Made Of Silence

The lure of a perfect, dark trap is never detected until it’s too late. I for one learned the possibility of a much dreaded woe awaiting me, not specifically me, but anyone daring to cross over that trailhead at the Riley Moore Falls Thursday afternoon.

It was Thursday, April 22, 2021. I decided to take a drive to Westminister, S.C. and hike the two mile trail to Riley Moore Falls. It was a beautiful, breezy day and I needed to get out of the house and into nature and I am no stranger to hiking in the mountains, nor hiking alone as I’ve never had fear of solo trips and adventures and have plenty of experience under my belt. But this day would prove to change my way of thinking of how bravery looks.

When I woke up Thursday morning alarms were going off in my head. I had a sick feeling inside my stomach that something wasn’t right. I went about my morning routine diving into my bible devotions and feeding the cats. I already planned the day before to go discover these Falls I’ve been excited to see for some time. Yet, that gnawing feeling was not giving in and neither was I. I got ready, packed up my backpack with my GoPro, water, snacks and sunglasses, I grabbed my hoodie thinking it might be chilly up in the hills and headed out the door. I set my GPS for my destination, put on my shades and started singing Ging Gang Goolie, a song I heard in one of my favorite films, Love By Design and kind of adopted it as my travel song. Go figure! Its a scout song that is just plain fun to sing even for an old adventurer like me.

As I drove through Clemson, I paid homage to my favorite college football team and remembered the Botanical Gardens that are located in that vicinity that I’ve been reading about. I seriously felt like changing my mind about the hike and just go to the gardens instead, but as fate would have it, I drove on. My GPS took me down several long and winding roads until it brought me to Spy Rock Road which was a gravel/dirt road, FS 748, which took me about two and I/2 miles up to the trailhead. When I arrived, there was a white car and a gray truck and a very friendly man inside the truck who was busy talking on a walkie talkie or his cell phone. He drove away waving at me and I took his parking spot. I sat in my car debating this trail, and when I got out, that sick feeling hit me again. My gut was in overdrive, it was my brain’s way of telling me that instinct had kicked in.

I grabbed my backpack and wrapped my hoodie around my waist, then stopped to take a photo of the trailhead all while ignoring the intuition and headed for the falls.

They call this trail, Unnamed Forest Road where you hike up about 1/2 mile before you get to the actual trailhead. I have to say, several times I turned and looked back thinking this might not be a good idea, something I’ve never done before. But when I commit, I’m all in. But my gut kept firing off. I took my time and a slow pace taking in the sights and fresh air. I reached the actual trailhead, and began my descent down the mountain. The wind had an eerie feel to it making its way through those trees and higher elevations. But now, when I look back, that eeriness was the breath of evil and it felt like it was leading me to something unimaginable. I had hiked a mile down that mountain, my eyes darting all over the place and I didn’t even know why. I finally stopped to take a few photos with my phone. Just to take in the beautiful forestry.

After taking my photos, I heard noises in the distance. As a hiker, you are used to such things and I didn’t give it second thought. Then I heard a noise that resembled a woodpecker only it didn’t sound like wood being pecked, more like rocks being clapped together. Three consecutive knocks. That got my attention and I began to study my surroundings. I heard it again. Three knocks and it was coming from my left. Then I heard it again, the same three knocks, but this time it came from my right. I felt my heart start beating fast as I was slowly scanning that forest realizing that lump in my throat was becoming hard to swallow, and I just found myself in an undeviating state of nervousness. Something was definitely not right here. Then to my dismay, over to my left, I heard rustling in the dried leaves, and branches being snapped, then the unthinkable kicked in. I began to feel panic and I felt it coming on quickly when I saw two men crouching down behind some fallen trees and shrubbery. At that very moment I swore they could hear my heartbeat! Inwardly, I was begging my heart to be silent. “Be silent. Just please be silent!”

I knew I was in trouble and had to do whatever it was I was going to do and do it fast. So I pretended to be calm but was not calm at all and pretended not to have heard anything and decided to stand there as if to be taking more photos. But I was shaking terribly. I knew I had to remain silent because when I become afraid, I start thinking out loud, but in my moment of distress, I began to silently pray to God, and I quoted a scripture from Deuteronomy 28: 7. ” The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction, but flee from you in seven.” Dear God, what do I do? I knew that there was also someone on my right side hiding and I was about to be ambushed. Their rock banging was nothing more than signals to each other and here I was, caught in the middle of it, but this was a time to remain silent and calm. The first thing came to mind was to keep going down that mountain, at least I could run it if I had to. So, I started down. But something stopped me dead in my tracks. Panic was settling in, and first rule of survival is not to panic and that’s when I felt in my spirit God speaking. As I am typing this, I’m feeling those chills I felt that day when God told me to head back up the mountain and not to worry because He would render his angels to protect me.

I looked all around, took a deep breath, then started up that mountain with a mile to go nowhere but up. I dared not look back. But I remember feeling strong and I was moving fast, faster than I would have imagined, it was definitely nothing of my own doing. I did hear movement behind me coming towards me but I refused to look back. When I reached the trailhead, I took off running, still not looking back. I saw my car in the distance and that same white car in the same parking space. A white truck pulled up, and a man and woman dressed like game wardens or forest rangers something of that sort, and the woman had papers in her hand. I noticed my car was covered in dirt from the dirt road and for some odd reason and I don’t know why, I took a photo of it. Then opened the car door and threw my back pack in. The man and woman walked up to me, one on either side, and my entire body felt like it was convulsing. The woman asked about the trail, to be honest, I don’t even remember what she was asking. I tried to speak but my voice was shaky but I was able to tell them about the two men I saw hiding in the woods. The man did not hesitate. He ran to his truck and got guns for them both and they headed for the trail.

I got into my car, locked my doors giving thanks to God for helping me up that mountain safely. I started driving back down that dirt road. I reached the end and there was that gray truck with that same man just sitting there, the one I met as I was coming in. I had to drive around him and as I did, I looked up at him, he was not smiling this time. He looked evil and gave me a hard look. He was about my age, white curly hair, white beard. I got around him but he pulled out right behind me and he followed me. I drove as fast as my little car would take me into town to a public place. I pulled into a location near a carwash and watched him drive away starring at me. I sat there trembling wondering, what just happened back there? I broke down into tears and began to pray thanking God for every ounce of strength he gave me just moments ago. I believe with all of my heart, it was not a figment of my imagination that God commanded his angels of protection around me. And I believe that I was made invisible to whomever it was chasing me up that mountain. They may have seen me take off in that direction but the angels covered me with their wings. It’s an irrefragable truth that I’ll believe to the day I take my last breath.

I finally made it home safely. But I was shaken. It was all a blur as little bits of pieces were coming back to me but slowly. I emailed my friend, Chris in England and told him about it then tried to go to bed and sleep, but no sleep would be had that night. The next day, I posted the event on Facebook. I left out many details because I was still in that fog. Friday night, I looked at the photos just to see if I had captured anything in the woods that I didn’t see while taking those pictures, but did not find any evidence whatsoever. This morning, Chris emailed me after I sent the photos to him and told me I should go to the police about it. Chris had studied some crimes committed in that area in Westminister and found that four women had been missing since February of this year. I looked at the photo of my car with all that dirt from the dirt road and noticed a reflection of the white car that was there behind me, and the truck that the man and woman was driving who ran into the woods with their guns. I then called the police in Westminister and spoke with an officer who took my story and said he was glad I had made it out to tell about it.

I have not been able to sleep the past couple of nights. This entire scenario keeps playing over and over in my mind. I will be speaking with Captain David Smith with the Oconee County Sherriff’s office again, Monday. But until then, I fight within myself for not listening to that discernment, that gut warning that kept trying to make me stop and pay attention. I have no clue what might have happened or maybe not happened, but the “what if’s” hold sway to my thinking and I have made a decision to never go hiking alone ever again. And then if and when I do go and whoever I go with will have to be comfortable with me carrying my gun. To all of my female hiking friends, please hear me when I say, DO NOT go alone! You never know what might be waiting on the other side of your decision. I speak to the men as well. This world is full of evil and crazy people, and Captain David Smith wishes for me to reiterate that to ALL especially women who solo hike like me. If you find yourself in a situation like this, try and remain calm but know your surroundings and plan an escape immediately and get out.

-Jane Hardin

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