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Anyone battle fear on the trail?

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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby papasequoia » Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:44 pm

SSSdave wrote:My suspicion is there are numbers of new backpackers that never backpack again if they have a night time bear experience.


Funny stuff, Dave. I'll never forget the time I was camped on top of Cloud's Rest with a couple of friends. There was also a guy camped by himself at the other end. Around 3 AM we heard the most god awful screams coming from his direction. As we turned on our lights a bear was running right at us. It stopped almost on a dime when it saw the lights, pivoted, ran back and then down the backside. We called out and the guy said he was ok, but we saw his light bobbing around. Soon after he came down with his gear and told us that he had woken up from a sound sleep and the bear was licking his neck, which is when he started screaming, :eek: He asked if he could spend the night sitting by us and we said sure. At first light he said thanks and headed down to the valley. His last words were, "I'll never backpack again." I don't know if he was a new backpacker, but yeah, I guess there are some incidents that will scare some people away from the sport. [-o< LUB-DUB LUB-DUB
Nature always wins
> miles = < people



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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby Cross Country » Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:01 pm

Is backpacking a sport or an avocation?
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby rlown » Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:50 pm

avocation.. but that's a given. It's also fun even with bears. well, black bears. maybe not a Grizz. Personally, I am not fond of snakes.. Just surprise snakes. If i know they are there, i don't mind them.
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby papasequoia » Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:18 pm

Cross Country wrote:Is backpacking a sport or an avocation?

For me the word avocation is too closely tied to hobby, and I have always looked at (most) hobbies as rather sedentary activities. Perhaps it is just semantics, but when there is physical activity involved I always look at it more as a sport, even if there is no competition. [I know that some people feel that in order to be a "sport" there has to be some kind of competition involved, but I don't think that that is necessarily the only way to judge one way or the other. ] For example, I tie flies, and I consider that a hobby or avocation. However, I view fly fishing as a sport. But maybe that's just me. :cool:
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby sparky » Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:32 pm

"A rose by any other name will smell just as sweet"
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby rlown » Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:38 pm

I kind of wish hikingfamily would rejoin to put this back on track. It's about what do you fear/dread/??? the most when you go out there.. She obviously had some stuff going on. Much like Rogue, I don't really care if i die out there.. A great place to go down.
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby jessegooddog » Tue Dec 04, 2012 6:44 am

On one of my very first trips decades ago, in Mineral King, we hiked several more miles than planned after driving up from L.A. and, being exhausted, just left the food in our packs, right outside the tent, rather than hanging it. Hearing the bear rip my pack open in the middle of the night was the most frightening thing I had ever encountered, and I was sure the bear would smell my fear and attack me. I dreaded every trip my husband planned after that. 40 years later, I want to backpack again to experience the overnight wilderness by myself, but I have a real fear of a migraine away from the comforts of home. A bear or mountain lion encounter would be a treat in comparison!
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby Tom_H » Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:57 pm

Only one encounter with animals ever made me a little anxious. It just didn't bother me when I grew up in scouts, paddling down swampy southern rivers, slowly floating by gators and water moccasins. Neither did it disturb me to find bobcat tracks through camp, nor the morning on a side trail of the AT when we hiked through a bed of 14 rattlers, 8 on one side of the trail and 6 on the other. Maybe I was overconfident in my young adulthood, but I remember feeling confident in judging whether snow bridges across raging streams in springtime were strong enough to support my and others' weight. The one time an animal made me a bit uneasy was the night on the Bartram Trail in the Appalachians of north Georgia when a boar (not bear-boar) ran through camp 8 or 9 times squealing in a very high pitch, rooting and rutting all over the place. I was on the ground on a moonless night and knew staying motionless was the only defense against his tusks.

Having fallen 20 feet out of a tree at age 7 and broken two vertebrae (just one of numerous wild childhood misadventures), I was mildly apprehensive when I took up technical climbing. I did get over that and became an instructor. Climbing itself never was my favorite outdoor activity, although I did get to the point that jumping off 110 degree overhanging cliffs on a single strand rappel with no belay, then popping the brake just before reaching the ground became thrilling, much like running high Class III in C2 opens, or effortlessly floating through 6 feet of fresh powder on KT-22!

There was one single occasion that I have been scared out of my wits though. We all remember the winter of 2010-2011. No longer the young strong instructor I used to be, I decided to take my niece and daughter on a little jaunt in Desolation. I knew there had been a lot of snow, but did not realize how much was still there as mid-July approached. We went in at Echo and hit snow around the top of the grade. By Haypress Meadows, the snowpack was a consistent 6 ft. We found a single bare patch above Aloha for the night. In passing Echo the next day, I made a photo of my niece atop a 40' drift. It was July 11, 2011.

I had plenty of experience in snowpack in the Sierra and Rockies before, had hiked parts of the AT in ice cleats as well as nordic ski-packed Uncompaghre CO, both in mid-winter, but always had had the right equipment. At my now higher age, I decided taking crampons, ice axe, and rope would likely be dead weight from which I could spare my back. It was a bad decision. Coming down from Aloha toward Heather we got to a rather steep bowl which had, of course, boulders and trees at the bottom. I could see one or two melt-throughs and was trying to follow the trail. I had the girls stay at the top and began stomping steps downhill with my heels. I reached a patch that was very solid and icy and my feet suddenly were gone. Fortunately instinct kicked in and at the moment my hip contacted the snow I was able to spin-flip, dig in my toes, and drive all 10 fingers like grappling hooks into the snowpack. The slide continued about 2/3 of the way to the boulders before the arrest was complete. My fingers were completely without feeling and the adrenaline pumping full. Leaving my pack at the bottom, I went back up, found another route around the other side of the bowl, and got the girls down. Though I was pretty unnerved, the biggest danger was yet to come.

After a stop between the bowl and the lake, we arrived at Heather. There were bare patches with the trail exposed at each end of the lake, but across the median lay a section about 150 meters long in which hard snowpack extended from the top of the ridge all the way down to the lake. The slope was steep (on another trip through with my daughter 2 years to the day later, I used a little angle ruler and measured the slope at 55 degrees). The top of the lake was frozen solid except for a band of melt about 1 meter wide around the entire perimeter, the water an azure so deep I had seen it only once prior when hiking a man made tunnel into the depths of the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland. As a former physics teacher and physiology student, I knew the interface between the water and ice would be exactly zero Celsius and that slipping here could result in no outcome other than careening directly into that band with the momentum carrying one's body out and beneath the ice, followed by horrifying death.

I was very ticked at myself for breaking the cardinal rule of survival: avoid survival situations. I had no crampons, no ice axe, no rope for belay. I was acutely aware that my body had neither the strength, endurance, or flexibility to deal with this as I would have decades earlier. Rarely either did I hike without another extremely experienced person to accompany me. The spill in the bowl had already shaken my focus and confidence. The anxiety was now surely there, but I knew I had to suppress it and focus with all my faculties. Leaving the backpack, I slowly stomped a trail to the other end and back, then did the same twice more. Following that I shuttled the three packs, one at a time to the far end. Having been raised in an abusive home, I for many years was terrified that I would not know how to be a good father and feared having children. At the age of four, this niece of mine had made me realize what I was missing. Even now, she is the kindest and most caring person I have ever known. Then following several years of unsuccessfully trying to conceive, going through infertility treatments, and then red tape, we had adopted a precious little girl. Now here I stood responsible for the lives of two of the three people I loved most in this world. That reality was very very hard. I knew that any of us could die on this traverse. I knew I would not be able to survive without either of these two precious girls, and neither would my wife or her sister. Bringing to bear a yoga like meditative focus, I did my best to project an aura of calm but careful demeanor. Amazingly, the girls followed me with a complete serenity and we arrived safely at the far end of the snowfield. We found one bare spot to camp at Susie and had to make a couple of wet feet fords of swollen streams. I excoriated myself well, but vowed to learn from the mistake. Was I scared? You bet your bootie, but fear is something that serves one well if channeled properly. In all though, I know that fortune smiled upon me that day.
Last edited by Tom_H on Wed Dec 18, 2013 7:43 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby rlown » Wed Dec 18, 2013 7:22 pm

Wow! Glad you and yours are all ok. You did what you had to do.
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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby Jimr » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:14 am

Tom, I really get where your coming from. Now that my son is going out with me and after last year's experience, the immense responsibility of bringing my kids in the backcountry hits hard. You want to give them experiences that will build their skills, yet keep them safe. Precious cargo. If anything happens, it's on my shoulders, period, exclamation point

The only thing more terrifying than life without my kid is wife without her kid
What?!
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Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby wanderin.jack » Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:41 am

I suggest reading Deep Survival by Lawrence Gonzales. It's a good guide to who dies and why.


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Re: Anyone battle fear on the trail?

Postby intrek38 » Tue Dec 24, 2013 6:52 am

I was gonna post a bear story but after reading here a bit, that story is outdated.

(The immense responsibility of bringing my kids (or anyone) in the backcountry hits hard. You want to give them experiences that will build their skills, yet keep them safe. Precious cargo. If anything happens, it's on my shoulders, period, exclamation point !!! )

Probably another reason I tend to prefer solo... Thanks Tom & Jim...
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