Back in December of 2001. About 3 o’clock in the morning, I went hiking near the Burkhead mountains wilderness in North Carolina and headed towards a tree stand that I had hanged deep in the woods. It was a 2-hour hike in, and I wanted to be in the stand before sunrise so, a hunter has to do what a hunter has to do.
About 1.5 miles into the woods, I was hiking through an area where the trees opened up a bit. The moonlight was coming into the forest well. Everything was bathed in a silver light that was bright enough to see well. In North Carolina, you cannot use a flashlight when hunting, not even for navigation purposes; the rangers will bust you quickly.
Sudden coming from the darkness, I hear some commotion coming towards me, and it stops a few feet in front of me. I was crouched down, holding my rifle in the direction of the sound. Everything goes quiet, my pants are mere seconds away from getting soiled, and I hear it. A buck snort nearby. Dang, deer scared the piss out of me. I continue towards my tree stand.
I have spent a lot of time in the woods in my life, and I was a little embarrassed that I had gotten so scared, but it honestly sounded like a herd of horses coming at me. I got to my stand with no other weird things going on. Obviously, the woods are just the woods; there is not much out at night in those parts other than a few bears.
After getting into the tree and getting everything set up, I settle down to let the forest get quiet again. You do not realize how much you stir up when you are walking through the wilderness. Not until you stop and listen to everything calm back down.
Around 5 am, I was sitting in my tree stand, nodding in and out of sleep, when I look up near the top of the mountain, and I see a light shining. I sat there looking at it, wondering who could possibly be up by the ridge.
Maybe it is the game warden. Great, he’s going to ruin my hunt. It would not be the first time a warden scared everything off and ruined my morning.
Only giving the light partial attention, I began to focus on the darkness around me. Listening to the wind, as something scurried in the leaves, the forest was coming alive as dawn neared. I was waiting for my game to make an appearance. Everything was normal that morning except my weird encounter with what I assumed was a charging buck and the light up the hill.
I suddenly noticed that the light appeared either closer or brighter. I couldn’t tell which one in the darkness, and it caught my attention fully as I watched the light. Then, finally, I came to the determination that it was indeed moving down the hill in my direction. Strangely the forest had gone completely silent as well.
This was not the first time in my life that the woods had gone silent when I was in them, and it also would not be the last, but those are another story for another article.
Watching this light get closer and closer down the hill, I could not help but get an awful feeling that I should not be in the woods. That something was wrong. I considered getting out of my stand and tearing through the forest like a mad man, but something else held me in place.
I watched as this ball of light came closer and closer; there was no sound. No engines, no footsteps, no disturbance of the dry crunch leaves beneath it, just complete silence. It was silent, and the darkness was silent; all I could hear was my heart beating rapidly in my ears.
I sat motionless and absolutely quiet as the light passed directly under my tree stand. It did not slow, stop, nothing, just kept moving down the hill. I sat there watching it, afraid to move until it had moved entirely out of sight, and even then, I only dared shift slightly to face that direction better.
Time To Go
I sat in that stand that morning, staring at where the light had gone until the sun came up. With the rising of the sun, the forest came back to life with sound and the feeling of dread I had suddenly left me. I climbed out of my stand and ran. Call me a coward if you want, but my only goal was to get out of those woods.
Almost 20 years later, and I still have never gone back into those woods. My tree stand probably still sits up against that tree rusting away. Instead, I have led a life full of strange events, some creepy, some just odd. One of these days, I will tell you about the haunted house I live in at one time.
This is not a made-up story; it is something that scared that piss out of 18-year-old me. A young man that spent his life in the woods before and since. And honestly, I have never met anyone that spends a lot of time in the wilderness that does not have at least one strange story to tell.
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