A Harrowing Experience On The Long Trail

I love the Long Trail, and since 1977, my wife and daughters and I have enjoyed hiking and camping amidst its beauty. No doubt, you’ll be inundated with happy memories of families like mine. But I also have some darker memories, memories that emerge from the shadows along the trail. There was, for example, a hike to Griffith Lake almost 25 years ago. It was an August Friday, a sunny, blue afternoon when my wife and older daughter and I set out from Mt. Tabor for a short climb to the lake, where we planned to camp for a couple of nights. We arrived at the campsite mid-afternoon and began putting up our tent when suddenly three men in camouflage appeared in our site moving quickly, carrying automatic rifles of some variety. They said not a word, just fanned out, moving around, signaling each other as though they were in some B-movie. They disappeared a bit to the north of our site, another campsite just beyond the ranger's tent.

So we finished setting up our site. It was getting cloudy rapidly and colder, much colder. We ate as the last light was disappearing. And then the gunfire started, multiple bursts of automatic explosions. Then silence. The ranger went toward the Rambo campsite and reappeared shortly. He stopped at our tent; he seemed shaken. He said he had visited them. They had been sitting around a campfire, a trio staring at the flames. He spoke to them, told them they couldn’t shoot their weapons. He said they didn’t say a word, didn’t even look at him, just sat there staring into the fire. He left, and it remained quiet. We climbed in our sleeping bags, and it snowed (in August!). We were cold and occasionally awoken by a burst of gunfire. I didn't sleep much, was too worried about what to do if they decided to attack.

The next morning, we decided to head out early; we hadn’t really packed for winter. So we started our breakfast, and then the woods erupted like some kind of war, bullets snapping through the trees above us. We yelled at the morons to cut it out and packed up. The ranger asked us to call the State Police and report what happened when we got to a phone (no cell phones in those days).

It was a memorable trip on the Trail. My wife and younger daughter have other memories of the disturbed and disturbing people they encountered during their various camping trips. There are a lot of really great people you run into out there, but it's the loonies who tend to stick with you, unfortunately.

Alden Blodget


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Longtrail 100

VPR is marking the 100th anniversary of The Long Trail with a month-long series of reports and essays. Through this series, we'll explore the history and future of The Long Trail and introduce listeners to the people who built, maintain and hike it today.