Franklin Roosevelt famously said “The only thing to fear is fear itself”. He must not have gone camping in the mountains with bears! There is something about the darkness of the woods at night. The silence. Each day the woods are alive with the sounds of birds, chipmunks, insects. The buzzes, squeaks, hums and taps make their own rhythm. Then the velvet curtain of the night slowly throws the lively mix into silence.
Headlamps and fires throw a muted glow against the curtain. Showing just enough to let your imagination wonder what is wandering just beyond the light. An occasional glowing orb lets you know that an animal is close enough to see you. But it is still the quiet broken only by the occasional twig snap or fire crackle. Luckily, it is only the fear to be afraid of and not the predators lingering just a few steps beyond the light.
The only way I have found to settle the fear is with preparedness. The thin nylon of a tent somehow gives a sense of safety and security. The zippers close off the pitch black of night and keep it safely away. My food, deodorant, and toothpaste locked in my BearVault to keep the animals safely away and out in the dark. Slowly, the fear gives way to wonder. The stars are brighter than I have ever seen. The quiet stillness of the air starts to leak into my soul. Calming it to match the still quiet of the surroundings. My heavy eyelids match the darkness of the sky above and I drift off to sleep.
When my eyes open again it is like a new world. The birds welcome the morning rays with song. The zipper that held back the night now lets the light pour in with each inch it is moved. A squirrel runs across the damp grass looking for a morning snack. As I walk to retrieve my own breakfast from the BearVault, each step reveals more life welcoming the new day. Leaves turned up towards the sun, pika scurrying about the warming air.
The fears of the darkness quickly recede to anticipation of the day. The light brings opportunity to everything it touches and fills me with excitement for what the hours ahead bring. The fear that was ushered in with the dark was more in my head than my surroundings. Now gone, without even leaving a shadow behind. I guess it really is true that the only thing to fear is fear itself, and that fear can be extinguished with morning light.
Hi! My name is Greg Sakowicz, but I might be better known as the Fat Man. I started FatManLittleTrail.com a few years ago with the goal of inspiring other hefty hikers to get off the couch and make it to the trails! I only started hiking three years ago but have fallen in love with the mental and physical benefits of being in the woods. I have hiked over 1,600 miles and over 275,000 feet of elevation gain but there is one thing missing, backpacking!