sharing my adventures both big and small

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mysterious Noises in the Woods

I have many adventure stories to share, some are serious and some are downright hilarious. I think I will start off light before we get into the heart pounding stuff.

This one takes me back to high school.

When I turned 15 years old, my mom asked me if I was interested in joining a Venture Crew. Normally anything that a mother suggests to a 15 year old, the natural answer would be snapping back at her and telling "Hell NO!". Now I wouldn't say that I was the best behaved kid, but I also wasn't really much of a trouble maker in school, however my mom and I were like a couple of big horned rams battling it out on a slippery rock slope. We never agreeing on anything. As she told me more about the Venture Crew, I learned it was not about selling girl scout cookies door to door, learning underwater basket weaving and not being able to play with knives and fire. I also learned it was not just another boy scout club, but it was a co-ed outdoor high adventure group. These guys rock climb, white water raft, go backpacking, camp out and hike the high peaks of NY state. They even take a big trip every year to places like Alaska, Maine, Europe and Costa Rica. I was pretty intrigued. This was something that for once sounded like a good idea from mom. So I went to a meeting, met our leader Brenda an amazing woman who became a great friend and still is to this day, and a handful of boy scouts and a few tomboys. They were joking and telling stories, we all introduced ourselves and I found my nitch. I fit in. They became my "crew", well to be more specific Venture Crew #1507, and 1507 spells "LOST" upside down and backwards. Very appropriate number for a bunch of young "know it all" teenagers about to learn life's lessons in the great outdoors....

Its the end of June and the black fly season has about disappeared and the crew was going for a backpacking trip in the Catskill mountain park. We were headed to challenge ourselves on the Escarpment Trail. It's a very remote 23-mile long trail over rough terrain and ever-changing scenery of mixed hardwood forests, dark hemlock groves, downed trees beside swift flowing creeks, hardscrabble pitch pine at giant stone outcrops, and dotted with spruce-fir trees on the higher peaks. The trail crosses no roads and is extremely rocky navigating over boulders and gullies. It has total elevation changes of nearly 10,000 feet." . This trail offers a bit of everything, including false summits of Windham High Peak and Blackhead Mtn, an old stone saw mill building from the early logger days and even the remains of a prop plane crash off of Burnt Knob.

We set out for our 4 day adventure on an early Friday morning. My crew consisted of Brenda and Tom our leaders, Alicia and Melanie friendly and hilarious sisters, Andy a local and overly enthusiastic boyscout wearing a nine inch Rambo knife on his hip, Amanda a chipper fast hiker, Josh a friendly sweetheart whose gait was three times as big as mine, Joe who brought his hammock, and my best friend Matt who brought a block of Munster cheese, french bread and a pepperoni log for an appetizer before eating our freeze dried "beef stroganoff". Perhaps others joined us, forgive me if I forgot a name or two.

First day was tough, everyone felt that their packs were way too heavy, and we hiked Windham High Peak first thing. The trail was beautiful with waterfalls and blue jays darting around trying to catch the last of the black flies. Naturally the group split into two "the fast hikers" and the "trail sweepers" because no one likes to be called "the slow group". I started off in the fast group, then gradually ended up with the sweepers, which was great, for I had a camera and was snapping pictures of mushrooms, amazing 360 degree views of the Catskills and even a salamander or two.
By the time we set up our camp, we were on a ledge above 3500 feet, and NYS DEC law says we can't have an open fire so we were a bit bummed about that, but too tired to really care. We set up our tents and watch the sunset over the Hudson Valley below, a colorful red sky, meaning great weather tomorrow.

After Joe set up his hammock, Matt sliced up the pepperoni log, Andy and I found some water to filter we all found ourselves in our tents by 8pm exhausted from our first tough day. In my three man tent slept Alicia, Amanda and I.

We fell asleep very quickly. At about 1am I awake from a rustling noise outside. My eyes are wide open and I am trying to make out what the hell it is. Definitely an animal, and it sounded like a REALLY big animal. I closed my eyes and tried not to let my thoughts of giant man-eating grizzly bears and wolves get the best of me. No luck, my mind was telling me, BEAR, A BIG BEAR, A BIG MAN-EATING BLACK BEAR. I can't stand it anymore, then I turned to Amanda next to me and she was wide awake also. We flipped on our flashlight and Alicia woke up.
"Whats going on guys?" Alica asked.
"Do you hear that? That noise? Listen!" I said with a shaky voice.
We all listened and didn't hear anything. We waited for about 5 minutes which seemed like an hour, waiting and waiting for this sound again.
"I don't hear anything." Alicia said thinking Amanda and I have lost our minds.
"I swear I heard something, an animal outside our tent, really close!" I quietly said.
Then all the sudden I feel something pushing on the wall of my tent by my feet. Amanda does too. We both freak out and all three of us squish in towards the center of the tent. The noises started again, louder this grunting and snorting and pressing up against the wall of our tent.
"Oh my god!" Alicia said. "What the fuck is that? Is it a black bear?!!"
I was starting to sweat, a cold sweat, and we turned on the flashlight.
"Maybe we should make a noise and it will go away!" I said trying to be sure of myself.
Then Amanda finds her emergency whistle in her backpack. As she placed the whistle up to her lips she couldn't even blow into it because she was so frightened. It was like Rose floating on that piece of the Titanic trying to whistle for help after the ship sank. Pathetic.
Then Alicia said "JUST BLOW THE FUCKING THING!". And all at once Amanda blew the whistle loud and Alicia and I screamed "Go away, help!!" with fear!

We hear the rustling of tent zippers opening up and lights turning on all around us. "We think its a bear! Help!"
Andy bursts out of his tent with his rambo knife ready to take on a black bear, as Alicia unzippers our tent door a crack, all to reveal two porcupines screwing against our tent, apparently enjoying there evening.

We all are just shocked with our disbelieve. There was no bear. Not even a wolf. Not even a poisonous snake. Just a couple of porcupines and nature at its best.

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