Date- February 24, 2020
Distance Traveled Today- 7.7 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 111.8 miles
Weather/Temp- Rain, fog, 50s
Pain level- Zero
Spirits/Morale- Glad to be dry.
Wildlife encounters- Turkey x 2
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 0
Something very strange happened last night. I don’t really know how to explain it, nor do I know what even happened. Katana woke me up suddenly by standing on top of my chest to balance herself – in the hammock. In my grogginess of having just been roused from a deep sleep, I was very annoyed. But then I noticed she was perked up at full attention, focused on something directly behind me. I came to my senses immediately and listened. No sound. I twisted in the hammock to look back, and there was a very bright golden glow of light coming from directly behind us. It wasn’t shining at or into the hammock – it just sort of hovered in the distance. I kept trying to lean out far enough to see the source, without opening one of the zippers and making a bunch of noise, but I couldn’t. No less than 15 seconds after I noticed the light (after I began to feel a little bit of dread creep in) – it abruptly disappeared.
There was no sound. I checked my phone and it was 2:23 am. I became rather perplexed and perturbed about what had just happened. There was no trail or road directly behind us. Just blankets of leaves in the forest. There I sat for over half an hour intently listening, not hearing a single noise out of place. No vehicle… no footsteps in the leaves… no voices. Nothing beyond that bright golden light which had briefly and soundlessly emanated, before disappearing. What disturbed me even further is that Katana, my blind dog, was well aware of the light and its location – despite the absence of a single sound that I could detect. If it wasn’t for Katana getting my attention, I would never have woken. What’s more baffling, is the light wasn’t being directed into our area. It was just like a bright glow from a centralized location. Similar to a campfire, except this was no campfire glow because it was steadily and uniformly emanating outward in every direction – not directed like a beam.
I have no explanation for what it was or what it could be. I know I was awake and not dreaming. This morning I double checked that area of the forest. There was no way there could have been anything emitting that much light, so steadily and unwavering, unless it was coming from some sort of vehicle. But there was no way for a vehicle or person to have been in that area, without making a sound. I just don’t know… The main source was coming from a point that was level with our height, and not too far away. If it had been any further than a hundred feet, it would have been down in a holler out of sight – or up on a ridge several hundred yards away. I want to say there is a rational explanation for it, but I can’t find one. I’m thinking to myself… should I be worried?
For as much time as I’ve spent in the woods, this is only the second potentially paranormal event I’ve experienced. It’s not even a thought that crosses my mind when I’m in the back-country. However, it’s a hell of a shocker when something so obvious and larger than life takes place, and you can’t even begin to dream of an earthly explanation. I’ll just say it again… I don’t know.
It was raining steadily when I awoke. I laid in the hammock for an hour listening to the falling raindrops, before forcing myself to pack up under the rain fly. I’ve got my “breaking camp in the rain” technique down to a science. I don’t get a drop of water on my gear or myself until the final minute of the breakdown, when I collapse the tarp. Then, depending on how hard it’s raining, I either hold the umbrella while I break down the tarp… or put the umbrella over my pack while I breakdown the tarp.
The rain was relentless from the moment I woke up to the moment we got into Heflin. I hit the trail with Katana on my shoulders around 9 am to discover the path was a slippery and flooded mess. When it crossed a road called the “Skyway Mtnwy,” I checked the map and found that the Skyway would take us 5.5 miles to the trailhead on Hwy 9 into Heflin. I took the easy way out from the flooded trail and carried Katana the 5.5 miles on the paved road. It was eerie because the road looked almost brand new, yet during the two-plus hours we walked in the downpour, not a single vehicle passed by.
It was a little after 11am when we reached Hwy 9 and took shelter beneath an overpass. Rumor on the trail said you could call the City Hall in Heflin and they’d send somebody out to pick you up. As it turned out, this was true! No more than 15 minutes after a quick phone call, a man in a pickup truck named “John” came and scooped us up. He took us to the only motel in Heflin.
I met up with Chris at the motel a couple hours later, after having lunch at a Mexican joint called “Vallarta.” Chris is waiting on a new pair of shoes, and is refusing to hike until they arrive. I don’t blame him. He ordered them for overnight delivery, so he can get back on trail as soon as possible.
For as rugged as Katana can be, the Little Dog sure does enjoy the finer things in life. As soon as we got in the room, I set her on the bed. One whiff of those fresh(ish) motel sheets, and she was rolling around while snorting her approval and burying her face in them. She knew it was rest and relaxation time where we didn’t have to be on top of each other constantly.
Chris and I met for dinner at a place called “Damn Yankees,” a self-titled whiskey bar with an eclectic menu a mile long! It was the last thing you’d expect to find in a small backwater Alabama town. We ordered everything from calamari – to wings – to catfish and poboys, while the owner tried to talk us into ordering crab legs as big as our arms. They really did have everything on the menu, and it was all superbly delicious.
As for the name, I’m not sure if they were referring to themselves as the “Damn Yankees,” OR… if they were simply declaring that “Yankees be damned.” I didn’t ask. Where I’m from, some people consider everything below the Mason Dixon line and East of Beaumont to be “the South.” However, there are others in my neck of the woods who would proudly declare that anything north of Interstate-10 and West of the Mississippi is “Yankee Land.” In the case of the latter, then Heflin would be firmly planted in the Union of their mind. I guess it all depends on your upbringing and perspective. Although I must admit, debating over where the boundaries of the “true South” lie can be a fun conversation; especially when had with someone who considers themselves a true southerner. It seems the further south you go, the smaller the boundaries get. All in good humor, of course!
I don’t watch a lot of television these days. Actually, I don’t really watch any television except when I’m in a motel off a trail somewhere. A commercial came on while I was lying in bed this evening. A commercial for something I never would have expected to exist except in satire. An advertisement for “Kentucky Fried Doughnuts” at KFC. Fried chicken sandwiched between two fried glazed doughnuts!?. Am I living in the twilight zone? No, just the year 2020. Life imitating art, because this idea never should have left the drawing board to become commercially available. I digress. Also, I wonder if there will be a KFC near this trail…