You live and you learn… I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of learning the last couple days.
I’ve been back on the trail for just about 2 days now, and have hiked a little over 20 miles.
Full disclaimer, to my parents and everyone else this story might concern, I am in no danger, and if I was I would be well equipped to handle it. However, my first night back on the trail, I realized that I didn’t have time to get to a shelter or designated campsite before the sun went down. I decided I would try stealth camping. Stealth camping is when you pretty much just pick a spot of the trail a little bit and set your tent up there. I was pretty close to town and went down a side trail a little ways and set up my tent. At around 8pm, a guy walked past. In his 50s or 60s, he was obviously local, not carrying anything with him other than his cell phone. He seemed surprised to see me there, and stopped for a few seconds. Being a friendly person, we chatted for about 30 seconds and then I went back to setting up my tent site and getting ready for bed. I got into my tent, curled up in my sleeping bag liner, popped in my earbuds to block out the sounds of animals nearby, and went to sleep.
About 2 and a half hours later, I wake up to my name being whispered (incorrectly) from the darkness. I opened my eyes and yelped at the sight of the same man standing above my tent, shining the light of his cell phone on me. Instantly on guard, I said “What are you doing here?” He answered that he was walking home. Then he said to me, “Do you want to come to my house?” I said no thank you. He offered again a couple more times and I insisted more heavily each time that I was perfectly fine sleeping outside. I also lied and told him my boyfriend would be showing up shortly, and that I was waiting for him. I said “Have a good night,” and turned away from him. I heard him walk off.
That night I got maybe one hour all together of sleep after that. I was physically shaking for at least an hour after the encounter. I’m really glad that I sleep with my pepper spray and knife right by my hand. I considered getting up and moving to another place, but it was so dark I fully doubted being able to find another spot to sent up the tent, no to mention it was really cold. Had I been without the pepper spray, I definitely would’ve left. I didn’t see him again after that.
I don’t know what the intentions of this man were. He could’ve been dangerous, but he also could’ve just thought he was being helpful. I assumed the worst, which I’m glad I did. Also, what grown man thinks it is acceptable to approach a young, sleeping girl, wake her up, and ask her to come to his house? The fact that he thought this was a good idea baffles and angers me. I lost valuable sleep because of him.
I know that this story is going to scare the people who read this and care about me, and to those people, I’m sorry. I definitely and not going to be stealth camping alone for a very long time, if ever. I just am comforted, and I hope you are too, by the fact that, had anything gone wrong, I would have been able to defend myself.
Since that night, things have been going really well! Yesterday, I had climbed 2 mountains by 10am. It’s a funny feeling when you’ve hiked miles and miles and realize that it is still before noon.
By noon, it was really warm and I was sweating hard, so I went for a swim in the river nearby. The water was incredibly clear!
About halfway into my miles for the day, I came across a pair of thruhikers, the first ones I’ve met since getting back on the trail. Olive, and 49 year old woman from Canada, and Tasty a 42 year old hiker from Vegas, met on the trail about a month ago and have been hiking together since. I told them about my experience the night before, and we hiked together the rest of the day. I really enjoyed hiking and talking with them, and although they were faster than me, they took frequent breaks and always waited for me to catch up and gave me time to rest before taking off again.
I noticed that after joining them, the miles seemed to go by twice as fast. Last night, we all camped out together at a shelter, and they were really understanding in the fact that I was nervous after the previous night. We hiked the 8 miles into town this morning together. I’m really grateful to have met them.
I had my sleeping bag waiting for me in Sheffield (thanks Mom and Dad!!!!!!!!), and they had made reservations for a hotel in Great Barrington, two towns both 3 miles off the trail in opposite directions, so we went our separate ways when we reached the road.
Everyone in Sheffield is incredibly friendly, all eager to offer rides, directions, one woman even gave me $20 for lunch! Life is good. With every uphill, there is a downhill right after!