This is the final part of The Lost Trail Incident. If you haven’t already read the previous posts avoid spoilers by reading them in order.
The hiker woke to the sound of the boy’s heavy work boots coming his direction. The fire had been stoked in the fireplace and he was thankful for the warmth in Rex’s absence. The boy knelt down next to bed and laid his hand on the hiker’s face. “You’re going to be fine now.” Was all he said. The hiker felt himself falling back to sleep but managed to get out a simple “Thanks” as he nodded off. Just as his eyes closed he caught a glimpse of a brilliant white light through his half closed eyes. He presumed it to be the antique carbide head lamp that the boy was so fond of using.
The hiker woke again to a deep chill. “Hey! The fire is out! He called out but there was no reply. “THE! FIRE! IS! OUT!” He called out again. This there was a reply. “It came from over there!” But the voice was the boy’s voice. It was a full grow man. The hiker opened his eyes fully to see the fall splendor in all it’s glory. In shock he tried to stand and look around. The injured leg restricted his movement but he manged to get on his one good foot and hop a little. The cabin was gone! There was nothing left but the crumbling remnants of the fireplace. The stonework chimney was covered by moss. Only the hearth showed signs of recent use. The handmade crutches, table, workshed and the walls of the cabin itself had rotted away decades ago. The sat down on one of the dislodged stones from the cabin’s foundation and rubbed his eyes in disbelief. He heard excited voices coming his way through the forest as men beat the vegetation aside to clear a path. One of them had a two-way radio and was already calling for an ambulance to meet them at the head of the trail. The hiker was still stunned by disappearance of the boy, the cabin and the dog. Not to mention the attack of a Panther that he was told was a “Devil cat”. As the rescue team eased the hiker into the sled shaped basket so that they could carry him to the extraction point he thought to glance at his injured leg. He found the Amadou bandage right where it was supposed to be. He would have to figure out what had actually happened later when he could think it through. As he was carried to the trail head he watched the tree tops scroll through his field of view while he tried to recall as much detail of his experience as he could. When the the last tree had passed by the the open sky was to see he knew that they were at the trail head. His rescuers were loading him into the back when the hiker thought he heard Rex’s baying out and before they could react Rex lept on top of the hiker and wiggled his way into the gurney. “Is this your dog sir?” Asked the EMT. “Do you see him to?” The hiker replied while trying to pretend that there wasn’t a 70 pound Bluetick Coonhound in his lap. The EMT responded, “Of course I see him, he’s as big as a house!” Hiker let out a sigh of relief. “Then he’s my dog. And I’m not going anywhere without him.”
The EMT had a little trouble convincing the hospital staff to let Rex stay with the hiker but they eventually conceded after a “service dog in training” certification was drafted on the back of a napkin. The hiker’s first visiter was the park supervisor. He told the hiker that he needed to interview him about the accident if he was able so he could make a full report. He asked the hiker the usual questions about how he injured and what kinds safety changes might be made. He then placed the paperwork in a folder and produced a three ring binder. He explained that this next part was off the record. “Let me try to guess.” The park ranger said. You left the trail, because severely injured, was rescued and nursed back to health by a boy in early 20th century attire. He sheltered you in furnished cabin and defended you from the attack of a black Panther.” The hiker looked at ranger in disbelief. The ranger looked at Rex who was at that moment on his back waiting for a belly rub. “But there’s never been a dog before” he added as he gave in to Rex’s requests for attention. The hiker confirmed that this his story as well. The ranger looked at Rex and noted that maybe he needed rescued as well. The ranger opened his binder and removed an old tin type photo that he handed to the hiker. His name was Joshua. He was an orphan and lived in the cabin his parents built near the river. The park service doesn’t have a record of his mother’s death but his father’s trade raft broke up in the river and he drowned. The hiker looked at the photo and this was definitely the kid that helped him. “I took some pictures of the boy myself.” Hiker said. But when he opened the file on his phone there was only a few photos of the fireplace in ruins. He zoomed in a little and noticed that there was only a white mist next to fire. The same was true for the photos of the boy feeding the birds. The ranger was unsurprised and shook his head slightly. “Well, I just thought that you deserved to know that you’re not crazy.” he said. “I hope you feel better soon and in the future, whatever you do, don’t leave the trail.”
Hello Friends! I hope you enjoyed this year’s Halloween ghost story. The hiker had what Adventurers call the 3rd Man Factor. There are some people who say that they were rescued from certain death by the ghost of a person who fell into the same peril. Tomorrow night we’ll be back to regular posts but until then be blessed throughout your days.
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