I’m not new to camping. I’ve been doing it for a while, but this was my first solo camping trip. I had a mixture of excitement and apprehension going into it.
Excited because I love spending time outdoors. Camping is a great way to unwind and relax. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in a place that has a peacefulness I can’t find in the city is therapeutic. Free therapy Under Heaven’s Eaves.
I was a little apprehensive because it was my first-time soloing. I have been with one or more people before, lots of times in fact, but this time it was going to be just me and the outdoors. I guess it would have felt like a rite of passage. Can I really do this alone?
Time to find out what I’m made of, right.
Plus, it’s not like this trip is going to be hiking the whole Appalachian trail or anything. It’s just a campsite at a State Park. I could park the car right by the site and unpack straight from it. There are some good trails and some good places to fish but if I really get in over my head I can just get in the car and head to safety.
Look before you leap is what I have learned from experience. When I was more unwise than now, I would jump and figure out to fly on the way down. I’m smarter now. Maybe not by much but it’s working and it’s going to be a good weekend. No expectations though. Just a trial run to see if I can.
So, I got to the site, unpacked, set up camp, went for a little hike to explore the area, and came back to take it all in.
So far it was a good weekend.
I set up my hammock and made a fire to cook a little diner and get ready to spend my first night solo camping.
The meal was amazing. I’m not that great of a chef so it must have been the ambiance that made it so wonderful. I made a cup of coffee and sat back deciding on whether or not a S’more would be a good idea.
When is a S’more not a good idea, right?
It turned out to be one of my better ideas. At least for that day. GOOOOODDD SSS’MMMMOOORREE!!
I sat and listened to a little music and did some star gazing till I got tired. Then I went into the tent, crawled in my sleeping bag and thanked God for such a wonderful day.
It was just what I had hoped for: an amazing peaceful blissful day camping outdoors.
I couldn’t wait till tomorrow and to try my luck at fishing.
It didn’t take me long to drift into the most peaceful sleep I had known in quite a while. The last thing I remember thinking is: “I should spend a lot more time in places like this. I might have to look into living in a place like this all the time.”
I can work from anywhere, so why don't I spend more time like this. Maybe a little home somewhere kind of remote but close to things, where you can see all the stars in the sky. Permanent living under Heavens Eaves. It would be like Heaven, or what I think Heaven would be like. Except in Heaven it’s not fishing, it’s catching. I don’t want to be rich or famous, I just want to be able to live and write, which is work for me, and I could do it. Maybe even with the right one someday. Then I was off to dreamland. To be honest, when I was awake it was like a dream. This trip was wonderful.
"I’m definitely coming back soon."
At some point during the night, I woke up and scurried around to look for my phone and see what time it was. During my scamper through the darkness, I realized I hadn’t just woken up because it was time to get up: something WOKE me up.
I could hear scuffling around outside like someone was going through my stuff. I immediately thought I was being burgled.
“Somebody is trying to rob me. There's nothing out there but some food in a cooler and the scraps from my meal.”
Wait a minute I’m not home, I’m camping. Who burgles people at campsites?
Then it hit me. “It’s not a person! It's a something!”
It’s funny how quick your mind goes from knowing what to do, to I don’t have a clue what I’m doing anymore.
I tried to do a rundown of likely suspects but the first one that came to mind was “BEAR!”. So, I proceeded with that in mind.
"I'm being burgled by a bear."
I’ve never actually seen a bear in real life, but I have seen them on TV and heard the stories. They have big teeth and big claws and a big attitude and are a lot stronger than I am. They will also fight to the death over a meal, and the eat anything.
I tried to veer away from this train of thought and told myself “Maybe it’s a cute little bear that’s just wanting to be friendly.”
“He’ll have a snack and go home.”
“Yes, that's all he wants, a s'more.”
Then reality hit me again. “What if I’m the snack?”
Fear can make your mind play jokes on you or keep you alive. Our minds can be complicated. Especially when they are flooded with FEAR!
So, I did what most people do in this situation: I PANICKED!
Bears were not something I had planned on; I know about the “probably won't but could happens” but I really didn’t think “BEAR” would be on that list.
Till it was.
The more noise it made the bigger it got.
I tried to remember what to do if a bear comes at you but all I could remember was “Play Dead”.
Brilliant. I haven't left my tent so it might not even know I’m here yet.
I sat in total silence for what seemed an eternity and the bear kept digging around like it was looking for something to snack on. Something like me. Then my brain did it again. Insight into a thought I would have been better off not knowing.
THEY CAN SMELL FEAR!
If fear has a smell to it, I must have wreaked of it. I had already hit the panic button twice so far. There is no way I’m not smelling like pure fear. I don’t know where the smell of fear comes from, but I need to cover it up with something.
It kills odors, right? It should kill the smell of fear, right?
As quietly as I could I got into my bag and got out my deodorant.
I quietly started putting it under my arms like I just got out of the shower.
Then my brain did it again: "What if that’s not where the fear smell comes from, where are the fear glands?"
"I don’t KNOW!"
Better to be safe than sorry.
I did my best to cover any and all parts of my body I thought might be producing the fear smell. If nothing else, maybe I won't smell like a snack to MR. Bear.
Alright, now I am fear proofed, what next.
Now that he can’t smell me, maybe if I make some noise he will just go home.
I tried to make a big ROAR like some kind of other animal it might be afraid of.
It got caught halfway out and ended up sounding like “HELLO”.
That wouldn’t even have scared me.
So, I tried again “RRHELLO”.
Maybe I confused it. I would be.
What big scary bear would expect a hospitable greeting from a potential snack. I know he has never heard that before. Maybe he will leave in a second because I was so nice and said hello.
He kept looking.
So, I kept trying. Yes, I kept saying hello. Why change it after the first couple of times. What was the point in trying to sound like an animal at that point, at least he can’t smell me or The Fear.
After my third or fourth greeting it got quiet.
Then an old samurai saying from some late-night kung fu movie popped into my head. “When you feel the fear, tighten your belt and charge.” I tried to think of a bible verse that might cover this but the only thing that came to mind was " I did not give you a spirit of fear, which did help. " There just wasn't anything on how exactly to face down a bear.
So, I was going out to face my fear.
Just not yet.
I said a whole lot of prayers before I even started to make my way out.
Then I decided I needed a weapon and some kind of armor like a real samurai. . . but I didn’t have any of that stuff, I had camping gear.
So, I proceeded to make my own armor out of my sleeping bag and some cord. I had the bag wrapped around my torso to protect my vitals and tied up like shoelaces and then put a poncho over it to maybe make me look bigger and hide my bad armor design.
Perfect, I almost feel like a samurai in this. Never mind what it looks like.
Now I needed a weapon. This is when things started to look. . different.
The only thing I could conceive as a weapon was a small stainless-steel pot. It was harder than my hand and gave me more reach so it would have to do. The Katana Pot as it will one day be known.
I stood at the threshold of the tent waiting to unzip it. Then said a couple more prayers.
Took a deep breath and undid the opening.
They say first impressions last the longest so I wanted to make one Mr. Bear would never forget.
I don’t know how that would have been possible with what was about to come out of the tent. In hindsight I probably looked more like the Michelin Man with a small pot instead of the samurai I had envisioned.
This was going to be a moment neither of us would ever forget.
All that aside, I thought I might need to say something as I made my way out to a fight to the death with a bear.
Nothing really came to mind. Nowhere on my list of “Probably won't but could happens” was a moment like this.
“I’ll try the growl again.”
I really have to work on my entrance one liners. Now that I know I need them, they will be on my list of things to practice, if I'm not eaten.
Then I saw it.
For the first time in my life, I was face to face with a wild animal I had not actually wanted to see and especially this close.
Most of it was still out of light but what I could see was not good.
Its head was inside of the trash bag I had hanging on my hammock.
Shaking around violently like it was rabid. It was terrifying.
Then my brain did it again. It couldn't stop at BEAR, it had to throw in the question “Do they get rabies?” Bad brain, baaaad brain.
Luckily, I was fear proofed.
So, I said it again.
Then it stopped shaking.
It started to take its large ferocious head out of the bag and was about to engage me in mortal combat. A fight to the death was moments away. I was pretty sure my chances of survival were pretty thin. I had samurai armor made from a sleeping bag and a katana pot.
It didn't look good.
I gripped my pot tightly and tightened my belt.
Come on bear, let's do this.
“Where has this voice been all this time?”
Then I could see its whole head.
It was brown, and white, with black stripes.
“What kind of rabid bear is this?” "Does rabies make them change colors?"
Then the other voice in my head spoke up again “That’s . .not . .a . .bear.”
It was a racoon.
It looked at me like it had no idea what I was. So that part of my plan was working perfectly.
So now I just feel silly. I got all dressed up for nothing.
At least Mr. Racoon will never forget this encounter.
I won’t either.
As I stood there in my makeshift samurai armor and katana pot a thought occurred to me. “What made me jump to thinking it was a bear so quickly?”
Fear did. Fear of the unknown. God was teaching me a lesson.
All I could do was laugh and be thankful it had not been a ferocious wild animal but a cute one. Also, that no one else had seen this. A little bonus for deciding to go solo camping: nobody sees your mistakes.
I spent the rest of the night on my phone googling what to do if a bear comes into your camp. Not one person had mentioned anything like what I had done. Maybe I should tell them about my night with the Bear.
NAAHHHH. Something like this is better kept to yourself. Mums the word.
I spent the rest of the weekend doing exactly what I had planned on. I went fishing. I relaxed. I ate well. I rested. I looked at the stars. I got in touch with things that are actually important. Made a list of things to bring next time. Learned some great entrance one liners.
I also looked for scripture on what to do when a bear comes into your camp. I still haven't found an answer that really quite connects to it though. But it was nice to read it out there. Some places make it easier to connect to the All Mighty, even if you feel like he might have laughed a little about the experience. This was one of the easier lessons I learned.
The whole thing would have been avoided if I would not have let fear take hold. Fear doesn't come from God but our enemy. God was just reminding me of this and maybe he even laughed a little. I can too, now. We let things escalate into bigger problems than they need to be when we don't act with God.
Letting fear guide us instead of God is a road to ruin. I was lucky enough to be taught this lesson by a raccoon and now I'm passing it on to you.
Thank you, Jesus.
Late night kung fu movies are not the best source of information either.
We are all works in progress.
I did not give you a spirit of fear.