Fear tastes different in the wild.

The past few days, I hiked the Backbone Trail.  Not all 67 miles, but 37, which is enough if you ask me.  And the whole point of this blog is to catalog my travels and sometimes, those travels aren’t so grand. In fact, they can be pretty pathetic. Because here’s the deal: I cried.

I cried a lot.  I cried because, sometimes I was scared (okay, like all the time).  Like in my tent at night, when the coyotes are howling in the distance.  It sounds like every demon has gathered for the solstice.  I cried because my dog had a limp, and her hot ass wouldn’t stop panting beside me in the tent.  I cried because I couldn’t sleep.

The nightbirds were shrill and angry, fighting one another for whatever night birds fight for.  This was no beautiful song, but a viscous, spiting trill.  They kept me up all night.

Brush crackled from all around me.  I saw faces in the night.  I watched trees move, and thought, perhaps, that I was high.

Night is scary when you’re all alone.  When you’re perched at the top of a mountain, your pack there beside you, inside the flimsy little tent with aluminum poles to make it seem like it weighs less than it does.  You sleep with a knife in your hands.  You wake up to every sound, and when the dog growls, you sit up and wait.  Wait for whatever may be coming.

If it’s a person you have the moves rehearsed. You just completed EMT school you know where every major artery is located go for the femoral so they can’t chase after you. If it’s an animal, blow the whistle tied to your pack to scare it off. If that doesn’t work, ensure that you stay upright because they always go for the neck and head first. Try to get a swift cut in before they get to you. It’s muscle memory. I’ve replayed the moves in my head time and time again. But that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid.

And it’s too hot to seal the tent so you have to sleep with just the screen, meaning everything around you is visible and it should be beautiful because of all those stars. My god, those stars. Galaxies hung like mobiles above my sleeping form. But, instead, I’m looking at those damned trees, silhouetted there against a glowing midnight sky, taking the form of men, moving slowly back and forth.

But dawn is like the answer to your prayers.  It’s like forgiveness, the first shades of pastel hues that paint the sky.  It’s like your second chance, because everything is hunting you at night.  Every hour when you wake up you say to yourself that you’re almost there. It’s almost 5. Four more hours. Then three more hours. Then two more hours till daylight. Till safety.

And when the day comes, you strap on your pack, and wince as it presses up against sore shoulders.  Your blistered feet burn like little fires from the confines of your shoes.  You brew coffee, and think about the miles you have to go.

And you want to stop.  But you want to conquer.  You want to find what you came looking for although you don’t quite know what that may be.  Perhaps it’s strength.  Perhaps it’s a piece of yourself that you have lost.

And so you push on and persevere so that, at the end of the day, you have proved that you can.  That’s all it really is.  Proof.  That you are strong, and more than this world tells you that you are.  That you can pitch a tent while crying, and cook your food with the waters of your tears.

Because yes, sometimes, you cry.  You crave home and the safety of a bed with a fervor you did not know that you possessed.  You imagine it all.  The one you love, tucked there beside you in the sheets.  And, more than anything else, you want to return.  But you carry on.  To the tops of mountains, where you stand.  Overlooking the world.  From the ocean to the canyons you dance upon the lining of the mountains in between them.

The Backbone Trail.  Built upon the backs of  mountains.  And your own back is tired from the weight of all this water.  And the heat.  In case you haven’t cried enough the heat makes your skin release its own tears.  Salty, sunburnt skin.

And at the end you wonder if it was even worth it.  If it was worth the blisters and the bug bites and the friction burns upon your shoulders.  If it was worth the many miles.

But nightbirds aren’t the only ones with strength.  I am weak, but strong.  I may cry, but I carry my pack.  I place the tread of my boot upon the trail.  I move forward, onward, never ceasing.  To persevere past tears is conviction.  It is determination to be better than you are.  It is the beauty of a thousand miles beneath your feet.  It isn’t a conquering of self, as much as it is an acceptance of it.

I walk in the wild.  The beautiful, glorious, sun kissed face of the wilderness.  It isn’t easy.  But nothing worthwhile ever is.

And when I cry, or when I fear, I know that dark is strongest just before the light.  That, and there’s always a beer waiting on the other side.

20 thoughts on “Fear tastes different in the wild.

  1. Yes!!! Fear is different out there. It’s more primal then when you’re afraid behind walls and under a roof. You realize the frailty of life, the falsehood of your self-assumptions, and just how little control you have. You nailed all of that in this honest post. But you know what? This right here is the definition of courage. Being afraid, but being out there anyway. Can you hear me clapping my hands and shouting ‘Bravo!’?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You worded that so very well. It is more primal. It’s a different kind of fear. The fight or flight kind. Adrenaline runs on overtime—and you realize how little you truly know. How delicate we really are. Thank you for your words. I wasn’t feeling very brave then…but sticking to it is what gives conviction. Have a beautiful week, and travel safely. ❤


  2. Bravo! 😀

    I think that that kind of fear is imprinted into our bodies and psyches from the time when we were tiny hominids with nothing but our opposable thumbs between us and being a predator’s snack. We haven’t been ‘domesticated’ long enough for our primal responses to our environment have faded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re totally right. There are a lot of interesting studies behind that, actually. The things that we fear on an evolutionary level, that may potentially lack logic or rational, are very real and prevalent. Then again, when you’re out there in the wilderness, those are the very things that keep you alive. I just wish I wasn’t such a scaredy cat lol.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m home safe. And speaking of safe, I like the point about safe spaces in our schools and colleges. Honestly, I appreciate the need for them (having endured some difficulties of my own)—and yet, I vastly appreciate this idea that, by restricting opinion of anyone at any time (whether that opinion may be right or wrong), we are giving into fear. Into fear of language and words, and the power that they have over us. A power that we have manifested of our own accord.
      This was a good lesson for me to learn tonight, and something interesting to mull over. Thank you for sharing. Be well. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You’re very brave. I don’t think I could do it. I remembered my Scouting days when the leader would rustle us out in the dark of the night to do a challenge. Not my cup of tea.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautifully written – you have such a gift for words, Shayleene.
    Courage is something we have to prove to ourselves. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’ Once tested, you know what you are capable of – it changes one, makes one stronger and more confident. Kudos!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I very much enjoyed reading this. You make the experience real. Anyone, man or woman, listening to the night in that tent alone, would wonder if those trees were coming for them. Dawn saves us all.

    I missed my chances to hike a trail like that, sad to say. Thats why I am glad that you wrote so well about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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