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12 Hikes in 12 Weeks: Assassin's Trail
Yes. Yes, you read that right. Remember how I said I like trails with interesting names?
Hiking on this trail actually felt a little... How shall I put this... Inappropriate? Because the name is not just being clever. The Assassin's Trail is named so because it is the site of two separate murders, one in 1973 and one in 2003. The more recent one has been solved, but the other is a cold case. The trail is located near Colfax, California, and I shall leave the detail discovery to those who are interested in their own research. Describing the deaths here feels wrong, like I imagine visiting Dorothea Puente's house as a tourist hotspot would feel, and that, like these deaths, didn't happen very long ago. My point is, people affected by these events are still living. I am little bit disgusted with myself for hiking a trail specifically because of the grotesque nature of what happened there.
Then again, I did do the Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel multiple times. I'm not entirely sure I have a leg to stand on.
As a writer, I absolutely understand the thrill of dramatizing the demise of fictional people. As a history buff, I have a profound interest in the events of our past and the ways they led to or sprang from each other. I had a distinctly morbid fascination with the Black Death for years; ask me about it, I can still go on for some time with a manic glint in my eye about what happened in the 1340s and 50s. Ten years ago, I would have been pretty comfortable with my interest in this trail, and not concerned with the justification of traveling it.
But people get older. They gain life experience. Viewpoints shift. In my case, the shift was a little shocking to me: I have developed a problem with the aggrandizement of actual traumatic events for the purpose of entertainment. This isn't to say I have no more fascination. I'm human; of course the terrifying fascinates and repulses me. But using it as entertainment also makes me distinctly uncomfortable in a way it never used to.
I'll admit it: this trail felt ominous. If I didn't know the history, I probably would not have thought so. Shows how much colors our interpretations. The trail-head is unmarked, one of five in a field that has seen a good deal of firebreaking and lumber work, and the least maintained of the group. We used a compass to verify our path, and were helped along by the sudden arrival of a doe. She trotted right up out of the mouth of the Assassin's Trail and veered off before I could get a picture, vanishing up the hill.
Other than that, the trail was deserted.
We didn't see anyone until we were on our way back, on a path that was, frankly, not fitting the written description we were working with as well as we liked. We passed a gate onto private property with several No Trespassing signs attached (and unattached, lying on the ground). I enjoy horror writing and reading, and I'm pretty sure it was because of the backstory, but the trail had a Mood. Tons of trees allowing for only one really good view of the valley below, a river valley that was the site of my New Year's Day hike. Apparently, this trail will take you down to Codfish Falls should you follow it long enough.
We didn't. It was a long way down.
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Hello! My name is Grete and welcome to my writing blog! I am a writer or romance, horror, and general observation