I was sitting by the campfire with my girlfriend. The late-summer day was gone and a nice cool evening was falling into place. We sat in our Coleman chairs making small-talk and enjoying the peace and quiet of the mostly-empty campsite. This was my yearly departure from the real world—a time when I would unplug from my societal trappings and retreat to the mountains where the only thing to worry about was whether or not I would find a spider sitting toilet seat.
Our talk faded and we sat there staring into the fire. The crackling sounds and dancing flames provide the best introspective entertainment center one could ever have. Roughly 100 yards away was another campsite. It was occupied by the Campground Hosts—retired people who spend their summers voluntarily serving to provide order in the campgrounds in lieu of the overpaid rangers. Behind us and to the right was an unoccupied organized camping area. During the busier season, this spot would be reserved for a non-profit type organization, providing ample space to allow multiple tents and maximum-capacity events.
From that area and north, we heard a distant noise. The best way to describe this noise is to liken it to the sound of a distant car stereo with thumping bass slowly approaching your proximity. The primary difference was that the noise was stationary and no differential of movement was perceived. We both noted the noise, but carried on our fireside meditations.
A while later, the noise seemed louder, yet stationed at the same general vicinity, not appearing any closer. More than an hour passed until we decided to approach the campground hosts to see if they were familiar with this sound. Interestingly, they were not familiar with it, but after we pointed it out, they began to listen. After another 30 minutes or so, the two of them walked over to our site. The husband was very curious as to what the noise was at that point. He took his walking stick and head up towards the unoccupied organized campsite. Meanwhile, his wife huddled near our fire.
I tossed a few more hunks of wood on to the fire to feed its raging appetite. The male host made his way back down from his walkabout and indicated that there was nothing to be seen. His interest was piqued and it was clear that his wife had grown somewhat uneasy. He decided to grab his portable radio and make a call to the ranger dispatch to make a report. No rangers were available and he was advised to call the state police dispatch to request a patrol. Shortly after that, I went to the tent an opened the release on my firearm case and placed some ammunition nearby, just in case.
We all parted ways and went to sleep, listening to this sound off in the distance. We had camped there on numerous occasions and had never heard this sound before and for the remainder of the trip, the noise never manifested again.
The next year found us camping at the same campground, but in a different campsite on the fringes of the campground, far removed from the other sites. It provided a feeling of isolation and removal from the general camping populace and the serenity it provided was always enjoyable. On our first night, while sitting by the campfire, the noise from the year before was announcing its presence again. And again, there was no obvious logical explanation that provided reason to what the sound was. It was only present that one night and then gone.
The following year provided a repeat of the prior two years with noise returning, yet nobody else on the grounds could ever provide any sort of rationale as to its origin. The year after that, we went to a different and more isolated campground where we were the only inhabitants for the duration of the trip. The only sounds we heard there were that of barred owls and some large crashing through the woods late at night.
Sometimes I sit and wonder what that sound was and whether or not it would manifest again if we go back. I’m sure we will go back at some point and both of us will keep our ears focused in the distance listening for that unknown sound.