Footsteps in the Forest

Weird People on the Trail

We’ve All Met Them…

His name was Bob.

I kinda-sorta encountered him Friday night. I didn’t actually speak to him, but I nearly tripped over his off-leash black Lab while trying to make it to the campsite.

Scared the hell out of me, actually.

I should mention that this all took place more than 25 years ago, during one of my first serious camping trips. And aside from it being dark, the trail I was on was extremely remote, which made me a bit jumpy.

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When I bumped into the doggo, he let out a rather menacing growl, made all the more frightening because I couldn’t see him at all.

Given my already-frazzled nerves, I was sure that I’d just crossed paths with a predator, who was undoubtedly going to consume me.

But Magnum turned out to be a friendly pooch. He loved gathering sticks for the fire.

He wasn’t the problem.

Bob turned out to be the problem.

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I formally met Bob Saturday morning. He and his wife were posted up at a neighboring campsite, and they came over to introduce themselves. They were retirees visiting from a neighboring state, who were only staying for the weekend.

Bob was normal enough at first, though he didn’t waste much time trying to trade me some old fishing lures for various recreational supplies one may enjoy during a camping trip.

Eventually, our conversation turned to the trail we were on. It was a bit of a challenging trail, with numerous river crossings.

And that’s when Bob first started to get weird.

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He kept going on and on about how he would have been able to negotiate each river crossing, but because his wife was so inexperienced, they needed to turn back.

He just kept hammering that point home. “She’s just not experienced enough.”

Now, watching Bob get around camp led me to believe that he wouldn’t have been able to complete these crossings either, but that doesn’t really matter.  

It all just kinda rubbed me the wrong way, as I felt he was blatantly disrespecting his wife. That’s bad enough, but the fact that he was doing it – repeatedly – in front of a stranger just seemed like a douche move.

Maybe she wasn’t experienced enough for some of the river crossings this trail presented, but there was no reason to call her out like that.

To paraphrase the old adage:

“Expert” campers who know everything quickly become tiresome. But camping companions who make you feel like an expert are invaluable.

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At any rate, we chatted for a while before parting ways.

I may or may not have had a few new fishing lures to try out.

I didn’t really see Bob for the rest of the day. But later that night, I heard some rustling in the forest.

Completely convinced that it was a bear and certain I was about to become dinner, I peeked my head out the tent door.

But these sounds weren’t caused by a bear. They came courtesy of Bob, who was creeping around the tent.

“Oh good, you’re still up?” he offered sheepishly, as he was obviously caught in the act of being a Creepy McCreeperson.

“No, Bob. Goodnight.”

I wasn’t physically afraid of Bob (at least, now that I knew he wasn’t a bear). He was small and 40 years older than me. He wasn’t in great shape, either.

But his behavior was certainly invasive and odd.   

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Sunday arrived and was thankfully Bob-free for the most part.

I enjoyed a nice hike up a nearby mountain and snapped scads of photos (note that these were film photos, as this story takes place in 1995, give or take).

I did spill lunch all over the ground, which was less than ideal. But you haven’t really enjoyed canned ravioli until you’ve had it with a pine-needle garnish anyway.

I was sitting around the fire later that night when Bob stumbled on down and started making bizarre conversation.

I don’t remember many of the specifics, except that — apropos of absolutely nothing — he went on a 15 minute riff about Christina Applegate, of all people. It bears mentioning that this was during the heyday of Married… with Children, but still.

I was eager for him to leave, so I tried not to really engage him very much. But I didn’t want to make things awkward, either.

That was going to be Bob’s specialty, anyway.

I was looking down and fiddling with my lantern, trying to simultaneously avoid being rude while still presenting social cues that most normal humans would catch and take as a clue to skedaddle.

But then I made the mistake of looking up.

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“Oh, god. What are you doing?”

Bob was taking off his clothes.

ALL of his clothes.

He offered no explanation. He just disrobed as matter-of-factly as one would toss a stick on the fire.

Paralyzed in shock, I just sat there dumbfounded.

Now fully naked, Bob starts talking about how great it is to “get back to nature.”

He then turns around and starts – I really wish I were exaggerating here – warming his butt on the fire. And I don’t just mean pointing his butt at the fire. I mean he was rubbing both cheeks with his hands while uttering sounds I can’t unhear.

I quickly doused the fire and explained that our evening had reached its conclusion.

“Goodnight, Bob.”

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I woke early, packed up and hit the trail without seeing Bob. It seemed weird not to formally conclude our relationship, but I was too embarrassed for him. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I should mention anything to his wife.

How exactly would I explain that Bob performed his own fireside burlesque routine the night before?

For that matter, given that Bob had only become weirder with each encounter, I wasn’t anxious to see how he was going to top Sunday night’s performance.

So, I just left.

But I still remember him to this day. In fact, that’s just about all I remember from this trip, except for my pasta a la pine needle.

Bob was certainly a grade-A weirdo, but he turned out to be mostly harmless (save for the images I’ll forever have seared in my brain).

But what about you? Who was the weirdest human you ever encountered on the trail? Let us know in the comments below.  

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