Being out in the wilderness can go from magical and refreshing to terrifying in the blink of an eye. You can be a hiking pro or a novice and still easily get yourself into a bad situation or see something out in the woods you can never, ever forget.
Reddit users shared the memory they'll never be able to forget while out alone in the rugged wilderness. All content was edited for clarity.
The Marshland That Wasn’t Quite A Marshland
“I was hiking in some woods on a property my father rented as farm ground with my older brother.
After a while we noticed a sickly sweet smell, being farm kids we knew what it was, something dead and left to rot. As we kept walking we entered a marsh-like area with soft, squishy ground and very tall grass. We had walked through marsh areas before so we walked on the large grass clumps, being very careful where we placed our feet.
After making it to a large clump of solid ground, I look up and find a massive pile of skinned animal carcasses. The pile was easily over 10 feet tall, with a 15 foot circumference. It comprised of every animal you could think of, rabbit, fox, coyote, deer, weasel, cat, dog, raccoon, and others I couldn’t recognize.
The old man that owned the land trapped year-round for anything he could get. He just kept throwing the carcasses in the same pile year after year. After we left the area it dawned on me, the marsh was not in a lowland like most marshy places.
The group was just saturated with the decaying fluids of all those animals. That’s also the reason the grass was abnormally tall in that area.”
“We Were The First People To See Foot In There”
“When I was a kid in the mid 90s, my friends and I were hiking around in the woods behind our house on some Weyerhaeuser timber property and found an abandoned farm house.
The weird thing was that the house had been left very suddenly. There was still unopened mail and magazines sitting on the coffee table, all dated back to same date in the 1950s.
Sheets and blankets still on the beds, clothes still in the drawers, pantry full of canned and jarred food, half of it exploded or leaking after so many years. Dishes in the sink, dishes on the table. Unburned candles still sitting out waiting to be used. A fridge outside full of food that had turned to muck and dust.
After exploring the house for a while we checked out the farm. The chicken coop had dozens of chicken skeletons, wrapped in desiccated skins or picked bare. There were two pig skeletons in a pen, and the remains of a horse and several cows in the surrounding pasture.
A tractor was parked in the garage and was in great shape for its age.
It didn’t occur to me as a kid at the time but aside from the house having been left so suddenly, it was really remarkable that the entire place was undisturbed. There was no vandalism, no sign of entry, and as far as I could tell, we were this first people to set foot in there in 40 years.”
“My Mind Was Telling Me Something Bad Was About To Happen”
“I had a bizarre experience while I was camping on Perdido Key State Park beach. It’s a small stretch of beach with a lagoon on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. I was set up closer to the Gulf side, enjoying the stars, just relaxing in my tent at night.
This was toward the end of a solo cross country trip I was on. I had camped all over the country over the previous 35 days and had never really had anything too scary happen to me. But while I was laying there, almost simultaneously, the wind completely died and the ocean went completely silent. No waves crashing. No wind blowing. No sound whatsoever.
I never truly understood the term ‘deafening silence’ until that moment. For some reason, my body’s response was complete and utter fear. I don’t know why but it was the most scared I had been along the entire trip. I was waiting for something horrible to happen, I had no idea what, but my mind was telling me something bad was about to happen. But less than a minute later all the noise returned and I slowly relaxed again.
Definitely one of the weirder things I’ve experienced.”
“I Took Off Fast”
“I lived in some distant family’s land where they have an old cabin up on stilts, due to the local woods flooding heavily sometimes. I spent a good amount of time in this old cabin. Wood stove, porch swing hanging from the ceiling that I used as a bed.
Overall, it was an okay place and it wasn’t TOO FAR of a drive to town for food, you just had to tolerate the half mile walk to your car.
One day I am out walking around the woods and in a smallish clearing in the path, I see easily a good 50-60 dead geese. Every one of them is mangled in horrific ways, necks ripped off of the body, bodies splayed out over old timbers and fence posts, feathers EVERYWHERE. Bones sticking out of the dirt.
It just looked like a straight up goose genocide. The ground was dry, and there was a lot of dust, but I saw no prints, and there was no other evidence of anything being in the area aside from what one can only assume was some sort of strange breed of exploding goose.
I also found a torn open old backpack and a great deal of candy wrappers strewn about it. It was way too moldy to identify anything about it. I decided to turn back and see if I could grab a camera when I start hearing this god awful SHRIEKING noise, as if it were coming from every possible nook and cranny within a 30 foot radius.
I took off pretty fast when that started. To this day, my best guess is some sort of massive commune of foxes. It really is the only rational solution I can come to. Still scared the heck out of me.”
“I Never Saw Her Again”
“It was June 1987. My girlfriend’s parents owned a large hunting estate in SE Idaho. The nearest town was 22 miles away.
It was a pretty big place with a lot of acreage. The guy who was the full-time caretaker for the place had just quit. My girlfriend’s dad went out there to find a new caretaker, but the new caretaker couldn’t start for one month. Her dad offered to pay me $1200 to go out there. Free food, satellite TV (one of those huge dishes from back then) and free drinks. All I had to do with keep an eye on the place and feed the dogs and the horse. I had never been out West so I took him up it. It sounded better than doing landscaping.
I spent the time reading and exploring, playing with the dogs, riding the horse, shooting. Completely uneventful experience until one night. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone knocking loud and hard on the front door and the dogs going nuts.
After the knocking stopped and dogs stopped barking, I eventually went back to sleep. I didn’t freak out all that much because there were two German Shepherds inside with me and I had a weapon I kept in the nightstand. I had been drinking a little but wasn’t out of it by any means. There were several neighbors that were a few miles away, I was kind of thinking someone just simply drove up the wrong driveway.
Next morning at the crack of dawn, I open the front door to let the dogs out and see a white Chevy Nova sitting in the driveway near the small cabin for the caretaker. The cabin was about 100 yards from the main house. I called my girlfriend’s dad and asked him if he knew anyone with that make/model car and told him about what had happened the night before. He didn’t know anyone and he called the police directly.
Police show up, ask me a few questions and walk around the property for about an hour or so. The car was locked, so the police had it towed. I have no idea if it was broken down or not. There was only one set of tire tracks coming in to the house.
A few days later, my girlfriend’s dad called me up to say the guy who owned that car was missing and to call the police if anything weird happened again. I have no idea who the guy was at all. Don’t know how long he was missing or when he was reported missing. Or who reported him missing. He was just missing. My girlfriend’s dad didn’t know that much.
After one month, I go back home. My girlfriend and I broke up right when I got back. I see her out on the town several months later, and I ask her if she ever found out what happened to that guy. All she knows is the guy was found dead– he offed himself 30 miles away. This happened several months after that incident at the house, and he was found a couple of days after he had offed himself.
I asked her how he did it, where he was he found, who found him and I got nothing. I never saw her again.”
“Be Quiet As You Can”
“I was about 12 and my brother was 26 at the time. My brother had been serving in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret at the time and was deploying to the Middle East on his 2nd deployment. This is to say—he was NOT the type of person you want to mess with.
Given that we both grew up with a passion for the outdoors, he thought it would be nice to take me on a backpacking trip in northern Alabama before he left for 9 months. The trip had gone smoothly up until the 3rd night we were camping out. Around 8pm we had our camp set up, eaten dinner, and were sitting by the fire talking about typical boy stuff.
Our spot was about 50 yards from a large stream, and about 50 yards downhill adjacent to the large path. Our camp, the stream, and the path formed a triangle of sorts.
This was summertime in Alabama, so it wasn’t quite dark yet when two guys, who looked to be in their late 20s wandered up and ask if we had seen any hogs while we were hiking around. Given that this is rural Alabama, we actually had seen some farther into the wilderness area and told them so.
Even though they were relatively polite (my brother called them ‘good ole boys’) I got a seriously creepy vibe from them—dirty clothes, greasy hair, scraggly facial hair, etc.
They kinda hung out for a few minutes, maybe a little longer than they should have, looking around, asking us questions like how long we had been out there, how long we were staying, and what looked like them kinda sizing us up. They then abruptly said goodbye and walked away. I didn’t necessarily feel threatened by them, and I know for sure my brother didn’t, but I still felt uneasy about the whole thing.
Fast forward 3 or 4 hours. My brother and I had gone to sleep and were nestled in our tent when I woke to the sound of multiple dogs barking. I’ve always been a heavy sleeper and they sounded like they were only about 100 yards away. My heart immediately started pounding and I kicked my brother through my sleeping bag and asked if he was awake and had heard the dogs.
He responded, ‘I’m awake, they’ve been getting closer for the past hour or so, just lay still and don’t make any sounds.’ Needless to say, 12-year-old me was about to literally poop my pants. We would also hear sporadic shouts from several different sources but neither came any closer.
A few minutes later my brother whispered, ‘They’re just hunting for hogs, they use the dogs to pin them down and then they shoot them.’ This gave me some relief, but not much. Somehow I managed to fall back asleep. The fact that they were doing this at night was a huge red flag my brother later told me, but I think he was just trying to keep me calm.
Fast forward what was probably another 3 hours, around 2 am. I had managed to sleep pretty well after first hearing the hog hunters when I woke up to my brother squeezing my shoulder firmly, saying, ‘Wake up, put your shoes on quick and follow me, be as quiet as you can.’
My heart immediately went back to racing because I heard the dogs and voices in the distance, farther away than before but still distinct. Not asking any questions I did what he said and as soon as we were out of the tent he told me to get on his back (this was a breeze for him after rucking with God knows how much weight in the Army). We snuck about 50 yards into the woods toward the junction of the path and the stream and crawled into some bushes. It was up a hill so we had a pretty good elevated view of our campsite.
I remember as we were laying there how loudly I was breathing and how quiet he was when I heard the very distinct sound of a weapon slide racking. I looked over and my brother had his weapon (a HK USP that he gave to me a few years after this story took place) and was watching the campsite and surrounding area. I started to whisper to him when he put his hand over my mouth and pointed at the campsite.
The group of hunters had been steadily approaching our camp and by this time (30 or so minutes) had reached it. There were 5 of them and 3 or 4 dogs. They all looked relatively young but two had huge weapons and the dogs were going crazy, obviously having smelled our scent.
For those of you who are backpackers/campers, nobody who comes up on a random camp in the middle of the night with dogs and weapons has good intentions. I knew this, and my brother knew this. I was petrified. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but my brother later told me they were talking about us, although he hadn’t heard any specifics either.
They lingered for about 20 minutes shining flashlights around and talking to themselves when my brother put his mouth to my ear and said ‘If they come toward I want you to turn and run as quickly as you can, don’t stop, don’t look back, stay off the trail and look for the flashing lights.’
I didn’t know what he meant by this but that’ll come later. I knew I could make it back because he had taught me ‘land navigation’ pretty well. He then handed me a flashlight and told me not to take the red filter off. He told me later that the red filter helps preserve night vision and cuts down ambient light so it would be harder for someone to see from a distance.
At this point I was so scared I almost started crying, but at the same time had a rush of adrenaline and what I think now was confidence that he thought I could handle myself.
We laid there for awhile longer when out of nowhere they started screaming ‘WHERE Y’ALL AT?!?!’ and firing into the woods at random. My brother dragged me back behind the crest of the hill and threw himself on top of me. Thankfully our position on top of the hill we were protected from any pellets.
They shot maybe 5 or 6 more times and then started walking back the direction they had come. They got maybe 100 yards away when I heard a blaring siren and saw emergency lights flashing through the woods. Turns out my brother had called the Forest Service Office on a satellite phone my family has for emergencies while I was asleep and they had sent out Forest Service officers and game wardens to our area of the wilderness. The Sipsey Wilderness is about 25,000 acres in size so it took them awhile to get there on the dirt roads.
When we saw the game warden truck my brother signaled them with the light and pointed them in the direction the hunters had gone and the guy sped off shining his spotlight through the woods.
As soon as they were all gone we went back to our camp, packed up our stuff and waited by the path for the game warden to come back, who then gave us a ride in his truck bed back to the main staging area.
On the drive back, my brother told me how brave I had been and that we would talk about it with our parents the next day if I wanted to. I asked him not to do that because I thought they might never let me go camp again.”
“I Haven’t Heard Anything Back”
“A friend and I decided to go on a two night backpacking/camping trip in the Adirondack mountains of New York. We are both very comfortable with nature, and spend a lot of time camping, hunting, fishing, etc.
We hiked about 5 miles into a small lake and set up camp on a small beach. This was not a heavily trafficked area, and we did not expect to run into anyone. Our first night there as we were sitting around the fire, we saw a flashlight moving on the other side of the lake around 10:30. This was fairly unusual, however we did not think too much of it.
But, as time went on, this flashlight kept moving around the lake getting closer to our campsite. We kept discussing who could possibly be wandering around the woods in the middle of the night, and we did not particularly want an unwelcome guest.
Once it was clear that the person (or people) were heading for our campsite, we moved off into the woods nearby to see who wandered up. I took a small axe with me, and he had a loaded .22. Now we weren’t expecting trouble, and we certainly didn’t want to make any, but we figured we might as well cover our bases.
Now, the moment of truth, the flashlight comes near the light of our fire and it is one man. He has a beard and is probably in his mid 40s. The scary part was he was carrying what turned out to be a pump action loaded weapon. He walked around the campsite a few times, and then proceeded to enter our tent. After rummaging around for a minute or so, he came out and started yelling, ‘I know you’re out there, why don’t you come and say hello?’
My friend and I remained motionless under a hemlock tree about 50 yards away. That is when the man proceeded to fire his weapon into the woods (not too far from where we were). He also swung his flashlight around several times. After what felt like hours, he grabbed my friend’s backpack and a few articles of clothing we had drying off near the fire and threw them in to burn.
My friend, who had pointed the .22 towards the man, asked me if he should shoot. I told him absolutely not, unless he spots us and starts to point in our direction. Thankfully the man moved off from where he had come after a little while. We waited until his flashlight was on the other side of the lake, ran out, grabbed everything we could fit in my pack and took off (it was now around 2 or 3 A.M.).
We RAN out the trail with flashlights, and made it back to my car as the sun was coming up. We immediately went to the police department and reported it, where we also spoke with some forest rangers. That was it, I haven’t heard anything back from the police.”
“I Must’ve Stared For At Least A Minute”
“I was maybe 9, and there was an empty sandbank by the creek where my friends and I would particularly enjoy playing around. This day I was alone; I pushed through the heavy foliage as usual, only to find myself eye-to-eye with an alligator.
I froze in place. I was heavily into NatGeo and Animal Planet at that age, and vaguely thought alligators were somewhat lazy (they were always just lying around en masse in the documentaries). That doesn’t mean I was good in emergency situations yet. I must’ve stared at it for at least a minute before I realized it wasn’t moving… and it also smelled pretty bad.
This is when I looked away from its head and realized its back half had been violently torn away. There was no blood, a few flies, and it had definitely not been there the day before. Just half a dead lizard, unceremoniously deposited in my favorite creekside play spot.
I didn’t know how to process it at all, so I slowly backed out of the brush (the instinct-driven, idiot part of my brain screaming are we sure it’s dead??) and ran back to my nearby-hidden bike. I rode straight home and played Super Mario 64 all day instead.
I never told my parents, or my young friends, about what I’d found; none of us returned to the creek bank for at least a week, by which time I suppose it had disappeared. All that was left was a foul, aged odor of rot, which my friends attributed to creek scum. I knew better, though.”
“They Calm Him”
“My parents own a small cabin and some land out in a remote area of Alberta. One day we came across a bunch of inukshuks (large stones stacked on each other to resemble in this case, people). They were all dressed up, some in little girl dresses, children’s jumpers, safety vests, parkas, some had hats on them and all of them were seriously creepy. We had no idea where they came from or who put them there.
We started making up scary stories around the campfire about this mystery person and we started pulling pranks on each other, inukshuks suddenly erected overnight outside of a friend’s tent. Lots of scary Blair Witch stuff to freak each other out.
My mom went to this social event that the farmers and ranchers in the area put on every year. She mentioned the inukshuks to an old couple and they told her that their adult son with a variety of mental disorders put those up. Apparently they calm him down and it’s very therapeutic for him.
It was nice to know that a real person put those up and not evil forest spirits.”
“The Tent Started To Shake”
“I was camping in Norway during the summer a couple years back.
One morning while I was half asleep considering to get up or not, the tent suddenly started to shake violently. First thought in my mind was that it was a random hiker messing around with my tent so I shot out of the tent in my pants to confront the foe…
I was greeted by over a hundred caribou surrounding my tent. Turned out the bravest reindeer tripped over the lines of my bright orange high visibility tent.”
“Sudden Quiet Means Bad News”
“I live in Utah. I went hiking up on the Bonneville shoreline trail that used to be the shore of lake Bonneville ages ago.
This day I picked a different trail to follow, one I’d never been on before. After hiking for a few miles up this trail, I come around a bend and I see two trees that had apparently been uprooted or fallen, and they were placed over the trail in a way that made it look like archway. That by itself wasn’t weird, but there were two big elk skulls placed on the end of each tree, placed just so that the empty eye sockets of the skull were looking directly at you as you passed under on the trail.
I thought that was kinda weird, but you know, whatever, probably just some people thinking they’re funny. I shrugged it off and kept going.
But as soon as I passed through the threshold of the archway, a cold chill shot up my spine and I felt my hackles rise instantly and goosebumps all over my body.
I kept going for a little while cause I didn’t wanna go back yet, but the whole time I was walking I couldn’t shake the sensation that I was being watched. It had me feeling really tense. I walked for a good 10 minutes before I decided to turn around.
As I’m walking back, maybe 5 minutes later, it gets real quiet very suddenly. All the birds stopped chirping, all the little animals around stopped moving, it even seemed like the wind died down at that moment too. Total silence. My dad was a real big hunter when I was younger, so I’m very familiar with the idea that sudden quiet in the wilderness generally means bad, bad news.
By this point I had a white knuckle grip on the hilt of my big survival knife as I kept walking down the trail. I passed through the archway again and broke into a full on sprint. I didn’t see anything, but there was something there. I was being stalked, I could feel the eyes still even as I ran away down the trail.
I haven’t been back to that trail since that day. I don’t what it was that was stalking me that day, but there was something there and I don’t want to find out what.”
“That Was When I Noticed It”
“I took my children camping at a state park with campsites around a lake. It wasn’t primitive camping, more like ‘set up your tent with the car parked 20 feet away’ camping.
We’re sitting around the campfire after sunset making s’mores, when a car pulls up to the campsite next to us. It’s about 35 yards away and it’s dark, so we can’t see who are new neighbors are. I feel a little bad because they have to use the headlights on their car to see what they are doing while they set up their tent. I wanted to offer to help, but with children and an open fire, I thought my attention would be best used right where I was at.
So later, we put out the fire and everyone goes to bed in their tents. I don’t think about the campsite neighbor any more.
In the morning, just as the sun is rising, there is beautiful music coming from across the lake. It was a solo performance using low brass. The musician plays three lengthy songs, maybe 15 minutes of music. This gets me out of the tent so that I can enjoy the fresh air by the lake with an unexpected live performance.
Once the music ends, I look over at the neighbors campsite. I guess they’re deep asleep or not impressed enough to come out the tent.
I start a new fire to get ready for breakfast. About 10 minutes later, I see the campsite neighbor hiking back to his tent carrying a tuba. I’m in the middle of cooking so it takes me a few minutes to go over and thank him for the nice early morning concert. (I genuinely enjoyed it.) By the time I get over to the campsite, he has already put away the tuba, packed up his belongings, and had his tent half put away.
I tell him that I’m both impressed at his playing ability and grateful for the nice surprise.
And then that is when I noticed it.
This guy only has one arm. All of this would have been impressive for just one person to do (setting up a tent in the dark, hiking with a heavy tuba in the dark so that you can perform a sunrise serenade, and tearing down a campsite in minutes), but this guy did it one armed. Hats off to him.”