Journey to Vermont Long Trail: Solo Backcountry Camping

Journey to Vermont Long Trail: Solo Backcountry Camping

“She is the type of woman who needs alone time. She feels deep, she thinks even deeper. Her alone time allows her to figure out her mood, where her energy is, and how to take each step in life.”

Part of why I am excited about doing the Vermont Long Trail is enjoying not having to worry about anything but my daily routine of get up, eat breakfast, tear down, hit the trail…one foot in front of the other into the unknown. A totally new area to me. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and a little scary. So last week I set out on a solo overnight backcountry camping trip to a campsite 22 km from my vehicle….14 km from any other backcountry campers. Goal was to go to a totally new area to me…on moderately technical trails (roots, rocks, single track)….on my own….knowing I was going to be all alone in a remote area. I did have a way to communicate to the outside world if necessary and that is through my Zoleo. My 2 way messaging and gps device that works outside of cell range. Off to build some toughness for the Long Trail and to just escape the insanity life becomes at this time of year for me. #disconnecttoreconnect

I worked til after 4:30 pm but days are longer now….so lots of time to get there and set up before dark!! The forecast was for a gloomy, rainy night….and it started that way but eventually it cleared. Hiking along the shores of Lake Minnewanka was truly epic and breathtaking! I had never been past the warden’s cabin and after I passed the cabin it became clear not many do. The trail is a little more narrow, overgrown, rockier, and definitely felt I was being watched!!

Arriving at the sign to my campsite LM20…I almost walked right past it as it is a little beaten up and the trail down to the campsite was a little overgrown. One of the things that is so cool about all the campsites along Lake Minnewanka is that they are right on the lake.

Tent set up went well…especially since I have only set it up once in Algonquin. It didn’t quite look the same as it did when it was set up there but it seemed to work!! In other words….I need more practice…maybe in my living room first!!

It was truly a beautiful night so I had brought myself some wine and poured a glass to take down to the beach. The only sounds were the loons and the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach shore. After enjoying the night into the dark I decided to take my stuff up and just come back down to finish my wine and take a pic of the moon over the mountains. Biggest lesson of this solo journey was learned right here…..I came back down and turned around to get the picture.

When I turned around my flashlight in my hand caught some glowing eyes looking at me….my first thought is it’s a deer. Then I saw the shadow, the shape of it’s head, then it’s body. Gulp….nope….that is a grizzly!! It was between myself and my tent. And where was my bear spray?? With the stuff I had taken back up to my tent. My legs got shaky and my stomach turned…..not the most ideal situation. So I started talking calmly to it…with no doubt a tremor in my voice. It looked at me….then slowly just walked on. The good news is that it is so dry out I could hear where it was walking to know it walked a long ways away. Phew!! Dodged that bullet…or bear!!! Biggest bummer….kicked over the remaining of my wine in the chaos!!

Talk my stupid picture that caused all this!! And went to up to my tent. Cautiously!! Wedged my bear cannister in a tree and into bed!!

I put on my audio book to get me to shut off my brain, overactive imagination and eventually fell asleep.

3 am….on the nose…because I looked….I heard the crunching of leaves…coming towards my tent. Now I had seen elk poop near my site so I was truly hoping it was maybe one or 2 of them……then I heard the snorting…..it was my friend the grizzly back….assuming it must be the same one. I could hear the rustling the sniffing and odd snort. I made coughing noises….and grabbed my bear spray and my horn…and had a knife handy if needed. It seemed like an eternity that it rooted around my area. Me to let out the odd cough….death grip on my bear spray…and just hoping it was just curious not hungry!!! Eventually it moved on but sleep was difficult after that!!

Morning came having the sun shining on my tent….I opened up my door to see it shining on the lake….it was glorious!! I laid there enjoying that view for a bit…not in a hurry to leave my peaceful private peace of heaven. Listening to all the birds singing their morning songs, I packed up my camp and made my journey back out to the busier part of the trail which made me appreciate my solitude even with my friendly bear encounters.

I think that we all need to take that time to find that solitude and be comfortable in it. It does not have to be as removed as I was from society but just some time to breathe and be… on your own terms.

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