May 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm #1303047
I've been wanting to go backpacking for awhile now. I've had the time, but not many of my friends have time or want to go. The problem is I tend to freak myself out at the littlest sounds in the woods. I do want to get out, but it just annoys me that I have to rely on someone else to get out.
Any suggestions to make it easier for me to get out alone?May 17, 2013 at 7:10 pm #1987194
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
Start with something a bit less intimidating than off trail in the Sierra. maybe car camping etc. then work your way out. I went through something similar when I stopped using a tent. It was amazing how protective the cocoon of a tent appeared to be. After a few trips I loved camping solo in the middle of nowhere under the stars. Good luck.May 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm #1987196
"The problem is I tend to freak myself out at the littlest sounds in the woods."
So you're afraid of the dark huh?
Just remember that if you hear a noise it's most likely a squirrel or a rabbit or deer or a bobcat or something. These animals aren't going to hurt you. The biggest fear is the fear of the unknown. There are many nocturnal animals and having something walk by your camp is normal.
Get a powerful light.
Try doing night hikes if you are comfortable with that. Find some spots to sit down and relax and listen to the forest. It will be a lot less intimidating if you can walk back to your car.
This next piece of advice is the most important. Set up camp before nightfall so you will know what's around you. Setting up camp after dark in a dense forest where you cant even see the land features around you can feel very claustrophobic and creepy even for an experienced solo backpacker. If you don't have a mental picture of your surroundings it feels like you are surrounded by a featureless black mass.
Have you tried asking on the forum? There could be some NC people who are looking for someone to hike with. Try meetup.com and see if there are any local hiking groups.
Try doing practice runs on day hikes where you set up your shelter and cook a meal.May 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm #1987197
Sleep with ear plugs.
Listen to small radio before go to sleepMay 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm #1987200
The others have given some great advice. I especially agree with Justin on checking out a Meetup.com group in your area – you may find you actually do have folks to go backpacking with, and new friends to make.
If you do head out solo, and if you can, sleep next to a running stream. The noise of the stream serves two purposes, it pretty much drowns out any other noise out there, and it's a nice noise to fall asleep to.May 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm #1987209
Dang, I wish I had worked out my schedule to do that this past week. I have a place that I could camp up the mountain I live on, not on my property, but I've camped there a few times with my friends.
The stupid thing is, when I'm with someone I don't think of it at all. I think it's because I have someone to talk to instead of having the chance to listen to the night sounds.
I've been on many night hikes, non by myself though. It's the same thing as above, it doesn't really bother me as much.
For instance, I went to the Grayson Highlands State Park with some friends Easter weekend.
There was still snow on the ground so you could see foot prints of people that had walked there, but you could also see animal foot prints. We saw obvious prints of a Wolf that had followed the trail. At first I thought it was someone's dog, but then compared my hand and they really big as well as being on parts of snow where there were no previous human tracks. We found a dead pony that had froze to death, it was lying on the ground next to the wolf prints and we thought there could had been a wolf around that had killed it and we started to freak out a little…, but the horse was frozen and had no bite marks. We ended up continuing to the shelter since it was late.
Seemed as though my friend were more freaked out by it than I was. If I was alone I think I would had been really afraid… Don't like the aspect of knowing there is a large predator in the vicinity.
Thanks for the tips though!
I was also thinking that making a vlog of my trip like many backpackers do would help.May 17, 2013 at 8:32 pm #1987211
-Build a big fire to hand out by until it gets late. If feels better by a fire. Sit by the fire and read a book or listen to music until its good and late.
-Bring a powerful light
-Camp in an open area, if you hear something weird you can spotlight it.
-There will be noises, figure out which ones are normal and get used too them
-There isn't much in the NC woods to be afraid of
-If you like buy a can of bear spray. If it helps you fall asleep its worth 8 oz.
-Remember black bears don't make a habit of bothering sleeping campers (this is more of a grizzly thing) and to the best of my knowledge Mountain Lions (which probably aren't in your area) have NEVER, EVER bother a sleeping person
-Car camp a few times until you get used to the night noises, a benefit of this is you don't need a lot of time, just drive out in the evening and be back home the next morning.May 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm #1987223
Bradley DanylukBPL Member
I have the same issue – I think it partly stems from an actual close-encounter with a too-curious bear in the middle of the night who circled my tent over and over, poking his nose into the fabric, many years back.
I've just recently built myself a portable electric fence to encircle my campsite. Haven't put it to use yet but I am certain it will help me sleep when in the mountains alone. Earplugs in and trust the fence to do its thing. It weighs 16oz – worth it for a peaceful sleep.May 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm #1987229
Are you sure they were wolf tracks? They were probably coyote tracks. Coyotes are very shy and I wouldn't worry about them in the slightest. They are small.
Mountain lions aren't very big either. You look huge to them.
Television and movies like to portray wild animals as dangerous killing machines and people believe it. The truth is you are far more likely to be attacked and killed by a human in the woods than an animal. The statistics show that they are not a real risk.
You live in a very safe place as far as animals are concerned. You don't live in the North wear there are grizzly bears or moose. You don't live in the African savannah where there are lions and hippos. You don't live in the jungle where there are poisonous snakes and spiders everywhere. As Luke said there isn't much in the NC woods to be afraid of.
I do most of my backpacking in a place that has the highest density of mountain lions in the United States (Santa Lucia Mountains) and after a snow you can see tracks everywhere. I don't let it freak me out because there have only been 11 recorded fatalities in North American in the past 30 years even with mountain lions living in such close proximity to cities and very popular hiking areas. I know that it's easy to get excited and scared about animals after all of the misinformation that television has bombarded us with, but really we are talking about North Carolina here. You really shouldn't be this worried. I don't mean to be rude but you are being a little ridiculous here.May 18, 2013 at 12:23 am #1987232
A campfire can help. You could even throw some big logs on there keep it going all night while you sleep if that makes you more comfortable. Gather extra firewood so you can wake up in the middle of the night and stoke it. Also if you throw a bunch of pine needles or grass and twigs on the fire it will light up your entire camp temporarily.May 18, 2013 at 5:44 am #1987242
spelt with a tBPL Member
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
In my experience, it really just comes down to exposure therapy. You won't be comfortable sleeping alone in the woods until you get some experience sleeping alone in the woods. Of the suggestions here, I would pick a couple that you think would help your nerves the most and try them on a short overnighter.
My own personal advice is: when you're planning trips to practice going solo, pick locations that are safe, but not convenient. If it's too easy to bail, you'll find yourself making excuses to go home. If it's a long drive home or a hike through a dark swamp back to the car, your mind will weigh those choices and staying put and trying to sleep will be more appealing.
Then you'll wake up at sunrise and realize, huh, I survived the night! And the mental hurdle crumbles a bit more.May 18, 2013 at 5:48 am #1987243
spelt with a tBPL Member
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Also, no wolves in NC, although the tracks you saw may well have been wolf-size. Tracks in the snow will spread over time. However big they were, they started out smaller than the size you found them.May 18, 2013 at 6:19 am #1987245
Jennifer MitolBPL Member
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
I'm glad you posted this…
I have been camping and backpacking literally since I was 3 and after 40 years of it you'd think I'd be comfortable enough to go by myself. I'm not. I even have a big dog who has a nasty growl who I KNOW would alert me to the slightest danger, but somehow that doesn't seem to help, either.
My problem is that I don't know what I'm afraid of – here in the Midwest there is enough riff raft close by that I am somewhat afraid of ending up as the plot line of a Criminal Minds episode more than becoming a bobcat snack. But honestly, I agree that it's just the sounds…….
Some of these suggestions are great…and I agree…it's just a matter of exposure. You just gotta go do it. One day…..May 18, 2013 at 6:34 am #1987246
This is true I guess.
There is a pic of one.
Group of them here:
It was at a high enough elevation that the snow didn't really melt.
As was just across the border in Virginia.May 18, 2013 at 6:42 am #1987247
I know of no credible reports or even rumors that wolfs are coming back to VA. If its not a coyote my guess is its a stray dog.May 18, 2013 at 6:56 am #1987249
I guess it does make more sense for it to have been a coyote.May 18, 2013 at 8:52 am #1987274
Dale WambaughBPL Member
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
North Carolina has had a red wolf release program in the NE part of the state and it is estimated that there are 100 wolves there now. I would bet that a large solo set of tracks was a stray dog. A pack might concern me, but not a solo wolf.
As far as the solo thing, just do it. Those critters are far more afraid of you. A big ol' can of bear spray may improve your confidence and as good for two legged snakes as four wheel drive critters.May 18, 2013 at 9:26 am #1987288
I stand corrected, I'd forgotten about the wolves in NE North Carolina but that is a long way from Grayson Highlands. Since lots of people hike there and people live in the valleys around there I'd guess it was a stray dog or a dog going along for a hike.May 18, 2013 at 9:48 am #1987296
I don't see why a dog would wonder so far away from it's home.
We were probably less than a half mile to the right of the shelter.
I'm guessing now that it was either someone's dog or a coyote.
Thanks again for all of the tips. I think I'll have to get some bear spray.
Any ultralight ones out there? I think vlogging would help a lot as well.May 18, 2013 at 9:57 am #1987298
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
If you carry a trekking pole, that would provide a lot of protection.May 18, 2013 at 9:58 am #1987299
UDAP makes a 7.9 oz can of bear spray, it will stop a grizzly so it should make you feel good.
Glad you discovered Grayson Highlands, its one of my favorite places. The shelter at Thomas Knob should be a good place to camp. You can sleep in the upstairs part of the shelter and feel a bit better there while getting used to the night noises. You might hear ponies at night so don't be alarmed if you hear them stop their feet.
I have family in the area so maybe we could join force someday. Right now though I don't see being back in VA until the fall, if then.May 18, 2013 at 10:44 am #1987304
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
so what you are "really afraid" ?
really afraid is a LOT better, Vastly better, all but Infinitely better, than being Really Quite Actually Dead. eh ?
you wann'a see "brave", in the face of "really afraid" .. ?
you wann'a see that ?
you go watch a young lady have her first child.
having a kid .. now THAT's scary.
of course the fact is that she's going to have that thing courage or not. it just happens and there they are. like it or not. a mom.
but most of them rise to the challenge and one way or another, they make a good show of it. and that, is "brave".
(it is seldom the smoothest of paths)
i tell ya'll a little story of long ago :
our intrepid hiker got on a plane perhaps tuesday night, landed at dawn in western Alberta, was gifted with several excellent hitch hiking rides, and by sundown was several miles off the beaten path on the eastern slop of the Mackenzie Mountains.
this all resulted in being quite worn out from travel and culture shock of just .. Pow ! , you're in the bush now laddie !
the spot of falling over from exhaustion was a bit of a flat spot on an abandoned mining track. (note : when tracks are decommissioned they quickly become home to many volunteer species of vegetation. berries being among the most popular.)
there is not hardly anything on earth more attractive to large brown bears than endless miles of linear berry patch with an old cat track to walk on (very easy going). so there was our hero, laying dead tired in his tent, and watching bear after bear after bear (not making this up) .. ohh crap, a mom with 2 cubs .. another bear, etc.
it was a frikk;n Highway for brown bears.
in the end, this it what happened.
i got so tired from being terrified, that i zipped the tent door closed so i no longer could see them … and fell to sleep.
moral of the story :
if you are scared xhitless and can't sleep, the solution is the same as for those who claim they can't sleep on a 1" pad.
– Walk Farther –
and you'll sleep just fine.
ps. – when coyote prints melt out, they can look huge.May 18, 2013 at 11:16 am #1987313
I get a little nervous sometimes when I hear things rummaging about in the dead of night when I'm solo. Things that helped that others have already said:
1. Carry a bright light
2. Sleep next to a river so the sound of running water will occupy your mind.
3. If you have to, get a decent sized knife, stick, or bear spray to make you feel less vulnerable.
4. Stick to enclosed shelters if it makes you feel better or use a tarp if you would feel better seeing whats rummaging about. (As a person who tried hunting once or twice, that BIG, HEAVY STEPPING creature you are fixating on is probably a squirrel or a mouse. They sound huge when you are paying attention to the noises)
5. Don't watch Deliverance before you go out.
As others have also said, you are in much more danger from other people or your own stupidity than from any animal. I recently had an incident that frightened the crap out of me. I was hiking solo. I had laid down for the night and dozed off. It was maybe a little after midnight and I had my contacts out so I was blind as a bat. All of a sudden I see a flash of light and hear someone walking up. My tent is entirely lit up so that it seemed as if there was a person standing right outside of my tent shining his light on it. I called out with my best deep man voice "Who's there?! Identify yourself please" to which I heard no replay for about half a minute all while this light was seemingly shining right on my tent. Then I hear a reply off well in the distance from an extremely non threatening sounding person "Oh, just doing some night hiking, sorry!". The guy must have had an industrial strength headlamp because my entire campsite was illuminated with him out of earshot. I had some trouble getting back to sleep after that.May 19, 2013 at 10:59 am #1987553
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
FWIW, this was hammered on pretty recently on another site,
I expect others, such as whiteblaze have hit this topic too (though if you search there I suggest something like a domain-constrained google search rather than their search function).
I will say that sometimes I feel safer and/or happier in a group, and then again with some groups I feel safer (and/or happier) hiking solo. It's good IMO to do some of both.May 19, 2013 at 11:11 am #1987557
Greg MihalikBPL Member
"UDAP makes a 7.9 oz can of bear spray, it will stop a grizzly so it should make you feel good."
IF the wind is blowing in the right direction.
IF you can get it unholstered in time.
IF it is your first encounter.
IF the critter knows that. (Some of them haven't read the literature.)
Aside from rabid/crazy …. coyotes and wolves are the least of your problems.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.