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Thread: Going Solo?

  1. #71
    Chard's Avatar
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    Hi guys,

    For my part, I really enjoy, and always look forward to, heading out for a solo hike or canoe trip. It's a wonderful experience that I'd recommend to anybody. After having gone for days without hearing a human voice, the voices of wind, the forest, the shorelines and their inhabitants all become clearer. But like most things, it might be best to start small. Eventually you'll want to take the plunge and once you have, the world's yours to explore. For me it started as because I couldn't always find a paddling partner, but it soon became a conscious choice.

    My first solo trip was also my most memorable. I had left work late on a Friday afternoon and by the time I had driven up to Algonquin park and canoed in, partially in one of those pitch black, moonless nights, I reached my campsite well after dark. I was exhausted, so I quickly set up camp, had a sandwich and cold drink, hung my food and turned in for the night. Not a word or sound, and no fire. In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of sniffing through the fabric beside my head. As I lay listening, all the while my heart pounding, I heard what surely sounded like one of Algonquin's wolf packs coming down one by one to the small landing beside my canoe to drink from the lake as one of them stood guard a few feet from my head!!! For five minutes I could hear the familiar patter of paws, soft growls and yelps and that I associate with dogs I've known. When it was over, I felt great, excited, honored. Thinking back on it now, I guess that was the moment for me when my own Bogeyman finally died. A visit by wolves in the dark had turned from a nightmare into one of the most wonderful, life-changing events of my life.

    That's not to say that you shouldn’t take every precaution to avoid encounters with the four legged problems, keep a clean site and properly store/hang you food. One tactic I used when I first started soloing was to drag some small downed trees, usually bushy pines, and lay them in a simple square around my tent. I'm a light sleeper, and the idea was that any large critter trying to get into the tent would make noise moving the trees and at least I'd have a few seconds to make some noise and get prepared. It wasn't much but it gave me piece of mind.

    I have NEVER given any thought to the two legged types while camping here in Ontario. Well, except for the time I watched the Blair Witch Project the night before a solo trip.. Bad move. As I've mentioned before I don't carry a sidearm. For better or worse, as a Canadian the carrying of firearms is not really an option, particularly in the National or Provincial Parks I'd be traveling through. Personally, I like it that way. 'Nuff said on that. I can only imagine that for the two legged types, stealth camping and avoiding high traffic areas would be the best tactic.

    There's a scene in the 1999 movie "The 13th Warrior" where of our intrepid band of Vikings are preparing for a terrifying nighttime attack by lying down in the chief's longhouse to get some rest.

    Antonio Banderas' character asks in disbelief "How can you sleep at a time like this?"

    To which he receives the tired reply "The old father rolled the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one instant longer. Your fate is fixed. Fear profits man nothing."

    Whenever I get a little nervous at night I think back to this quote, shrug my shoulders and try to go back to sleep.
    Last edited by Chard; 06-27-2011 at 16:02.
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  2. #72
    Senior Member Yakfoot's Avatar
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    I would recommend reading Tad's post several times over. You are not used to the environment, it sounds like the life of the woods is a foreign thing to you. Traveling to a foreign land commonly results in culture shock. The language of the woods is different from the city. I have always lived in the country and spent time in the woods. I avoid the city like a plague. The city sounds, smells and activity is so frigging awful it really upsets me. When I am not driving I usually find myself looking at the clouds so I don't have to look and my surroundings and all the visual noise. If I have to spend the night there it is just plain spooky. Crossing the street in traffic is scary. Walking around the outside of the building at night makes me very uneasy. Seeing everyone in the hotel being careful to lock their doors is scary. A lot of the people I see are scary. For me, in the woods, there is no sound that is scary (except lightning when I am tied up to the tallest tree around) and there is no animal that is scary. I am at peace with all of tooth and claw, I know there are none who wish to hurt me, the only want to be left alone to mind their own business. Although it could do me great harm, I enjoy the memorable rasping sound of a rattlesnake's scales as he moves through the silence. I am an introvert and like being alone, I prefer to listen to silence. I think that extroverted personalities have much more difficulty being alone. It is much more of a discomfort, a disquieting experience. Extroverts want to relate to people and I believe introverts like myself want to relate to surroundings other than people. That might be an issue for you. You really do have to learn to be quiet in the woods. Take it a little bit at a time and learn to make friends of the sounds coming out of silence. They are all benign. Identify them so that they can be savored.
    "To turn from this increasingly artificial and strangely alien world is to escape from unreality. To return to the timeless world of the mountains, the sea, the forest and the stars is to return to sanity and truth." --Robert Burnham Jr.

  3. #73
    gunner76's Avatar
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    some folks see an old fart like me in the woods all alone ... they immediate think "AXE MURDERER!!!!"
    Blatant stereotyping. I use a machete.

    While I don't mind camping out with others, I still enjoy getting out on my own. No obligation to stay up or go to bed early just because someone else is etc, ect.

    But we must each hike our own hike.
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  4. #74
    Senior Member Law Dawg (ret)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunner76 View Post
    some folks see an old fart like me in the woods all alone ... they immediate think "AXE MURDERER!!!!"
    Blatant stereotyping. I use a machete.
    Show off, I prefer an ice pick. Much less messy and it takes real stealth plus technique to get it done right from underneath a hammock...
    Mark is the name and If there is more than one way to understand what I just said....I meant the good one.

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  5. #75

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    Consider that a group hang is just a bunch of low hung food bags. ;-)

  6. #76
    in it for the naps oldgringo's Avatar
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    When I was ~9 years old, I earned a pup tent by selling Christmas cards door-to-door (It was a very different time!). Of course, I had to use it...slept in the backyard. Alone. Been doing it ever since. It simply never occurred to me to be afraid, and like Yak, I'm only anxious when I have to go to the cities.

    Noise is a big part of this comfort/discomfort issue. It seems like each succeeding generation is bombarded with more and more noise, to the point where an absence of noise is unsettling. Restaurant owners know this, and keep the level of background noise up, so customers will feel comfortable...quiet, cozy, nooks where people can talk quietly are all but non-existent. We see it here in this thread, where people import the noise of civilization into the back country, again, to calm the beast. I have no idea where I'm going with this, so I'll shut up now.
    Dave

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  7. #77
    canoebie's Avatar
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    Back when I was a social worker, I used to take pretty hard core delinquent types from the projects on ten day canoe trips. Normally tough, gun carrying thugs would melt in the woods because there was "no noise" and when ever there was noise, (Coyotes) they would freak and run to be close to me, occasionally even on my lap. They were so entrenched in their way of life and experientially limited that the unfamiliar was frightening.

    Most of us experience something akin to this when in unfamiliar territory, our "fight or flight" response kicks in. The beauty of taking these kids in the woods was that it placed them in a state of what I term "positive crisis" where they are safe, have a supportive adult with them, and because of the unfamiliar environment and the "crisis" they experienced, they were open to change and new ways of thinking.

    In my life, when I have been able to push myself into new environments and find effective support systems while doing so, I have experienced significant personal growth. Solo backpacking and canoeing bring about that level of the unfamiliar that if embraced with faith and joy can bring about an incredible change in perspective, effective problem solving, and personal growth.

    I am embarking on a 4 day solo paddle and I can't wait. A good book, a fishing rod, 4 days of silence, all will be opportunity for me. I will be in a state of positive crisis because of the unknown, the different, yet the possibilities.

    Thoughts become things. Think good ones.
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  8. #78
    Needs more Hang time Catavarie's Avatar
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    Flare Guns make a nice multi-use item.

    Signal for help, scare away bears et al. and helpful for clearing an entire forest of dead dried scrub.
    *Heaven best have trees, because I plan to lounge for eternity.

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  9. #79
    Senior Member KP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grey721 View Post
    I've been wanting to go on a solo hang for a while now but there's one thing: I don't think I could do it.

    I can't sleep. I've tried practicing in the back yard but every time I end up coming back in. My senses go wild and play tricks on me. I get nervous at every sound. If I were in the woods... It could only be worse. the wind would make me apprehensive!

    My question to you all is: How do you do it?

    How do get get over, well, every thing. Being alone makes me more paranoid than anyone could imagine. especially since I am a tent to hammock convert. tents always gave me that little psychological barrier.
    Going solo is certainly not for everyone. Otherwise everyone would be doing it. Those of us that solo do it for a thousand different reasons. Whether it be because nobody else wants to go, time alone, challenging ourself, hearing the crunch of branches or leaves somewhere close by in the middle of the night , the sound of water, so on and so forth. Regardless of why we do it the simple answer is that we choose to solo because we want to and we can. Rather than ask us "how" we do it I believe that you just need to focus on why you want to solo. If you are comfortable with your answer than do it and if not don't stress over it.

  10. #80
    Jsaults's Avatar
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    I will admit to occasional "first night uneasiness".

    Cannot explain why, but occasionally I just feel.......uneasy......on my first night out by myself. Maybe it is because I just have not settled into a routine. Maybe I just need to get out more often. Maybe I am a wuss at heart.

    +1 on a campfire. I was once camped in the upper reached of Otter Creek wilderness in WV, having made camp late and in the dark. Fist night out as well. Feeling "uneasy" I made a small fire and all was well.

    I am a proponent of earplugs, but I try to use them only when absolutely needed. Noisy campgrounds, unruly children, unruly adults, unrelenting wind etc. Most nights I go without.

    Jim

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