October 30, 2017
by Edward Ruiz
My outdoor horror story takes place about 2,200 miles deep into the PCT in the State of Washington. Having almost completed walking across the country, myself and my trail friends – Chips, Cheesy, and Apple (trail names) wandered off trail and up a dirt road in search of shelter for the night. It had been raining on and off, but mostly on, for the past week or so, as is normal in Washington in the Fall, and all our gear was drenched. Desperate for a shelter that would keep us dry, we started up a dirt road in search of a Weather Station that we had seen on our map. It was almost dark as we stumbled upon the battered down and boarded up weather station.
I was the first to arrive and circled the station in search of a way in. All the doors were locked and the windows boarded up. On the backside, there was a door leading down to the basement and this door was unlocked. I made my way down slowly, and my heart stopped when I noticed the light was on and flickering at the bottom of the stairs leading into the basement area. Apple and Cheesy followed closely behind. As we slowly and quietly reached the next door into the main room, we jumped out of our shoes as Chips crept out and scared us; he had found a different way in.
We explored the rest of the creepy abandoned station, trying to find a place to sleep for the night. The station had been frozen in time, to the mid-2000s, based on documents we found on the tables. The basement contained a pool table that felt as if it had been abandoned mid-game, and the living quarters contained pictures on the walls of the children of the humans that once inhabited the station.
As we explored more, we came across writing on the wall that warned us to stay away – “the station is haunted.” Feeling really creeped out, we almost decided to sleep outside, but we were able to convince each other to hunker down on the far side of the station, in the coziest room and try to sleep. The room was pitch black, and sleep didn’t come easy as we could hear sounds coming from the other parts of the station, whether it was the wind or something else, none of us were brave enough to go find out. Throughout the night, the occasional loud thud would rock the room and scare us awake. When the morning did come, we didn’t know, the light didn’t penetrate our room. But we had been sleeping outside for months now, and our sleep schedule was in tune with the sun, so we packed our things under our headlamps and headed out into the wet and cold, out of the creepy station as fast as we had arrived.
The Slot Canyon
by Justin Malloy
Sometimes the wilderness has a way of reminding you how easy it is to end up in a bad situation. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the Utah desert, and it still amazes me how desolate the canyon consumed desert is, yet in the deepest slot canyons you can still find signs of human activity. This particular story tells of a Type 2+ adventure through Bluejohn and Little Bluejohn Canyon, aka Aron Ralston’s Canyon.
The Robbers Roost area of Canyonlands is a maze of sandstone slot canyons. On a cold November weekend, this labyrinth led us to the now infamous Little Bluejohn Canyon. We knew we had enough gear for the canyon, but severely underestimated how long it would take to explore the twists and turns of the canyon. It was 2 pm, we had already been in a canyon above and had the opportunity to bail out right there. Most of the group opted for the van parked conveniently close. The now smaller group traveled down the canyon, planning on getting picked up by the van a few hours later.
An hour had elapsed and we had made slow progress through the narrow slot canyon. Already through a rappel since we continued down the canyon, we were getting heavily snowed on and moving very slowly. We were working our way through a slotted section with chockstones forcing us over the boulders or under. We decided to take a break under a large chockstone to snack and get some much-needed coverage from the now relentless snowfall; earlier, when I mentioned we had the gear for this trip I really meant just gear: harnesses, ropes, etc. what I neglected to mention is that most of us were in Chaco sandals and failed to bring a sleeping set up. About 20’ down canyon from where we were sitting, one of the group members saw what looked like four small lines faintly etched into the rock with a fifth line dashed through. Was this Aron’s doing? Was this where he cut his arm off? None of us knew for certain but we all got chills thinking about how long those 127 hours would last. With an eerie cloak of a haunted past weighted upon us, we were reminded of how underprepared we were for a night spent in the snowy canyon. We decided it was time to push on.
We proceeded down the canyon to the 60’ rappel, the last technical part of the canyon. At the time it was dark, still snowing, and we were wet, tired, and hungry. We wandered around for another 5 hours, missed the exit of the canyon, turned back around, contemplated sleeping in the canyon, found the exit, hiked up to an empty parking lot, nowhere for us to hide from the wind and light snowfall. We contemplated hiking back down to the bottom of the canyon to hide from the elements. Luckily, as we were getting ready to hike back down, we saw a faint light in the distance. Lo and behold, it’s our van. 3am. Middle of nowhere, UT. And everyone has all their limbs. Spooky? Meh. We’re we scared? Absolutely.
The Wonderland of Rocks
by Alex Castro
On my first solo trip to Joshua Tree, I decided to go hiking after a day of bouldering in the Gunsmoke area at Barker Dam. I had been to this area less than a handful of times and for some reason felt confident I could get around without a guide. I started my search for Wall Street Mills on an October afternoon over 8 years ago, when Joshua Tree was disconnected from most travelers; I was utterly alone and I neglected to put any type of map or GPS into my cheap backpack full of snacks, water, and an emergency kit: my second mistake.
My third mistake was to make a left where the trail forks to the Wonderland of Rocks, instead of right to the Wall Street Mills. If you have ever been to the Wonderland of Rocks you will know the feeling of how puny we are compared to some of the rare massive domes found here. As soon as you start on this trail the easy terrain is quickly left behind and rock formations start to rise and tower over you as you make your way farther into this beautiful and rarely forgiving maze. After forty minutes of scrambling and hiking farther in, I start to have doubts of ever finding my goal and the fear started to creep in. Had I gone the right way? There was no one to ask.
The fear of being lost on this trail sent adrenaline through my body and my pace quickly picked up. I knew if I did not find this place, I could potentially be walking out in the dark if I found my way out at all. I had a small flashlight, a cheap headlamp, and an emergency candle just in case. Not sure if it was the fear or my ego that blinded me from turning back at that point, but I decided to try to keep going around the massive Astro Domes formation. My sense of direction was thrown off and I assumed that if I managed to get around them the parking lot would be there, which is far from the truth.
As I kept hiking toward the end of the North Astro Dome the trail would move me farther away from the parking lot and in a northeast direction. When the sun started to slowly drop I knew for sure that this had just become an epic adventure. Not in a good way. After passing the Astro Domes the terrain did not really give way to a parking lot as I had assumed, instead smaller un-climbable (in my hiking shoes) boulders kept me in a northwest direction. With only an hour or less of light left, I started to run whenever possible. Definitely not a good thing to do when you don’t know where you are going and the risk of rolling your ankle or falling between rocks is considerable. I then noticed a slightly approachable break on the formations to my left. I had an idea about getting to a high point and looking for the road or parking lot. When I finally got to the top of the formation I was able to see the main road. It was pretty far and would definitely involve a lot of scrambling and jumping down from large rocks, but at this point, I had been lost for hours and was grateful for a sign that pointed me in the right direction. After several near slip-ups, I found myself on the desert floor and a large creek wash between me and what would turn out to be the road that ends at the Keys Ranch Gate.
As I started walking toward the dirt road I noticed car lights heading toward the gate. Adrenaline, joy, and relief kicked in all at once and I started running after the car. Just as the car was turning around to leave I started shouting and flashing my light at them to catch the driver’s attention. After explaining my situation to the lost driver and convincing him I wasn’t a threat to him, he agreed to give me a ride to the Barker Dam parking lot. I thanked the driver and stumbled towards my car, I popped the trunk open, threw my pack inside, then collapsed on the ground, and started crying. After a few minutes of being thankful to have made it out of the Wonderland of Rocks alive, I got in my car and drove to my campsite.