A buddy of mine accompanied me on a rock climbing mission from Victoria to Nanaimo, here in British Columbia. Nanaimo is a well known climbing destination as it has one of the biggest and one of the first Climbing Gyms on Vancouver Island, as well as well over 200 different climbing runs. With such a plethora of choices, how can you go wrong?

We decided on a small, 3-climb location up in the north end of Nanaimo, close to Nanoose Bay. After a 2 hour drive, we arrived in the area at approximately 8 o'clock in the morning. This particular area of town, being so near to the water, was quite foggy, and the mist was so thick we had to occasionally use the windshield wipers.

The guidebook we were using said to "walk up the cleavage, and on the other side will be the climbing routes," so we were looking for something on this street that looked like a cleavage. Then, suddenly out of the mist, loomed two of the biggest tits I had ever seen.

I'm sure they only looked like boobies because I was looking for boobies, but still - two large (two story tall), steep, round rocks sitting side by side, with about a two-man-width passage in between. We had found it!

The neighborhood around us was odd - it consisted mainly of old, worn down houses, probably constructed in the early 1900s as the bay was really prospering back during the coal boom. Some houses had rusted tricycles in the yard, others had rotting fences that were nothing more than a few logs spanning across some small cinder blocks. What really got me was that the street was brand new, what with the new fancy smooth pavement and the nicely sloping, stylized curbs instead of the square blocky ones. If it were't for the houses, the neighborhood would appear new! With the heavy mist, the blotted out sun, and the eerily quiet morning made us a bit more reserved than our normal jovial selves... But neither of us admitted to the creepyness.

We spent a few minutes loading all the gear onto our backs after parking the car on the side of the road. The last item I grab is my camera, which I keep wrapped up in my hand, and we lock the doors and head out into the wet grassy field. We hopped a small wooden fence and noticed the field was dotted with small rocks, big rocks, a few patches of bare stone, and in the distance - our goal. Two large cliffs converging together, creating a nice climb or two.

Just as we approach the narrow crevasse that is 'the cleavage,' we spot an animal skull ahead of us. Obviously pecked at and chewed on over the course of a few years, the skull and trailing bones were bleach white with a few grey streaks. The skeleton itself wasn't too scary; we've seen them several times out in the woods of B.C., and we often poke at them proclaiming how cool they are. They're usually deer that have stumbled off of a cliff above, and the fact that we were at the base of a large rock probably made that true here too.

What really creeped us out were the two small sticks tied together in a makeshift cross, staked into the ground in front of it's head.

And the graveyard we suddenly realized we were standing in.
Now, neither of us are deeply religious or anything, and we definitely didn't have any other-worldly paranoia about things like ghosts and zombies and things like that. But the thought of standing on someones grave seemed wrong somehow, and we both cringed and started tip-toeing onto a small outcropping of rock.

Which turned out to be a badly eroded tomb.

"Gah," I proclaim quite loudly, as I jump off of the tomb onto the wet grass below. "Shit!"

"What? WHAT," shouts my companion, now getting a little edgy himself.

"You're standing on a TOMB!"

"Oh Jesus," he mutters as he climbs down off of the tomb. "What's wrong with your foot?"

As I jumped off of the tomb, my foot sank deep into the soft wet ground, swallowing up my whole right shoe and part of my ankle. My foot. In the ground. In a graveyard. I yanked my foot out in sudden disgust, leaving my shoe stuck deep into the mud below. I had to get on my hands and knees to extricate it, and it took a few minutes of work, not including the cleaning and putting it back on my foot.

"Let's just go back," I say. "My foot's soaked, and I'm really not having fun right now. My parent's house is back in Nanaimo - we can stop by there and relax, then head out to another climbing spot in town."

"Well, alright, but let's check out the climb first. I just want to see what it looks like, since we've come this far anyways."

I grudgingly agree and we trek over the deer skeleton and into the crevice. It quickly opened up on the other side to an eerie-looking clearing, adorned with nothing but a lone tree and some short grass, lined nearly 360 degrees with steep cliffs. "All of this and only 3 climbs," I mutter.

I whipped out my camera and took a few quick snapshots of the crags around us, and we hasten our departure, being sure to walk fully around the graveyard this time.

We pile back into the car, clean ourselves off, and pop some cheery music into the cassette player. As we pull away from the curb, we see an older man with a cane on the side of the road, just standing there, shaking his head at us.

I'm sure the old man was just out for a walk and saw us walking away from the graveyard, but the coincedence was too much for me. We drive away a bit over the speed limit, and I calmly say, "Dude, that was some fucked up shit back there."

"Where's your hat," my friend asks.


I wasn't going back to get it.

True story. When I got home, the pictures downloaded to my computer and what we thought was a ghost appeared over one of the crags - it was a big white streak, semi-translucent that curved its way up the bottom third of the left hand side of the picture. Neither of us believed in ghosts, but jesus - what WAS that thing? Maybe a falling rock we didn't notice? Or maybe a leaf?

We compared the picture to a few other mis-pictures I had taken, and figured it might be my finger or something. We took a few more shots with my fingers intentionally infront of the lens, but the images turned out quite differently.

It wasn't until months later that I found out the cause of the white streak was the flash reflecting off of
the camera strap, and you don't know how much of a relief that was to me and my friend.

Submitted for The Blood is the Life: A Frightful Halloween Quest

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