Shelby Farms Park covers over 4,500 acres in Memphis, Tennessee making it one of the largest urban parks in the United States. The land has hosted everything from a commune in the 1800s to a penal farm. For fifteen years I have run the roads, trails, woods, and wetlands in baking heat and bitter cold. The stories, rare photos, and never-before-seen videos are mine. You do not need to believe what I am about to tell you, you only need know that I was there.
That Certain Feeling
You know that feeling. You are being watched. It is really more than a feeling, more like a sensation. The hair standing up on the back of your neck. Of course, if something is really out to get you that is not paranoia, that is a reality. Being alone in the deep woods can give you that feeling from time to time. Even a familiar place has its haunting moments. Your follower may be some sort of wildlife but most of the time wildlife will run away at the appearance of a human being. A few animals do not run, however, they stalk. These are the predators.
Somewhere Along the Wilderness Trail Loop, North of Walnut Grove
I had felt for over a mile that I was being followed but sometimes that is just your imagination. You should seldom take counsel of your fears and it was a windy day so I could not hear anything. I came to a place on the trail where the route made a sudden turn and I was now running into the wind. Now rather than being followed I was on the trail of something. At first, the distance made it hard to judge the size of the animal but I decided to pull out my phone for some pics.
The big creature casually strolled away as if he did not have a care in the world. Like a four-year-old who had no idea how the milk ended up the floor, he casually walked into the distance on a hot, sunny day. It was as if he said, “Nothing to see here,” or even, “Are you following me?” I snapped a couple more pics of the occasion. In the first picture he sits as if he does not know I am approaching. Then he moves off with a sauntering gait in pictures two and three.
I looked at my phone to make sure I got a good picture and when I looked up, he was gone. Vanished. It made for an interesting run the next five miles after I turned back into the dense woods of the Wilderness Trail Loop.
Update: White Trail, South of Walnut Grove
On a recent run (July 2018) I ran up on a smaller version of this animal. He disappeared before I could take a picture. This would be about two miles from the site of the first contact. Kittens, anyone?
So what was the mysterious animal? On a recent trip to the outstanding Memphis Zoo I saw one animal that resembled my momentary trail running companion–the Puma!
However, you guess is a good as mine.
Next time you are running in the deep woods of Shelby Farms and feeling lonely just remember, you may not be as alone as you think. And, if the wind is just right, you might change from prey to predator. Then you can truly know who is paranoid here.