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Help me go Solo!
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Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Can't see it being a stray dog on 05/18/2013 10:58:31 MDT Print View

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.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
think I would had been really afraid on 05/18/2013 11:44:55 MDT Print View

so ?
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.

Andy Blackwell
(vash1012) - M
Scared in the woods on 05/18/2013 12:16:03 MDT Print View

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.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
a similar thread on 05/19/2013 11:59:06 MDT Print View

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.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re Can't see it being a stray dog on 05/19/2013 12:11:59 MDT Print View

"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.

Edited by greg23 on 05/19/2013 12:13:24 MDT.

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Re: Can't see it being a stray dog on 05/19/2013 13:55:46 MDT Print View

Rocco, Its an interesting track, but being somewhat familiar with the area my guess is coyote or dog as well. I've camped not too far from that area and spent a night (solo) listening to a pack of coyotes yip at the moon as they traveled around me in the valley. About every hour they would wake me up in a different cardinal direction. So I am sure there are coyotes in the area.

I hike mostly solo, I can relate to initially feeling uneasy and even afraid at night while alone. If it helps I typically sleep just fine now. My profile pic is me after 3 solo nights hiking around 3 Sisters Oregon. All nights were spent alone under a small tarp. On my way to the trail I even saw a warning poster about a recent cougar attack, but I slept just fine for those 3 nights.

I took it in steps...
- just try doing one night at first
- use a tent at first
- go in areas that are not as isolated like Shenandoah national park
- sleep near a creek, always more comfortable, you don't hear the noises in the woods
- have a fire at night, always great to go to sleep watching the coals die down
- bring some whiskey, yes I admit this helped me a lot, 2 shots = brave
- move up to sleeping under a tarp and bivy, I was really afraid of this at first, but after trying it I found I was less afraid because I could look out if something woke me up
- hike long and hard, being exhausted will help you sleep
- hike in winter, less animals about, but a lot more time in the dark
- if whiskey helps, try a night without it, I don't take it anymore
- try sleeping aids like Tylenol PM
- keep a stick or hiking pole near you at night
- keep a few large rocks near you at night
- try sleeping on a ridge or mountain top, less likely to see or hear animals
- Camp around a full moon, you will be surprised how bright it is. I often tie a bandana around my eyes to sleep in a full moon

As someone pointed out just give it a go for one night. When you make it to morning you will feel like an entirely different person... a person who braved the wilderness on your own!


Edited by jshortt on 05/19/2013 14:12:15 MDT.

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
re Help me go Solo! on 05/19/2013 16:38:49 MDT Print View

Before you even go, let your mind run through the worst-case scenarios -- and make a plan to deal with each one. Preparation will give you a sense of security.

I sleep with two metal things at arm's length, ready to clang together, with the bear spray and knife in easy reach (if only for the psychological comfort) and with the headlamp slung around my neck set to its brightest beam. Maybe, if you have a gadget with a 'panic button', it would help to have that within reach too.

The trick is being able to go out and think, "Whatever happens, I can deal." You're in more danger from falling in daylight than you are from sleeping in the dark.

Clayton Black
(Jivaro) - MLife
Be very afraid..... on 05/19/2013 17:23:46 MDT Print View

Just kidding Rocco.

You seem brave enough just by creating this thread.

Familiarity helps. Day hike a few times in an area you could camp alone in. Pick yourself out a good sleeping spot and hang out there a while. Go each time fully packed and ready to stay. Pitch your tent and lay out the perfect sleep spot. If you decide not to stay the night just break camp early and hike back to civilization and call it a gear shakeout.

I enjoy gear shakeout hikes to familiar sites and often find myself staying.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Help me go Solo! on 05/19/2013 22:18:33 MDT Print View

Our fears are generally a lack of knowledge. So study up on everything wild where you hike. You will find there is little to fear... other than falling off a mountain or drowning.

I would not try to muffle the noises... just lay back try to identify what they are, and then enjoy them.

Put away anything you think might be useful for "self defense" and keep a camera in your shoe next to your head. If you hear something really spooky, take a picture of it :)

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Help me go Solo" on 05/19/2013 22:38:47 MDT Print View

I think generally speaking the animal noises you hear are prey animals and therefore not a danger to you.

Predators you're not likely to hear coming. But that probably won't happen anyway.

I'm kind of weirded out by the thought of someone watching over me while I sleep. Too many horror movies probably. A shelter helps with that.

I prefer to hike alone but have lunch and camp with others.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/19/2013 23:54:07 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/07/2015 15:17:52 MDT.

wiiawiwb wiiawiwb
(wiiawiwb) - F
A few thoughts on 05/21/2013 01:00:37 MDT Print View

Many great suggestions above. I will reiterate two and suggest another.

1) I would buy bear spray. It gives you a mental edge knowing you've got something that can stop anything in its tracks in NC.

2) Get a bright light. My suggestion is a Tiablo A-9 and get the aspheric lens. I have one and you won't regret it. The A-9, with that aspheric lens, throws a beam of light farther than anything I've ever seen. It gives me comfort to know I can use it to spot something a great distance away or strong enough to see into distant trees.

2) Set up perimeter security around your tent for less than $20. Buy 400' spool of 30-lb fishing line and a 130 decibel personal keychain alarm.

There's something comforting knowing you have the tools to hear, see it and stop it. They'll calm your nerves and allow you to actually listen the night noises which, with every passing night, makes you more comfortable in the wilderness.

Edited by wiiawiwb on 05/21/2013 01:01:53 MDT.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Feeding the fear on 05/21/2013 04:26:54 MDT Print View

Just me, but carrying super bright lights, bear spray, and setting up a perimeter sounds like feeding irrational fears. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Much better IMO to embrace the experience go with minimal or (horrors!) no light, skip the bear spray, and skip the perimeter.

The reality of it is that in general your life at home is likely to be more dangerous than your time in the woods.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Feeding the Fear on 05/21/2013 05:46:35 MDT Print View

You don't really NEED bear spray or bright lights, remember it is pretty safe out there.

But if bear spray or whatever makes you feel a bit more at ease the first night, then take it! Don't let anyone shame you saying "Its extra weight." Think of it as 8oz of "Peace of Mind" weight, or "Comfort in the woods training wheels." You may not always carry it but if it helps at first do what makes YOU comfortable.

Honestly the chance that something in the woods in NC will bother you is pretty small. You are much more at risk back home. Cougars and wolves are a non issue. Bears are shy and hunted in NC and as I said black bears don't attack people in their beds. The only thing you really need to worry about at night is camping under a window maker. During the day don't step on a snake or fall off a cliff and you'll be fine.

Bright lights are nice anyway if you ever need to hike at night because they help you spot landmarks farther away.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Familiar territory on 05/21/2013 08:36:30 MDT Print View

Try starting with a hike you've done before. Familiar territory or trail will take the edge off of the "unknown".

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Unfamiliar territory on 05/21/2013 08:39:10 MDT Print View

Or going hiking in some awful swamp in Louisiana or Florida. After a few nights there, any other place will be heaven on earth :)

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Help me go Solo! on 05/21/2013 09:37:43 MDT Print View

My suggestion would be to look at the age and locations of all they guys posting on here. Most of them have been backpacking a long time. And they're still here to tell about it. Also note that many people here backpack in much more dangerous places than western NC. There is very little danger in anything that goes bump in the night in western NC. Its a pretty safe place.

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
ear plugs on 05/21/2013 16:51:05 MDT Print View

+1 on ear plugs

They take just enough of the audio edge off to help prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night due to the mouse of possum checking out the enticing smells at your campsite that you think is a big bear or wolf. (although I have had a small pack of wolves circle our tent in Montana once). Or that shuffling of the person in the tent next door. Thermarest should also just ship new NeoAirs with a pair of earplugs.

But if the issue is trouble you might have mentally settling down for the night after an intense day, I bring my little iPod shuffle and listen to my backlog of podcasts or audio books as I doze off to sleep. It is a worthy 0.5oz addition to my pack. But this is coming from someone that listens to CSPAN for fun. I never listen to it during the day, though. That is time for contemplation and appreciation of my surroundings.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Ear plugs on 05/21/2013 17:42:28 MDT Print View

"They take just enough of the audio edge off to help prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night due to the mouse of possum checking out the enticing smells at your campsite that you think is a big bear or wolf."

True, but they also ensure that when something is coming to chew your face off you'll have no idea you're in mortal danger until you smell its breath and wake up in terror.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Ear plugs on 05/21/2013 17:49:10 MDT Print View

"True, but they also ensure that when something is coming to chew your face off you'll have no idea you're in mortal danger until you smell its breath and wake up in terror."

This is very true, and it's why I've never worn ear plugs again after my first marriage.....