Click to Subscribe
Dark Timber
The Tale of Pete: Trial Lake, Utah, 10/21/22
© 2023 James LaFond
Bob and Jeff set up their chairs and poles at the rocky edge of Trial Lake, Utah, on Friday before the first snow to come on the first day of deer season. No fisherman am I; this hoodrat decided to scamper up along the trail to Wall Lake. This lake basin, from 700 feet below, looked like a castle what had lost its turrets and battlements, replaced with fir trees.
In 40 minutes of hiking I emerged from a trail turned into a chute, on the rocky banks of choppy Wall Lake, a high alpine lake walled in by cliffs to north and west and sitting above cliffs to south and east. Having been given 90 minutes to get back, I was left with 20 minutes to tour the high lonely place, the only soul in sight.
I felt blessed.
The wind whipped the waves and the standing trees, moaning like banshees through the rocks, causing the waves to lick and slap, and the standing dead trees to whip and crack. Trail heads marked, and unmarked, beckoned my curious feet. But something lonely and incomplete nagged at my mind to return.
Marching upward tests not my suburban denseness honed by urban circumstances into survival senses, over a hunted life, this old asphalt ape feeling utterly confident striding up into the high empty place. This was not an alley where brown hunted pale, but a trail where pale hunted brown for many a lonely year.
But there is always something about turning my back on a ledge, saddle or trail untaken, heading back down to the road, that stabs a nag of worry into my coward ape soul. The sounds that had drawn me upward alone, miles away from any human—a state usually to me unknown—now treated me like a traitor.
I felt cursed.
As I hiked down over 20 minutes, past dead giant trees, through meadows in the last hues of autumn, over creeks glazing with fresh blistered ice, every moan, and slap and crack of the high world that had beckoned me to hike deeper, now crept into my soul as a lurking, stalking creeper, some bear or big cat or rutting buck comming to punish me for the trespass.
This was not rational.
I found Bob and Jeff a single fish short of their 7 fish limit, after leaving Trial Lake at 9:10 and returning from Wall Lake at 10:37.
Both men had grown up in the area working as trail breakers, marks and maintainers for the Forest Service, and as hunting guides. Jeff worked as a tracker charged with finding various disappearing hikers and campers, some never found down to this day some 45 years later. Jeff’s hunting party would take a big buck mule deer on Sunday 23rd, two days after our excursion to Trial Lake. Jeff is an educated man with a masters in history, his master’s thesis being on the Mongol conquests. He would be offered a teaching job at a California University, but opted to make money instead.
What follows is a fairly precise recollection of The Tale of Pete.
Bob: “Since he’s back, tell James about Pete.”
Jeff: “Bob and I grew up here, hunted through this country, have hiked, and hunted and fished every one of these lakes. Up beyond Wall Lake is Crystal Lake. Beyond Crystal Lake are the Four Lakes, [names three lakes] down to Meadow Lake. That is Dark Timber, never cut, to deep to ever be logged.
“To the left there, over that saddle straight ahead, where you passed through that meadow, you have the Cuberant Basin, three lakes and three mud puddles. The best way to get down there is to take the trail into Reed’s Meadow to the right, right there behind Reed’s Peak. That is great hunting and mushroom country.”
“Well, we were over there where you came down, improving that trail for the Forest Service. The trails had [this was about 1972] grown in and you could lose theme easily. We get called down here by three young people. There was an older sister and her boyfriend, getting lovey dubby over there by the inlet [where the creek trickles down though the meadows from Wall Lake]. The younger sister, a little thing, maybe 15, she was nearer the lake, walking one of the trails.”
[These trails are short and seem to me to be game trails down from the lower meadows to the lake. The meadows range in size from a basketball court to a football field.]
“The girl was walking around the lake when she came upon something black and hairy bent over. When it stood, on two legs, it grabbed her by the shoulder with one hand, and threw her in the lake. It bounded off, extremely athletic. This girl was shaken, terrified. We questioned her and she swore it was on two legs and ran like a man. Her brother and sister saw it from a distance going up over that saddle, which would take you hours, just like that. Her shoulder was severely bruised, with finger and thumb bruise marks reaching downwards, as if a large man grabber her by the shoulder from above. So this thing had to be at least seven feet tall.”
“Professor [name forgotten] asked me if I’d track it. I went home to get my dad’s 30/30 and he said, ‘oh, no, take the [forgot caliber 4 something] magnum!’
“I found no prints. I did collect two hair samples. One was bear hair. I turned the samples in. The athleticism of this thing was incredible. [Perhaps enabling it to run along dead falls and boulders and leave no tracks? I surmised.]”
“We tracked him for three days. Well, we got down around Meadow Lake, in that dark timber and we found a doe that had had its head bashed in and lung material scattered. As we were examining this we heard down in the dark timber, what sounded like somebody—a big somebody—beating a tree with bat. We got the hell out of there!”
“Bob had heard him.”
Bob: “I was out with [name forgotten] at night, and there was this loud hooting sound. I know a bear, and it was no bear. It sounded like an ape. I said so and [companion] told me to shut up about that. He was mad. [name forgotten was a scout master and was out with his kids, and they all saw some big black son of a bitch run off. They got a print that was 16 inches long and made a plaster cast and turned it in. Unless some NBA player was running around naked up here, it beats me what it was. My friend that saw it won’t speak about it to many for the ridicule.”
Jeff; “I think Pete lives back in Meadow Lake. That country is so thick you could hide the First Army back there. There were those two galls that were hiking, the one hiked all over the world, knew what she was doing. They were not much further back than you were when the snow hit. The one girl left a shoe behind. The other girl left the backpack with all the emergency winter gear on the trail—she was prepared. When they found them in the spring they had frozen together as far back in that rocky crease as they could get, peering out. I think they were afraid of something. Some people have gone missing up here and have never been found.
“I tracked one lost girl who was as graceful as a herd of cattle—could not miss her trail. Then, all of a sudden, her trail vanished, like that, into thin air—nothing.”
“Beats me: I call him Pete.”
I hope to hike back into Meadow Lake next year. I will not voluntarily stay the night.
Train 14 or Coastal Starlight?
the year the world took the z-pill
the greatest boxer
the fighting edge
the greatest lie ever sold
barbarism versus civilization
beasts of aryas
taboo you
dark, distant futures
  Add a new comment below: