The strangest hiking story I have, took place in Yellowstone Park. My partner and I were using the Firehole River campsite as a base camp. We wanted to investigate the river on the opposite bank. We went to the bridge, crossed over, and noticed a faint trail that seemed to be parallel to the river. Fishermen probably used it. It didn’t always stay by the water, but swung up the hillside, then back down by the river.
This went on for a few miles, then the trail went up the hillside which turned into a flat ledge that seemed to go for miles. The ledge appeared to be about thirty feet above the river. It was still a faint trail but it was easy going until the trees changed.
You don’t noticed it right away, it sorta crept up on you. The trees were tall, healthy, and well spaced. Then they got closer together, it got darker, and the trees were unhealthy. Or maybe they were healthy, but just looked sick. They were the same species of tree, but now they were stunted and scraggly. It looked like trees from a haunted forest.
That was bad, but now it got worse. The faint trail disappeared and the ground gave way to a swamp that was water at least six inches deep every direction that we looked.
We should have turned around. I think all the fishermen had done exactly that. Except that I noticed a log, a fallen tree laying in the swamp. If you looked closely there were a few branches missing, exactly in the right place for a person to use the log as a bridge. Not only that, but if you went down the log for about thirty feet, there was another log that you could step on, and it had the same branches removed. If you looked closely you could see the bark was slightly crushed where it was stepped on.
The swamp could be crossed, but not in a straight line. The logs zigzagged, sometimes even going backwards, but eventually we crossed over the swamp and we noticed the trees got normal again.
I had never been through a forest like that, and looking back, there was no obvious way through the swamp. We got a stick and jammed it into the ground to help us find the way back.
Within a few minutes a clearing opened up right next to the river. We were still thirty feet above the river, but there was an easy way down. The clearing was also unusual because of the rocks. Large rocks that needed two hands to lift them. Large rocks that were placed in a pattern, a circle that was at least twenty feet across. People had done this.
Within the circle there was a perfect square, the corners almost touching the circle. Within the square there was a large triangle, again, almost touching the edges of the square. Finally, inside the triangle, there was a cross, but not pointing to the north. I couldn’t tell if it was pointing to anything specific.
We stood there pondering what we found. The rocks had been there for a long time, most of them seemed to have settled several inches into the dirt. I was trying to remember if I had ever seen this before. It didn’t appear to be a map symbol, although it could be seen from the air. The rocks were a lot whiter than the surrounding dirt. What did it all mean?
The next thing we noticed was two fresh water pools, each about ten feet across. One that was just the right temperature for a natural spa, it even had a floor to sit on, the water coming in from a side vent.
The other pool was boiling hot. I mean cooking boiling hot, but weirdly, it was still fresh with no trace of sulfur. The heat that the pools generated would have kept the area clear of snow even in the middle of winter. There was plenty of space all around for dozens of tents.
When we realized this we got a little scared. People did this, and lots of people could have used this as a campsite with built in cooking facilities. When was the last time? We didn’t know, but I saw that one of rocks was a little different. I went over to look at the rock, picked it up, and there was green grass underneath it. It had been placed in the circle recently. This symbol in the clearly, just on the other side of a haunted forest, was being maintained, and recently.
We turned around and got out of there.
I still haven’t found a reason for the symbol, nor have I ever seen it in any book. The story could end here and it would at least be creepy. But when we got back to the campsite we described the symbol to our ranger friend, wondering if it meant something to the park service. He had never heard anything about it, but he asked if we would guide him the next day.
We went back with the ranger. The haunted forest was still spooky, but the ranger explained that the sulphur in the water can caused the trees to grow distorted. We showed how the logs seemed to be used to get across the swamp. The ranger nodded. We showed him the pools and the rock symbol. He nodded and rubbed his chin. Then he said, “That’s where they go!”
Huh? Then he explained that there are only a few places on earth where sulphur comes up out of the earth. The very nature of Nature seemed to attract more than normal tourists. Covens of witches, Satan worshippers and even heavy metal fans have come into the park.
Even in the winter the roads are still open and he has found cars parked in the campground, but he couldn’t figure out where they went. “Maybe they came here.”
We had found something very strange in the woods.