Running with Ghosts

The Ghost of Maria Marten, who was murdered in...
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A few months ago I wrote about one of my many forest ghost encounters.

But I found an equally frightening one when I was clearing the boxes of old books from my closet.  While reaching for a box, an old journal I used to keep when I lived in Santa Cruz, CA tumbled down from the shelf. It popped open onto an entry I tried to forget. The penciling was faint on brittle pages, but the memory of the encounter was vivid and sharp.

“It happened around dusk along the narrow trails at Fall Creek.  My run took a little longer than I anticipated. Started too late. It was getting dark fast.  I remember hearing the wisps of air flowing in and out of my lungs, the drips of water gliding over the stones, the chirps of birds flitting from the limb to limb, and the creepy low groans of the redwoods bending in the wind. I think that’s how they speak to each other.

Up to that point, it was a great autumn run. The temperature was perfect, there weren’t any bugs or hikers on the trail. I felt really good, happy to be alive. But then something wasn’t right.  A bolt of fear shot through my chest.  It drained me; I felt empty, alone, and afraid. An image took over my minds eye: a latino man in overalls was running away. He was bleeding from a board to head or something; he was caked in pale, grey dust. I felt his panic. He was frantic. Trying to escape.  It was strange. I felt like my mind was being controlled, the images were being inserted into it. I had no choice but to look. When I closed my eyes the vision was brighter, when I kept them open, I could see normally, but the images were still there, simultaneous. I could see them and the trail, but they were separate.

Suddenly, I heard someone, someone REAL, running toward me on the trial.  I watched in terror as the bushes onto the trail spread open and the man who was in mind burst from them. He charged toward me, but didn’t seem to recognize of perceive me;  I jumped off of the trail to let him pass. As he ran, he kept turning his head to see behind himself. Soon, I knew why. Two men also in overalls and covered in the same pale dust were chasing him. They were thick, burly, men with strong jaws and crooked noses. One had a heavy bludgeon of some sort, the other a hammer. They too didn’t seem to notice me as ran past me. My heart was blasting, but I decided to run in their direction anyway. As soon as made it around the corner, I saw the two larger men standing over the latino. His head was was a mess of gore and bone. The two men just stood over him satisfied, there bloodies tools swinging gently back and forth. I said, “Hey! Hey!” But they remained where they were. I came closer, “Hey!, Hey!” I yelled. As they turned, piece by piece each one slowly merged into the scenery. The dark stains in their overalls became the weird shadows of leaves, mangled head resolved into the red moss and mud, the filthy hair became pine needles.

I sprinted the rest of the way to my car. Just as I got to my car the light was gone; the forest was black. It was good to be off the trail; those weren’t the only spirits lurking is the darkness. ;0)

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Don’t Let the Trail Pass You By

Taken from Ecola State Park, a photograph look...
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My wife and I hiked to Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. I, of course, took off my sandals and walked bare. I got the usual stares from people who passed us by.

When there’s nothing between you and the trail, you automatically slow down and savor each step. I was cautiously walking over packed dirt and hard hard sharp pebbles when a group of teenagers blasted past me. They were hiking at a furious rate and seemed to in a hurry to get to the beach. I looked at their Marshmellow shoes and watched as they blindly rushed over the rough terrain that was slowing my pace. The whole trail must have felt the same to them. All one rubber bounce. No texture, no temperature, no sensation of wet or dry. What’s the point? You can walk fast anywhere.

Hiking is more than just a stomping over rocks and dirt. It’s about connecting and experiencing the place. Don’t let the Trail Pass You By: Tread Bare.

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