Bizarre and Interesting Hikers on the Trail

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Have you ever meet any interesting characters while out on the trail? Do you have any good stories about an encounter with a strange or unusual hiker? I’d love to hear about them.

I have three stories I’d like to share: one was a bit unsettling at the time, one that was truly absurd, and the other a unique and interesting one.

Back in the mid-Eighties I did a short evening hike with a small group to one of the overlooks in Red River Gorge in central Kentucky. Just before reaching the Chimney Rock overlook, an extended Vietnamese family passed us heading back towards the trailhead. We exchanged greetings, thought they looked like nice enough people, and didn’t think anything more about it.

Roughly fifteen minutes later we began hearing some shouting from at least two different locations in the valley below us. Although we couldn’t understand what was being said, it didn’t sound particularly friendly. Another thirty minutes or so passed before we decided to head back up the trail before it got too dark. We hadn’t walked too far when three guys, dressed in full battle fatigues, with war-painted faces and large hunting knives sticking out of their belts, approached us from the opposite direction.

Red River Gorge is in the Daniel Boone National Forest where hunting isn’t allowed. So, obviously, these guys weren’t hunters. Needless to say we were a little taken aback as they approached us. They proceeded to ask us if we had seen any “gooks”, which was a common disparaging term used to describe North Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War. We immediately knew who they were looking for. Although we had just passed the Vietnamese family less than an hour before, we played dumb and told them we hadn’t seen anybody.

To this day we have no idea what was going on that evening in the Gorge, but I can say with certainty that it didn’t appear to be a good situation.

My absurd hiking story occurred in the Grand Tetons a few years ago. We were hiking the Cascade Canyon Trail when we came upon a large group of people making a great deal of noise. The “leader” of this group, a muscular guy without a shirt and wearing a bandana, whom we appropriately nicknamed “Rambo”, was banging the ground with an extra-large stick. He and his group of about ten were all yelling at a young black bear walking just in front them along the trail. Recognizing their accents, we assumed they were tourists from Germany.

The absurd part of this story is that the bear didn’t care how loud these people yelled. He continued strolling down the trail at his own leisurely pace. With the Germans leading the way, we literally followed the bear for at least a mile before the bear decided he had had enough and meandered off into the woods.

My final story occurred on the Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. About a mile into the hike we came across a group of about 30 Buddhist monks from Vietnam, all dressed in traditional clothes. They were taking part in a Buddhist monk convention in Estes Park and decided they wanted to do a little hiking in the mountains. We spoke with a couple of them and even had a picture taken with one of them. They were all very friendly. It was one of the most unique and memorable hikes that I’ve ever been on.

What about you? Do you have any interesting, bizarre, or unique hiking stories?

Jeff Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, hiking gear store, and more.

1 comment

Green Sheaves said...

Most memorable character for me, (doesn't hold a candle to yours!) - I met a retired admiral (US Navy) who could out hike most half his age (he was in his 70s). He couldn't understand why we couldn't keep up with him. He used two hiking poles as a skier on a slope, long legs, long strides- an inspiration!