Confessions from a backcountry camping newb who maybe says “fuck it” a little too often.

This is going to be great! It’s our Week of ManCamping Women where we showcase stories from the ladies who are out there ManCamping and we’re kicking it off on International Women’s Day.

ManCamping is not a gender thing; It’s a state of mind and lack of planning thing.

We’re starting off our ManCamping Women’s Week with Jen – Nearing Wild. Unprepared but handling the situation!

Make sure to follow all of Jen’s Adventures on her Instagram and her YouTube channel!

I’m still unsure if this story is a result of the fact that I was a brand new backpacker, a poor planner, impulsive, or all of the above, but this was the strangest and most eventful backpacking experience I’ve had to date.

Let me give a little backstory before I get into it. I’ve got ‘shiny object syndrome’; I get lit up easily and act on it quickly before the excitement runs out. This sounds really lovely doesn’t it? It actually often means jumping at an idea and acting on it before being fully prepared. It’s a character flaw of mine, really—preparedness just isn’t my thing.

For instance, after car-camping a couple times a year at most, I decided I wanted to try backcountry camping. After going on one 1-night backpacking trip and a 3-night canoe trip with my partner, I decided I was ready for solo camping. Yep, pretty much zero experience I headed out completely alone into the wilderness. I hadn’t even seen someone put a tarp up before (in person or online) and I ventured out in a torrential downpour with tornado warnings. Prime example of “fuck it” right there. I used a dollar store poncho doubling as a pack cover at the same time—that’s how the pros do it, right? 

Cut to this experience: I was slowly hiking the Bruce trail end-to-end and I decided that on my next hike I would stay at a designated camping area en route. I’d camped solo two entire times at this point so I felt extremely qualified (as I do).

Despite leaving home much later than planned and arriving about 2 hours behind schedule (typical), it was a beautiful Fall day and I was pumped to get out there. 

The plan was to finish the tail end of one section, embark on the new section for a short while until arriving at the destination. Simple, right? After finishing the first section, I quickly realized there was an extra hour minimum of road-walking between the two sections—something I hadn’t experienced on the trail so far, so I was not prepared for it. This shouldn’t have been too surprising since I didn’t do much to prepare for this trip other than quickly look at a couple of maps; it was a bit of a bummer, and with the sun quickly falling, I didn’t really have the time to spare, but I carried on anyways.

Once I finally got to the next trailhead, it was dark. I was adamant about getting to camp so instead of turning around, I pretended I wasn’t terrified to be hiking alone at night in the Fall. All firsts. I threw my headlamp on, hoping my batteries didn’t die because you bet I didn’t have spares, and walked into the woods. Laughing that I had ever been intimidated by hiking alone at night, especially in the Fall—it’s the same as during the day, right?

But about 20 minutes in, I see something up ahead and I’m wondering what it is—a cute lost puppy I can befriend? I can see its eyes looking at me, then walking forward, and looking back again. Until I get close enough to realize… it’s a freaking cub. 

I swear any time I have the thought “but what are the chances of that?”, it happens. You’d think I’d learn by now, but here I am. The very first time I’m ever hiking at night in the Fall I run into a goddamn bear. And I’m alone. WHY.

So I stop, quietly freaking out, and listen for mama. I hear nothing. I was afraid to turn around with fear that I was between the cub and the mama bear, so I slowly kept walking. And out of nowhere (or maybe the universe was loudly saying “ok this is your sign, go home”), a little side trail appears out of nowhere to take me down to the road. The only side trail for kilometres around me, and it was right there.

So beautiful right? You’d think I’d learn my lesson, thank the universe, maybe even laugh about it later, and turn around. Nah, too easy. Even after realizing that in my panicked state, I didn’t think to pull out my bear spray to protect myself, I carried on. This time, on the road until the next entrance.

In the spirit of never giving up, I calculated (incorrectly) that I would only have to walk for about 1-1.5 hours to get to the next entrance back into the woods and the camping area would be roughly 20 minutes in from there. I trusted no bears would be there of course.

I walked in the pitch dark, on the side of a highway for 2 hours, going the wrong way at one point. I finally get to my destination, and there is no freaking entrance. I walk a bit further to where I think another entrance could be, and there’s nothing there as well. After wandering around looking at an incorrect map, I practically somehow fall into an unmarked entrance of the trail. It’s off-the-map but I head in anyways. After walking for another good 30 minutes, I realize that I would have to backtrack and take a much longer route to get to the camping area. At this point I didn’t even know if I could find this spot, or if my coordinates were even accurate.

I’m cold, I have blisters that cover half of my big toes and the skin on my hips are starting to wear off from hiking with a backpack about half my weight, so I finally surrender. I walked all the way back to the road, called an Uber and since I was in the middle of nowhere, waited 65 minutes before arriving safely back at my Jeep. 

This isn’t really a camping trip gone wrong, it’s more a substantially unprepared long-walk-on-the-road-with-a-huge-bag gone exactly as expected. And while I still err on the side of the-worst-won’t-happen-to-me (which of course it almost always does), my hope is that if I ever run into another bear again, I have even the foggiest thought to take out SOMETHING in an attempt to defend myself. But I’m not holding my breath.

BTW, I do hope that if you read this, you think “if she can do it so can I”, but please be prepared and listen to the GD universe when it tells you to turn around. 

6 Responses to “Confessions from a backcountry camping newb who maybe says “fuck it” a little too often.

  • That was amazing. Good on you for not giving up/giving in. And at least your self-reflection in hindsight includes a few conclusions you could learn from before you try again. And it sure does sound like you’ll try again and again.

    3 months ago

    Ha great story and we all learn from our mistakes or mishaps. Keep on keepin on and stay safe 🌲🥃🤛🏻🌲

  • Jillian A Brown
    3 months ago

    Very fun read and great story! One I’m sure many of us can relate to in some sense!

  • OMG I laughed out loud — and snorted! Great story and great writing 🙂

  • Vicky Beam
    3 months ago

    LMFAO!!!!!! Can’t wait for your next trip report 😂

  • Anonymous
    3 months ago

    WOW!! What an adventure! An INCREDIBLY courageous act in such a (for some might think) very scary environment! For others a very peaceful and secure environment, with not a worry in the world! So much learned when throwing yourself out there I suppose, and no doubt with your experience have realized the balance to it all (or not). I LOVED reading your story, so honest and raw!! XOOX

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