Nature is an escape for me, as well as a lesson. Some days I’d like to take off and hike, kayak…and be with wildlife and wilderness. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily want to technically be with a bear or gator…But to be in their realm is an exhilarating experience. I see what they see, what they do and how they survive day by day, and it makes my life seem so much simpler.
Then there is nature itself. Something peaceful comes out of bonding with nature. My ventures are usually solo since I like being alone to meditate, to be away from the chaos of traffic, the reliance on cell phones and the internet. Even if it is for one day, it restores my mind, and my soul. Nature stimulates my curiosity and provokes my imagination. However, I have been lonely hiking alone. I want to share my outdoor experiences, so I decided to become a nature photographer, part-time as a hobby, free of charge. For these reasons, among many others, such as to preserve the habitats of various species that are endangered and to prevent further destruction of the beautiful land and wildlife we have in the U.S and other parts of the world, I love the wild. Below, are one of my first backpacking experiences and lessons about hiking alone in the wild.
The lady who drove up to the trailhead took a few photos of me. Pretty photogenic, you think?
After a five-mile ascent, I had the opportunity to snap my first panoramic view of the mountains.
Besides the trail signs not matching the map and getting me lost, the only complaint had been stumbling on bear shit. My heart started slamming against my chest. This was not bear shit, it was fresh bear shit. Then my gaze fell on the paw marks and I started breathing faster. Her is an example of my lack of experience at the time. I did not carry bear spray, but an old steak knife handed down to me by my lovely Grandmother and a whistle that barely blew and drained more energy from me than my over twenty-mile, foot blistering hike across the Appalachian Mountain. The paw marks ended at the edge of the ankle and knee-deep river I had to cross. It was either that or backtrack over ten miles back to the trailhead. The good part was I had plenty of water, and I had beef jerky and raw veggies.
At the time, I did not have a decent digital camera to capture my experience as I wanted. However, I used the camera on my smart phone to take photographs.
Mud and water in my socks, and my imagination running wild, I slogged along the muddy bank of the river. So nervous about a black bear lunging at me, I envisioned it, the low growl and rustle of leaves in the underbrush. That did not stop me, however, from gripping the steak knife in my sweaty hand and blowing a whistle that didn’t even whistle. The scent of wet roots and soil was replaced with the smell of wild flowers as a slim path appeared just at the top of the river bank. Also, there were no more paw marks or scat. Sigh. This trail was evidence of a recent storm. Trees, lofty and dense pine trees and other species of trees had fallen across the path. I clambered over them and burrowed my way through a crowd of pointy branches.
The Mountaintown Creek Trail.
Windblown Trail (I made this name up)
It was not far from here my cell phone died, and I came across some type of burial ground where stones were formed in peculiar circles. Here I realized I took the wrong damn path. The map disagreed with the trail marker, so I got confused at the switchback. I was going to get my extra mileage and experience with nature. My feet were burning with blisters, so I stopped to administer first aid ointment and covered them with bandages and went on my way. But I would be limping for a week.
And what was the point of all of this? To be alone in the wild. It is a bit insane, perhaps. However, the people who pass such judgement usually have not stepped out of their comfort zone. Someone told me once to not look for self-fulfillment or happiness in the acceptance of others. People are scared, scared of judgement, scared to fail…So, they can at least have the joy of judging those who do venture out of their realm and explore, accepting the awkwardness, possible failure…But failing means to try again, and people learn from it. I have learned from it. If you love the wild, I encourage you to go out, alone or with others and take it all in. It is really a beautiful world.