“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Some light reading.

I was listening in on Coast to Coast AM last night.  One of the segments concerned the amazing number of people who disappear in national forests here in the U.S.each year. I knew that sort of thing happened because I live on the border of a vast national forest, and we have people go missing every year. Most of them are eventually found, though it's most often years after they vanished and in the form of scattered bones. Hunters find most of them.

Part of why we get so many is the Appalachian Trail.  It runs through the mountains here, and it attracts  psychopathic, mentally ill individuals like stink draws flies. In my county alone in the last few years there have been a number of ghastly murders up on the trail when hikers were set upon by crazies.


You also get the day trippers who think that the trails here are like city park paths. They go out with no equipment, no supplies, no map, no nothing.  They don't tell anyone where they are, where they are going, or when they'll be back because they are just going out for a few hours.  Nobody even knows they are missing until the park rangers notice that their car has been at the trail head for a long time.  By then the "hikers" have often already expired through accident, cold, exposure, or being yaffled by some of the less congenial denizens of the deep forest.

That's all pretty normal.  There have been some odd disappearances, though. People who have grown up here, and are skilled in wood lore who go out to hunt and don't come back. People who are driving down the old forest service roads and don't come home. Some of those make interesting stories, especially since the mountains are full of myths and legends about the forest. Most come from the Cherokee and some, I suspect, were brought here by the Scotch Irish (or, Scots Irish if you are from the U.K.)

I ordered the book above after the radio program caught my interest. Have to stave off winter boredom.

24 comments:

  1. Hey Harry,


    (captaincrunch)

    I call many of those who disappeared 'natural selection' except for the experienced woodsman.

    Down here its swimmers that drown in the rip currents. I saved a fishermans life about ten years ago when he was on foot and got caught up in a rip current.
    If I was not their with my surfboard he would have floated out and sank.

    It happends several times a year....

    We use rip currents to carry us out with our boards. Its easy and safe if you know what your doing. I would strongly advise its against anyone else trying what we do unless they are on a Kayak or boat.

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  2. I expect a lot of people drown and just float off to become fish food. I'm not big on swimming in the ocean for that very reason. There have been a great many strange occurrences at sea where people disappeared and they are interesting to read about. Remember the old Alan Parsons song that contains the lyrics "how long has it been,Marie Celeste?"

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  3. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    check this out....

    http://www.grindtv.com/action-sports/surf/post/surfing-instructor-joins-fight-against-isis/

    I know this is a little off topic but I thought it was interesting.

    I wish this guy well and admire what he is doing. Nobody really cares in the government about what Isis is doing, hell I think they are supporting them so they can overthrough 'Assad and run those natural gas pipelines from Saudi to Southern Europe I told you about.
    The feds use a few drowns to knock a few targets out here and there but I think maybe we need to 'rent' the French Foreign Legion or some other 'merc groups' and get some real 'throat cutters' on the ground with some serious hardware and air support from helo's and A-10's.

    Let me steal a line from the tv show "Breaking Bad'

    there are no 'half measures'

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  4. Walter White. My kind of hero. I'll take a look.

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  5. Too many people go to the woods expecting a Disney experience.

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    1. Cody Lundin prefaced one of his books with the story of a businessman who went for a walk in the woods after checking into this hotel. He didn't tell anyone where he was going, when he'd be back. He disappeared and wasn't found until much later, dead. People with no experience of the real forest tend to equate it with parks in an urban environment, or the scenery they see driving down a road. That's a mistake.

      After I retired, I worked one summer at a national forest park center, on one of those senior work programs where you get a job but it doesn't pay enough to cover your expenses. Still, it gives you something to do, and coworkers to visit with. I hadn't quite adjusted to being retired at the time.

      We had numerous incidents where people would come up from Atlanta in their sandals, Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts to go "hiking" on a 14 mile loop trail through some rough terrain. You had to sign into the station to go out on it,and you had to have a list of rudimentary equipment to make the hike, but people would just ignore that, go directly to the trail head, and skip "checking in" so no one knew they were out there. Sure enough, they'd get lost and you'd get some cell phone call from a moron saying "I'm lost in the woods!" Night would be coming on, and they had no gear, food, nothing but their little cell phone. Then everybody had to jump through hoops, getting the rescue squad out to look for them, and sometimes even the DNR helicopters depending on the circumstances. I took one of those calls once that pretty well sums it up. The man was all panicky and demanding that "someone" come and get him and his girl friend. To try to figure out where they might be, we always asked the callers what they could see. This clown said "I am standing next to a tall tree." Well, no sh*t, Sherlock. That's why they call it a forest.
      I could hardly believe it.

      The other interesting thing was that people almost never expressed any appreciation for being extracted from the situation their own idiocy got them into. Instead, they'd come back to the ranger station and berate the park ranger because the "trail wasn't well marked" or "it should be gated to prevent people from going out without signing in" (this from some A.H. who intentionally went out there early so he could get on the trail before the station opened and not have to sign in.

      I never really had a very high opinion of the average human being anyway, but one summer at that park was an absolute revelation to me. You'd get people who hadn't walked any further than from their parking spot to their desk in 20 years, and they'd go out on a 14 mile loop, half of it up a steep mountain and the other half down a steep mountain. When they gave out, they'd either call or send someone down to the station and demand the rescue guys come carry them out on a stretcher. Our rescue squad was operated by the county, and the young men and women on it got $15.00 a job each. Not much for carrying some obese blimp through rough terrain in the woods on a stretcher.

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  6. We hiked in the mountain which is in downtown Hot Springs, right in the middle of town. Now you won't get lost but there are bear warning signs and I'm sure you better be careful because no one can see you in most of the areas. Being in town they likely have some illegal behavior happening there that you would not want to walk in to.

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    1. I have a hearty respect for bears, but I'm a lot more concerned about the mentally ill who seem to haunt the trail. From time to time I post a picture of myself and the dogs walking on the trail, or camping out there when I still did that. I'm always armed, and though the dogs are good companions their primary purpose is to warn me of anyone or anything in the dense scrub that often borders the trail here.

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  7. The AT up here in NH claims a fair number. Had a serial killer in the mountains a few years back. Also, they drive up from a sunny day in Boston and experience winter conditions -in summer. Mt. Washington does have the worse weather in the world.

    Then there are those disappearances that are just plain weird and make no sense.

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    1. We had a woman who was out jogging on a county road, and she just vanished into thin air. Not the slightest clue except that the Sheriff's people found her running shoes by the road. Some years later they found what was left of her up on the trail, though it took a while to get a positive DNA identification. Then sometimes, people just go out there and never come back, and there's never hide nor hair seen of them again.

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    1. Oddly enough, there's a little town on the other side of the mountains that was featured in one of those "Big Foot" shows Discovery Channel does. You know the cheesy one's where all these guys run around in the woods, making weird noises, and pretending they hear Big Foot out there. But in this case, a Deputy Sheriff was driving down a back road and his dashboard camera was on. Right in front of the car, "something" comes roaring out of the woods and lops across the road. He almost hit the animal.

      It wasn't a bear and nobody knows what it was. Here in the Smokies, the Cherokee had legends about Ushinka, a forest dwelling creature who liked to hang around outside villages and pick off women and children out foraging, or gobble up the odd lone hunter. Who knows?

      My two brothers both believe in Big Foot. They were camping in the Sierra Nevadas and they say they got a good look at one near their campsite. My youngest brother (who makes me look like a paragon of virtue in the temper control field) flies into a rage to this day if anyone makes fun of him about it. However, as I pointed out to them when this tale first came to light, the fact that both of them had been punishing the Jose Cuervo for hours prior to the "sighting" somewhat diminishes their credibility. They were both know for getting buzzed around the old camp fire in those days.

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  9. That would be an interesting read. I have read a lot about the AT. We hike it sometimes - it isn't far from us.

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    1. I think I will enjoy the book. I like the forest here but I wouldn't go prancing around in it unprepared. I expect a lot of people who disappeared were doing that.

      The Appalachian Trail here is like the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It isn't really one path, but several that loop and twist around the main trail. I think a lot of people who turn up missing get on one of those other trails and then get lost. There's a lot of national forest out there, no houses, no roads, no nothing but the deep forest.

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  10. It happens all along the AT. In this day and age of modern GPS and other electronics like the SPOT and In-Reach tracking device there is really no reason for folks to get lost without leaving a trace. Many of these satellite trackers are now available on smart phones leaving a bread crumb trail on a web site showing your last location and alerting preselected contacts if there is no movement after a predetermined time. Yet it still happens which leads me to believe foul play in many cases. Again who would be foolish enough to go out there without a handgun? Plenty it seems. Here in Maine we had one elderly lady from Tennessee that dissapeared last year just as she was about to finish the AT through hike.
    http://www.pressherald.com/2014/06/18/search-resumes-for-maine-hiker-missing-since-last-july/

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    1. We had an incident a few years ago that changed the state laws. It was in all the papers and major news networks and for awhile our little town was famous, though not for a good reason.

      A young woman from Atlanta went for a hike on the trail. She was a concealed carry holder, but the State Assembly had passed a law saying no guns in the state parks, even for CCW permit holders. That was inspired by whining from the city Democratic representatives, who never set foot outside Atlanta anyway but what the hell, it was a way to get some face time on local news and chip away at gun rights.

      So the girl went out on the trail, and she got jumped by a crazy man who had already killed a forest ranger at a park in Florida and was hiding out in our mountains. She tried to fight him (she had a black belt in judo) but he just knocked her flat with a police baton. Three days later, he got tired of her and decapitated her. When he was captured, our state prosecutor made a deal with him to show where her body was in exchange for the state not seeking the death penalty. He bragged about what he had done and was happy to share all the horrific details. However, Georgia had not promised not to extradite him to Florida, which we did and now he is waiting to get fried down at Raford, and the sooner the better.

      After that, there was such an uproar in the rural districts that the law was changed and now CCW permit holders are allowed to carry in state parks legally. Since the trail passes through state parks that's important. Not that some people didn't just say "sc*ew the politicians in Atlanta" and carry anyway, but that poor young girl didn't.

      You'd be amazed at the old couples who go out on the trail completely unprepared. They tend to be professional people, who haven't had a whole lot of exposure to the real world. But the forest is not a gated community.

      Never underestimate the absence of common sense in the average Joe Citizen. That's how I see it.

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  11. My wife has a book called "Death In Yellowstone" which does nothing but chronicle every reported death since the park became a park. Interestingly, of the folks whose demise can be determined, the main cause of death is falls and drowning. Still, there's quite a list of 'left campsite and was never seen again' folks.

    Here in the PNW its very easy to have someone disappear in the stick and never be seen again. Usually the mechanism of death is pretty benign...exposure, bears, falls, hypothermia, etc....and only rarely does it turn our to be some whackjob roaming the woods. That said, the folks I run into when in the woods are far more often armed than not and I think that makes a bit of a difference.

    As for people getting stuck and then having problems...I have a whole collection of links and articles about them on my website. Here's the link to the tags: http://www.commanderzero.com/?tag=strandings in virtually every case the people who stayed with the vehicle lived and those who left the vehicle died. Some important lessons right there.

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    1. My brother has one of those "SPOT" devices. It's satellite linked and you pay a monthly fee , in return for which you can use the service. It can send text messages via satellite, and it shows your position on GPS to the operators back at their headquarters. I think he paid $400 for the device but they have come down a lot since then. He used to do a lot of hunting in Wyoming and Montana, and in the high desert country of Oregon. Usually with a buddy but sometimes alone so it made good sense. He has bad hips now and can't get out anymore but he lives in the Sierra Nevadas and still carries it when he goes for walks around his property.

      When I'm out in the woods, which granted isn't much these days, I'm more worried about wild hogs than anything else. They lay up in the scrub during the day ,and forage in the mornings and evenings when it's cool. If you walk up on them and startle them, they can really savage you. I always relied on my dogs to keep me from being surprised in the woods by anything, two legged or four legged.

      Les Stroud says the same thing about sticking with the vehicle, and that's what I'd do. But then, I wouldn't be out in the desert or the woods without telling someone where I was going, what my route was, and when I'd be back. I also carry the appropriate equipment, including some excellent flares that a friend gave me. Of course, if I shoot those big puppies off in the woods, in summer, I could attract attention by setting the whole forest alight, but all's well that ends well. ;-)

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  12. last year i watched an episode of "Criminal Minds" on CBS...which is one of my favorite shows. They did an episode of a pshychopath abducting children from campsites on the trail.
    Back when I was a little kid, my grandma uses to buy those "FoxFire" books, and one was about strange things happening in Appalachia.. that stuff always intrigues me.

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    1. Appalachia is a spooky place sometimes. There are all sorts of spots with names like "Booger's Hollow" , "Haint's bend", etc. Some of the people who have lived here all their lives, especially the really old people, have some fascinating tales to tell.

      I've seen swamp gas in a meadow after a rain, when the water forced the methane out of the soil, and in the dark you could mistake the green vapors for a spectral shape. People here used to believe (and some surely still do) that this was "Old Nick" searching for lost souls to seize and carry off to hell. Having seen it myself I can see why people would say that.

      I've lived here more than thirty years, and I still sometimes hear noises coming out of the woods at night that I absolutely can't identify. When I was younger I used to take a flashlight and go off looking for the source, trying to figure out what it was. I don't do that anymore.

      I like the Foxfire books. I have some of them here at the house.

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  13. I read that "death in yellowstone" book too. Pretty macabre. Good read though.
    --Troy

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    1. Troy, I haven't read it but it sounds like something that would be interesting. I am going to check on Amazon and see if I can get the Kindle version. Then you don't have to wait, and it doesn't cost as much.

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  14. who is the mean looking guy in the picture?
    deb h.

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  15. He's the guy who played the psychopath in the movie "no country for old men." If you haven't seen it, you should. It's a classic.

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