I have a confession to make to you all: I’m afraid of the dark.
People always ask me if I’m afraid hitchhiking, or solo travel, or the BearCat, and the answer is always the same: no.
But you know what I am afraid of? Being alone in the forest after the sun goes down. That shit terrifies me. And the crazy thing is that this sensation only comes over me when I’m alone at night in the wilderness.
Please, allow me to explain.
On trail, when I wake up in the morning, I think to myself, “Hot damn! I am invincible! I can conquer anything! Nothing, especially not the dark, is going to stop me from getting after my mission of crushing miles and dominating this trail! I’m going to hike sixteen hours today and continue into the night. Hell yes, I’m the greatest!”
Then the sun sinks behind the horizon and sucks the light from the world.
What happens in my head now, I do not know, but it sounds something like this: “Dude, what the fuck were you thinking this morning? Darkness is closing in around you and you are about to be effed. You had better panic now and get yourself to sleep before the darkness consumes you and the horrors of the night emerge to feast.”
Then I proceed to struggle through the night – waking frequently – until the cycle begins again in the morning (when my thoughts begin with, “What was I thinking last night?!”). I know. It makes no sense.
I KNOW it’s completely irrational and I KNOW that I have a higher risk of encountering danger in day-to-day city life, but there’s just something deep in my subconscious that I cannot shake (it all probably goes back to that Hard Copy episode on aliens that terrified me as a child).
What exactly am I afraid of? Bears? Not really. The boogeyman? Nah. Inexplicable noises? Sometimes. The answer is I don’t know what I’m afraid of. I can’t tell you what exactly about being alone in the middle of a blackened forest stirs up my sympathetic nervous system, but I can tell you that it happens (much to my continued dismay).
Have I camped alone countless times in countless settings? Yes. Has it made a difference in my attitude towards participating in this activity? Nope.
When I’m with other backpackers, things usually go well (or at least better).
My worst nights are generally in densely wooded areas. If I have a 360-degree view of the area around me I can cope more effectively – high alpine, fields/meadows, deserts, and the like. Lakes and rivers do well to provide some solace as well (although hearing animals enter and emerge from the water during the night is not the most welcomed of noises).
So there you go. Now you know my darkest secret (heh heh).
But I can’t be the only one. Anyone with me on this? Anyone gotten over their irrational fear of darkness in the wild? Anyone have any horror stories to concrete this fear into me until the end of my days?
Leave a comment and let me know!