3. Alone in the woods
I was in college, female and taking a course in outdoor survival. The course ended with a three day, three night “wilderness solo”. We were allowed to take a backpack, empty canteen, sleeping bag, knife, six matches, rope, a sheet of plastic, a change of clothes, extra socks, halizone tablets, small cooking pot and spoon. We were not allowed to bring food or water since part of our training was in identifying edibles and finding a water source. Once I was dropped off, I had to hike in to find a spot to set up camp. First, I had to place a flag on a tree near my drop off point so that I could be located three days later for pick up.
I was loving life! Just me and nature. I had no fears, even as night began to fall. I enjoyed the sounds of the woods all around me and didn’t mind not having a tent! I built a small fire and had a great feeling of peace. I slept well that night but woke up thirsty. My search for a water source began. Happily, I found a muddy stream, let the water settle in my pot, placed the tablets in the water and boiled it for good measure. Yuck…what a crappy taste….but at least I was hydrated. All went well and I had a great time….until my last day.
It was early afternoon on the last day and time to break camp. I cleaned up my camp area and hiked out to my drop off spot. As I sat, leaning against a tree, I heard the sound of a vehicle off in the distance. I figured that it had to be my pick-up. As I waited, a vehicle that I had never seen before pulled up on the dirt path in front of me. Immediately, I realized that I did not know the man who was driving. He gave me an odd look…my gut told me that he was bad news. He asked what I was doing there and if I was alone. I said that my friends were behind me breaking camp. He gave me a knowing look, got back in his vehicle and rode off.
I was terrified! I knew that I had to hide… and fast! I ran into the woods and hid…as I ran, I heard the car come back. I stayed as quiet as I could and remained hidden. I heard him get out of the car . I could hear him calling to me and walking through the brush looking for me. I was so afraid! Eventually, he gave up and I heard the car door slam, the engine start and the car pull away. Going back to my drop off point was not an option, so I began hiking through the woods, hoping I would find base camp. After walking for what felt like hours, I saw a forest ranger. I told him who I was and what had happened to me. He told me that I had done the right thing since a young woman had been raped the night before and the police and forest service had been searching the area. Happily, he drove me to the base camp where I learned that another girl in my class had had a creepy encounter with a man the night before. She had scared him away by blowing a brass whistle until help arrived.
If there is anything to be learned from this…it is being sure to always trust your gut feelings and never camp alone.