Anthony and John were hiking at the foot of Windigo Butte when a man with boney arms, a scruffy beard, and long brown hair, came walking around a boulder in front of them. His feet were bare, his gray t-shirt and shorts were dirty. The sound of his raspy voice made Anthony grit his teeth. The strange man sang a song that was hard to make out. Anthony looked over at John, "Is he trying to sing,
The man came up to them and asked, "Would you boys happen to have a bite I could eat?" The hair on the back of Anthony's neck stood straight up. Butterflies banged around the inside of John's stomach. They put their backpacks down. "Would you boys happen to have any meat?" the raggedy bearded man asked.
John reached into his backpack and pulled out a plastic bag of jerky. "Here," he said handing the man the entire bag. "How's this?" The man nodded but didn't say anything. Anthony offered him a dehydrated beef and broccoli package, but the man waved it off. The man gave the boys and slight bow and walked down the trail from where the boys had come. The man sang a song but they couldn't make out most of the words. They recognized the words, ...tonight I'm gonna be with you... and
The boys put their backpacks back on and continued on their way. They walked in silence for about a half-hour before Anthony said, "That guy gave me the willies."
"Me, too," John said.
A couple of Forest Rangers stopped their truck where the dirt road intersected the PCT. The female driver got out of the truck as John and Anthony approached the road. "You look like you saw a ghost," she said to the boys.
Anthony told her about the guy they gave the jerky to. The ranger's eyebrows shot up. "Wow! You actually saw him and gave him something to eat?"
John was busy trying to decipher what the ranger was saying, while Anthony said, "He looked hungry."
"Have you guys heard of El Windigo?"
They shook their heads. "What's that?" John asked.
"Not what. Who," the ranger said. "As the legend goes, El Windigo was an Algonquin Indian who got lost in the woods and was starving. He was so hungry that he turned into a cannibal and would kill anyone he saw and eat them. But he never died. He walks the trails and asks people for food. If they give it to him, he lets them go. If they don't he waits until dark and kills them in their sleep. When they are found, parts of their bodies have been eaten. At first, those who found the bodies assumed that a bear or a puma had killed them. But when the coroner's reports came back, the bites were from a human."
John gave the ranger a nervous smile. "I don't believe in ghost stories. And if he's an Algonquin, he'd be on the East Coast anyway. "
The ranger paid no attention to what John said. She continued, "He shows up and resides wherever his name is said. And since some idiots named that mountain, Windigo Butte, he now lives here. There have been a few sightings but you two are the first I've met who actually talked to him and gave him some meat. I hope you aren't camping too close to Windigo Butte for the night."
"We still have a few hours of hiking north before we set up camp," Anthony said.
"Good. Stay safe," the ranger said. She got back into the truck and drove away.
Anthony and John stared at a bush by the side of the dirt road. "This looks like someone bled over it," Anthony said.
"Oh! Don't go get weird on me now," John said.
John and Anthony hiked a total of 22 miles before setting up camp for the night. After John set up his tent, he fired up his camp stove to boil water to pour into his dehydrated fettucini Alfredo. Anthony stared at his beef and broccoli bag. He found a flat rock and set his stove on it. "That guy on the trail freaked me out," Anthony said. "What was he doing out here without a backpack?"
"He was probably some homeless guy who figured out that backpackers always have food," John said.
"His voice was creepy," Anthony said. "It was like his words had to climb over a dusty pile of loose rocks that were so sharp each one cut his throat as he talked."
John ate, and when he put his things back into the bear canister, he stopped, and stared at the bag of beef jerky sitting inside his bear canister. How did that get there? he wondered. He put the bear canister away from the tents. He opened his tent. "I'm so sleepy. We had a long day. Goodnight." He got into his sleeping back and fell asleep.
Just as dawn lifted the edge of night's black skirt John yelled, "No!" He woke up in a cold sweat.
"Are you OK?" Anthony asked as he crawled out of his tent.
"Your snoring gave me a nightmare," John said as he crawled out of his own tent.
"My snoring doesn't cause nightmares," Anthonys said. "It causes wet dreams." He laughed. What time is it?"
"Too early," John said. "I had this nightmare that some creepy bald guy with grey skin and pointed teeth was eating your leg."
"My leg?" Anthony asked. "He would've gotten more to eat if he had gotten my stomach. It had food in it." He laughed again.
Click on the words Waltzing Matilda and Jersey Girl to hear the songs.