Sunday Morning Shorts: Week 9

Short stories told by our ambassadors. Each week a different prompt! 
Grab some coffee - Grab a seat

When have you been the most afraid in the wilderness?

Alex: On the first night of a backpacking trip on the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama, myself and the group I was leading were braving out a fairly ferocious storm. We were hammock camping, and due to the small size of our rain fly, I was attempting to dodge the raindrops in my sleepy haze. Drifting between different levels of consciousness, I heard a grunt coming from the other side of our campsite. Confused by the mysterious sound, I rolled over to see what was going on. Due to my near sightedness, I could not find the origin of the noise. Suddenly, the sound transitioned from a grunt to a whimper. The noises became more recognizable as they crescendoed, and I suddenly realized the disturbance was coming from underneath one of our participant's rain flys! Someone immediately started yelling for help! Cue me crapping my pants. My body became paralyzed. While my imagination ran rampant, the possibilities became endless. Was it a bear, a boar, or worse a modern day version of Deliverance? Would we have to evacuate? How would I explain it to my boss? Almost worse was the prospect of endless paperwork that would inevitably be coming my way. Abruptly, the yelling stopped. Two voices began conversing, and strange enough, laughing. With the mood lifting, I nodded back into my slumber. Upon waking up, the group began asking what the yelling was for the previous night. We discovered that one of the participants had a nightmare that they were paralyzes. In his dream, he began trying to yell to get someone’s attention. Even though he didn’t get the attention of anyone in his dream, he definitely got our 100% real life attention. 

Michael: My shoulders ached from the load of the heavy pack on my back. My whole body slouched under the weight as my tired feet moved slowly, one in front of the other. With my head lowered, my eyes stared at the trail with determination as I hiked with six companions to portage our supplies to the next lake in Saskatchewan, Canada. Gradually, the green brush at our feet faded away. Burnt grass appeared, followed by ash, and then embers. We stopped to survey our surroundings and noticed that the trees ahead of us had recently been burned. As we rounded the next bend in the trail, we could see across the bay where violent flames engulfed the forest that lay ahead. We had no option but to turn around. Our original route was blocked by fire, and it was the first time that Mother Nature had exhibited herself so forcefully in my life. It was frightening, exciting, but most importantly, it was a powerful reminder that humans are but one part in a larger ecosystem. In so many parts of the world, nature is tamed and destroyed by roads, buildings, and people. It was thrilling to experience a piece of wilderness that remains raw and mostly untouched. 

Dani: While backpacking in Gates of the Arctic National Park, my tripmates and I had finished breakfast and packed up camp. We were about to put our packs on and start hiking when out of the corner of my eye I saw a giant blonde blur come down the ridge and enter the 6-foot tall brush that surrounded a noisy river. After I announced that there was a bear, our group gathered together and started making noise (our call-and response 'I saw a bear' song proceeded into John Denver tunes rapidly). Eventually our grizzly friend emerged from the willows around 100 feet away and took a minute or so to see and hear us. We stood strong, acting big and loud, with my co-leader grabbing bear spray in the event of a charge. The bear walked slowly towards us until it was around 75 feet away and stood up to check us out. It's the only time in my life when I thought "we've done everything we can do and it is now up to this giant mammal to decide what happens now". With that kind of stress, I also remember laughing, perhaps inappropriately, while simultaneously having tears stream down my face. Perhaps the bear didn't like our singing, because after it was back on all fours, it slowly lumbered away from us and over another ridge. 

Grab a seat, grab some coffee and enjoy this weeks edition of Sunday Morning Shorts! Short stories told by outdoorsy people. We hope Sunday Morning Shorts will be a light, humorous, and interesting way to start your Sunday.