I set my tent away from everyone else, on a small plateau that overlooked the ‘Hidden Lake’ that we had been so desperately hiking to since that morning. It was peaceful and scenic as I began to set it up, but by the time night came, the sky was cloudy and there wasn’t a single glimpse of starlight to guide me back through the narrow pathway in between thorny bushes and wild trees.
My newly met friend and experienced hiker of the AT offered me a sleeping pill, and as I drifted to sleep, I wondered if it was the right choice to take an unknown substance from a male stranger. Even with the pill, the night was tough. We were far outside of civilization, but birds can travel half-way across the world. It wasn’t so long of a long journey for the night-bird that perched directly above my tent, and had brought the exotic and terrifying mimicry of the suburban car alarm to the forest. It went off every two and a half hours, causing nightmares of being eternally lost in a labyrinth of mall parking lots.
The distant noise of crickets and mating frogs as we had sat by the fire 200 feet away became a loud and horrifying drone as I made my way back to the site. But it would eventually blur into a static and unchanging beacon of comfort as the night wore on and I became increasingly desperate for some sense of familiarity among the foreign screeches and the triumphant calls of successful night hunts.
Three times throughout the night I heard shrill, demonic screams, and I couldn’t help but think of the warning I had been given “animals’ll surely show up near that lake as they migrate through the night, hun; better be careful.”
I was unsure when I woke up if what I had heard had been some sort of spectral spirit of the wild, a hallucination caused by the previously mentioned sleeping pills, or simply coyotes. I became increasingly worried as the rest of the group claimed to hear nothing all night. I eventually came to the conclusion that they were a blessing bestowed only for those that had just the right mix of subdued insanity, paranoia, and love of poetry—and I took it as a sign of good fortune as we made our way back through the piney forest to our first and final destination of the trip—the parking lot.