Camping advice can be good. It can save you a lot of headache and heartache
But I’m not going to tell you what to do in the great outdoors.
I’m going to tell you what not to do – as in, don’t do what I recently did on a solo camping trip in Glacier National Park.
Start with …
Don’t take your wife’s cell phone with you
I was about 200 miles on my drive to Glacier, Montana when I discovered I had my wife’s cell phone in my back pocket. And yes, I still had my cell phone. Somehow, I think it comes with age, I absently picked up her phone, which looks a lot like mine.
I spent the next hour calling people and trying to get someone to go to our house and tell my wife I had her phone so she wouldn’t look for it yet.
I felt bad about leaving my wife without a phone and thought she was pretty mad at me. A bad start to an epic journey.
Then don’t misplace your wife’s phone
A day later, I started wondering what I had done to my wife’s phone. I was sure I had put it under a car mat for safekeeping, but no. In the middle of a morning rain, I got everything out of the car and shook everything out. Nothing. I started to emphasize that not only had I taken my wife’s phone, but now I had somehow lost it. It dampened my morning run to Iceberg Lake, my favorite in the world, a bit. When I got back to the campsite, I started asking rangers where a lost and found phone could end up. No trace of misplaced cell phone. I felt worse. Later on on the way home, when I had cell phone reception again, I called them. I heard it vibrate. Under the car mat. Where I put it. Do not ask.
Don’t assume that you can find a place to camp
I wanted to stop about halfway to Glacier and pitch a tent. Instead, I drove across the night in a hurry to reach Glacier, thinking to myself that I would camp at Apgar Campground by the west entrance. Only, the sign said the campsite was full and since it was almost midnight and pitch black, I had no choice but to sleep in the car. Terrible idea. I slept for maybe an hour, fidgeting in the front seat, extended back and down as far as I could. On the good side, I was up at 5:30 a.m.
Don’t bring a children’s tent
I have a perfectly good 9 ‘by 9’ tent. Did i bring it? No. Instead, I bought a cool little 5 ‘x 6’ from a thrift store for a few dollars that is better suited for hobbits. I thought if I slept in it at an angle, I would fit. I did – hardly. It wasn’t comfortable. But the real problem was that it rained the second night. I had a canopy over the tent, but from time to time it would fill the edges with water and plunge into a waterfall. My head and feet got wet, so I retreated to the car. Not much better. An echo chamber from the pounding rain. This time I slept maybe 30 minutes. But again I was awake at 5:30 am!
Don’t camp near a stream if you’re paranoid
Shortly after I set up my campsite, my neighbor said a moose had wandered through, just as my tent was up. My campsite at Many Glacier was near the creek. Usually a great site. But every time I heard the brush move, I feared it was a moose trampling me or a grizzly bear eating me. It was similar to my irrational fears when we lived in Kauai when I went swimming in Hanalei Bay. I was convinced a shark would emerge from the deep – and one day one did, about five minutes after I left the water. Right where I swam in front of the famous Hanalei pier. Ha. I was right all along.
Don’t use walking sticks when you’re there for a run
I bought a pair of these walking sticks from a shop and decided to try them out. You’re great – when you go. If you came to run the trails like me, it wasn’t great. They changed my attitudes from being an adventurous, jumping, soaring runner to being a cautious, shy hiker. I later told my wife that I felt like an old man with walking sticks. She just smiled and nodded. I knew what she was going to say, “You are an old man with canes.”
Do not hike for miles alone
About six miles after a hike to the Granite Park Chalet, I realized that I hadn’t seen another hiker in about an hour. In fact, the higher and longer I followed the trail, the fewer people I saw. As I sat on a rock in a wide meadow, the sun has long since set, miles from the campsite and still navigating narrow paths on cliffs, I realized that if I fell, twisted an ankle, broke a leg, whatever, there would be no one to help me I could be stuck out there. I made it back, but I had gotten myself into a dire situation. Still, being alone in the mountains was the best part of the trip.
Dont worry so much
Two hours of sleep in two nights destroyed my brain. I wasn’t thinking clearly and had been taken by surprise by the circumstances. My carefree mind was gone. I let the worry – about a phone, about a tent, about rain, about being visited by a grizzly at night, of being away from home – spoil the beautiful trip.
It all started when I accidentally took my wife’s cell phone with me. But then again, it’s really their fault. She left it where I could find it. She should have known better. When I got home she said she quickly realized that I must have taken her cell phone and wasn’t even angry about it.
I’ll know better next time.