Thursday, January 20, 2011

Followed in Canada

I live in the northern United States, the top of Indiana, very close to Michigan. I love to camp and hike. Spring of 2010 I decided to go up to Canada and do some solo backpacking near the Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario. I'd never been out of the US before and even though Canada is like USA Light, I was excited.

I'd been in Canada for maybe two or three days by the time this story occurs, and nothing had gone wrong aside from my rental car only having a MPH speedometer and not KPH (calculations on the fly solved that problem). Canada, the part I was in at least, is a beautiful country, and the Canadians I met were all very friendly. I was driving along 17 the Trans Canadian Highway taking in the sights. There were several trail heads just off of the highway, so I stopped, at random, to hike one.

There was room for maybe three cars to park at the trail head, which was directly next to the highway. I'm walking down the trail, which is a narrow path flanked on both sides by thick woods. The path itself is an overgrown asphalt road. As I'm hiking down the trail I begin to get a sickly feeling in my stomach, like someone is watching me. It is a bright, and sunny day, warm and hardly a cloud in the sky. I have no reason to have this feeling, but I can't shake it. At regular intervals I stop hiking, and look around myself trying to see if I can see anything or anyone watching me. Nothing. No animals and no people that I can see. In solo hiking such a feeling comes to you from time to time, the trick is to access the situation and make a cognisant decision about your safety. One should always trust their gut, but occasionaly the mind has a way of playing tricks on you, like beging scared at a scary movie. You know you're perfectly safe, but you're still not going to bed with the closets open.

I take stock of my situation, and decide that I'm fine. I continue on. About two or so miles into the trail a house is visible from the trail and through the trees. I stop at the sight of it, and watch it before moving on. It is abandoned. It must have been an old hunting lodge or summer house, and that explains why the trail used to be a road. Windows are broken, and roof shingles are gone, obviously the house has seen better days. Oddly enough, it wasn't that creepy. The feeling I had of being watched on the trail was much worse than the feeling I got after sighting the house. I continue on the path and I find another cabin. Then I reach the shore of Lake Superior. These houses are only 100 ft from the lake shore. They would have been wonderful places to live in back in their day. I sit on the beach for a little while, just enjoying the sun and being free, and after some time I decide to go back to my car. I still have a lot of sight seeing to do, and to make my way to my camping spot at the end of the day. I walk back toward my car.

As I near the end of the trail I see another car parked at the trail head, right off the highway. Always while backpacking I have both a knife and a walking-stick (which is a sawed off hockey stick) so I have some means of defending myself. I'm not worried until I see the guy standing at his trunk. He hasn't notice me, but I see him. He's rifling through his truck. I get nearer to him, and he still doesn't see me. Finally when I'm only about twenty feet away, he hears my footfalls and looks up. I can tell that I have him completly starteled. Immediatly after seeing me he closes his car trunk. I near my car and give him a friendly "hello." I ask him if he is going to hike the trail, and he says he is. I ask him if he's hiked it before and he says he hasn't. I tell him about the cabins and about the lake, and wish him a good time. I then get in my car and watch him in my rear view mirror as I drive out onto the highway.

The guy was a little creepy but I think nothing of it as I continue along the road. I see a beautiful scenic pull off, just a mile drive from the trail I had just hiked. I pull off the highway and drive up the hill to the scenic view. There are maybe two or three other cars in the lot and a few people sitting on benches enjoying the view when I arrive. I get out of my car and take in the view, and in the next couple moments one by one the other siteseers leave, until I'm alone. By chance I look down the highway, from the way I came, and I see a car coming down the road that I recongize. It was the car of the guy I met at the trail head. It had only been maybe fifteen minutes since I left him at the foot of the trail. There is no way he could have hiked for more than five maybe ten minutes before getting back in to his car and driving on. To my slight dismay I see him pull into the scenic pull off and drive up the hill toward me. I get back in my car and drive off. We cross paths, him coming in and me going out and he doesn't give me one look, which is suspicious. It woudl have been less odd if he had looked at me. But it seemed like he purpsefully didn't look at me.

At the scenic driveway turnoff I decided to see if he really was following me and I turned to go back the way I came. I parked at the trail head that I had just been at and waited. Sure enough just a couple minutes go by and here comes that guy. As soon as I see his car coming my way I take off in the opposite direction, going the direction I was originally headed. I drive fast and I find what I'm looking for, another trail head pull off, but this time with a longer drive, one where the parking lot is hidden from the highway. I check to be sure I don't see his car behind me then I pull onto the drive and park in the lot, and I wait. He doesn't come.

After an hour or so I continue on my drive, and the rest of the day is uneventful. That afternoon I stop for lunch at a diner, and strike up a conversation with my waitress. I tell her about what happened and she explains that many of the woods along the trails are used by drug growers as farmland, and even that the occasional dead body is found. Could that guy have been some drug grower? Who knows? Was I overreacting, or letting my fear get the best of me? Maybe, but all I can say is that I am still here and healthy today, and if I hadn't followed my gut maybe I wouldn't be.


{Included are photos that Danger provided of the cabins mentioned in his story}

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