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Re: What was your scariest experience backpacking?

I'm asking this question for a couple of reasons.  First, swapping stories is fun, but more importantly, I think we can learn from each other through hearing how others dealt with experiences and maybe helping come up with better solutions where appropriate.  I think this topic can also help remove some of the fear from those who would like to backpack but are uncertain of themselves by providing solutions to potential unexpected events.

OK, so I will go first:

Brian and I were backpacking in the North Fork region of Glacier National Park.  We started at Bowman Lake and hiked the approx 40 miles around to Kintla Lake.  For those who have never been there, once past Bowman Lake, the trail becomes very rugged with some very steep sections, lots of sheer drop-offs, and nothing but excellent views.  The weather had been beautiful with the days being much warmer than we had expected.  As we were heading into Boulder Pass, which is at about 7500 ft, the weather abruptly turned for the worse.  The wind really picked up with gusts that were tunneling through the pass.  We still had some sheer drops along the trail, and lots of uneven and rocky footing.  As the wind gusted, which it did almost constantly, Brian, several times, dropped to his knees to keep from being knocked over the edge.  I had my hiking poles and I turned into the wind, bent over and planted my poles as best as I could and braced.  When the gust would pass, we'd both quickly start moving as fast as we could trying to get into the pass.  Once we made it into the pass, the rain started.  We took shelter in some rocks, got out our rain gear and moved as quickly as we could through the pass, still having to brace against the wind.  Once we got to Boulder Pass wilderness camp we quickly set up the tent, strung up our food, and crawled into the tent.  About the time we got into the tent, the rain started coming in sheets.  High wind and pouring rain all night.  ( I don't remember what we did about supper that night, but I know for breakfast the next morning we had trail mix in the tent, a big no no in bear country.)

We had checked the weather before we headed out and had expected cold and dry weather; what we got was warm and sunny with one very scary storm.  As I read this, it doesn't sound so scary, but I remember being really scared once I was settled in for the night.  I didn't have time to be scared in the thick of it.

Found Myself Outside
12 Replies

Just three little ones!

1. Presenting on alligators in college with a group. Foolishly crouched by water's edge. Group member asks "you said when they're hunting, they're almost completely submerged. like that?" i look up & one is coming STRAIGHT at me, just a few feet off the shore. i jump up and back, it sinks under & is gone. i was like... 20. from new england, being thoughtless.

2. tented on the side of a mountain passing through a trail town. big cat making howling/growling noises circling my tent. left at sunrise. was alone with no radio or really great way to fight it if it did decide to pounce. thought that was the end for me!

3. Recently (a month ago) a thru-hike had us cross a very active highway directly to a steep rocky ascent (without climbing shoes, of course). The 70mph cars weren't great - i personally know folks who have died because they ended up out of a car on highways - and the sudden bit of bouldering we did right alongside the highway (wearing our packs) was a little nerve-wracking. glad we didn't bring the dog on that trip!


All pretty benign, but all pretty not-great. Good question! PS do carry more food than you need & extra water tablets 🙂

Last year, on a 5 day hike, towards the end of the 4th day, I was making my way down the trail, completely lost in thought, tired, not really paying much attention to anything, yet hearing a noise I didn't recognize. Sort of in my own little world, as I walked on I realized that the noise, kind of a buzzing, was getting louder. When I finally popped out of my dream world, I immediately recognized that the "noise" was a rattlesnake, about 15 ft ahead of me on the trail, and he had been warning me for probably 50 ft. This was not a small snake and he OWNED the trail. I backed up until he quit rattling, then bushwacked around him and came back out probably 50 ft past him on the trail. As soon as I stepped back on the trail he started rattling again. I decided I was too tired to keep walking in snake country (I was close to a place called "Snake Road" where they close the road for a month twice a year for the snakes to cross), so I went a bit farther and stopped for the night.  Never saw any more, but I paid much better attention the next day.

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Definitely something to watch.  I see people with earphone on and bopping down the trail and wonder if they just don't know that some animals give warning or just done care....I recommend the bone conductive headsets so you still hear whats around you 🙂 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.