Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Deliverance" at Swift Creek campsite

 Many of my friends want me to watch the movie "Deliverance" when I tell them I will hike somewhere in Southeast US - but I always refuse. And I know why: On each trip I have some scary experience and having seen that movie would probably even make it scarier. So here is my "Deliverance" experience on the Florida Trail:

Trail on old tramway
I planned to camp at Swift Creek designated camp site which had been highly recommended to me and arrived pretty late in the day - only to see that a pick-up truck was parked right on it! I could not believe my eyes: I usually do not see anybody for days on end and now there is a truck parked right where I want to camp! The truck looked like a typical hunter's vehicle: Lots of ammo boxes inside and a "Lulu hunt club" sticker on the back. Great - this is just what I needed at the end of a day: Me lying alone in my tent at night and a guy with a gun out there returning from hunting. I know that hunters are usually harmless and friendly people but I still did not like the idea and decided to hike back a bit and hide somewhere in the forest. I had just found a hidden camp spot when I heard the shooting. It was pretty close and scared me horribly. Did the hunter see me or mistake me for a deer? And what was he shooting at anyways? This was NOT hunting season at all!

Campsite on the FT
I set up my tent and tried to relax a bit when I heard some animal in the bush. This happens quite often and usually the animal smells me and runs away. This did not seem to smell anything (despite me stinking pretty badly) and came closer and closer. I could not see what it was from inside the tent and made some noise to scare it away. But that worked to well: Whatever it was, panicked, tripped over my guylines, tore out 2 tent stakes and ran away OVER my tent! I don't know who was more scared: It or me! It must have been something pretty small like an armadillo (Guerteltier) because I did not get hurt in the process, but I did not feel very comfortable.... Luckily I could at least hear the hunter stop shooting, starting his truck and driving away when it got totally dark. Now I was eventually hoping for peace and quiet - but I was wrong.

Campsite/Trail register on the FT
Shortly before midnight I heard more noise: A truck came down the forest road!!!! These roads are difficult to hike through when they are flooded like they are now and I could not understand at all how a truck could go down these roads in the pitch dark. But things got even worse: Whoever it was had brought dogs who were barking fiercely and he was yelling at them even fiercer. And on top of that he parked very close to me. I could hear my own heart pounding and wondered what to do if the dogs came after me - but luckily they did not. I could hear the dogs barking further and further away for more than an hour and the truck going down the forest roads splashing through the water. It totally eludes me what this guy was doing in a truck with dogs in a flooded forest at midnight outside hunting season and all possible explanations make me think that hiding in the forest had probably been a very good idea....

Anyway, for all FT hikers: Maybe you better avoid Swift Creek camp site....But at least I learnt later on what all that noise and dog barking at midnight had been all about: The guy had probably been racoon hunting! Racoons are nocturnal and when they are hunted by dogs they flee up trees - where hunters in trucks can spot them with their car lights and shoot them.

2 comments:

RickBeth said...

Christine,
We enjoyed meeting you today at Stephen Foster State Park. Thank you for the information about healthcare in Germany. Good luck on the rest of your Florida Trail trip and your trips after that.
Rick and Beth

ArizonaAnnie said...

You must be correct about your guess that the hunted animal was a raccoon. Or maybe the hunters were poachers, possibly hunting deer or cougar. But what does this Arizona girl know?