Angus, 2019. This was one of my creepiest nights camping. I’m comfortable in the great outdoors. I have a bachelor’s degree in wildlife sciences. I grew up in the country and I’m not afraid of being alone.
But if you’ve never heard a deer bark in the dead of night, trust me when I say it’s the stuff of horror stories. Scraggly trees taking on grotesque shapes and tawny owls calling to each other had already set the tone for a spooky night, as the last fingers of light stretching through the trees gave way to shadow. I had settled in, when all of a sudden, a raspy, throaty, blood-run-cold noise erupted from the darkness.
Somewhere in the depths of the forest around me, an unsuspecting deer was going about its nightly routine when it came upon my tent. Deer bark for a variety of reasons, but this one most likely became alarmed to find something foreign in its familiar forest path, and barking is a way to alert others to potential danger. I froze. Something in the recesses of my mind knew what it was, but the rational mind has only a tenuous grasp on your senses when something is scream-barking outside your tent.
When darkness falls on my tent in the forest, or a mountaintop, or a cave, or a beach, things change. Natural occurrences like deer barking, owls hooting, twigs snapping, trees rustling…they all take on otherworldly qualities. It often takes the light of day ushered in with the morning to return the mind to unclouded, rational thought.
But thats the fun of nights out alone…the prickles of the hair on your neck, slowed breathing, snuggling into the sleeping bag, placing a childlike sense of trust in the security a thin sheet of fabric brings against the big world outside. I love it.
But don’t get too comfortable…I also love that sometimes, the morning light doesn’t bring the rational answers you hoped for. Some things can’t be explained, and that is hair raisingly delightful too.
Update: After reading various comments on this post, I thought a follow up would be good To clarify, I don’t spend sleepless nights awake in fear of noises outside my tent. And I don’t want to feed into fear about getting outdoors on your own. It was just a fun story that I figured other campers could relate to, and a glimpse into what I experience sometimes when the sun goes down on my tent. I’m one of those people who enjoys being spooked, who loves to have interesting stories to tell, laugh at myself looking back at times like I described above, etc.
I think that being alone in the dark and in the wild stirs up a different perspective for most people, but I enjoy that. I love the way it deepens my creativity, my senses are heightened, I’m living in the moment…I embrace all of it, and I hope you will too. It’s ok if you feel a little scared or jumpy about camping, and I hope that you saw in the comments section that it’s natural. People aren’t here to make fun of you for it. The souls that truly appreciate the individual power of an outdoors experience will celebrate your interest and cheer you on.
Thanks for reading!