The engine of my big blue truck growls as I carefully ease my way up Panther Mountain on a foggy October morning. I have the windows down and have turned the music off so that I can listen to the forest. I have become accustomed to paying attention to the bird calls as a kind of “radar”. The forests speak to you if you know what your listening for. Even with the windows down and the radio off I have to stop the engine and step out to be able to get a good ear shot of what’s going on. The fog seems to close in on me like a cloak and the morning light dims a little as I find a spot wide enough to exit the vehicle.
I took a little peek over the edge but the valley below is completely hidden by the fog. After a few minutes the birds began to chirp. I was hoping to get a nice photo of the fog on the Gauley River below but the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see beyond a few yards. I thought that maybe if I sat still enough some wildlife might stumble into range of my lens. This is actually a public road and even though it’s seldom used I can’t leave the road blocked so I stay within sight of the truck. I noticed that the leaves near the edge of the road were moving and suddenly a chipmunk popped up right at my feet. Before I could focus he let out a squeak and disappeared back into a sea of fallen leaves. I chuckled softly and was watching to see if he came back when the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Something was moving through the area. Something big enough to silence the birds. Normally I’d notice the holes in the bird chatter but I was too focused on the chipmunk. That eerie feeling of being watched flooded my gut so strongly that I became nauseous. Whatever it was that made the birds fall silent was close and I allowed myself to drift out from the truck a bit too far. To be continued on Part 2
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