James Iscole Jamesiscole
A few years ago, I had some time off from work and decided to go camping at a national forest for the first time. This place was a couple of hours away from me, and was frequented by many hikers, mountain bikers and campers. The best part was that it was rated 5 stars on Google Maps and had pretty good reviews, so I was glad it was not too far away from me. As it was, I grew up in a very large city and rarely went into the countryside, so I never really experienced the natural outdoors or anything woodsy. I decided it was a good time for me to get out and see what camping feels like. (By the way, I'm a tallish female in my mid 30s of average build.)

I called up my good friend Jake who goes camping a lot, and asked if I could borrow some of his camping stuff. He is an earthy type of guy who loves RV'ng, etc, and tried to introduce me to camping a lot. He asked me to go along with a few of his friends on some trips before, but I was always too busy and said no. So hearing me asking to borrow some of his camping gear got him excited and he gladly said yes. Unfortunately, he was already on a trip and couldn't give me the stuff directly, so I had to go into his apartment and search for it myself. 

My car full with snacks, water and some other stuff, as I drove out of the city and onto the highway. It took a couple of hours, and there was some traffic on the way, but I finally got there and pulled into the parking area. The whole place was beautiful and smelled so fresh - nothing like what you experience in the city. I unloaded whatever I needed from my car, and began making my way onto a little trail. This specific area was a camping zone, and anyone could come and setup their tent. So I walked for a few minutes and eventually found a flat, uninhabited place not too far from my car. It was just far enough that I felt alone and in the presence of the woods, but still close in case of an emergency. 

There I lay under the trees in the darkness - relaxing in my tent - waiting to fall asleep. For some strange reason, I couldn't shake the feeling that something or someone was out there watching me. I'm not the nervous type, and I've never been afraid of things, but as much as I tried to fall asleep, it felt like my entire body was ringing an alarm bell trying to alert me to danger. Alas, an hour had passed, and there I was staring at my smartphone unable to fall asleep. I tossed and turned, but my anxious feeling never let up, so decided to unzipped the tent and go outside for a stretch. The woods around me were quiet, and nothing seemed afoot. Clearly it was jitters from being alone in the woods for the first time, I thought. And I even tried some breathing exercises that I've seen on the internet. But time went on and I still couldn't shake the feeling. I decided I had had enough and I was going to go to my car and sleep in it for the night.

I left most of my stuff in the tent, except for some essentials, and started to walk onto the trail and back to my car. I made it about 20 or 30 feet, when I suddenly heard the audible sound of a dry branch snapping about 50 feet to my left. Something heavy clearly just stepped on a piece of dry wood, which meant I was NOT ALONE. All of the jittery feelings I had up until that point were instantly vindicated and rushed into my chest at full speed. My whole upper body tightened up, and my heart started pounding heavily. I froze and quickly shone my flashlight at the trees, trying to see who or what it could have been. It was dark and my flashlight barely lit up the trees, so I tried yelling in a loud voice to scare whatever it was away. Maybe it was a wild animal just passing through, I thought, or possibly just a branch that fell from one of the trees. No... this was certainly a crunch. Something definitely stepped on a branch and it was there with me and I was all alone. I decided I was not taking any chances and swiftly started running to my car. Again, I heard something skittering in the trees, and it was following me. It was fast, faster than I thought a human could run. It followed me half of the way down, but suddenly stopped for some reason that I didn't know why.

I ran and ran until I finally got to my car in a cold sweat and in a daze. The small parking lot was almost full with parked cars, but no one was around. I quickly got in my car and locked the doors. Whatever that was, it was out there and I was at least locked inside my car. I felt a bit safer and was glad to have some sense of security. I hoped it didn't follow me and silently waited in my car for another hour because I didn't want to sleep.

It was probably around 3 or 4 am at this time, and was so tired that I began to doze off. It also began raining and I was hot, so I opened the windows a tiny bit to let in some fresh air. It was very calming listening to the rain, and I was half way asleep, when I suddenly hear the sound of something scratching against my car. I immediately jumped up and looked around. It was pitch black. I didn't want to turn on my flashlight just in case it was a bear or something, but after a few moments of nothing, I gently took a peek out of the windows. I suddenly had the idea to hit the car horn and scare whatever it was away. After a good minute, I stopped beeping and went outside to see if it was still there. With such a loud noise, it must have gotten scared and ran off into the woods, I thought.

At this point I just wanted to get away from the place and decided I was going to drive nearby to a Walmart parking lot or something and go home in the morning. So I turned my car on and my headlights went on. I flipped my windshield wipers on - and to my astonishing horror, a tall, thick-necked guy with a heavily scarred face that looked more like a bulldog than a human was standing about 40 feet in front of my car, drooling. I gasped and instinctively clenched the steering wheel in horror. He suddenly got on all fours and slowly began walking sideways towards my car like an animal. I could see something glistening in his hand which looked like a knife, and I slammed my car into drive, quickly making a U turn to the left where the exit was. He began running after me on all fours at a speed that definitely didn't seem humanly capable and nearly reached me, but I luckily got onto the road and safely drove away.

I didn't go back to get the rest of my stuff after that, but I compensated my friend for whatever stuff I left there. I went a few days later in daylight out of curiosity, though, but all my stuff were gone. I always shudder at the thought of him stalking me for hours or watching me as I lay alone in my tent. I reported it to the police the next day and hope he was caught. This is probably not the usual camping experience for most, but I guess it's safe to say that people should always be aware of their surroundings when camping, and always carry some type of self defense weapon - especially if you're a woman. This doesn't mean I'm not going to go camping ever again, but it was definitely a surreal learning experience.

Credit for: Kirsten B
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