Vir Silvae

December 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM

The estimated reading time for this post is 7 minutes, 34 seconds

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About 5 years ago I went on a vacation to Wrangell–St. Elias National Park in Alaska. The cool, fresh air, beautiful scenery, and vast expanses of wilderness seemed ideal for my vacation from a tedious desk job back home. I’d saved up for years to finance the trip. I wanted my stay to be perfect.

I left in late August to fly from my home in Alabama to Alaska. Everything was going great; my flight was smooth and I set out on my camping trip, alone, into the wilderness on September 1st. I hiked about 13 miles the first day and set up camp among a large area of Black Spruces. I started a small fire to cook some food around 6:00 pm. I still remember how I felt, overjoyed that I was away from my stressful life. I lay back on the ground, looked at the stars through the trees, and listened to the fire crackle. It was a while before I began to notice the quietness of the rest of the forest. No insects, no birds, no anything. All I could hear was my breathing and the fire, not even a breeze met the branches of the spruces. Later on, I’m not sure what time, I was woken up by a noise off in the distance. I’m not sure what it was, maybe a falling tree, but it was fairly loud. I didn’t hear it again within 5 minutes, so I went back to sleep thinking it had been part of a dream.

I woke up early in the morning just as the sun was coming up. I inhaled the fresh Alaskan air and got up to make some breakfast before packing up and continuing on my hike. By the end of the day, I had moved 9 miles from my original camping spot. It was a slower day, but I enjoyed taking my time and soaking in the scenery. I still hadn’t seen any signs of wildlife, however. I didn’t even see a bird flying above me or insects buzzing around. I didn’t dwell on it, though. I felt like I was in Heaven. At about 4:00 pm I saw the first sign of life in over a day, two hikers. They were coming the opposite direction of me, but they didn’t have any gear with them. We were miles from any civilization, so it was weird seeing anyone, let alone anyone with gear. They were moving at a fairly quick pace, and I ended up having to grab one of them as they went past to ask if they were okay because they didn’t even look at me. The guy I grabbed jumped and nearly started crying, then he looked at me and said, “Turn back. It’s still back there,” and then he jerked away with me, grabbed his friend (who had been staring straight ahead with a glossy look about him) and started walking away, still with a quick pace. I reasoned that the guys had been doing some powerful drug in the woods for fun and had started seeing things.

I set up camp and ate dinner pretty much the same way I had the night before, star gazing for a while before falling asleep. I woke up with a start several hours later to what I can only describe as a fog horn. It was low and very loud, and seemed fairly close as well. The noise echoed off of the trees, making it hard to tell where it had come from. I sat up, still sleepy, trying to wake up and figure out what was going on. I looked around, yawned, and was about to go back to sleep when I heard the sound again. This time it seemed much closer, but I still couldn’t tell where it was. After a minute or two, I heard trees moving off in the distance. I heard loud snapping noises, and branches rubbing against each other and shaking. I couldn’t give you an exact distance, but I think it was about a mile away. The first thing to come to my still-sleepy mind was “bear.” I jumped to my feet and began looked for anything to use to defend myself from this “bear” and ended up picking the hatchet I had brought.

This is what the noise sounded like, only deeper and in longer bursts.

I stood around in a defensive stance for a good 10 minutes before I heard the sound again, this time even closer. I heard tree branches, maybe the trees themselves, snapping in the distance. It was within a mile from me, now. It then began to dawn on me that what I was dealing with wasn’t a bear. My heart was beating furiously and my mind was racing to figure out what was making the sounds I kept hearing. I couldn’t think of anything. The horn-like sound sounded again, this time farther away than before. I stayed up the entire night, listening to it as it got farther and farther away. By sunrise, the noise had stopped. I ate breakfast and packed up fairly quickly; I had decided I’d hike back to the car I had rented and drive off, maybe stay in a hotel till I could get on the next plane home. It was still early, though, and I thought I’d go towards where I kept hearing the noises in hopes of finding out what they were. I got about 3 quarters of a mile from where I had set up camp when I found the first tree. It was completely snapped in half, falling in the direction my campsite was. I continued on, finding more and more snapped trees. They made a trail, almost, that I started to follow, not thinking about the daylight I was wasting moving along the fallen trees. The trail went on for miles, filled with nothing but fallen trees and weird holes, like if a tree had been uprooted, all along the trail as well. I figured whatever had been here had started throwing trees as well as knocking them over.

By the time I noticed it was getting dark, I had almost reached the end of the trail. I kept walking, exhausted from my sleepless night, not even noticing when the trail stopped, and decided to set up camp for the night next to a large, tall tree. It was much larger than the spruces surrounding it, it looked nothing like any evergreen I had ever seen, and its trunk was blacker than the night sky. I decided the tree had been a victim of a fire. It had plenty of branches, and my idea of setting up camp near it was so I could climb it in case whatever had been knocking over trees decided to come back. At the top of the tree was a hole, similar to one you might find in any tree, and it looked large enough for me to climb into and hide in if I could reach it. I set up my plan, ate a little bit of food, and then passed out, planning on heading back as soon as I woke up.

I’m not sure how long I slept. I must have fallen asleep at around 8:00 pm, so it must have been about 3:00 am when I woke up. I was asleep on my back, clutching the hatchet in one hand, when I felt the ground tremble. Whatever it was was close. I was pretty disoriented at first from being woken up, but I soon got a hold of my senses. I clutched the hatchet even harder and tried to open the tent I was in when an extremely bright light appeared right above me. It was blinding, partly because it was just a bright light and partly because my eyes were only adjusted to the darkness. I somehow managed to get the tent open with the full intent of running as fast as I could, and as soon as I did I looked up, trying to get a quick look at whatever it was standing over me. A bright, yellow light was coming from a large oval hole in what appeared to be the tree I had planned on climbing. Only the tree was, at least it was supposed to be, about 10 feet away from me. The light hovered, I think, about 70 feet above me. I didn’t look much longer because I got out and started sprinting through the woods as fast as I could manage. I lost the hatchet at some point, but I don’t think it would have done me much good.

As I ran, I began to feel the ground quake like it did before, at intervals of about once every 5 seconds. Whatever it was, it was gaining on me, but I didn’t have time to think about that because the noise sounded behind me, and it was incredibly loud. I tried to scream, make any noise, really, but nothing came out. Then I ran right into something and fell and tumbled to the ground. I immediately tried to get up and keep running, but soon realized I was tangled up in someone’s tent, which had apparently been abandoned. It was then that I realized I was once again bathed in the yellow light. I looked up to the light, shielding my face with my hand, and got a better view of what had been following me. The tree I had camped by was standing in front of me, bent so that the light, from what was apparently the hole I had planned on hiding in, sent a beam down directly on top of me. The trunk of the tree (if you can still call it one) was split to form what could only be described as legs, each making a rather deep imprint in the earth, like what I saw along the trail of broken trees. The “tree” also seemed to have arms, or long, thin, branches that hung loosely by its side. The thing stood there, unmoving, and seemed to just stare at me. The light soon became rather pretty and nice to look at, but then the “tree” made that awful noise again, and I snapped out of my trance.

I got up and started running again, maybe even faster than before. I kept running till morning came, and then I kept going till I reached my car. I’m not sure when it stopped following, when it stopped shining its light at me, when it stopped making that horrible noise, but I didn’t care. When I made it to my car, I immediately got in and drove off in the direction that I’d come in from. I nearly wrecked several times from exhaustion, but I didn’t want to stop and risk meeting that thing again. I eventually made it back to civilization and got the first plane back home. I didn’t sleep well for the next few weeks. I live in a fairly wooded area, though I have plenty of neighbors, and had to keep the blinds on the windows closed to keep from seeing the woods outside my house, fearful that the black tree I saw would be standing among the pines and oaks. I still have nightmares.

Credit To – Chapman