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Nature is full of surprises. What awaits beyond that bend, over that ridge or through that thicket of pines?

From day to day, trail to trail, the answers vary, but the intrigue doesn't. If you spend enough time in the woods, you're bound to have some interesting encounters — sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes unsettling, sometimes both.

Here, six locals share their most memorable moments hiking nearby trails.

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"[I saw] a peacock in the heart of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness at 5,000 feet in elevation. It was walking toward us on the Haoe Lead Trail between Naked Ground and Haoe. It was ragged but otherwise healthy. We had to step off the trail to let it pass. It was eating grass seed tops as it traveled."

Bill Hodge

Sighting in Graham County, North Carolina

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"A few weeks ago, I was hiking with my three boys. I hear my youngest say, 'Hey, Mom! Here's a deer!' I turn around and my 9-year-old is standing behind a large boulder. I don't see a deer, so I thought he was pulling my leg. Then, all of a sudden, a teeny tiny [fawn] comes barreling out from behind the same boulder! The deer had been curled up in a ball sleeping when my son came upon him. He was probably a foot away from him when he called out to me."

Courtney Baker Head

Sighting in Hamilton County, Tennessee

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"Earlier this summer while 'hiking' on the water [SUPing], I saw a large bullfrog in the reeds that seemed to be struggling. I thought it was tangled in something, so I paddled up to it and reached out to grab it and untangle it. As my hand was just about to reach around the frog's body, I saw the snake's head that had it in its grasp."

Shane Smith

Sighting in Hamilton County, Tennessee

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"I thought I found a body in Suck Creek once. There was a barking dog circling her so I couldn't get close to check for a pulse. I called 911. Once they arrived she started to become more responsive."

Jennifer Averbeck

Sighting in Hamilton County, Tennessee

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"I was hiking a local trail in Roswell, Georgia, one day and suddenly an eastern phoebe flew up in front of me and hovered chest high — close enough to reach out and touch. It then alit on a branch not five feet away. I conversed quietly with it for a couple of minutes and it chirped back. I will always wonder if that brief encounter was ordinary nature at work or perhaps something of a more spiritual nature."

Richard Judy

Sighting in Fulton County, Georgia

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"My husband and I hiked to Springer Mountain (the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail). We [had] just sat down for lunch when we heard a large group of people joining us — actually, we joined them — for a wedding! A couple had met a few year's back [while] hiking and decided to get married at Springer Mountain. Best part was wedding favors for all: trail mix."

Merry Boggs

Sighting in Gilmer County, Georgia

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