A Solo Camp Adventure

When alone in the woods on a dark and stormy night, the stillness is both awful and sublime. The wind breathes in an alarming whisper, leaves flutter with uncertainty. The tumbling rock and crackling branch is a bear, a cougar, a vengeful murderer.

And I am the woman who hides in her tent beneath the heavy rain, easy prey for all of the above. Or, at least, my mind wanders freely in the solitude and this is how I imagine my last moments.

Ah yes, solo-camping at its finest.

I've just spent the last hour hiking to a secret lake tucked beneath a towering cliff face. Though my original plan to camp with a friend was foiled by 40 millimetres of rain, I decide to camp anyway and pack my overnight bag.

I hike the short 3.5 km below relentless rain to the beautiful, deep-green lake, my own personal Shangri-La. This is one of my favourite places—silent, a deep contrast to bustling summer months. I carry my umbrella and weave along the trail, lush with Indian Paintbrushes and wildflowers, a vibrant emerald woodland.

Water flicks from droopy branches. My dog Brady zips ahead of me, a trusted companion.

When we arrive at camp I pick the least saturated location, although puddles are everywhere. I pull out my tarp, lay it on slanted rock and dirt along the lake and frantically set up my small two-person tent in the rain. Brady watches, the odd shiver escaping his body.

By the time I finish setting up, the inside of my tent is wet. I lay out my tiny Thermarest mattress and sleeping bag. I dry the tent floor with the blanket. I dry Brady with the blanket. I attempt to dry my now wet mattress with the blanket.

The blanket is wet, everything is wet.

I boil water with my tiny stove and eat a re-hydrated beef stroganoff, steaming hot inside my tent. It might be the most delicious tinfoil bag meal I have ever eaten. I feed Brady and head back outside to hang my food bag in a faraway tree – a preventative measure for a safe sleep.

I find a decent tree 50 feet away and, looping rope around a heavy rock, I whip the rock over a branch, hoist the bag and tie a knot.

Once back at the tent I notice water pooling at its corners. I dig drainage ditches with my boot and hope this will be enough to keep me pleasantly dry. We crawl inside and I look to Brady, the rain pelting the vestibule.

“What now?” I ask him.

He looks at me with a blank stare, a slight tilt of his head. It's only 8pm. Can I fast-forward the next 12 hours? I think to myself. I change into warm clothes and crawl into my sleeping bag with a book of Robert Frost poems.

An hour later the rain lightens. Birds chirp in celebration as though it were a bright, shiny morning and not past dusk. I peak out from the vestibule and look at the lake—small ripples from slight rain disperse on its surface. I am the only one here.

As I settle inside comfortably, Brady lets out a “woof.” He's a nervous dog; I'm certain it's nothing. He woofs again. Dread slowly creeps into my body. I unzip the vestibule and peak outside with great hesitation. The light is nearly non-existent. Shapes blur and darkness grows with each passing moment.

“Who's out there?” I ask, as though some creature might reply. “Go Away!” I can hear rock falling from the bank across the lake, crashing into the water.

I insert earplugs and my mind wanders to the most chilling places it possibly could. The dog has proved himself inadequate.

Hours pass in restlessness. Brady shivers next to me. We cuddle while I try to maintain the dryness of the tent. The rain picks up again and water pools in the top-left corner near my head. I take my extra toque with the large pom-pom and use it to soak up the growing puddle.

By morning I've had two to three hours sleep and want nothing more than to go home. I wait for enough light before packing up. I squeeze water from the pom-pom, skip breakfast and hike out.

When I reach the car I strip to my skivvies and crank the heat. It is 7am.

Indeed, the silence of a companionless adventure is at once frightening and fabulous. And when it rains 40 millimetres, it is very, very wet, although empowering.