True Tales of Terror From the Trail

The scariest thing about these stories from Backpacker editors and readers? They really happened.

"Deep in the Andes my cousin and I saw someone–shrouded in fog and holding a staff–standing on a too-steep slope at 15,000 feet. I stared for 10 minutes, turned my head, and he vanished. Later, another trekker in our group saw a dark figure sitting next to the trail, and it too disappeared. Our guide told us that spirits–some evil–roam the Peruvian mountains."
–Anthony Cerretani, editor

"On a trip to Lake Powell, we saw a figure looking down at us from across the lake atop the opposite cliff. My dad went into one of his stories about the Native Americans who have inhabited the canyons for thousands of years, and how he thought this was an old Indian chief's spirit, probably disgruntled by our intrusion and damming of the river. We took a picture and–of course–the figure did not show up."
–Linda Bokros, reader

"When you see something out of the corner of your eye, it's there and gone in a flash. When you see a fairy, it's just like seeing something out of the corner of your eye–but it doesn't go away. I know because I saw one for a long minute on the Torridon Hills in Scotland. It was the size of a toddler, and passed so close I could feel the air swirl around my knees. The sky was clear and there wasn't a hint of wind. Or Scotch."
–Dennis Lewon, executive editor

"One January morning in the Bisti Badlands Wilderness, I woke in my tent just before sunrise. It was very cold. Suddenly, there was an exchange of dialogue between two voices, just outside the tent and to my right. Very close. I was surprised that anyone else would be out in this region before sunrise. I unzipped the sleeping bag, yanked my pants on and stood up, expecting to greet my visitors. There was no one there. I climbed to the top of the arroyo for a better view. I was completely alone. The only footprints I could find were my own."
–Mark Blanchfield, Farmington, NM

"I've been stalked by bears, circled by wolves, and sniffed by coyotes while laying under a tarp, but none of those encounters unnerved me as much as a discovery I made a few years ago in the Catskills. I was almost two miles off-trail in a spot I'd found the previous year while bushwhacking. No obvious human signs of any sort. As always, I scouted my surroundings for bear tracks before settling down to dinner–again, nothing. But as I got up from dessert to hang my food, I suddenly saw a small hand-woven stick figure hanging from a tree–like those in The Blair Witch Project–then another, and another, until I realized that the very spot I'd selected for cooking was surrounded by them. The common thread to all of these frights: solo travel. Maybe I should rethink that."
–Jonathan Dorn, editor-in-chief