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joobert
01-26-2017, 01:30
I think that I'm going to do it...... I think I will (attempt) to thru-hike this year.


But I have a big problem. I'm terrified of the woods at night. I could hike all day. It is truly the most at peace I will ever be. But the thought of sleeping in the dark woods with bears, snakes, the blair witch, coyotes, the bloody goat ghost my best friend in 6th grade swore followed her all the way to Texas from her childhood home in the woods (in Virginia, nonetheless).


Not only that, but noises. I have slept with an air filter from the mid 90s since... the mid 90s. It filters nothing now, I haven't been able to replace a filter in it for over 10 years. But even at the chance of developing emphysema I turn it on every night. Just to muffle my neighbors lightly playing radiohead on repeat.


Maybe I'm not cut out for the trail. I can hike, but the thought of sleeping in a dark, wooded, civil war graveyard terrifies the **** out of me. If there's one thing that will get me off of the trail, it's nighttime.


I've slept overnight before, in the wooded pines of east Texas, with large groups of people, or boyfriends, usually drunk. And even then, there were times (most) when I prayed that if god just let me out of my tent without what was surely either the chupacabra or a monstrous inbred hillbilly with confederate lineage outside devouring me, I would go back to church.

I grew up in South Texas where the legends of La Llorona, the Blair Witch, and Bloody Mary became one, wood (well, brush) dwelling, child eating monster. I have what has been called 'an overactive imagination' When I was 7 I watched Idle Hands and woke up hallucinating a severed hand playing spider on my pillow.That is all to say, I know it is unlikely I will find anything that terrifying, but there is a very good chance I will create it, and run far from it. I've always hated that about myself, as I profess to love nature and to hate civilization...that is until it's time to go to bed.

My dad, in a last ditch effort to persuade me from hiking, has sent me Stephen King's Girl who Loved Tom Gordon.

To be honest, I am not brave. Fear will take me off the trail quicker than anything else, and I don't know how to fight it.

Is this normal? I assume not. But is there a shred of hope that I will make it? Is there anyway to acclimate myself?

imscotty
01-26-2017, 02:09
The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon - great story :)

I am not sure I have any advice that will really help, but if I were you I would start practicing sleeping in the outdoors now, before you hit the trail. Start someplace you are pretty comfortable (your back yard?) and work your way hop from here. If being near people helps, you should have plenty of compony heading NOBO in the Spring if you camp near shelters. Or, perhaps you would feel better if you hiked with a partner, but that can create its own logistical issues. Truth is, in reality there is very little to fear, but I think you already know that.

Good luck!

Miguelon
01-26-2017, 02:21
Hey,

So I am really enjoying Craig M's youtube videos:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJgXi2uR65pVh1gPBX5gDfdcJmBe9y31n

His videos are fairly short, really well done, and in them he talks about his fear of sleeping in the woods.
If I can surmise.... he planned on tenting, found that it was tough for him to sleep in the woods, hence he stayed at
motels every 3 or 4 days (or so it seemed) to catch up on sleep. Then he started staying more in shelters. (He doesn't state it but seems the more company the less scary the woods... not sure if this is exactly how he'd put it but seems so to me.)

Good luck to you,

Miguelon

MuddyWaters
01-26-2017, 05:42
If a deranged drunken, inbred hillbilly is going to hack you to death with a machete in your sleep, theres not much you can do to stop it.

Put in earplugs, go to sleep. Do you really have that much to live for anyway?



What will be, will be. Not in your control. Do you worry about dieing each time you get in a car? You should. Far more likely.

Maineiac64
01-26-2017, 05:46
With a fear this profound you might try to slowly introduce sleeping outdoors and build up to it, maybe 1-2 hours to start, in your back yard to start. A lot of people have to listen to something to sleep, I actually listen to talk radio with an ear bud. When I'm on the trail I listen to podcasts from my phone. If you can be determined to overcome the fear knowing that it is not based on real risks and it will get better each night. You can do it.

Engine
01-26-2017, 06:56
Phobias don't have to make sense, in fact they often don't have any basis in logic or reality. Overcoming a deeply ingrained fear takes time and as Maineiac64 mentioned above, slowly increasing your exposure to whatever you're afraid of can serve to innoculate you against the fear agent.

I'm impressed by your desire to overcome this issue and while I know this will make little difference to you, I will clearly state their is almost nothing to be afraid of. Depending on where you live, you are likely to be in greater danger at home in bed than in the tent in a sleeping bag on the AT.

Maybe a couple short hikes of 4-5 days would be a good idea before you commit to a 6 month journey.

Ercoupe
01-26-2017, 07:03
If this is a AT thru hike, you will be surrounded by hikers at the start, assuming you stay near shelters. And most likely fall in with a like minded group, to share your journey. The group may change over time, but you may be more comfortable when that happpens.

It helps me to keep to a routine and keep things organized to eliminate any anxieties. I hate searching for a light in the night (Mine is always around my neck). Writing in a journal, phone home when you can, check your maps for the next day and read a book. Earplugs for the snoring. A personal pepper spray may ease some of your fears.

ScareBear
01-26-2017, 07:04
It seems unlikely that after a month on the trail you would still possess a phobia about sleeping in the woods. However, getting thru that first month with the phobia is the issue...

I guess "immersion" therapy at a slow and gradual pace would work. It works with plane phobias and height phobias(both of which are far more rational phobias than fear of sleeping in the woods since that is actually in our DNA...).

It also helps to talk to a professional about your fears. You may find that your fears are actually linked to an unfortunate event from your past and you just are not making the connection...in that case, you will need different therapy to overcome the fears...just sayin...

chiefduffy
01-26-2017, 07:14
I am so tired after 3 or 4 days on the trail, it doesn't bother me anymore. I do use earplugs to block out the little night sounds that get the adrenaline flowing. After a month on the trail, I cant sleep indoors anymore.

QuietStorm
01-26-2017, 07:44
I have the same issue. I hike solo and this time of year there are few other hikers around. I use earplugs and just accept the fact that my sleep will be fitful. I try not to go to sleep too early and try eating as late as possible. A little booze helps too.


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la.lindsey
01-26-2017, 08:57
1. Therapy
2. I freaked myself out a lot on my first solo trip but decided to just accept my eventual bloody murder. I was not murdered. I came to love sleeping in the woods in about 4 days.
3. You don't sound too sure about this. It doesn't have to be this year. It doesn't have to be ever.
4. Start small, get better at it, as suggested above, but don't start on the AT.
5. Therapy.


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Venchka
01-26-2017, 09:15
I recently discovered the 4C trail in the Davy Crockett National Forest. Discovered on the internet. I won't actually see it until next month when I actually hike and camp there. 4C is 20 miles long. The Ratcliff Recreation Area and campground is at the southern end of the trail.
Perhaps you could build some courage by hiking the trail during the day and spending the night in the campground.
Just a thought.


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bigcranky
01-26-2017, 09:16
I loved that book. :)

Ear plugs are one good solution, I still carry them. You might not sleep well the first couple of nights, but eventually I hope you'll be tired enough that you'll be able to sleep.

Lone Wolf
01-26-2017, 09:21
get one of these
https://www.amazon.com/Sangean-DT-400W-Digital-Weather-Pocket/dp/B0012YHQVE/ref=sr_1_49?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1485436842&sr=1-49

Tipi Walter
01-26-2017, 09:40
If a deranged drunken, inbred hillbilly is going to hack you to death with a machete in your sleep, theres not much you can do to stop it.

Put in earplugs, go to sleep. Do you really have that much to live for anyway?



What will be, will be. Not in your control. Do you worry about dieing each time you get in a car? You should. Far more likely.

Good post. Like the bold highlight quote. We flatter ourselves with the extremely high value we place on our living forms. Inevitably we die. In the meantime do we cower in a hall closet and expire as a lifelong couch potato??


With a fear this profound you might try to slowly introduce sleeping outdoors and build up to it, maybe 1-2 hours to start, in your back yard to start. A lot of people have to listen to something to sleep, I actually listen to talk radio with an ear bud. When I'm on the trail I listen to podcasts from my phone. If you can be determined to overcome the fear knowing that it is not based on real risks and it will get better each night. You can do it.

I always recommend "the backyard" as the place to test everything: Gear, thermarest sleeping, cold weather, and outdoor sleeping. Sleeping outside takes some getting used to but as others have said, in about 4 days you get the hang of it. A much bigger challenge is packing up every morning at 10F. Oh and 10F days severely limit the ability of deranged, drunken, inbred hillbillies with machetes to actually get motivated enough to come outside looking for you.

moldy
01-26-2017, 09:52
Back when I was in the Navy, I was the guy who made job assignments for the brand new people in my squadron who just arrived on the ship from Boot Camp or school. Most of them were sent to do some time in the galley as a messcook. This one time we had a shortage of "Line dogs" who worked as Plane Captains on the flight deck. They were desperate for any help they could get. This guy was from Texas just like you. The flight deck routine during heavy flight ops, what we call "24 hour ops", could be described as "hell on earth" Loud, Fast, Dangerous. A typical launch or recovery event has 20 or more jets moving at the same time. These jets suck at one end, blow at the other. There are bombs and rockets and danger everywhere. All are taxied into one of the 4 launch catipults in what at first appears to be a random chaos. Nothing that this boy ever saw prepared him for this madness. At the end of his first day he got permission to come see me. He was in tears, he was sure he was going to die out there. l sent him back to work and that he would have to suck it up and get used to it. I checked up on him from time to time and he was doing OK. About a month later I take s stroll up on the flight deck. The next event has just started with engines fired up and here I find this same kid, asleep in the catwalk under the tail end of a turning A-6 Intruder! I grab him and ask, Don't you think it a little dangerous to sleep in the catwalk during flight ops? He say's, I'm OK, I know what is gonna happen next! He had gone from one extreme to the other in a months time. Of course, he did not know what was gonna happen next because I sent him to be a messcook the next day. So I will tell you the same thing, suck it up and get back to work, all those things you fear will go away as you get used to it. Don't get too relaxed, there are times to get up and check out that noise with the flashlight. Happy trails

Tipi Walter
01-26-2017, 09:57
Moldy---good recollections. "Old hands" have seen it all, Newbs want to cower and quit.

hyperslug
01-26-2017, 10:09
I think chiefduffy said it well. Hike yourself to sleep. If you put in big miles (which you must build up to) you will be so tired you won't worry about it, at least for long.

Venchka
01-26-2017, 10:20
If you're a novice fiction writer practicing your craft, well done.
You can't be serious. Otherwise you would never leave home.
Civil War cemetery? Really?
Backyard practice is good. I'm very fortunate. My backyard is in the woods. I use it for testing. You might try it if you have a backyard. Not everyone does.
I reread your first post. This should make you sleepy.
http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0068473/
Sweet dreams.
Wayne


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cmoulder
01-26-2017, 10:38
Yeah that first post is pretty melodramatic. Makes me wonder if this person is really interested in getting outdoors.

And good writers make it read like they're not trying too hard.

Deliverance is good reading and good watching. Make believe you're Ned Beatty and if you still want to go out then you really want it. ;)

FreeGoldRush
01-26-2017, 11:07
Sleeping outdoors is new to me as welll. Sleep in the backyard whenever you get a chance to desensitize yourself to the sounds at night. On the trail I found that in the fall when the acorns dropped constantly it was very peaceful. Rain on a tent is very peaceful. On another night it was perfectly still and silent and every animal rustling in the leaves go my attention and made me wonder what (or how big) it was. The odds of any coming into the tent or hammock are extremely remote. Lightning strikes and ticks are far more likely.

Water Rat
01-26-2017, 11:10
Unfortunately, there is a not a whole lot you can do to overcome this hurdle, except to get out there. If you have the means to record the noise your air filtration system makes, I would recommend it. It sounds like that is a soothing/comfortable noise for you. Record that noise and play it to yourself (by way of headphones) as you go to sleep at night.

Hike yourself until you are exhausted, then crawl into bed while playing the noise of your air filtration system. That should help during the acclimation process. After a few nights of nothing happening, you will probably find you are looking forward to sleep each night.

Bronk
01-26-2017, 11:14
You're right, and your dad is probably right too. Backpacking probably isn't for you.

Maineiac64
01-26-2017, 11:28
I forgot to mention the benefits of whiskey, although workable for weekend trips, might be tough on a long through hike. As homer simpson once sad, "ah, alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of lifes problems."

booney_1
01-26-2017, 12:32
Understand that a lot of people have trouble sleeping in a new place. A lot of thru-hikers have trouble with beds after their hikes!!. Get some earplugs. Or use an MP3 player that plays ocean sounds or something. The first night will always be the hardest, after that you will be very tired.

When I was a scout leader we'd sometimes have the boys "cowboy camp". (ie..no tents...just sleep on the ground) You'd be surprised (maybe not!) how many people, including adults are freaked out by that.

My personal problem is snorers!! When I'm with a group I like to pitch my tent far away. It can be surprising how far sound can carry in the woods.
!

Traveler
01-26-2017, 14:02
If a deranged drunken, inbred hillbilly is going to hack you to death with a machete in your sleep, theres not much you can do to stop it.

I hate it when Uncle Cletus gets dragged into these things. ONE drunken murdering rampage and he's labeled for life. However, it may get difficult to tell the hikers apart from the inbred hillbillies after the second week, once they look the same the fear will likely start to ebb.

Tipi Walter
01-26-2017, 14:18
I hate it when Uncle Cletus gets dragged into these things. ONE drunken murdering rampage and he's labeled for life. However, it may get difficult to tell the hikers apart from the inbred hillbillies after the second week, once they look the same the fear will likely start to ebb.

After backpacking in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina for the last 40 years---NO---it's NOT DIFFICULT to tell the hikers apart from the inbred hillbillies. Worlds apart.

ScareBear
01-26-2017, 14:55
After backpacking in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina for the last 40 years---NO---it's NOT DIFFICULT to tell the hikers apart from the inbred hillbillies. Worlds apart.

Tooth count...

Red Sky
01-26-2017, 15:06
I think that I'm going to do it...... I think I will (attempt) to thru-hike this year.


But I have a big problem. I'm terrified of the woods at night. I could hike all day. It is truly the most at peace I will ever be. But the thought of sleeping in the dark woods with bears, snakes, the blair witch, coyotes, the bloody goat ghost my best friend in 6th grade swore followed her all the way to Texas from her childhood home in the woods (in Virginia, nonetheless).


Not only that, but noises. I have slept with an air filter from the mid 90s since... the mid 90s. It filters nothing now, I haven't been able to replace a filter in it for over 10 years. But even at the chance of developing emphysema I turn it on every night. Just to muffle my neighbors lightly playing radiohead on repeat.


Maybe I'm not cut out for the trail. I can hike, but the thought of sleeping in a dark, wooded, civil war graveyard terrifies the **** out of me. If there's one thing that will get me off of the trail, it's nighttime.


I've slept overnight before, in the wooded pines of east Texas, with large groups of people, or boyfriends, usually drunk. And even then, there were times (most) when I prayed that if god just let me out of my tent without what was surely either the chupacabra or a monstrous inbred hillbilly with confederate lineage outside devouring me, I would go back to church.

I grew up in South Texas where the legends of La Llorona, the Blair Witch, and Bloody Mary became one, wood (well, brush) dwelling, child eating monster. I have what has been called 'an overactive imagination' When I was 7 I watched Idle Hands and woke up hallucinating a severed hand playing spider on my pillow.That is all to say, I know it is unlikely I will find anything that terrifying, but there is a very good chance I will create it, and run far from it. I've always hated that about myself, as I profess to love nature and to hate civilization...that is until it's time to go to bed.

My dad, in a last ditch effort to persuade me from hiking, has sent me Stephen King's Girl who Loved Tom Gordon.

To be honest, I am not brave. Fear will take me off the trail quicker than anything else, and I don't know how to fight it.

Is this normal? I assume not. But is there a shred of hope that I will make it? Is there anyway to acclimate myself?










In a somewhat similar situation as you, and did pack up all my new gear and go camping several weeks ago. Wanted to test all of my new gear, and also see how I was going to sleep. The tent, pad and bag were absolutely fantastic, and I was really happy about how comfortable I was in the woods, by myself. I was also surprised by how loud it can get, and that did keep me awake. I brought some melatonin tablets to help me get to sleep and they helped, but I woke several times during the night to some yipping and barking...coyotes. Finally got some real sleep until I was awakened at about 4:00 AM by something right outside the tent. I said "HELLO?", and whatever it was, probably coyotes, took off like they had been shot from a cannon. I think that after that, I was a lot less bothered by noises, because it did occur to me that everything out there is at least as much afraid of me as I am of it. As others have suggested, go do some practice camping with your gear, and test yourself at the same time.

Also, I would hope that those of us with Confederate lineage would be perfect southern gentlemen on the trail.

runt13
01-26-2017, 15:07
Here is how I look at it, lights on, lights off. The same things are there whether it's day or night. Let that sink in. Ultimately its all going to be up to you.

I hope you conquer your fears and have an awesome time out on the trail.

RUNT ''13''

Venchka
01-26-2017, 17:22
I'm always amazed and startled by the sound of 4-5-6 small rain drops on the taut fly of my tent. I would swear that someone was trowing rocks at the tent.
Similarly, the tiniest bird in dry leaves near the tent will sound like a T-Rex.
If sleeping alone in the woods were as dangerous as your mind has convinced you that it is, none of the long hiking trails would have anyone using them. No one would have survived the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Oregon or Mormon Trails. Think about it.
If you are still afraid, seek help.
38021
Good luck!
Wayne

cmoulder
01-26-2017, 18:03
Very few things bother me but one night I was awakened by by what sounded for all the world like the blood-curdling screams of a woman being brutally murdered. It went on for some time and was exacerbated by the cold winter air and the completely windless and moonless night. I figured it had to be some animal and so I got online and did some googling when I got home and tracked it down to THIS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxLHUxzEoRU)... and we do indeed have red fox in the woods around here. Skip to about 2:55 to hear something close to what I heard. I have also read that some cats (mountain lions, etc) make similar noises. I guess if I had listened more closely to the cadence of it I could have ruled it out quickly, but my imagination was so busy filling in the horrible little gaps that it didn't occur to me at the time.

But I suppose something that sounds like somebody being brutally murdered could in fact be somebody being brutally murdered, so there's that. :eek:

orthofingers
01-26-2017, 18:23
I don't know how but, you've got to find a way to do your hike. You seem to have a way with words and I'd love to read your journal or blog along the way.

MuddyWaters
01-26-2017, 19:21
But I suppose something that sounds like somebody being brutally murdered could in fact be somebody being brutally murdered, so there's that. :eek:

In which case you should smile and be thankful its not you.

The screaming phase of brutal murders is likely over pretty quick....

joobert
01-26-2017, 20:16
I was thinking a small flask of whiskey? What about benadryl?

joobert
01-26-2017, 20:17
Back when I was in the Navy, I was the guy who made job assignments for the brand new people in my squadron who just arrived on the ship from Boot Camp or school. Most of them were sent to do some time in the galley as a messcook. This one time we had a shortage of "Line dogs" who worked as Plane Captains on the flight deck. They were desperate for any help they could get. This guy was from Texas just like you. The flight deck routine during heavy flight ops, what we call "24 hour ops", could be described as "hell on earth" Loud, Fast, Dangerous. A typical launch or recovery event has 20 or more jets moving at the same time. These jets suck at one end, blow at the other. There are bombs and rockets and danger everywhere. All are taxied into one of the 4 launch catipults in what at first appears to be a random chaos. Nothing that this boy ever saw prepared him for this madness. At the end of his first day he got permission to come see me. He was in tears, he was sure he was going to die out there. l sent him back to work and that he would have to suck it up and get used to it. I checked up on him from time to time and he was doing OK. About a month later I take s stroll up on the flight deck. The next event has just started with engines fired up and here I find this same kid, asleep in the catwalk under the tail end of a turning A-6 Intruder! I grab him and ask, Don't you think it a little dangerous to sleep in the catwalk during flight ops? He say's, I'm OK, I know what is gonna happen next! He had gone from one extreme to the other in a months time. Of course, he did not know what was gonna happen next because I sent him to be a messcook the next day. So I will tell you the same thing, suck it up and get back to work, all those things you fear will go away as you get used to it. Don't get too relaxed, there are times to get up and check out that noise with the flashlight. Happy trails


Thank you. This is exactly the answer I was hoping for.

joobert
01-26-2017, 20:22
If you're a novice fiction writer practicing your craft, well done.
You can't be serious. Otherwise you would never leave home.
Civil War cemetery? Really?
Backyard practice is good. I'm very fortunate. My backyard is in the woods. I use it for testing. You might try it if you have a backyard. Not everyone does.
I reread your first post. This should make you sleepy.
http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0068473/
Sweet dreams.
Wayne


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I've always yearned to be a novice fiction writer.

Slo-go'en
01-26-2017, 20:40
My personal problem is snorers!! When I'm with a group I like to pitch my tent far away. It can be surprising how far sound can carry in the woods.
!

Yep, it seems the really loud snorers have no problem going to sleep in the woods. They start up the instant their head hits the pillow and goes on non-stop all night.

So, put on a ton of weight and become a really bad snorer and your problem is solved :)

cmoulder
01-26-2017, 20:50
In which case you should smile and be thankful its not you.

The screaming phase of brutal murders is likely over pretty quick....

Most people would have a hard time finding a 'silver lining' to that story and here you go and find 2 of 'em! :D

MuddyWaters
01-26-2017, 20:51
Most people would have a hard time finding a 'silver lining' to that story and here you go and find 2 of 'em! :D

When life gives you lemons...make lemonade.

imscotty
01-26-2017, 21:01
Very few things bother me but one night I was awakened by by what sounded for all the world like the blood-curdling screams of a woman being brutally murdered. It went on for some time and was exacerbated by the cold winter air and the completely windless and moonless night. I figured it had to be some animal and so I got online and did some googling when I got home and tracked it down to THIS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxLHUxzEoRU)... and we do indeed have red fox in the woods around here. Skip to about 2:55 to hear something close to what I heard. :eek:

CMoulder, if you ever want your blood to curdle you should hear the scream the Fisher Cat makes. Sounds like a woman being murdered.

joobert
01-26-2017, 21:13
Because of the amount of people telling me to go to therapy, not go on the trail at all, and questioning my writing ( I can't blame you there)-- I should clarify...

A lot of that was meant to be humorous. Obviously that didn't work out--but did y'all ever, before you went on the trail, stay up unable to sleep, high off of the amount of trail journals and youtube videos you watched, the prospect of quitting your job, the excel sheets of budgets and gear and miles? That is where I was last night, giddy with plans and worries and laughing to myself about how clever my post was.

Something with the lack of sleep has also caused a bout of sleep paralysis lately, and the thought of that in the woods is unimaginable, especially with my fear. That being said, much of what I said was true. I don't genuinely think there will be inbred confederate ghosts attacking me at night. But I have a real fear I'll get out there and not like it.


The last time I backpacked was on the Lonestar Trail. We hiked out overnight. When I say we I mean me and my boyfriend, My boyfriend having absolutely zero camping experience at this point. (I mean zero as in I had to walk waving a stick in front of me to clear the path of spider webs, as he would just about **** himself every time one hit him in the face) It was fall and the giant pine trees around us were dead, their limbs breaking off in the distance making us jump every couple of minutes and look twice. Very quiet otherwise.

One thing to note about the Lonestar Trail--the forest backs into a state prison. Another thing--there are a set of bloggers who have detailed their terrifying big foot experiences, which I happened to read the night before. So I went in with those two things in the back of my mind and the mood was set. We were trying to hike next to a place called 'hidden lake' off the trail that I had been with a bigger group before, but with the overgrowth couldn't find it. So we made due in a small clearing with giant pines all around us, far away from the trail, and unsure of where we were as the sun started to go down.

The clearing was surrounded by coyotes. We heard them cackling all night, and they were close enough that we could hear them checking out our camp, a couple feet away as we slept. I've heard coyotes before, from the sanctuary of a hunting trailer and surrounded by my dad and brother with whatever guns they had in tow, but I had never had coyotes that close, unarmed, with a sheet of tarp to protect me. I couldn't help but google 'coyote attacks' on my phone and read "They won't attack UNLESS THEY ARE RABID" and told myself we were screwed as there has got to be at least one rabid coyote out of the 20 or so that were laughing maniacally so close to us.

I can't explain the panic I felt that night. It wasn't just the coyotes and the sounds, but all the pine trees and solitude of it, me being quite inexperienced myself and my boyfriend even more so. It was the first time I had gone without a group of experienced 'outdoors wo/men.' I genuinely thought I was going to have a heart attack; I had never felt that terrified before in my life.

The next morning as we hiked out, we came upon a long clearing with two huge caterpillar machines abandoned at the very end (Parts of the trail are hired out to logging companies) and it all seemed to crash down and felt horrifying. I made my boyfriend almost jog the 10 miles--which was a lot for us--back to the car, and we made it in a third of the time that it took to get to the camp.

That's the thing--it was the first time I didn't feel at peace in nature. I always thought I was a... I don't know, 'nature person.' That nature is where I belonged. It was such a surreal experience. I had been backpacking before, with large groups and usually in the spring, but never like that. And it made me question if I do love the outdoors as much as I think I do. I was in awe at the amount of terror I felt.

I've gone hiking plenty of times since, and everyone and a while I'll feel that terror. Always at night, and it truly feels unbearable. I think the biggest concern is that I'll feel that same kind of fear . That I will get out there and won't like it, after all of these images of finding myself, of peace, of living life on my terms--that instead I'll shrink with that same kind of terror I felt before and come running back home.



That being said--to everyone who has said "You'll get used to it" that was what I was looking for with the manic post I wrote before, so thank you. I kind of just want people to tell me that they were scared too, but it wasn't a big deal. That it's normal to feel this way and that I'm not a pussy, and maybe I can be a 'nature person' myself. I'll admit I just want reassurance.

Sorry for writing so much. Maybe this is replacement for therapy. Thanks for reading.

la.lindsey
01-26-2017, 21:20
Ok but maybe before you quit your job, get to the point where you, personally, are not panicked.

Because I freak myself out for a second or two every now and then in the dark, but not that sort of 10 paragraph panic.

Just some internet advice. Which is what you asked for. Not "please tell me if you also get scared in the woods," which is not what you asked for.


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booney_1
01-26-2017, 23:46
If you want you can spend most nights in an AT shelter. Especially if you get an early start in the morning. You will be with other people and the shelters are much more substantial than sleeping in a tent.

Years ago in Scout camp deep in the Adirondacks of NY where we slept in tents a bear came into our camp one night when we were sleeping. I could hear it moving and snuffling around. When it was just outside my tent I was paralyzed with fear. It was the type of fear where you cannot move and you break out in a cold sweat.

So I understand the type of fear you are talking about You may never be comfortable in tents, but shelters have a totally different feel.

ScareBear
01-27-2017, 06:51
I was thinking a small flask of whiskey? What about benadryl?

Don't mix Benadryl and whiskey....

If you weigh under 120 pounds, try one Benadryl(25mg) 1/2 hour before bed. If that doesn't work, or you are over 120, you can bump up to 2 pills. Be aware that your body will develop a tolerance to the sedative effect of Benadryl rather quickly(two weeks), so it isn't a long-term solution. However, some folks are bothered by stuffy noses on the trail, so if that keeps you up, keep on with the Benadryl...

If you anxiety is so strong that you can't sleep, you can see your physician about a benzodiazapene like Valium for night time use. No whiskey with these either...just sayin...

Take a pass on the prescription Lunesta and other such prescription sleep aids. You don't want to experience sleep walking on the AT in the dark, just sayin...

rocketsocks
01-27-2017, 08:08
CMoulder, if you ever want your blood to curdle you should hear the scream the Fisher Cat makes. Sounds like a woman being murdered.Fiser cats making a come back here in jersey

http://www.njherald.com/article/20160219/ARTICLE/302199996#

Venchka
01-27-2017, 19:18
I quit reading when I got to "YouTubes and Trail Journals".
I went out and slept in tents, leantos or under a blue tarp before Al Gore invented the Internet.
Maybe I was just too stupid to be afraid.
Good luck. You're going to be fine.
Wayne


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Puddlefish
01-27-2017, 21:20
We don't have ghosts out east. You're good.

kayak karl
01-27-2017, 22:11
If you are still afraid, seek help.
38021
Good luck!
Wayne

seriously....just stay out of the woods then. don't want any packing nervous nellies out there :(

Venchka
01-27-2017, 22:22
seriously....just stay out of the woods then. don't want any packing nervous nellies out there :(

You'll take all the fun out of life.
Grinning.
Wayne


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orthofingers
01-28-2017, 10:34
As someone mentioned in an earlier post, look up Craig M. (His trail name was Spielberg) on YouTube and his series from his 2016 AT NOBO. He had a lot of fear about sleeping alone, sleeping in a tent etc. and he is quite articulate about explaining those fears. It may help you to realize that it's a normal feeling, obviously stronger in some than others but, unless it ends up overwhelming you to the point of ending your hike, you will get used to it and it will recede into the back of your head to the point where it won't bother you. What do psychologists call that? Exposure therapy?

(Also, Craig M. does a great job with the video of his hike. I believe he did everything . . . recording, editing and uploading with just an iPhone 6.)

Bronk
01-28-2017, 13:40
Most people are afraid to be alone. It is perfectly normal. That's why when I go out in the woods looking for some solitude and camp in an abandoned campground with 40+ campsites, all nearly identical, and one other person shows up they have to set their stupid tent up right next to mine. Because they are afraid to be alone. If you want to be around other people, then don't go places where people go to be alone.

ScareBear
01-28-2017, 19:00
Most people are afraid to be alone. It is perfectly normal. That's why when I go out in the woods looking for some solitude and camp in an abandoned campground with 40+ campsites, all nearly identical, and one other person shows up they have to set their stupid tent up right next to mine. Because they are afraid to be alone. If you want to be around other people, then don't go places where people go to be alone.

LMAO! I've never had this happen...but I'd be like "Hi, ummmm...I just want to warn you that I snore and sleepwalk."

Sandy of PA
01-28-2017, 19:11
It happened to me also. They brought along 2 untrained dogs they let wander all night, I woke up to their Pitt Bull growling at me through noseeum net. I learned not to use campsites if I want to be alone!

ScareBear
01-28-2017, 19:26
It happened to me also. They brought along 2 untrained dogs they let wander all night, I woke up to their Pitt Bull growling at me through noseeum net. I learned not to use campsites if I want to be alone!

Oh FFS! That is ridiculous. Did you have a hiking pole in your tent? Or whistle?

Sandy of PA
01-29-2017, 09:54
I just told them to call their dog, actually the Pitty was friendly, their Chocolate Lab tried for my leg as I hiked out! Stealth camping is the best for sleep, If no one can see you, no one will bother you.

MtDoraDave
02-04-2017, 10:42
Benzo's, really? I could tell you guys a great story about Benzo addiction, what it did to him, and his swearing that it is harder to kick than heroin.

I digress.

I, too, sleep poorly on the trail. I've only spent a week at a time on the trail, so perhaps more than "a few days" is required to become comfortable sleeping in the woods at night.

Yes, the noises are amplified. The chipmunk sounds like a bear. The tree rubbing its neighbor sounds like a raccoon going for your food bag. Just as you're about to drift off to sleep, a noise - the adrenaline spike - and wide awake again. Even with benedryl.

Going for the obvious here, step one would be get rid of your "air purifier" (noise machine). Perhaps even open your bedroom window to allow strange noises to enter. You're still in the comfort and safety of your own bed, in your bedroom - but you can become accustomed to not having the artificial noise maker while you're in a familiar setting.

Step two would be sleep outside in your tent - depending on where you live... some condos, apartments, or even neighborhoods, it would simply be a bad idea to do this.

I know the mantra around here is HYOH (hike your own hike), but if you are going to bring a portable noise maker, please be considerate of others and use ear buds.

Water Rat
02-04-2017, 11:11
That being said--to everyone who has said "You'll get used to it" that was what I was looking for with the manic post I wrote before, so thank you. I kind of just want people to tell me that they were scared too, but it wasn't a big deal. That it's normal to feel this way and that I'm not a pussy, and maybe I can be a 'nature person' myself. I'll admit I just want reassurance.

There are many who are afraid to sleep outside at night. In that, you are not alone. I personally am very comfortable outdoors, but I grew up backpacking.

How to get over that will vary from person, to person. In an earlier post, I suggested making a recording of your air circulation system (since that sound soothes you) and play it to yourself via headphones when you are trying to fall asleep. That white noise sounds like it is your "security blanket." Nothing wrong with that - many people have to have a certain weight of blanket on top of them, or sleep better with a certain background noise. So, start with that. It will help relax your brain as it is a familiar sound.

I would also suggest getting back out there. Start with an overnight, but not with your boyfriend. Part of your terror was due to your boyfriend's fear. His fear amped your fear and it snowballed from there. You need to go out there with someone who has experience sleeping outdoors and is not worried to do so.

Find a local backpacking group/hiking group and do an overnight with people you feel comfortable around. Slowly work your way up to longer trips. If you surround yourself with others who are out there, but who don't have your same fears, that might help you to work your way through this fear. I am in no way mocking you when I say this... Your brain just needs to be convinced that just because you hear a coyote, does not mean a rabid coyote will attack. Just because it gets dark does not mean axe murderers run rampant. While your brain knows these things in daylight, it sometimes needs reassurance after dark. The only way to get through this one is to just get out there and prove your brain wrong. Nighttime noises always sound 400x bigger than they actually are (a mouse will sound like a grizzly bear), but that does not mean everything is out to attack you just because you are in a tent and happen to be outdoors.

You have the ability to get used to it, but you have to get out there to do so. Figure out what calms you - background noise recording, so you don't hear outside noises, or maybe a small light you leave on? Start there...Eventually you might not need to take along the security blanket. :)

Dogwood
02-04-2017, 12:02
If you're at peace during the day hiking how about stopping for a day time siesta to accustom yourself to sleeping in the woods at night. Find a secluded grassy knoll or flat outcrop with a view. Close your eyes and actually try to hear the sounds and experience the sensations of Nature not see them as symptoms that must be masked. Suggestions: accustom by sleeping near running water like a brook or waterfall or on a ridge with some light wind taking in the sounds of the whispering pines, try hammocking(it's like being back in the safe sanctuary of the mother's womb), ascertain what appeals to you by alternately sleeping around others and in locations with solitude, take a melatonin pill on a temporary basis before sleep until you accustom to sleeping in Nature in peace, and drink some Sleepy Time w/ Chamomile or Traditional Medicinals w/ Passion Flower tea in camp before bed.

If not able you may be a Joe Pesce My Cousin Vinny case. Might be time to seek healthcare advice in which case I'd suggest you not immediately seek it out from those with a proclivity to send you on your way with scripts for pharmaceutical drug sedatives that aim to address just your symptoms. Find out the cause of your restlessness and address them so you can be cured not just manage symptoms.

Food for consideration:

Proverbs 3:21-26

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.

The unlined outcome is conditional.

When I'm walking as I know I should - in trust, in faith, with wisdom, in line with my source - who I call God - I sleep soundly and awaken refreshed no matter the external circumstances.

It's at times when I'm not that I have troubled sleep.

Dogwood
02-04-2017, 12:09
Why would you want to "acclimate" yourself to fear? Overrule it with something else - faith, knowledge, wisdom, peace, joy, gratitude, and being a cheerful giver. :)

Might want to recognize yourself as blessed being able to backpack and sleep in Nature with a clear conscious and heart.:banana

tflaris
02-24-2017, 00:03
Earplugs.


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Land_Shark
03-13-2017, 09:52
Need to calm your mind young jedi. Too much mental noise and you will not get this task done. The AT is no joke of a trail. Focus on your HYOH, the roots and rocks will also comand alot of mental energy. Your toes will thank you. Mental story telling involving fear will cut your life changing experience short. Take this opportunity to grow.

Lnj
03-13-2017, 19:13
I know exactly how you feel. I don't think I am quite as afraid as you, but I too have a hard time sleeping at night in the woods because of my mind. In general, in life, I am afraid of absolutely nothing... in the daylight. Because I am happy to face any monster as long as I can see him coming and brace myself for whatever comes next, but what makes the dark scary is the unknown. I am so scared of a bear coming and sniffing up against my tent and getting curious about the smell of my chapstick while I am blissfully sleeping, with no ability to defend myself. At the same time, I would LOVE to see a bear on the trail, from a safe distance of course. I am not afraid of man or beast of any kind (except spiders, and I have even learned to tolerate those to an extent while visiting their home).

My issue is that once asleep, I am a sound sleeper. I go into a coma. A tornado could come and sweep me off the face of the earth and I wouldn't wake up until landing, if I was tired enough. Hiking makes me that tired. But the woods are SO loud at night. Owls having hooting contests and coyotes yipping and screaming and 2 sounding like there are 50 standing all around the outside of your tent. I can barely close my eyes wondering what that snap was. What was that??!!! Did you hear that??!! I drive my husband nuts. I know I shouldn't be worried because his snoring will keep away anything with any sense.

Then I went hiking with my 17 year old daughter. Just her and me. We did the approach trail. And she is the biggest scaredy cat alive, so I was forced, as all parents do, to put my big girl drawers on and be brave and in control for her. So we get in the tent at bed time and she i s asleep in 2 seconds. And i'm waking her up with "did you hear that?" and my daughter, of whom I am SO SO proud, with all the seriousness in the world says to me "Shut up mom. I don't care if it is a bear, I don't want to see it coming. I don't care what's out there but I don't want to see it coming." I had to laugh. Perfect.

So how I will get a grip on this issue is to have earbuds and play music from my ipod on my next hike this weekend. Its true what they all said above. What are you going to do about it if it is every monster you ever dreamed up? Nothing. When I die I am going to be with Jesus and I am darn happy about that,but its the trip I'm less enthused about, so it's all good as long as you don't see it coming. Block out the noise with something that will stimulate your mind to think of other things. I have an ipod full of 80s music that will take me back in time, and hopefully off to sleep. I have tried regular earplugs and FOR ME they just muffled the sounds I was still hearing and were uncomfortable. I need to drown out all sound except for what I need to hear to give me rest. After a few days, the exhaustion will get you anyway and all will be well in the end. Plus, you will feel like a super hero for having conquered your fear and shown yourself just how awesome and strong you really are.

Lnj
03-13-2017, 19:23
The above post was all over the place. I apologize for my lack of cohesive thought. I hope you got the gist, being that you are not alone in being afraid. Many people are, and even more that would never admit it. Truth is though, there is a 99% chance ( I am making up the percentage for those of you who will immediately correct it ) That nothing but sleep will happen to you and everything will be just fine. Don't let your fear of the what-ifs in the night keep you from doing what you love in the day. That said... if you get spooked by a place or a person in the day time, trust your gut, and find other people and a safety zone. Always trust your gut, but your head can be a liar. In truth, you are safer on the trail than at the local Walmart.

-Rush-
03-14-2017, 02:00
I can hike, but the thought of sleeping in a dark, wooded, civil war graveyard terrifies the **** out of me. If there's one thing that will get me off of the trail, it's nighttime.

I feel right at home in a Civil War graveyard. lol.. You can get an early start and get 15 miles in easily before dark. A bit of good planning ahead of time and understanding where you're headed and it shouldn't be a problem at all. I think if you stick to shelters and around other folks it can ease your fears. I prefer to stare fear in the face and thrive on the rush, always have, and I can be as superstitious as anybody. It actually gets more fun if you're well read on Appalachian mountain lore.

rickb
03-14-2017, 05:00
Some ideas in no particular order:

Pack a few airline bottles (nips) of whiskey to take the edge off. Better for "portion control" than a flask. Make sure bottles are plastic.

Chocolate has caffeine -- doesn't faze me but my wife swears it will keep her awake.

Take a high tech "Tactical" flashlight. Even the small ones will light op the woods almost like a car's headlight (seems that way anyway). Make a PRIOR commitment to open your tent door and light up any animal sound that noise you hear-- you might be surprised it's not Bigfoot and end up with a better story than one about playing possum in your sleeping bag.

Understand that in the woods, an animal ALWAYS sounds at least one critter bigger than it is. A mouse will sound. loke a squirrel, a squirrel will sound like a skunk, a skunk will sound like a deer, a deer will sound like a bear, etc.

Remember that a deer snort sounds like a bear or a brahma bull in the woods.

Recall the term "babbling brook". If you camp near a stream you Will hear voices during the night without fail.

A paperback novel and headlamp might be worth thier weight. And a journal, of course.

Ear plugs.

A watch (or phone) so you will know just how many hours you have to endure before the sun rises :-)

HIking pole, pepper spray or similar at your side -- whether or not they would ever be needed is beside the point, I am thinking only of psychological comfort of a routine here.

One last thing to take might be the most important:

Take an understanding that your feelings are not unique, and that for many people the only real fix is a bunch of CONSECUTIVE night on the trail, and long, hard days going up and down those beautiful mountains that drew you to the AT in the first place.

cmoulder
03-14-2017, 08:16
Hike 15 miles
Good hot dinner
Warm, dry clothes
Stay awake as long as possible
A wee nip (rickb portion control, good idea)
A really good pee before turning in
Warm quilt/sleeping bag
Air mat filled just right
Vitamin I (buprophen)
Melatonin
Ear plugs

When all these conditions are met, sleep is likely. After several days, it is virtually guaranteed.:)