Monday, July 4, 2011

Thoughts on Camping by myself

I know many of you were eager for me to get to this post last week, but I needed to process the trip myself first before really sharing how it was for me with anyone.

It will come as no surprise if you know me that it was easily one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

I had a lot of emotional buildup to going.  And a lot of anxiety about it.

I cried a lot. 

It was terrifying to think about being alone in the woods - by myself - knowing there are bear, coyotes, mountain lions, raccoons, who knows what else out there.  And then, there was the element of being all by myself with no other human to talk to.

I was scared.

Jason, being the ever supportive husband, held me and reassured me I would be fine, but I didn't have to do it.  I could wait until I was ready.

Thinking about it now, I don't think I was ever going to be "ready." I was doing something most people would never do by themselves. Something most wouldn't want to do.

I knew in my heart it was something I had to do or I would never be able to look at myself in the mirror again with the same confidence I see myself having.

So, Thursday I got all my stuff out and made the decision if I wasn't able to be on the road by 4:30 I wouldn't go until Saturday.

Everything worked out wonderfully - even with a long day of work and arriving to work almost an hour late I STILL managed to get home by 3:30.  I finished getting my stuff together and you would not believe the anxiety and excitement I had coursing through me all at the same time.

At 4:30 I was ready to go.

Jason and the kids walked me to the car.

I started crying... again. We all embraced. He gave me my last out, but I knew there was no turning back. 

I HAD to do it.  Even if I chickened out during the night, I at least HAD to get there and try.

About half way to the mountain, the bottom fell out of the sky.  There was thunder, lightening, and heavy rain.  I couldn't believe it.  I mean, come on, I was doing it, I was overcoming this awful fear I have and it's going to rain on me? GIVE ME A BREAK!  I pulled over for a moment and had to decide to persevere or go home.  I decided worse case scenario, it was raining in the mountains and I had to sleep on my friends porch or in her house and Saturday would be my night.

I had worked out this theory that Friday night would be my night of fear.  I would get next to no sleep because I would be afraid of everything and then Saturday night was when the journey would really begin.  So, I figured, I was there to overcome the fear, not so much the journey the second night, so one night in the woods would be ok with me - at least that was what I told myself to feel reassured that I should just GO ON.

It rained the ENTIRE drive.  I mean not drizzle or mist, but RAIN...

When I got to Catherine's around 7:30 was when the sun came back out.  I felt blessed, but I figured it was still too wet to sleep outside, but she said she thought I should go on and told me how to build a fire with wet stuff and sent me on my way.

I was not expecting that.  I had reached a point of relaxation knowing I would be sleeping on the porch and of course I could have, but I couldn't.  What would Catherine think?  This woman whom I hold in this really high place of honor when it comes to Earth Wisdoms?  Would she still respect me the next day?

So, I unloaded the food out of my pack and left it in my van - there are bear in those woods and I was trying to be as safe as possible and I headed down the mountain to find a spot to pitch my tent.

Stupid insecurities.  The things we tell ourselves, right?  Of Course, Catherine would still love me the next day no matter what I did.

It was so wet.  EVERYTHING.

I decided to pitch my tent a little more than half way down, next to the spot she has her sweat lodge built.  There is a small fire ring there and it is about the only flat place to pitch a tent.

I was pretty proud of myself because I was able to get it done quickly with a tarp under it and over it to help keep me dry.(I stayed dry the entire time.)

Then, I went to town building a fire.

My dearest friend, Holly, made the suggestion I take a starter log to ensure I had a fire.  When she made this suggestion she was just trying to help me curb some of my anxiety because she only recently had done the same (She was my inspiration for this trip) and she knew what I was getting myself into.  Jason told me I didn't need it, but boy was I glad I listened to Holly and not Jason.

I have never been so grateful for such a small piece of advice before.  With the help of the starter log I had a KILLER fire - even with all the wet wood.  It dried out super fast and kept a glow for most of the night.

I laid my little blanket out beside it.  I had my knife and my dog and I waited to get scared. 

Naturally, I heard every sound in the woods and so did Pepper, but I just kept waiting for the fear to roll in.

I tended my fire well.  I kept it going and blazing until about 1:00 in the morning when I was just plain tired.  I didn't sleep well the night before due to anxiety and I had had a super busy day of running around and working, so I was just tired. I didn't understand why I wasn't scared and was going to bed acceptable if I wasn't scared?

EVERY lady I talked to told me how awful their first night was.  I believe none of them slept and here I was so sleepy and so tired and not scared.  Was something wrong with me?

I decided forget it, I probably won't sleep if I get away from the fire, that's when I will get scared when I get away from the safety of the fire (although it was only a few feet from my tent).  I banked it, made sure it was safe for the night, called Pepper, and into the tent we went.

I laid there, listening to the roar of the river, listening to the water drop from the leaves on the trees above me and waited to hear the wild animals and I drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to Pepper growling under her breath.  I put my hand on her and reassured her through my sleep that we were ok and I listened.  I heard feet, but there were quite a good many feet and little to no noise.  It was probably deer.  I peeked through the tent to look at the fire, it was still glowing pretty well and I went back to sleep.

I awoke again to Pepper dreaming.  The second time I woke up I was a little more aware of where I was than the first time.  I listened intently to the forest and all I heard were rain drops.  I started feeling a little scared, but then I reassured myself that there were all these women who had gone before me and done this and they all came out just fine.  They paved the way for me to be here now and not be afraid, so I went back to sleep.

I slept until 9:00 am - when I heard some paddlers going down the river and Pepper having a fit about it.  We were not near enough to the river for anyone down there to be able to see us, so I let her out of the tent and I just laid there and listened and thought what is the matter with me.  Do I not have the sense to get scared when I should?  I was having a hard time with the fact that I felt cradled by those woods.

I felt calm and serene. 

I was thoroughly enjoying the silence (once Pepper stopped barking at the folks on the water) and the lack of conversation and technology.  I had a radio with me I could have listened to, but I loved the song those woods sang.

I hopped up out of bed and decided to go ahead and gather all my fire wood for that night early in the morning.  By doing all my work early on, I could just enjoy my day laying around and reading and walking...

I worked on my pile for a while then Pepper and I made the assent back up the mountain to get some food out of the car.  (It was quite a trek back up the mountain)

When we got back to the tent after eating, I gathered a little more fire wood and then put on my bathing suit and headed to the water.  It was REALLY cold.  I always forget how much colder mountain water is.  I didn't swim.  I washed off.  Pepper got in and almost got taken by the current.  She had never been in the water before and didn't know what to do with herself.  I'm going to have to take her to a slower moving river or a lake for her to learn to swim I think, but she enjoyed splashing around in the shallow water once we got her back to it.

We didn't stay on the water very long.  There are a lot of paddlers on those waters and to be honest with you, I was more afraid of the humans on the water than I was of the wild beasts in the woods.

I went back to my tent and wrote some on the thoughts I was having.  I got my book out and read, but mostly, I just laid there and listened to the sounds of the wood.  The silence was all the stimulation I needed. 


The day went VERY slowly.  I built my fire back up from the coals of the previous nights fire and kept a small fire going most of the day.  That was one of the goals I had set for myself.  I wanted to keep a fire going the entire time I was there.

All of sudden, I started coming down with a headache.  I had not had any caffeine and I am a coffee drinker.  I knew I was in trouble.  I tried to tend to it best I could, but I knew what was coming.  I could feel it in my stomach.  I was going to come down with a migraine because I had forgotten that one vice. 

I decided to pack my stuff up and head home.  I wasn't going to be able to beat the headache - even if I drank something with caffeine in it (which would entail asking Catherine for it) I would still have a headache because I am so prone to them and I had gone too long without caffeine.

I'm pretty proud of myself because I didn't give myself a hard time about it. 

You live and learn and I had done what I came to do. 

I overcame my fear of the woods. 

I officially know I can stay in the woods by myself and I thoroughly enjoyed both a day and a night in the woods by myself. 

I also endured my mind, which didn't give me any fits, and I was ready to go.

Catherine gave me some tea and that helped. I also took some medicine for it. Then, I headed home.

It rained on the mountain right after I left.  I made a good decision to come home.  I have no regrets about cutting my trip short.

Coming home was awesome.  I listened to lovely music and Pepper was so tired she laid right beside me the whole way.   We are bonded because of our trip and I look forward to many more with this little companion.  She loves the woods as much as I do.

No one was home when I got here, so that was also a big plus for me.  I came in and got cleaned up and was able to enjoy just a little while longer with no noise.

So, what did I learn? 

I learned I put a lot of energy into anticipating how I am going to feel and how something is going to be. I think this be a pattern in myself I really need to examine and spend some time working with. I would like to learn how to not build things up so stressful in my mind and learn to better enjoy the process.

I also learned I love being by myself. (I already knew that as I am an only child).  I had thought I had become pretty co-dependent on J and the kids for stimulation and enjoyment and I was able to see that I really like me and my thoughts.  I like hanging out with me.  I'm a pretty all right chick.

I learned I have WAY more confidence than I thought I did in myself, in nature, and in others.

And the biggest lesson... that I trust at the end of the day,  EVERYTHING will be ok.  It always is no matter how hard the lessons or struggle.

Will I do it again?  ABSOLUTELY.

Will I have anxiety about it?  Probably, but I'm just a work in progress.

Until next time!

Be well!


  1. Sarah, thanks for sharing this experience. I so enjoy your posts and keep being inspired by your processes!

  2. catherine stinson yellowrootJuly 5, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    miss sarah,
    you are a strong woman seeker! thank you for sharing with us all about your journey into alone time. the photos are dreamy!
    love yellowroot