After I left the Starbucks in Jackson I wandered around awhile longer searching for a cheap and quiet spot to eat. There were no places that met that criteria. Walking around, the crowds reflected my wrecked state with dirty glances. I gave up my search and retreated to my car and accepted a dinner composed of yogurt covered pretzels.

I walked into the Jackson gear shop and asked about free camping options in the region, and the guy at the counter just shrugged and said, “Far.” I walked out without reply. A quick Google search warranted the results I needed, and pointed me to a place called Shadow Mountain just outside of the park which rested on Bridger National Forest land. I locked it into the GPS. Forty-five minutes later I was driving down a washboard, mud-puddled, pot hole ridden dirt rode into an eerie darkness. It felt super sketchy from the moment I turned onto Shadow Mountain Rd., like I had come to the place where serial killers go to dump their victims bodies. The further I went, the worse it got, until I began to expect to drive up on some grotesque five legged, three eyed creature crouched in the road blocking my path.

After a few more miles of semi off-road driving I found a large pullout with a bear locker in it. There were old abandoned campfires in a weird ring–they probably formed a pentagram when seen from afar. I parked and walked around the clearing using my phone as a light to scope out the place, but really I knew this was the best thing I’d find for the night. I found a spot where someone had made a parking spot (or hiding spot) in some trees and backed my car in and set my tent up behind. Right when I finished setting up my tent some small SUV pulled into the lot and just sat there idling with the lights on for thirty or so minutes. They finally turned the car off and hunkered down for the night.

Several minutes later a big diesel engine came roaring down the road and past our turnout–it’s chassis creaked and groaned like oaks in a haunted forest. Ten minutes later it returned, slow and creepy and creaky, and joined us in the dark pullout. I laid there reading my Kindl, heart pounding in my chest, until my need for sleep was greater than fears grip.

I woke up to pee, and I stood peeing outside of my tent and on my left was a giant bear silhouetted twelve feet to my left. I just looked forward and continued peeing, pretending that it didn’t happen.

Some hours later I woke up to a hoking horn. Then the driver of the SUV turned the engine and burned out of the lot. I fell back to sleep.

The last time I woke up it was to some strange childish squealing. The inside of my rain fly was soaked with dew and covered in these strange spiders. When I got out and saw that old diesel van I wondered how I’d managed to survive the night. I packed up fast, and bee lined it to the visitor center for information on paid camping in the park.

The feature photo is not at the camping site, but I found that dead mountain goat on a ledge while I solo’d the dike route up Middle Teton earlier that day, and the rest of the day seemed to dictate that reaction. It seems appropriate.

7 thoughts on “The Shadiest Place I’ve Ever Camped

  1. Had a similar experience in a BLM campground outside Baker, CA. No bear just a guy who had been there WAY past the time limit and a train. One night. Never returned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Baker is the type of place I could imagined being murdered by a serial killer. There’s that creepy ass road out there I think it’s called Zzxxyyzz. We pulled off onto that in the middle of the night to pee, and it was one of those “My night will end with my head in a paper bag” feelings.


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