My journal entry on the night of my very first solo backpacking journey checks out: ““ Just heard a loud splitting sound, followed by some heavy thumps. It seemed like a bear. Didn’’ t bear-bag my food. Whoops.” ” I flinched in my sleeping bag, clutching my penknife as I visualized a snarling monster tearing through my camping tent like it was tissue paper. How I wanted I could rely on the individual beside me and whisper giddily, ““ What do you believe that noise was?””
I had actually invested the day treking through the Seneca Creek backcountry in West Virginia. A couple of weeks prior, somebody informed me about a spruce forest that looked like the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Influenced by the transcendentalist literature I was studying in college, I chose to explore it on my own. It was a test. Could I make it through a night in the woods alone?
The strategy was set: 10 miles over 2 days. I printed the needed maps, studied the path system, and dutifully inspected the projection. I had adequate outside understanding to make the journey a breeze. Or so I believed.
Worried I’’d be establishing camp alone in the dark, I removed at the trailhead like a rocket, huffing it past other hikers who appeared entertained at my frenzied speed. Perhaps it was the storm that blew in and soaked me, however hours later on I understood I’’d overshot a turn. I was worn out, flustered, and soaked. With daytime gone I made camp, scarfed down some granola bars (no wonderful camp banquets to be shared), removed my socks—– which seemed like wet meal rags—– and plopped down on my sleeping pad.
Some individuals rave about the liberty of outdoor camping alone. I have buddies who speak in platitudes about the solitude they discover amongst the trees. The frustrating feeling I experienced that night was monotony. At 6 P.M., I fished around in my pack and took out a too-soggy copy of The Best American Travel Writing . No thrilling tales would read that night. I turned to journaling, extending, then getting lost in my ideas. Ultimately, I crawled into my bag.
Then the bear, or whatever it was.
After I recognized my novice error—– forgetting to bag my food—– I believed longingly of the voice of factor that obviously had deserted me a couple of hours ago: Before we struck the hay, let’’ s take all the food out of the camping tent so a bear doesn’’ t consume us , alright? I might see the heading: ““ Lone Hiker Killed by Bear in West Virginia.” ” The troubling noises continued: crunching branches, heavy steps, and, wait, was that a scream? (After my journey, I discovered that sobbing foxes can seem like kids.) The lack of another human was sobering. Every concern was increased to the point of sensation like genuine threat. I slept possibly an hour that night.
I got up as early morning light filled the camping tent. Still on high alert, I looked very carefully through the zippered opening. The landscapes captured my eye: canary yellow and flame-red leaves spread the damp ground; thousands more hung above me like accessories. The sky was an intense, milky gray.
Emerson composed that male ““ can not be strong and delighted till he too copes with nature in today, above time.” ” He ’ s. I was so focused on completion objective that I’’d disregarded the beautiful, short lived foliage that surrounded me on the walk in. I started the walking back to my cars and truck, glad to have all my limbs and flooded with self-confidence. I had actually made it through the night, without the safeguard of a buddy.
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