“Snap! Crack! Boom!” Sure it was the 4th of July, but this wasn’t fireworks. It was 5:30 am and we were in the middle of a pine forest. “Crash! Boom! Bang!” The noise was startling and loud, and was a constant grinding/gnashing sound in the background. It was incredibly disconcerting, and it was getting closer!!!
We could hear it, but we couldn’t see it. What the heck was it? Where was it? Where was it going? Was it coming for us? It was just so loud and it sounded like pure destruction… It was downright scary.
As the sun continued to rise we saw the aftermath of whatever it was littering the forest floor. It wasn’t like the logging and lumbering areas we’d seen before. There, the stumps of the trees had cleanly cut edges, and so did the remaining felled logs. Here, there were plenty of stumps but they looked like they had been chewed up by a giant and then spit out all over the forest floor… It was really weird, and all of the shredded tree bits were fresh… Not more than a day or two old.
“Griiiiiind! Smash! Crunch!” As the sky got brighter we saw bulldozer tracks criss-crossing the trail everywhere and we finally figured out what the noise was coming from. It had to be some kind of bulldozer/chipper combination… And it was headed our way… Would it be able to see us through the remaining trees? Did it know where the trail even was? Would we see the trees crashing down with plenty of time to get out of the way?
I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to find out, so I picked up my pace… I’d feel much better once we were out of this area. I kept looking back over my shoulder… I still couldn’t see the roving menace. I’d never heard anything like it before in my life, but the longer it went on, the more frightening it became. It had me looking over my shoulder even more often than I had the day that the mountain lion hissed at me!
Eventually we came to a dirt road, and on the other side of it a steep hill with untarnished forest on its slopes. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about going uphill before in my life! It meant that the chipper wasn’t going to get me! The whole scene reminded me of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. As thru-hikers, I feel like we stand for the trees, and there are some things that are just hard to see.