By popular demand, another “Things that happen to Gwyd” post. I guess that it is the fall weather, the leaves and thoughts of bonfires that push me towards the “spooky” stories in my life. So, today will be the tale of my stay on Beaver Island and those odd things that happened there. As always, this story is the absolute truth as I perceived it.
Tomorrow, a potentially offensive rant on body issues 🙂
Here we go…
It was early spring of 2002 when I left for Beaver Island. I had lost my sole source of income late in 2001 due to a downsizing at the company I had been working at. I had a Wife and two children and we were reaching the end of our financial rope. I had been offered a job laying a hardwood floor in a cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan. The job was scheduled for two weeks, ending just before the start of tourist season on the island.
Note that this was before the tourist season. The winter population of the island is scant at best considering that the only way to get back and forth to the island is by a two and a half hour ferry ride or private boat. Not a practical solution for Lake Michigan during the blizzard months. This was mid May. Still cold but little chance of snow. The only real population outside of the main town were folks like me, coming up to prep the properties for their owners.
The ferry ride was a bit rough but uneventful. I arrived on the island at dusk under cloudy skies.
After stopping at the small store for some supplies I headed down the South curve of the 13 mile long island, cursing at myself for having written my directions in pencil…Nearly impossible to read by the dome light. Even as simple as the directions were, finding the right address in the dark where the street signs may or may not be there was difficult.
Finally I saw the reflector that marked where the end of the driveway was and turned in. Finally I saw my destination some 500 feet from the waters edge. I shut down my car as the motion sensing light turned on, got out and let myself in.
The place was amazing. Cobblestone floors in the entrance and kitchen, a fireplace, rough hewn wood furniture…But the most striking feature was the windows. Floor to ceiling all along the water side of the cottage. Of course, being night now and with the lights on inside the cottage they were now merely 10 foot tall black mirrors showing nothing but the inside of the house and my own reflection.
I selected one of the rooms, dropped my bags and crashed for the night. I would have a much better opportunity to explore my surroundings tomorrow.
The first couple of days passed uneventfully. I found my building supplies alongside the house where they had been delivered the week before and set to work. I would empty a room, tear out the old flooring and then put in the new…Rough dirty work but of the sort that made me happy.
Between bouts of work I ate, watched TV and explored. The phone was not functional as they only turned it on during the months they were actually there but there was satellite TV and a DVD player. During the day, the view through those windows was spectacular. At night…I found them a little off putting. I don’t like situations where I can’t see what can see me.
So the third afternoon I decided it was time to do some exploring by car. I needed to get some supplies and figured I would just keep driving around for a while to see what else there was. I had heard about some nice small lakes and some state owned areas where I thought I might get to see the coyotes I had been hearing or perhaps some deer.
So off I trundled into the dark in my lil minivan. It was a dark night with only a sliver of moon covered by clouds.
I should probably mention that I had watched “The Blair Witch Project” the night before on DVD.
I know…a lot of people say it is not a scary movie. My response is this- Try watching it alone, when you have not seen another living person in two days, in a cabin on a near deserted island with 10 foot high windows at your back in the dark.
Much scarier than you might think.
Keeping that in mind…When my minivan blew out a tire out at the Southwestern tip of the island…I was not thrilled. When I got out of the car and saw that I was in the middle of a massive Birch forest… Ghost White tree trunks in all directions… I was even less thrilled.
When the coyotes I had been looking for decided to let me know that I was now directly in the middle of their happy place by starting to howl on all sides of me at once… I was downright grumpy.
So I changed the tire, having to turn my back to the coyotes and their yips as they came closer and closer. I could hear their footsteps mere yards away.
I can only imagine what sort of “prey” signals I was sending out to the winter starved beasts. Crouching against a large object (the car) sweating with exertion but not going anywhere, grunting in my efforts to loosen the lugs, blood dripping from one of my knuckles from where I had banged it against the tire rim.
I’d be disappointed in them if they weren’t considering eating me.
So…I am a little freaked out by the ghost white woods, I am miles from anyone, I have a flat tire (And no cell phone), I am bleeding and am slowly being circled by hungry coyotes. I have nothing besides a tire iron…
A tire iron and the vocal power of a trained Shakespearean actor…
Have you ever seen a video of a silverback gorilla charging around the jungle banging sticks and things together just to show how big and awesome he was?
I did that.
“Rawargh!!!” I stood suddenly, banging my tire iron against the rim of the tire. “Raaaaaargh!” I beat my cupped hands against my chest.
The yipping stopped and I heard quick coyote footsteps fading away.
I never finished changing a tire so fast.
Did they leave because I seemed like a a great and mighty primate?
Or did they leave because they don’t eat crazy?
I went back to the cottage and spent the rest of the night staring at the huge black windows.
I took the weekend off from my labors. The construction had been going well, I had over half the job done and hadn’t managed to cut off any limbs while unsupervised with power tools.
Time for more exploring.
I had been eyeing the beach for some time. It was far too cold to swim but it seemed a pleasant place to walk. So that is what I did. I took my camera, some snacks and a big walking stick and set out.
Well…If you know me or have read any of my previous entries, you know that nothing good happens when I set out for a walk. You would think I would have learned by now…
I went too far and missed my point of no return. In a plane, that means you have flown so far you do not have enough fuel to turn around and go home. You have to continue on.
In my case, I had walked too far to make it back before it got dark.
I mentioned that the moon had been a sliver earlier in the week? It was gone now. No moon at all. No stars either because of clouds. No light pollution because I was on a freakin island in the middle of nowhere.
I had left a light on at the house so I would at least not walk by it in the dark…but it was still a half hours walk distant when night truly fell.
I made my way along the shore, my left foot occasionally splashing into the surf, my right foot sometimes tripping over driftwood. When I ran into a place I thought seemed rough, I would take out my camera and take a picture, using the flash as a momentary light. The half hours walk turned into an hour and I was concerned that the light had somehow gone out and I had missed it entirely.
Finally I saw the little yellow bug light from the porch of the house. There was a good path that ran up from the beach so using the flash, I found the end and started walking up. It was still pitch black but at least I had a beacon.
Of course, it was at this point, I heard something. Footsteps of some sort off to my left. I paused, they paused. I moved, they moved. I slowly raised the camera to eye level and aimed it to my left. I pushed the trigger.
I looked intently where I heard the noise from when the flash went off. I saw nothing. I laughed quietly to myself thinking “Squirrels in the dark” and chiding my timidness.
Then I looked at the display of the camera. It was showing the last image taken. Some low lying pine trees, some scrub brush…Nothing out of the…
Just outside the range of the flash, barely visible through the pine branches I could see two points of light. Two points of light at my eye level. Anyone who has taken a picture with a flash before would recognize this… eye shine or red eye. There are even tools to remove it in any photo program.
In the dark, there was something causing eye shine at my eye level and it was just 12 or so feet away.
I backed my way the last 50 feet up the trail to the house.
The next morning I went to check out where I had seen the camera flash lit eyes.
Just behind the pine tree was a slight rise…A foot or so. On top of that rise I found (Much to my relief) deer tracks.
So…Even I can spook myself given the right set of circumstances:)
The rest of the time on the island was uneventful. I finished the work and came home. Two weeks as a hermit was both surprisingly easy and surprisingly hard.
Would I do it again? Sure…But I would bring a friend.
It was creepy!