This weekend, we headed out to enjoy the unseasonably warm temperatures and gorgeous weather. Since Halloween was just around the corner, the decision was made to try to check out one of the haunted areas of the trail. So, checking some options and factoring the amount of time we had before the sun set, we ended up choosing an area known as Dead Womans Hollow.
The Appalachian Trail crosses Dead Womans Hollow Rd as it heads south into Michaux State Forest. The name of the road is a strange one. Many years ago, Native Americans encountered the body of a woman who had been bitten by a poisonous snake. Her ghost is said to haunt the area.
Because the parking was limited for a point-to-point hike, we ended up finding another trail to check out. Near the parking area we were planning to use was a trail called the Rocky Knob Trail. This trail crosses the Appalachian Trail just south of Dead Woman Hollow, and it has its own sinister story. Back in 1988, two women were enjoying some time hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail. The women were camping near a shelter one morning when they encountered a man who asked them for cigarettes. The man seemed a little odd, so the two women decided to pack up and hike south to find a more secluded campsite. As they hiked, the man appeared again asking if they were lost and this time he also had a .22 rifle slung over his shoulder. The women eventually took an off shoot trail called Rocky Knob Trail. They hiked until they found a good campsite beside a stream and set up camp. Unbeknownst to them, the man had followed. He also sometimes lived in the woods around there and knew the area well. He was aware that the side trail the women had taken was a loop trail, and he could easily catch up with them. That evening, the man fired 8 shots at the women. One woman was hit twice in her head and back. She died from her wounds. The other woman was shot five times in her head, neck, arm and face and survived. She managed to hike out of the woods and back to the main road, approximately 4 miles. The man was eventually caught after an extensive man hunt and is serving a life sentence.
This trail seems to have a very heavy feeling. Perhaps it just comes from knowing what transpired here, or maybe it's from the history itself. Environments can hold on to energy, whether it's joy or pain or terror, and it seems like this place is definitely holding on to its past. On a positive note, you can't deny the heroic efforts of the woman who survived. We hiked out the way she would have gone to reach first the gravel state forest road and then drove the road down to the area where she received help. It's taxing when you're perfectly healthy, let alone suffering from 5 gunshots.
My son kept asking about spooky stories from the trail during our hike and wanted to know what was my favorite that I've come across so far. My answer is that the scariest stories in my opinion are the ones that deal with murder like the story above. The AT is a relatively safe place to hike. In fact, walking around a city might be a lot more dangerous that being out in the wilds of the Appalachian Trail. But the murders that have happened along the length of the trail seem to carry either some mystery as to who committed the crime, or the perpetrator was an odd, creepy person. Throw in the idea that you're completely isolated in some areas, and it makes for one seriously scary tale.
Switching gears a bit, Michaux State Forest is also one of the leading areas for Bigfoot sightings in the state. While we didn't see any Bigfoot creatures, we were catching a whiff of an odd odor that we described as pungent and musky. This is a description that often occurs in Bigfoot sighting stories along the trail. Throw in a couple of trees with scratched areas and you start worrying about
We didn't see any Hidebehinds or Bigfoot, but we did do a little investigating along the trail.
All in all it was the perfect pre-Halloween hike and one I'd recommend and plan on doing again in the future. And I want to stress that while ghosts and Bigfoot and Halloween are all in good fun, never did we consider the loss of life in this area a joke. We all have nothing but the utmost respect for both women involved: one for her selfless command telling her friend to run and hide while she herself lay dying, and one for having the courage and bravery to persevere and seek help.