and looked right at me, so I gave a friendly smile and short wave and kept on going. On my return, he was nowhere to be seen.

The next week I go out again. This time, as I get closer to the same section, I feel like I’m being watched. I slowed and listened very carefully, trying to casually glance around when I saw it: about 20 feet ahead of me, perched on top of a thin dead tree trunk, was a dirty and mutilated dolls head. I looked at it, made an obvious nodding gesture, deliberately turned around, and went the other way. I never walked that way again.

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39. When Nature Calls, You Better Answer

Back in Boy Scouts, I was with my troop at Philmont (which for those who don't know is in New Mexico). It was in the upper 80s and the sun was brutal, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the day we ran out of water (not fun, obviously), so we were staying hydrated and having a good time. Everything was totally fine until we got to the stop where we were supposed to do our conservation project.

One of my friends started feeling weird so he sat in some shade and myself and other scouts periodically checked to make sure he was fine. After a couple minutes, though, it got so bad that we had to radio in for an evacuation. He was cold, couldn't move his limbs, and could barely speak. I tried helping him as much as I could, and along with the staff there we kept him okay until the medical staff came with their four-wheeler to take him back to basecamp. By the time he got picked up he could walk a bit but still wasn't feeling well.

Turns out he was constipated. Make sure to poop, everybody.

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40. Stranger Danger in Any Range

I was doing some backcountry snowshoeing. A few miles in, I end up on a game trail through the woods. Then I see movement up ahead. Pretty quickly I can tell it's a man, heading my way. We stop to chat. It's pretty much standard practice on the backcountry. It could be a lifesaver if you're able to give rescue crews a more recent position and it breaks up the monotony of hearing nothing but your own footsteps. But immediately something is off about this guy.

He starts asking questions. Who am I? Why am I out here? Where am I from? Who am I with? I try to be polite and answer, but he's off-putting so I keep it vague. But he keeps pushing for details. I ask him the same questions and he deflects. He was sizing me up. I could practically see the gears turning behind his aviators. Our conversation ended abruptly when he reached for something on his belt and took a step closer.

I didn't react well. I almost tripped on my snowshoes. I unclasped my holster and had a hand on my gun. He paused, then said, "Well, I should get going. Stay safe." And he just took off. I stood there watching him for a minute, making sure he wasn't turning around and also just processing what happened. Then I started going again. I kept looking over my shoulder every couple of seconds.

Now at this point, I feel the need to say that it's pretty normal for conversation not to really flow in the backcountry. It takes a certain type of person to enjoy that environment and it's typically not the most socially competent folk. Sometimes they won't pick up on cues and ramble for an hour if you let them. Sometimes they're awkward or standoffish. Another thing is that just about everyone is armed (sometimes animals get desperate, better safe than sorry). So there are a lot of heavily armed, odd people.

But this one guy is the only one who's ever made me feel unsafe.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsFlickr

41. They Remembered How It Panned Out for Goldilocks

When I was a teenager, I lived near a very long creek trail and empty bushland. My friend and I headed there after school because I wanted to show her a bat colony nearby. I don't remember if I turned left when we had to turn right, or if we turned right when we had to turn left, but either way we never found the colony. This was before smartphones so we just followed the creek aimlessly for a couple of hours, hoping we'd end up somewhere familiar.

It was getting dark when she first saw it, a flash of red in the bushes. We have rosellas out here, but she swore it wasn't a bird. We were getting freaked out. But it got so much worse. The creek also had a bunch of huge, concrete cylinders, some with water, some without. Soon after my friend saw the red flash, she noticed that one of these cylinders wasn't like the others. It looked like someone was living there. We could see blankets, a shopping trolley full of miscellaneous items, and magazine cut-outs hanging on the concrete walls. Mostly of girls.

We didn't say anything to each other. We just started full-on sprinting.  It took about an hour until we saw wire fencing. We followed it to some kind of garbage yard. It turned out that we were a three-hour walk from our original starting point. I'm still not 100% sure about what happened that day, who lived in that cylinder, and what the red flash was. All I know is that my friend and I never went back.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsGetty Images

42. Lost in Friendship

When I was about seven years old, one of the kids in my neighborhood told me that he knew his way around the woods and hiking trails by my house. I was a kid and had nothing better to do so, I convinced my mom that we’d be fine. After all, my friend knew where we were going. I said we wouldn’t go far, and we’d be back in an hour or two and then off we went.

Spoiler Alert: He did not actually know where the heck he was going.

We realized we were lost after a couple hours, and the logical solution to seven-year-old us appeared to be to wander around and hope we got lucky and found the trailhead we came in through. We wandered for a few more hours, gradually losing hope as the sun began to set. I can remember being completely panicked and convinced I was never going to see my family again.

Eventually, and luckily, we came across a guy who had been out for a sunset hike. He actually had a map and knew where he was going. He walked us back to the entrance by my house in the dark. I made it home safe to an angry mother, who was about five seconds from calling the cops.

Nature-Walking Encounters FactsNeedpix

Sources: ,

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