When I got to my shelter I dropped my pack and took off my jacket to cool down. That’s when I heard voices coming from the next ridge over. My first thought was, ‘Did they see my light?’
I couldn’t see any light coming from their direction. I wanted to cook my dinner of catfish but didn’t want these folks to know I was there.
Then the shouting started, “We’re surrounded! Load the 57 magnum!” followed by a person imitating gunfire. “I’m too young to die, I’ve got family back home” Brbrbrbrbrbr “Tell my family I love’em Johnny!” Bbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbr.
‘Just some kids playing in the woods’ I thought. ‘But still, I don’t want’em to see me. ‘
More talking over there.
Then a guy yells out, “If there’s anyone who can hear me (pause) within a 20 foot, no, 20 yard radius say something because I’m completely lost”. By the way he was talking it sounded like he was in his late teens or early twenties.
I waited a couple seconds to make sure that no one else was around before I responded.
“You don’t know where to go?”
“No” he hollered back.
“Follow the ridge downhill ‘til you get to the trail”.
“Down the hill?”
“No, follow the ridge down.” I yelled. “Do you have a light?”
“I got a lighter,” he flicked it on. “Can you see me?”
“Yeah I can see you”
“I’m standing on a big log with a stick for a gun and I don’t have any shoes on. I was planning on staying out here for three days,” he said “I threw my shoes away.”
At this point he has pretty much confirmed my suspicion that he is tripping on some kind of hallucinogen.
I think, ‘OK, he’s a wingnut, but I have to help him so he doesn’t die of hypothermia.’
“It’s gonna rain tonight.” I yelled.
“Do you want me to come over and show you where the trail is?”
He yelled back, “You’re not an Iraqi are you?”
“No, I’m not an Iraqi! Not that I have anything against Iraqis. Are you gonna be cool with me if I come over?”
“Yeah, I’ll be cool. Why can’t I just follow your voice?” he asked.
“Cuz there’s a gulch between me and you.”
He paused then muttered, “God I’m so stupid, stupid”
I begin to make my way over to him. Following skinny trails through the ferns and crossing big fallen logs high above the creek. I hear him talking to himself again. I holler to him, “Do you have supplies?”
“Yeah I’m gonna survive!” he said defiantly
“No - SUPPLIES, do you have SUPPLIES?”
He doesn’t hear me because he’s shouting too. Then I realize that this guy might not be able to make it out of the woods tonight in the shape he’s in. I decide to bring him a tarp, blanket and water. Lucky for him I salvaged some pretty good tarps and a dry blanket in the past few days from abandoned camps.
On my way to get the stuff I heard him talking out loud. “I’m sick of robbing, I’m sick of being a robber, a thief.”
Then he calls out, “Are there any big poisonous spiders in this jungle?”
“Not really,” I responded.
“What about brown recluses?”
“Not many, I wouldn’t worry about it” I said.
He freaks out a little about spiders and other creepy crawlies for a moment then he changes the subject.
“I could just do somersaults down the hill.”
I went up to the stash and then decide to go further and get the dirty frying pan that some campers had left behind a few days ago so I could wash it in the creek. I grabbed a sleeping pad and the blanket and roll them in a tarp and tie it off with some cord. I start back down the hill.
Then he starts sounding off in military fashion,
“ Sound off 1-2, sound off 3-4, sound off 1-2-3-4 3-4!”
I call out, “Hey soldier.”
“You need some water?”
“I have a container but it’s empty,” he says.
“I’ll bring you some.”
“I bet I could just somersault down this hill,” he says again.
I go down and cross the creek. For a second I consider bringing the pan along in case I have to defend myself. I decide against it, too easy to accidentally kill the guy if I hit him in the head. Can’t have this guy dieing in my area.
I start to head up a trail that will bring me up to the ridge he’s on. As I approach his location I call out, “Where are you?”
“Can you hear me?” I shout.
I got very quiet and turned my light off. I was started to wonder if he was crouching in the bushes somewhere close by, afraid of me. The inherent danger in the situation became palpable.
I give out a loud howl.
“I can’t hear you,” he shouts. He’s still a ways off.
I continue up to the ridge and suddenly I’m on a gravel trail. This guys lost within 50 feet of a main trail.
I get closer to him by walking on wind felled trees. When I finally see him he’s about ten feet away from me. Fairly big and tall but not overweight. He’s carrying a pretty big stick. He’s got blondish buzzed hair and a few days worth of stubble. He’s dressed in typical suburban clothes, jeans and a sweatshirt but without shoes. Looks to be in his early twenties.
“Everything all right?” I ask
“Yeah”, he says. “I’ve been thinking a lot about my past. I’m always ordering my friends around, making them do this or that. Cokes never had this kind of effect on me before. “
“I wanted to come out here and stay for three days.”
I introduce myself. “My name’s _______.”
“I’m Ted,” he says.
“Are you tripping?” I ask.
“I took some coke and speed,” he says.
“Someone said I couldn’t make it so I just jumped out of the car with a bag of Fritos and a water bottle.”
“You’ve been out here all day?” I ask
“Yeah. What are all those lights, are those people?” He points toward the horizon.
Those are just houses I tell him.
“Man I’m glad you’re here,” he says. “I thought I was surrounded by enemies. They look like people coming at me with swords.”
“I guess I don’t need this anymore”, he says, brandishing the stick. “It was for defending the castle.” He throws it down into the ferns.
“Man, I went kind of crazy.” He points to his bare feet and ankles.
I shine my light on his feet and see that he has been drawing designs on them with a ballpoint pen. Then he shows me his hands and forearms. On one arm is a devilish looking face and the word “cruz”.
On his wrist is a swastika. I hide my shock and disapproval.
On his other arm are designs and words too. On that wrist he has written “suicide soon”.
“I need to use a phone.” he says, “I need to call my dad and tell him went I crazy and that I need a ticket back home.”
I think about the cell phone in my pocket but hold my tongue. I’m not gonna give this guy anything but the bare essentials of survival, water and shelter.
I offer him the tarp and blanket but he refuses,” I need to use a phone,” he says.
“Were you in the military?” I ask.
“Yeah, for two years.”
“Did you serve?”
“ I was over there but didn’t see any real action. My cousins are still over there.”
He starts telling me about a girl he met here in Humboldt. Her parents own a country club he says. He thinks she’ll help him if he calls her. I doubt it but say nothing.
”Let’s get going,” he says.
We work our way to the trail and head towards the road. Along the way he keeps saying, “ow, ouch,” from walking on the sharp gravel. Then “Pain, misery, suffering. This worlds full of it.” He pauses. “But Jesus went through a lot worse, he died for us.”
“Yep” I say, “a lot of people are suffering.”
“But Jesus went through a lot worse,” he responds.
“Crucifixion’s a helluva thing.” I say
“They still do it in some countries,” he says, “I saw it on Real TV.”
I lead him down to the edge of the park where his shoes are waiting in a trashcan.
“I’m gonna turn back,” I say, “Have a good one.”
“Thanks,” he says.