When I go hiking with my five year old daughter we always look for “treasures.” These natural discoveries are most often rocks, fossils, wildflowers, shells, and salamanders. But one time we were on a remote mountain in the Adirondacks and we found a two dollar bill laced through the needles of an evergreen tree. Discovering currency that is barely used in modern transactions on an isolated mountain felt like a practical joke.
I reached for the bill and half expected fishing wire to jerk it away but I picked it up without resistance and placed it in my pocket. My daughter and I giggled about the oddity of finding money in the middle of the woods and I promised her that we could put it towards ice cream after the hike. We took a few steps down the trail and discovered another two dollar bill on the ground. My daughter picked it up, handed it to me and asked, “Now can we get two scoops?”
It’s normal to do a double take when you see something unusual on a hike, but it’s not as uncommon as you may think.
I have watched a peacock strut down the trail in the middle of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I came across a mountain lion in North Carolina where they are technically extinct, I once started photographing an exotic looking flower only to realize it was a discarded peel from of a dragon fruit. I’ve never known anyone to buy or eat dragon fruit let alone take it on a hike?!
I was curious about what oddities other hikers had found in the woods and I decided to ask my co-workers at Blue Ridge Hiking Company about some of the strangest or standout discoveries they’ve had on trail. Here’s what they had to say:
“One of the coolest things I've seen in the backcountry is a phenomenon called a "mountain specter." It is caused by your shadow being cast against clouds and creates a perfect circle rainbow around your silhouette. This happened to me at the Mt. Sterling fire tower in June. We had hiked for three days in rain and the storm clouds finally started to break. With the sun setting at our backs, we noticed and enormous almost full ring rainbow and directly across from the sun, a small perfect circle rainbow.
Also, I saw a millipede being eaten by a large snail! I didn’t even know snails were carnivorous so I was pretty surprised to see that and I got a picture to prove it.”
- Francisco Miller
“I found a cell phone while hiking in New York. I searched through its contacts to find the owner, and messaged them via Facebook. They picked up the phone and made me a giant delicious apple pie. We've remained friends on social media for years and they even came and gave me trail magic in Colorado while I was hiking the Colorado Trail.”
- Caet Cash
“One time I found an old moonshine still on top of Buckeye Ridge when I lived in Boone, North Carolina, It was all rusted out copper barrels and tubing by a creek and I was like....yeah, this was contraband at one point. It was unmistakable once I got it unearthed a little in order to figure it out.”
- Sarah Matzke
“The most notable thing I have found on trail is someone’s wedding ring, made of gold, laying in a stream bed. Finding the wedding ring turned into a truly amazing story when we found the owner through the power of social media a couple of months later and returned it to them.”
- Christine Martens
“I haven’t seen too many crazy things, but I did find a statue of an anthropomorphized alligator wearing a biking on the Ice Age Trail.”
- David Schafer
The treasures and oddities we find on trail can connect us with our natural environment, new friends, local history... and our sense of humor. Now, the American Hiking Society wants to know what is the strangest or coolest discovery you’ve had while hiking?
Article by Jennifer Pharr Davis, American Hiking Society Ambassador