Friday I said screw it all, packed up my gear and dog, and hiked into the woods to camp out for the night. It was just me, Fox, and the bears, raccoons, and any other critters hanging out of sight.
In doing this, I broke a promise I had made to a number of family and friends. When I first started toying with the idea of backpacking, most folks were not enthused. They weren’t happy that I was hiking by myself either on any given weekend. You know what? I get it. Most people do not have a desire to wander alone in the woods whether it is day or night. Here’s the thing — I am safer in the woods than I ever would be walking down a street back home in a major city. Yes, things can go wrong in the woods, but the chances are very slim.
So why the last minute major decision? For the most part, I’ve been letting myself down lately and backpacking has been a goal of mine for over a year and a half. Friday just became the day I pulled on my boots and did something.
After work, Fox and I headed down the road to Pisgah National Forest. I picked a place and a trail (Cat Gap Loop) that I’m familiar with. I wanted to hike in but still be somewhat close to my car in the event that anything went wrong. 20 minutes and an uphill climb later, we got to the camp spot. You can tell others have camped there because there is a fire pit. The opening in the woods is perfect for setting up a tent. And it is adjacent to a small waterfall and the river. Location and a water source!
Rookie mistakes were made, but things were ok. I started setting up camp a wee bit late. There was little sleep to be had. My tent is tiny and my dog curled up on my sleeping bag. I woke everything 15 minutes at least the entire night long. Despite there being only black bears in North Carolina, I still kept envisioning a grizzly bear paying us a visit.
All in all, though, the trip was a success. It was worth it to sit there as the sun came up and hike out with no one else around. Perhaps equally worth it was proving to myself that I can do it. That’s not to say I wasn’t a little scared. In the future, I think I would prefer the company of others if it’s an option. But Fox is always a good companion and trusty corgi.
I did the thing, and I’ll do it again. I could’ve kept putting it off, waiting to go backpacking with someone, but I needed to do this for myself. And life is too short to let anyone hold you back – even if it’s yourself. Chris asked me if I had fun. To be honest, this first time out there wasn’t fun, but I didn’t plan on that. It was about challenging myself, and I did it.