“What I saw, made me run like the Devil was chasing after me. For what I beheld, was the largest, primate hand I’d ever seen. I’d seen lots of gorillas in zoos and in the African jungles. It was bigger than one of those. More mind blowing, was the primate, by my approximation, had grabbed a branch over its head. The branch had to be at least ten feet above it.”
—Jeffrey LeBlanc (The Shadow on the Mountain)
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Welcome ….to…. Dweller of the Dark!
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Children of Horror/ Legion of Ghouls,
I’m releasing an excerpt from one of the most terrifying encounters I’ve ever had in my life. To give you a little background, I have spent a better part of my life exploring forests, jungles, swamps, and mountains across several continents. I have always enjoyed the beauty and serenity of Nature. Sometimes my curiosity of natural places gets the better of me and I have on occasion headed out of these locations a little later and a little further than expected.
The vastness of nearly a million acres in your backyard can be staggering to comprehend. Add to it the fact that the forest I hike is over 480 million years old. It always feels like a lost world out here. So many hidden adventures await in all that mountainous splendor and its endless cavernous depths.
Call it fate, bad luck, or maybe a good omen, but on June 11th of this year, I ran into something that still gives me a shudder on occasion. Especially when I look out to the back country of the Appalachian Mountains. It certainly ran the Dweller out of the darkness…for a little while.
We truly hope you enjoy this brief excerpt.
The Shadow on the Mountain
June 11, 2022
Chattahoochee National Forest
There I sat on the side of Yellow Mountain. My knees burned and ached with pain. My feet were cramping, and stabbing pin-pricks ran across my calves. As I looked on the vast expanse of emerald pines, covered in dried sweat, I knew with unease that I was lost.
After taking a moment to sit on a granite slab with the circumference of a school bus, I thought on my situation. As chilled breeze blew down from the mountain’s peak, I sighed in disgust realizing dusk was fast approaching and the shadows of trees and boulders grew long. I stood and trekked on across the mountain. Six hours into my lost excursion, tripping over rocks and bramble, I found a leaf-covered logging trail bordering the Chattahoochee National Forest.
In the moment, I had a choice to go left, or right. Rubbing my sweaty temples, I deduced I was further north of Yellow and Chestnut Mountains. Looking on across a distant ridge approximately a fifty miles in the distance, I erred in my direction. It was a huge mistake that would lead me walking south on the logging road. I was heading further into the Chattahoochee National Forest bordering the remote wilderness of Coopers Creek. Groaning, I realized it was indeed approaching the purplish twilight of night. But thankfully, my path would be illuminated by the silver light of a brilliant, full moon. Onward I trudged on legs that felt rubbery from the miles already I hiked. Though, the pain and numbness to my body seen lessened, distracted by the stillness and glimmering beauty of such a tranquil night.
I stared at the stars above, felt the comfort of a cool night breeze, and immersed myself again in the natural splendor unafraid. Silver shimmers of moonlight cast their glare between shadowed pines. Rabbits darted between bushes and bats tittered above me between the ancient hemlocks, pines, and poplars. I even heard the nearby hoot of an owl in a hollow and movement of water to the right of me as I descended down the mountain in the dark.
It was on the third turn when I noted a shadow cross the trail in front of me. Whatever the thing was, it had moved quickly across. It had been approximately one hundred feet in front of me. Again, the dark blur was sparsely seen by the light of the moon. While I couldn’t tell what it was, it didn’t really concern me. Unbothered, assuming it a black bear or boar bolting down to the creek to drink, I walked on. I took note of the rushing and splashing of the creek as I continued forward. The winding creek lay to my right roaring at least sixty feet below me in a ravine. I also observed by the lunar light, and by my phone, an old wagon trail ten feet below me running parallel with the creek.
Earth shaking movement, startled me. As best I could describe the noise it was lumbering, thunderous movement of something tremendously large, moving below on the wagon trail. I also heard in the moment, the crash of trees down in the ravine.
“I shook my head thinking_ Just my luck to be lost, without a knife, bear spray, or gun. And now a large black bear is out, and hanging around with me.”
The creature walked below on the old wagon trail. It was headed in my direction.
At sixty feet away from the creature’s approach, I stood somewhat unsettled. I’d whistled to let the “bear” know I was there. It was curious to me, that I was only hearing two legs instead of four walking. But it’s not uncommon for bears to do that.
I screamed the customary “Hey bear! Hey bear!” Then flashed my cell phone light.
It kept approaching unafraid. By the time it was closer than sixty feet in front of me, I felt the earth move beneath me. I tell you it was uncanny and the weirdest thing to feel the ground shake near me. I hadn’t experienced anything like that since my safari days in Africa. That was when elephants and rhinoceroses ran past us.
It came in closer. I screamed and yelled.
The creature stopped beneath me. I waited what seemed an intense eternity. Then heard the cracking of branches by a nearby tree.
I flashed the light on my phone in the direction of the breaking branches.
What I saw, made me run like the Devil was chasing after me. For what I beheld, was the largest, primate hand I’d ever seen. I’d seen lots of gorillas in zoos and in the African jungles. It was bigger than one of those. More mind blowing, was the primate, by my approximation, had grabbed a branch over its head. The branch had to be at least ten feet above it.
“Shocked I panicked_That thing has to be at least eight or nine feet tall! And…it’s walking. Gorillas lumber. Bears stagger their gait. It has no fear of me!”
Forgetting the pain, I ran the next ten or more miles. The whole while terrified that the thing on the other end of that hand had decided to lend chase. By the end of the tenth mile, my lungs burned for air. My scorched knees rang true with even greater, fiery pain. Exhausted and extremely dehydrated with a mouth and tongue as coarse as sandpaper, I craved water and immediate rest. Everything was shutting down. Against my terror and the ever-palpable dread, I stopped in a moonlit field near a silvery, sparkling river.
At a chilled spring, by what I’d later learn was the Toccoa River, I learned two things waiting for my family to arrive.
One, in an emergency, the Appalachian chilled spring water is the finest drink in the world.
And, two…Bigfoot is real.
That was June 11, 2022. I haven’t been back to Coopers Creek or Yellow Mountain since.
On my lost journey, my father-in-law, and daughter calculated I had trekked not one mountain but two—Yellow and Chestnut Mountains. Also, as my body could attest over the next month healing up, I had hiked 27 miles to finally come out of the woods.
I just can’t explain my apprehension going near vast forests these days. Part of it is because of an uncanny feeling—not quite dread, and not quite fear. Maybe, it’s knowing that there is something that terrifying out there. Maybe, on occasion, when I get near the forested wilderness, I can’t help that the thing or one of its kin, might be watching us.
Shuddering right now, looking out toward the mountains of the backcountry, I don’t know.
But, the fear that my wife certainly will kill me if I even mention a trail hike near Coopers Creek…is definitely real.
“Shadow on the Mountain” inspired by the real encounter. The moonlight walk and trail are from that day. Expedition Bigfoot report with Dave Bakara. (Who mentioned in passing that I had stumbled right into a Bigfoot hotspot.)
Official report to Dave Bakara below and the map pin is at Expedition Bigfoot:
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“I just can’t explain my apprehension going near vast forests these days. Part of it is because of an uncanny feeling—not quite dread, and not quite fear. Maybe, it’s knowing that there is something that terrifying out there. Maybe, on occasion, when I get near the forested wilderness, I can’t help that the thing or one of its kin, might be watching us.” –Jeffrey LeBlanc (The Shadow on the Mountain)–BOOK EXCERPT
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