Something that I’d like the podcasts to do is feature actual camping stories. The last episode focused primarily on an author and was largely editorial. This one is just one of my favorite camp stories.
I was in the 3rd grade when this story happened. This is my recollection of the story. Since many of the people in this story are close friends, I’ve changed their names but only that. The details are 100% my experience that fateful night.
There were many of us kids one summer who went backpacking in the Rocky Mountains to a little cold lake and popular backpacking site, Stevens Lake. This was to be my first experience with a more rustic form of camping. While my family only tent camped -and a lot of it- when I was a child, backpacking was much more rugged. Of course, backpacking pays in spades because it is more remote and the natural experience is much richer. It was on this backpacking trip that I first became aware that I had a primal fear of things going bump in the night…well to be fair, it was the blood curdling screaming that really got to me. I get ahead of myself though.
On a Friday, several families packed in to the lake and lay siege to it. I mean that quite literally as there were nearly 50 of us on this trip. For the sake of learning autonomy, the adult men decided to teach us kids some good survival skills while we were out there. Then we needed, it was no option, to implement these to avoid curious visitors like bear, porcupine, skunks, deer, cougar, and many other things that can cause harm to a camp site or it’s occupants.
As us boys set up our tents, the father figures prepared a series of lessons in outdoor survival for us. We learned knot tying, fire making with flint and steel, how to hang our backpacks at night to avoid attracting animals to our tents, some basic first aid, and knife use (our favorite). It was going to be a weekend where we did everything for our selves.
I partnered up with a friend named Brad. He and I were to stay in the same pup tent together that night. So we got to work on our little camp site and pooled our food resources for the evening meal. Once the dishes were done, we threw snow balls for a bit. Yes, it was July but at that altitude, snow was still surviving. Eventually camp started calming down and we decided to hang our food. We put all of our food into my new backpack, tossed our rope over a tree branch and hoisted it up. Then the mosquitos came out and we retreated to our tents. I decided to call it a day and prepared for bed. Brad eventually decided to do the same. Soon it was dark except for the Milky-way beaming down on our little shelter from millions of miles away and years gone by.
In the middle of the night, maybe not the middle but certainly during that dark bit that happens everyday, we work to the sound of pure terrified screams for help. I was instantly awake and could tell Brad was too by his rapid breathing. I lay silent as my nightmare of being attacked by an animal came true for our fellow friend a few feet away. The worst part for me was that Todd’s screams for help got quieter -not because he was calming down but because something was dragging him into the woods. I…was…petrified. Then….
Noises through the ground a few feet away from my head. Then I heard my backpack getting hit like a piñata. The animals were with us!! I decided to do something about it. Brad told me to be careful and handed me a flashlight. I looked out the tent to see hoofs and hairy legs which belonged to a young buck. I blasted it with the flashlight and it ran away, leaving my backpack swinging free from the tree branch. I could hear screaming in the distance. The adults had run through the snow and woods to find what was left of our friend Todd.
I’d had enough and zipped myself back into the tent – pre-packaged for whatever wild animal wanted us next.
Eventually we slept. THEN THE SCREAMS CAME AGAIN!!!. Again, we heard large animals. Again the screaming got quieter as Todd got further away.
In the morning, when we got up (not really woke up as we were already awake). We heard the story. Todd had unknowingly pitched his tent on a rarely used game trail. During the night, deer came through our camp. They tripped over his tent, got tangled in it and ran into the woods while dragging a terrified boy through the woods. Because of the darkness, the adults didn’t see the lightly used “trail” when they repitched his tent in the middle of the night so he got to go for another terrifying ride.
Of course now we all remember this story with fondness. It is often the worst events on a camp trip that make the best stories, memories, and friends.
Tell us your worst camp story that you now remember fondly! We’d love to see it in the comments. BETTER YET! Download the Anchor.FM app and tell us your story in audio on our podcast. We might just feature your story in future episodes!
Cheers – Mark