Footsteps in the Forest

What’s the Weirdest Thing You’ve Found on the Trail?

I enjoy hiking in forests for a ton of different reasons.

I love watching wildlife and checking out the trees. I enjoy exploring new trails I’ve never encountered. I also love the myriad health benefits hiking provides.

But one of the things I appreciate most is the solitude you get to soak up during a solo trek through the forest. I’m an introvert through-and-through, who loves the kind of escape the forest supplies.

That said, there are times in which I am a social creature who interacts with other humans (they’re rare, but they do exist).

But rather than grabbing lunch or a drink, I often prefer to catch up with friends while hiking.

My attention is usually focused on the human company during these trips, so I don’t often see many noteworthy things on the trail.

But that doesn’t mean I never do.

B. Team
B. Team

I encountered what were ostensibly toe tags while trekking through the forest with a friend on a dreary winter day last year. To be honest, it was my doggo who found them, but she’s a poor reader, who didn’t grasp their actual weirdness.

Look, I don’t really know if these are real; fortunately, I’ve never had to see an actual toe tag. But if they aren’t real, someone went to a lot of trouble to make them look pretty darn authentic.    

Toe tags aside, I’ve encountered plenty of other strange things in forests over the years.

Most were of the nature-made variety. These are usually pretty easy to understand or explain with a little bit of detective work (pro-tip: 95% of weird things in the forest are fungi of some kind).

For example, I once found a dead carp stuck in a tree branch junction about 4 feet above the ground.

On its face, that’s a pretty strange thing to encounter. But it came on the back of a historic flood event, which caused local rivers — including the one I was walking near — to overflow their typical borders. The surrounding forest became flooded, eventually leaving this poor fish stranded once the waters receded.

It’s not always the things you see that are weird, either. Sometimes, it’s the things you hear.

Decades ago, I was camping in a relatively remote bit of wilderness in the north Georgia mountains. Shortly before dusk the first day, I began hearing an ominous thumping sound. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before, and it sent my imagination into overdrive.

I even asked a park ranger who passed through camp about the sound. He didn’t know what it was, but he mentioned that moonshine stills — which were not entirely unheard of in the area — make a lot of strange noises. This did not make me feel any better.

Nevertheless, it had a completely benign source.

Some of you have probably already figured out what I heard, but it stumped me for years.

The video doesn’t really capture the volume of this avian ruckus, but you get the idea.

Wildlife can certainly be the cause of strange forest encounters, but it’s usually people who end up leaving weird stuff in the woods. The toe tags were an obvious example, but there have been others.

A few summers ago, I stumbled upon a machete stuck in the side of a tree on a very busy urban trail.

That’s not creepy at all. That’s an entirely normal thing. Right?

I’ve also seen old signs swallowed by trees, rotted car carcasses miles from the nearest road, and glass bottles dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

For that matter, people traveling a well-known trail in the metro Atlanta area routinely see very strange things.

But these toe tags were hands-down the weirdest things I have ever found in the forest.

And that leads me to wonder: What kind of weird stuff have you found?  Share your strange findings in the comments below, or just hit us up on Instagram if you’ve got photos.

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