Legend: Ridgerunner

“Early in the 1900s when they were cleaning out the trees in Yosemite, a group of lumberjacks got stuck in a snowstorm, real bad. They had to stay and survive off the land for a couple of weeks until the snow came out. The snow was so bad that no rescue team could go in after them. So, they decided we’re gonna try and make it on our own. So they went off, trying to make it back to somewhere they could find the rest of their team. Somehow, they got split up and one of the guys got lost. And, the rest of them ended up making it out. So, the one guy who was lost was never found. The legend goes that he hunts animals and even people. The way people have recognized him to even this day is they hear him walking in this very unique walking pattern. It sounds like ‘thump’ and then a ‘drag.’ ‘Thump’ and ‘drag.’ They say this is because he has been running on these ridges in Yosemite where it’s a very steep slant. So, his legs have adapted to running on a slant. So, one leg has kind of decreased in size. When he’s walking on an even surface, he’s got one leg to walk on and one to drag. There have been reports of random people gone missing and they haven’t found them and animals have been killed and looked like they’ve been eaten raw. So, these little things get related back to the Ridgerunner once in awhile.”

Steve said he learned this legend whenever he went on a backpacking trip to Yosemite the summer between fifth and sixth grade. He said that this was one of the stories the camp leaders told him and the other backpackers about the history of Yosemite. The leaders told them that there were many newspaper articles about the Ridgerunner that go way back to the early 1900s where the legend came from. He didn’t look up the article but he said the legend scared him at first because of how young he was. Steve said that many other children hear this legend as well as others whenever they go on these trips with backpacking leaders. It helps them really enjoy the experience by always being on the lookout for a man that walks with a thump and a drag.

Steve said that this legend is primarily performed around a campfire at night with a large group of people. At least, this is the way he heard it. His leaders played a trick on the rest of the kids. Whenever one camp leader finished performing the legend, another came up from behind the campers and made the thump and drag sound, frightening all of the children for the rest of the night. Steve even told himself that he was never going back to Yosemite. The reason he said he was scared was due to the context of how it was told. At night, with a bunch of children huddling around the campfire, his leader used a creepy whispering voice to perform the legend. Then, when it came to thump and drag part, he raised his voice to frighten all of the children. This fear only intensified as the other leader scared them at the end. Steve said that the performance kept most of the campers up for quite awhile as they all feared the Ridgerunner.

Whenever I asked Steve what this legend meant to him, he responded “it scared the living crapp out of me.” However, at his current age, he said it helped remind him of the trip as well as his childhood. I guess at the time, the leaders told the campers that the Ridgerunner had been a lumberjack seventy years ago. Therefore, he is probably around one hundred years old now. Steve said that after hearing that, he is pretty sure he could fight a hundred year old man. In Steve’s mind, this legend represents the way children react to stories. It scared him so much at the time that it has made an impact on his life. He never wanted to go back to Yosemite after he heard it. But, now that he is much older, he said that it was a great legend because it scared the kids in an exciting, adventurous way.

I think that this legend is performed in order to help excite children on camping trips to Yosemite. I’m sure that all camp leaders hear this story and perform it in the most enthusiastic ways possible so that it scares the children. At that age, kids will believe anything an elder role model tells them. Therefore, it impacts their life as they are consistently on the lookout for the Ridgerunner. Also, I think this legend represents other camp stories that are told throughout the country. I know that when I was kid, I went to camps just like the one Steve went to. And, just like the camp leaders in Yosemite told Steve a legend that would frighten him, my leaders told us about an old man who abducted children in the woods whenever they were sitting by a campfire roasting marshmallows. At that time, it scared me because I was doing that exact same thing. The rest of the night, I was looking around the woods just waiting for and old man to come get me. That’s why I think these legends are great because they make the camping experience exciting.