Nature Trail to Hell

7 min readJan 14, 2023

“Did hear about that story about the missing hikers?” The first guy asked.

“It’s all anyone is talking about.” A second guy, sitting next to him waiting for the speaker to take the stage replied. “They have been missing how long now? Two weeks? Three?”

“I think I know what happened to them.” The first guy responded.

A third person turned around in their seat to join the conversation. “No one knows what happened to them.”

“I’m telling you; I know what happened to them. I was hiking in the area last weekend with my friend, Ben, and we saw the bodies…or at least what was left of them.”

“I call bullshit!” the second guy replied. “The police have been all over that area. They’ve taken dogs out and everything and not found anything.”

“That is just what they are reporting. There is something living up in those mountains that is neither human nor animal that is killing anyone and anything going up there.” The first guy explained.

“And I suppose you seen it?” The second guy asked, his voice tinged with sarcasm.

“Ben and would go hiking every weekend. We’ve done this since high school, always somewhere different. We would make a weekend out of it. We have never been up in mountains, so we decided to go up to the mountains where the hikers disappeared and see what was up there. Now, mind you, the news has not reported precisely where the hikers disappeared, because they don’t know. No one really does. It’s not like there was someone around to report ‘the hikers disappeared where the path makes and Y next to a tree and a rock surrounded with poison ivy.’ No one has those details, and even if they did, no one would know what they were taking about. When you say someone was abducted on 3rd and Main, people know where you are talking about. Describing a place on a hiking trail doesn’t work that way.

“Anyway, Last Friday we drove up there, took our camping gear with us, like I said, this was a weekend thing. We parked the car on the roadside, loaded up with gear, and set off. I don’t know what I was expecting, since this was supposed to be a popular hiking spot, but it was unlike anywhere we’ve ever went.”

At his point in his story other people had started listening, some out of curiosity, some out of boredom.

“The first part of the trail was well worn like you would expect a hiking trail to be. We had probably hiked 10 miles when we came across this small area with a stone fire circle. It looked like others had stopped to camp there before on their hiking trips. We set up camp for the night. The sounds of nature were cacophonous. I have never experienced nature being so loud before. Birds, frogs, coyotes, bats, and who knows what else. It was all so loud. Made it hard to fall asleep.

“The sounds of the animals of the night were replaced by all new animals in the morning, and they were just as loud. Ben and I ate our lavish breakfast of granola, tore down camp, and continued up the trail. This is where things start to get weird. The further up the trail we went, the less worn down it was. There were some areas where we had trouble finding it. Also, the further we went, the fewer sounds there were. When Ben and I realized everything was silent we stopped to listen, thinking we were imagining things. When was the last time you were somewhere and didn’t hear birds? I am telling you, this forest, on the side of this mountain, was dead silent like after a snowfall, only we were somewhere it shouldn’t have that quiet. There should have been birds. There should have been squirrels or rabbits or something that you could hear scurrying away as we came near. There were no insect mating calls. We became more aware of every snap of each stick we steeped on, each rock we kicked.

“A quarter of a mile or so later the trail became well worn again, only it was more of a well-worn narrow garden path and not a hiking trail. I looked at Ben and he just shrugged. We followed the path as it winded around trees and a pond. The water was perfectly still, undisturbed by fish or insects. On the far side of the pond was a shack.

“Shack probably isn’t the right word. It had been someone’s house before nature reclaimed it. The sides of it were overtaken by vines, the door was hanging by a single hinge. A tree had fallen across the building taking out part of the roof. Right inside the door was a small kitchen. Some of the cupboard doors had fallen off the rusty hinges. Plants were breaking through the floor. The kitchen table was lopsided, having lost a leg. Everything was covered in a layer of dirt except the woodburning stove. It was clean and had been used recently. Other than the stove, there was no sign that anyone had been there.

“The adjoining room was empty except for a lone rocking chair. It reminded me of the antique rocker my grandmother passed onto my aunt. It was out of place, polished to a shine. Vines had broken through the windows and were climbing up the walls. Debris scattered the floor from broken roof. I stepped into the room to look around. Ben took a picture of the rocking chair with his phone. The air didn’t smell right. It was a mix of petrichor, rotting wood, and death.

“The back room was smaller than the other two and contained a rusted cot. A tree branch found it’s way through a broken window. There were bones from various animals scattered across the floor. If we had seen any signs of wildlife in the area I would have thought that a coyote had drug it’s kill here for safe storage by the looks of the bones that scattered the floor. Some had been there some time, others were newer and picked clean of their meat, while others were left, the meat starting to go rancid.

“The sunlight coming in from the broken window bounced of something small in the far corner, behind the cot. I walked carefully to the corner, trying to avoid everything on the floor. All I could think of was I would never get the smell out of my shoes.

“An arm was sticking out from under the cot. The sunlight was reflecting off the watch. The bodies of the hikers had been hidden there, out of sight to anyone who might glance in the room. A cell phone had fallen on the floor. As I picked it up and stuffed it in my pocket. I ran through the rocking chair room into the kitchen yelling for Ben. There was no sign of him, and he didn’t answer. I ran outside and started searching, pleading for him to stop screwing around. Still no sign of Ben. He had just vanished.

“Panic gripped me by the throat. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be anywhere near this building when night fell. I ran around the pond, every couple feet glancing in to see if there were signs of Ben, that maybe he had fallen in and drown. I could hear my heart beating in my ears and I ran down that narrow path. I heard another scream in the distance behind me and I tried to run faster but the camping gear was weighing me down. I pulled the pack off my back throwing it on the ground. I took only the essentials from the pack that I could carry in my pockets, a few protein bars and a package of granola, my knife and the flashlight. I ran, only slowing down when I finally heard a bird. I turned on the flashlight when it became dark. I had no gear, and even if I did there was no way I was going to camp in the forest.

“It was nearly midnight when I made it back to the car. I stopped at the ranger station a few miles down the road to report what happened. I was asked if I had been drinking or taking anything because there was no building anywhere in mountains. I was assured that ever inch of them had been mapped.

“I returned to my car after the ranger threatened to have me arrested and called Ben’s cell phone. I got his voice mail and hung up. The entire way home I kept looking at my phone willing it to ring. It never did.

“At home I fell asleep with my clothes on, exhausted. The first thing I did when I woke up was try and call Ben again. Once again I got his voice mail. I frantically searched my pockets, remembering I had picked up a strange cell phone. I plugged into my charger and powered it on. Its owner didn’t bother to put a lock code on it. I was hoping there was something on the phone that would give me some kind of idea what had happened to the hikers, and more importantly, prove that I wasn’t crazy. I found something all right. I have the phone with me, let me show you.”

He took the phone out of his jacket pocket and opened the photo gallery and passed the phone around.

“What the hell?” The second guy said. “I thought that was just an urban legend!”

The person sitting behind him looked over his shoulder at the picture. “My friend’s cousin’s wife went to school with someone who had seen it. He ended up going committing suicide not long afterward/”

“Do you think it took Ben? Someone else asked.

“I am sure of it.”




University student working on their MA in English. Book reviewer, creative writer and blogger.