August 25, 2016 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

Early morning sunlight sets the stage for their departure; it’s a beautiful fall morning. The crisp air seeps in through the parted windows, carrying the scent of the colorful wildflowers that dot the side of New Hope Road.

This stretch of land isn’t on the trail, per say, but just slightly beside it. The view is impossible to pass up. Even the most stalwart of hikers often make an exception, branching off the main path of the Great Allegheny Passage in favor of New Hope Road.

A dirt road leaves the Jumbo Jet bumping and bouncing along. The tire catch on divets in the road. Jag looks out the window of the front bench seat, his nose leaving wet smears on the glass. “That’s so pretty. I can’t believe there are places like this!”

It’s the best part of going on run’s, as far as Jag is concerned. He loves watching the world go past – loves seeing the different regions, the different towns. New Hope Road is a colorful blotch on the map, with red, orange, yellow, and pale pink blooms covering the earth on either side.

Chase laughs. “And it smells so nice! Do you think we’re going to get out here?”

“Probably not,” says Princess, from her spot in the back seat. “You heard what Betsy said, didn’t you? We’re going to cross over that river, that Jennings Run. He’s probably going to want to get out in the woods on the other side, where the trail picks back up.”

The story.

Thinking about it makes the fur stand up on Jag’s neck. At first glance, the story had seemed silly. Everything about big footed monsters was laughable, really. But Betsy, she had told the tale with such conviction – with such fervant belief – it’s hard to keep the words from dancing back into Jag’s mind.

New Hope Road quickly bleeds out into Jennings Run. The canal comes back into view, this rushing wash of sun dappled water. The wild flowers are more sparse here, but they haven’t faded away completely. It looks like something off of the cover of a book, or one of the puzzle’s that WooFDriver’s wife sometimes does.

Chris slows the Jumbo Jet down to a crawl when the thunder over the bridge. Just like Betsy had described, it leads out into a grove of land that’s scattered with clusters of maple trees. Autumn has turned these groups of giant trees into burning things, with brightly colored leaves hanging from their boughs.

They set up, get out their gear. WooFDriver is beyond excited; Randy, it seems, had his own version of the bigfoot story.

Rhett’s laughing. “Do you really think it’s got any truth to it?”

“I don’t know,” admits WooFDriver. “We’ve seen stranger things, right? I just think it would be neat to go through some of these woods. Stick with what the natives know, right?”

“I don’t think this is what people mean when they say that,” laughs Chris. “But if that’s what you want to do, hey, I’m all for it.”

Watch your people.
  

That’s what Betsy had said, just the night before. That’s what she said, right before they left. Watch your people. Keep them close. These woods are bad news, whether one believes in a bigfoot or not.

Jag takes a deep breath and steels himself. “Let’s hope this run is a good one.”

They leave slightly after dinner. Jag picks his way through the forest floor, paws coming up high with every step. The leaves crunch, not just beneath his paws, but under the tires of the WooFMobile.

“I don’t see anything yet,” says Princess. She cocks her head to the side, ears pricking up. “I don’t hear anything, either. That’s strange, don’t you think?”

“You’re right,” grumbles Jag. “I haven’t heard a single bird since we came in here. I haven’t seen any squirrels. There’s something wrong with this forest. There’s something in here with us.”

Princess gives him a strange glance. “You aren’t looking for big feet, are you?”

“I’m just looking for something,” answers Jag. “Forests don’t get quiet like this unless there’s a predator around. You know that, Princess.”

“I do,” agrees Princess, with a slight bob of her head. “Just try not to get ahead of yourself.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author