04 Jan The Hot Springs
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"The Hot Springs"Written by
Estimated reading time — 16 minutes
A couple important things to note before I tell you about my experience: you are more than welcome to go check this place out for yourselves. Do a quick google search of “Diamond Fork Hot Springs Utah” and you’ll get hundreds of results telling you exactly how to get there (for those of you that are curious it is about an hour and a half drive from Salt Lake City). I would not, however, recommend that you go by yourself, or at night.
Another important thing to know is that where my experience took place and the land surrounding has a significant history, especially related to Native Americans. Unfortunately much of the recorded history is about the exceptionally bloody conflicts between these Native Americans and early settlers. Just a couple examples are Black Hawk’s War, the Provo war, and the Walker war. I also wish it to be known that I am quite fond of Native Americans and what I know of their culture, and I have absolutely nothing against them (in fact I have several close friends that have Native American heritage). I do not mean to offend or accuse by telling my experience, and I mention this side note only because of the possible link between my experience and various legends about so-called “skin walkers”. I will provide the facts and you can make of it what you’d like.
That being said, the Diamond Fork Hot Springs are a gem nestled a good half an hour drive and subsequent hike up the canyon and away from the city. I had been there several times before my wife Kenna and I decided to take a Monday off and hike there again this past winter. The springs are quite popular and during the summer they tend to draw a large crowd of college students, scout troops, and old men that are overly fond of publicly bathing nude. I had gone in the winter with my cousin several years previous and at that point we had the springs to ourselves, so I convinced Kenna to spend one of her days off hiking to them with me.
January 11th, 2016:
We began out hike just before 1 PM, thinking that this would give us ample time to hike to the springs, enjoy soaking for a couple hours, and get back to the car before sundown. I had hiked to the springs in the winter before, and knew that each winter the road is blocked off to cars well before the trail to the springs begins. This is due to snow (though honestly it seemed to me like it wouldn’t be hard for a plow to go the additional four-ish miles). I guess I forgot just how far four miles is when you’re walking through snow and ice. Nevertheless, we walked through the gate (the road was still open to hikers/snowshoers) and began our hike.
We enjoyed ourselves and took breaks about every 30 minutes, each break thinking that the trailhead must be around the next bend in the road. Shortly before our first break, I noticed a hole (cave would be too generous a term) in the side of the mountain to the left of us. It was obviously a man-made hole, as it was covered by a section of chain-link fence, but it still perked my curiosity. It was only about 30 feet from the trail, so I told my wife I’d like to check it out and she happily came up with me. Upon further investigation, we found that it was not much more than a boring hole. We used our flashlights to shine as far back into the hole as we could, but all we could see is some abandoned piping. After taking another 5 minute break, we continued on further into the canyon.
We walked, and walked, and walked. The time wore on and much earlier than we would have liked, our feet began to ache. I was beginning to regret insisting that we go on this adventure when finally we turned around a bend and saw the bridge that marks the trailhead. With newfound energy we rushed over to the sign with information about the various trails. At this point it was about 3:00 and I was beginning to become a bit concerned about having enough light to make it back before sundown. But we were already this far and we weren’t going to turn around before spending at least some time soaking in those springs. Plus we had flashlights just in case, and the way back to the car, albeit lengthy, was very straightforward. So we pushed forward knowing that we were well over half way there. Our strength seemed to diminish at an exponential rate, which was concerning because we’d have over a five mile hike back to the car. But I knew that we’d make it back somehow, perhaps with more frequent breaks than on the way up.
We soon began to smell the sulfur odor that was a sure sign that we were getting very close. We ended up seeing some bikers as we approached the springs. They were riding some of those “Fat Bikes” that have huge tires and are designed for the snow. We were happy to see them coming towards us, as this meant they were leaving and we would probably have the springs to ourselves. After letting them pass we hiked another ten minutes or so and finally reached the springs. I cannot explain how heavenly of a sight to behold those springs were. The combination of the milky blue water, the red rock with snow on it to our left and our right, the blue sky above, and the waterfall about 100 yards ahead were too much to take in at once. And best of all, we had it all to ourselves. We quickly stripped down to our swimming suits and hopped in.
It felt incredible, truly like stepping into healing waters. We relaxed for a bit and our noses quickly adjusted to the sulfur smell. Unfortunately our bodies also adjusted to the water temperature, and before long the water didn’t feel as amazingly warm as it did at first. There are a few places between the first spring and the waterfall further along the trail where water bubbles out of the earth and flows into a pool of it’s own, so I figured I’d check out a couple of the other pools and see if I could find a hotter one. I managed to climb up the runoff of some of the other pools, thinking that this would save my feet from freezing. It did, but in the process my feet slipped several times on the mossy rocks and were fairly banged up by the time I reached the other pools. To my delight these pools were significantly warmer, so I rushed back and beckoned my wife to come join me in these warmer springs. After a very brisk 30 second dash, we jumped in and I yelped briefly as I realized I may have jumped a bit too close to the mouth of the spring.
We soaked and enjoyed ourselves for about an hour. We ate some of the chips and granola bars that we had packed in and I downed a good deal of Cherry Coke (perfect drink for a hike, right?). At this point I had accepted the fact that for at least some of the hike back we would be in darkness and have to use our flashlights. From the springs it was hard to tell just how much the sun had set, since there are mountains rising steeply to both the east and the west and the sun is only visible overhead for around 5 hours in the middle of the day.
At about 5:00 we decided we really needed to get going, as much as we were dreading the hike back, so we dried off, took a few pictures, and headed out. Shortly after beginning the hike back I realized that my feet were immensely sore, and that my legs were already begging for a break. I mentioned this to Kenna and she mentioned that she was feeling the same. I could tell that we were both in a mood to complain, so I determined to try and keep the mood light and the conversation lively to distract us from our discomfort.
Things got very dark very fast. We hadn’t even reached the half-way point from the springs to the main road when we started seeing stars above us. We a couple flashlights with us, but I figured we should put off using them as we could since I had just grabbed them from my parents house and had no idea how long they’s last. I also hadn’t thought to bring extra batteries. All was well though, as our eyes had adjusted with the darkness and making out the snow packed trail wasn’t too difficult.
I could tell that Kenna was getting as tired as I was, so in an attempt to distract ourselves from our weariness, I asked her about a scary movie that she had seen with a friend a few days previous. As she told me the plot I began to feel a bit anxious and jumpy, but nothing more than what would be expected. It was part way through Kenna’s explanation of the plot, though, that I felt a surreal sinking feeling. It was as though my insides were being squeezed and I was descending into a state of panic. I generally don’t get overly scared when reading or hearing scary stories, especially if I know it’s just a movie, but this was different. I determined that this must be due to our circumstances, being isolated in the mountains far from anyone else with darkness surrounding us on all sides. From the beginning of the sinking feeling to attempting to justify it and brush it off was only a matter of seconds. I hadn’t realized it but Kenna had paused her explanation and hiked in silence for those few seconds, then hastily wrapped it up and moved on to another subject. I was secretly glad that she had finished so quickly, and figured that some discussion on a lighter topic would probably push out the overwhelming feeling of panic and paranoia that had overtaken me.
It was about at this point that I began to hear the whispering. There is a river that runs next to the trail and down about 5 feet in most places, and I tried to brush the noise off as the sound of rushing water. The thing that made me especially uneasy though was that the noise wasn’t just coming from the river to the left of us. It was coming from the right and from behind as well. Kenna had gone silent and again I hadn’t paid much attention as I was quite distracted by the noises. They started out very quiet, almost too quiet to even notice over the sound of the river, and slowly grew louder. They never grew loud enough to completely get rid of the doubt that they were actually there, but I was sensing a change in Kenna’s disposition as well. Shortly thereafter she said my name (which nearly made me jump out of my skin) and asked if I’d be okay taking a break. I tried to appear calm and said I would, though the feeling of panic was still as strong as ever. It seemed to scream that we needed to get away from where we were now.
We sat down in the snow and didn’t talk much. I think I mentioned something about how we must be getting close to the road, and that then at least we’d be on a wide paved road rather than this thin dirt trail. I didn’t dare ask Kenna if she was feeling or hearing anything, in part because I didn’t want to sound like the scary movie plot was getting to me, and more in part because I didn’t want her to confirm that the weird stuff going on wasn’t just inside my head.
Unfortunately the whisperings hadn’t stopped while we rested; in fact they seemed more real than ever. I was getting antsy and again anxious to at least be making our way towards our car and sure safety. I suppose it was more a desire to be making our way away from whatever was behind/around us. At this point I began to shiver, and pointing this out to Kenna, I suggested we keep pushing onward. I knew that I wasn’t too cold, at least not cold enough to make me shiver like I was. Put simply I was overwhelmingly terrified of the darkness around us and what it contained.
We hopped up and continued onward. All the time I was hoping and praying that we would see the bridge marking the trailhead and at least make it off of this dirt trail and back onto pavement. I knew that we would have a several mile walk back to the car after crossing the bridge, but there was something comforting about the thought of being on the wider road.
As we came upon a rather steeper part of the trail, recognized it as a landmark that was very close to the bridge. I decided we should pull out our flashlights for this portion. I didn’t want either of us slipping on ice or tripping on a root and falling into the river below (and among whatever else might be down there). We each took a flashlight and I decided to go behind Kenna just in case she started sliding backwards.
As we started climbing up I looked at down at the path and noticed the strange tracks that the bikes had left in the snow. I also noticed some other strange tracks that were going around and over the bike tracks: it looked like a small party of people with bare feet had gone through with a pack of large dogs. My mind was trying to put things together quickly, but was struggling. Those bikers had been the only people that we had seen, but these foot/paw prints were certainly from people that had come after the bikers. Another strange thing was that these prints were not only on the trail, but were left deep in the snow to either side, seeming to go off in random directions. Some tracks came to the trail, others left it, and everywhere there were large paw prints mixed with human footprints.
At first this came as a relief to me. My first thought was that there must be some very dedicated campers who had decided to bring their dogs along somewhere close by. The thought of some tough burly campers nearby in these forsaken mountains was like a ray of light to my mind. Then a point of confusion began to form, small at first but then very concerning. Campers don’t go hiking around in the snow in bare feet, and this point was much too far from the springs for someone to be walking around without shoes.
This thought process, from terrified to hopeful back to terrified and concerned happened within a matter of seconds. Kenna had stopped and turned to me and pointed out the prints in the snow as well. I tried to brush it off with a chuckle and a “yeah, what the heck are people thinking?”. But the look of concern on her face only confirmed that I was not alone in my worried thoughts. The panic was again overcoming me, and I wished more than ever that the whispering would stop. All I could say is “let’s go”, and we pushed on with even more determination than before.
I kept looking behind us, every time expecting to see something following. Each time before I looked back my stomach would do a flip, but not once did I see anything suspicious. We kept our flashlights on for the rest of the hike out, and at long last we saw the bridge ahead. We quickly crossed it and without a word continued onto the main road. Roughly four more miles and we would be safe and sound in the car.
To my immense relief, the whisperings seemed to quiet down now that we were on the road. My legs and feet were aching like the dickens, so I asked Kenna if we could take another quick break. She obliged, and I very quickly regretted making the suggestion. The river still flowed by the road, but it was not nearly as close as it was to the dirt path, and therefore didn’t mask any sounds. At this point the whispers, though quieter than they had been on the dirt trail, were very clear and undeniably existent. I stared back to the bridge wishing that this maddening noise and accompanying sense of extreme paranoia would go away. As I looked to Kenna to see how she was reacting to the menacing noise, I noticed she had her head in her hands and seemed to be shaking. I put my arm around her shoulder and pressed my head up against hers, and as I looked down I froze.
The snow we were sitting on was covered in human footprints, along with those enormous paw prints. Again, there seemed to be no method or destination in mind for whoever/whatever had been stomping around here. I shined my flashlight with a shaky hand in each direction, trying to figure out where these things had gone. I followed one set of footprints that ascended up the side of the hill to our right and saw that the human prints ended and those huge animal prints picked up right where they had left off.
I felt as if I was descending into madness. I wanted to cry. I began to feel angry towards these things. Was this some sick joke? I wanted to scream and call out these things to stop messing around get on with whatever they were going to do to us. More than anything I wanted this all to END.
With hot tears stinging my face, and with this newfound anger giving me a boost of energy, I pulled Kenna up by her hand and without a word we continued at a brisk pace down the road.
I could not shake the darkness. This was so much darker than anything I had experienced. It was horrible and overwhelming. Even the stars above seemed extremely dim. The darkness was pressing in all around us, above us, below us, and worst of all it seemed to be inside us. Strange thoughts entered my mind, wondering what acts of evil could bring such a feeling to this place… wondering if we had done anything to bring this upon ourselves. Was this some sacred place that we were trespassing on? Had we done something to offend these creatures?
Whatever the case, I hated this area and felt that I was beginning to give in to the evil ambient darkness that seemed to be consuming us. I wanted to give up. The thought entered my mind that embracing this evil might be the only way out.
Kenna saved me from my own thoughts. Her sweet voice pierced my dark thoughts and halted this internal spiraling. She had stopped and softly said my name. After taking a second to recover, I asked how she was holding out. She pointed off to the right, toward where her flashlight was shining on a patch of juniper bushes.
Again, that invisible hand seemed to clench my stomach and I froze momentarily. A pair of eyes were reflecting back at us. I tried to regain my composure, and after a few seconds I noticed that the eyes remained unblinking. I quickly realized that they were that of a dead animal. The awkward angle and lack of movement gave that away. As I continued to stare I realized that this was not just a single dead animal. There were five or so dead deer, and what made my stomach really churn was the amount of blood covering a large patch of the road. I turned away as the sight made me light headed and shifted my focus to the ground right in front of us.
Again the snow was covered in those cursed footprints, this time painted with blood. I’ll spare you the details, but let me say it seemed that these creatures had enjoyed themselves immensely at this horrid spot, and there were several trails of blood streaking the snow. Still focusing on the ground, I led us forward and to the left around this horrible scene of carnage, averting my eyes from the worst of it. I kept expecting to encounter the smell of rotting flesh, but it never came. I guess the deer carcasses were too fresh and the cold weather probably helped too.
Soon thereafter we passed a campground, a landmark that meant we were getting close to our blessed car. It was at this point that the hollering began. When I heard the first shout a chill went down my whole body, and I felt sick to my stomach. This was an inhuman shout, and it wasn’t far behind us. I looked back, nearly tweaking my neck in the process, but STILL I couldn’t see anything! It was indescribably terrifying! I wished that I could see something so that at least I would know what we were up against. Anything, I felt, would be better than being kept in this state of knowing something was there but not knowing what it was!
We hurried forward toward the car, our legs and feet protesting every step, and the hollering seemed to grow ever closer and louder. Every 20 seconds or so I would quickly scan to the left, right, and behind. Each time I hoped that I would see something to relieve me from this deranging state of not knowing. Still, I was terrified to the core of what I might see.
Finally, after hours of wishing we were here, we rounded a bend and saw our beautiful car. Never in my life was I so happy to see it. My moment of joy was cut short, however, as I did one of my brief scans of our surroundings.
Upon looking behind us, I saw several dark figures moving slowly towards us. A few had their heads raised, and I wondered what I had been thinking when I had wished that I could see what these creatures were. Each of them were humanlike in form, though they were unusually tall and walking on all fours. They were all covered in thick, reddish brown hair, and had bright red eyes that reflected perfectly in the dim light of my flashlight. I will never forget those eyes.
What terrified me to the very center and still haunts me to this day is the expression they all wore. Each that had their head up was staring right at me as they slowly crawled forward, and they were each wide eyed wearing a toothy grin. It felt as if they were boring inside me with their stares, and I was certain we were going to die. At this point I wasn’t afraid of death; I was instead terrified of what the alternative would be once they caught up to us. I could see an excitement and twisted joy in their faces, as if they were playing a favorite game of theirs, feeding off of our terror. And oh, how I wish I could describe the blackness that surrounded them! It was a blackness that was felt as much as it was seen. It was horribly fascinating, almost even enticing, but those terrifying creatures were so vile that at no point did I consider moving even an inch toward them.
At this point I nearly went berserk. Luckily Kenna hadn’t looked back yet, and was marching faithfully on toward the car. When I finally unrooted myself from the spot and found my voice, I cried out to Kenna to run and not look back. I had caught up to her at this point and she turned to look at me and possibly behind. I screamed “DON’T!” and she seemed startled by my state of near insanity. She looked forward toward the car again and we both sprinted straight for it, adrenaline overcoming weariness. We jumped in, slammed the doors, I fumbled with the keys and let off the clutch quicker than I intended, nearly killing the engine. The darkness seemed to be thickening by the second. As I unintentionally peeled out, flinging mud and snow all over, Kenna turned around and screamed. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the creatures mere feet from our car. Their sick faces were ecstatic with excitement, and their wide grins made me shout and put the pedal to the floor. Soon we were zooming along the canyon at about 40 miles per hour (very dangerous for such a small, winding road), and somehow these fiends were keeping up with us! Everything about them was incredibly unnerving, from their horrible gallop to those perverted smiles. I prayed that we would reach a straightaway where we could go faster and perhaps by some miracle outrun these beasts.
Out of the blue the darkness seemed to lift, the stars shone more brightly than they had all night, and I was overcome with relief. I looked in the rear view mirror, and saw the creatures, now far behind us, leaping up the sides of the hills to our left. It was still a sickening sight, but somehow I knew that they were done toying with us at last. We drove in silence for several minutes until we reached the highway.
What a sweet relief it was to see other humans. Seeing the warm glow of their headlights was like walking up to a hot fire after being cold. I turned to Kenna and saw that she was crying, and I in turn began to cry. We cried and hugged, but remained silent as we sat there next to the highway. There was nothing to say at this point. Shortly after getting back on the highway I noticed I was quite nauseous and shaky. I pulled over and threw up, and felt much better afterwards. At long last the paranoia left me, and I felt like a new person.
We got home around 7:30. We turned on all the lights, shut and locked the door, and stayed up all night. Neither of us wanted to sleep, so we stayed up holding each other tight and trying to distract ourselves with movies.
Neither of us talked about what we had gone through until well into the next day, when the sun was high and everything was bright. I could tell neither of us wanted to be the one to bring it up. I felt that if we talked about it, we would solidify that it really happened. But I finally brought it up and it was almost a relief to have it out in the open.
We’ve told a select few people about this experience, and much of it is still quite confusing to us. We still have some questions that may forever remain unanswered, such as what in the world were those creatures? What did we do to warrant their pursuit? They were certainly the quickest creatures we’ve ever seen, so why didn’t they catch up to us? What would have happened if we had tried to confront them?
All we know is that there is a serious evil presence up that canyon. And if you don’t believe me, you know where to find it.
Credit: Tyler T