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Camping solo

Seating for one — solo camping offers plenty of quiet time for the rush of the everyday world to drop away.

Story and photo

By Molly Steere

I tore up the gravel road leaving a trail of dust behind me, positively vibrating with a sense of adventure and escape.

Yet I already had that familiar cold weight in my stomach that shows up when I leave my husband and son.

This juxtaposition of competing emotions is something I’ve had to become comfortable with. I love my little family more than anything, but if I don’t step away once in awhile I get restless and agitated, like a caged animal.

As an extreme introvert, I need to recharge. Solo camping is my preferred method.

When I head out on these trips, the first question people ask is, “aren’t you scared?” and then, “are you bringing a gun?”

Nope, not any more scared than I would be at home. Actually, my anxiety is probably worse at home because I’m driven to make everything right in the world.

As for the second question, I do not have safe gun handling skills. I would more likely accidentally shoot myself than a threatening person or animal if I was packing. But I do pack a stuffed animal. I’m tough like that.

In the summer, I do a lot of midweek camping with my seven-year-old son while my husband slaves away at work. I treasure these outings, but they can be exhausting. The endless bike laps, lack of sleep, tossing the baseball (ugh) and prepping seven meals and 13 snacks per day for one half-sized human is hectic.

It can feel like I’m taking an entire baseball (ugh) team to a water slide park when none of them can swim. And they’ve been eating sugar all day. It’s fun and all, but not exactly restful.

Growing up, the majority of our vacations were backpacking trips. I did the Chilkoot trail (the original Klondike gold rush trail between Canada and Alaska), when I was four, and continued backpacking and climbing for the next several decades.

I can set up camp and boil gallons of water like nobody’s business on a glacier in a snowstorm. But if my husband is around, I sort of expect him to take over the hard labor of camp set up.

I loathe that. It makes me feel like I’ve fallen prey to the belief that women are weak, need protected and can’t follow the basics steps to keep themselves alive and comfortable. I don’t want to feed that stigma by shying away from camping by myself.

Although comfortable with solo camping, I do consider safety while I’m out on my own.

I try to find an area or campground that I’m familiar with and have a good feel for. Small, far from any town and lacking in cell-coverage so I can’t attempt to micromanage my household while getting away (my husband and son need the freedom to eat ice cream for dinner, stay up late and watch TV in their underwear). Preferably somewhere down a long gravel road that gives me a lot of space and little hassle.

I definitely don’t post where I’m going on social media, but I do tell family where I’ll be and when I expect to be back. While camping, I make eye contact with anyone I come across and stroll the area noting people, cars, or camps. I keep my car keys on me at all times in case I need to make a quick escape (in case I get spooked, but more likely in case I need to make an emergency snack run).

If you’re not as adverse to people as I am, you can camp near a campground host (if there is one) or near a family. Instead, I occasionally bring my dog, but she would sooner point a thief to my wallet than bark out a warning.

Bring whatever it takes to make you feel more comfortable: a whistle, bright lights, bear spray or any number of safety items.

I’m often asked, “don’t you get bored?” Nope. Never. Not in the least.

Again, I’m a full-fledged introvert so not speaking to a soul for the entire duration of my trip is my idea of bliss. I yearn for that kind of solitude. Just the opportunity to go to the bathroom without a crowd of humans and pets waiting for me on the other side of the door is worth the price of admission.

A recent outing found me up Icicle Creek at the Rock Island campground (about 18 miles out of Leavenworth). This area offered me an entire section of campground to myself, separated from other campers by water and road. Perfect. I had a trail that led to my very own beach, and immediate access to hiking trails awash with fall colors.

I brought my giant, comfy “zero gravity” chair (a necessity for those of us who have had too many neck surgeries), a good book, a little booze, junk food, a phone for taking pictures, a journal, and my walking shoes. My schedule was simple: hike, read, eat. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The knots in my brain finally had a chance to unwind. I was able to assess my progress and goals, and process the past week, month and season.

These days, busyness is glorified, but it doesn’t give us a chance to truly live. We all need space and time to help ease us out of survival mode.

Personally, I need to connect with nature and myself. I need to breathe, wander, watch the stars, witness the bats feeding at dusk and listen to the sounds of the natural world.

On this particular trip, I woke up on my departure day and it was pouring. At first I was disappointed, but this forced me to become even more still.

I chose to stay in my tent for a few hours before packing up in the downpour. I read, and then just laid back and watched the raindrops hitting my tent, enjoying the sound and the coziness of my sleeping bag. It was glorious.

I headed back home with a nourished soul, able to return to my family at peace and fully present.

That lasted about seven minutes once confronted by the straight-up crazy that is my household. I remind myself that sometimes, it’s the anticipation and act that matter more than the aftereffects.

Molly Steere is a local freelance writer who loves to get outside and enjoy our beautiful valley at every opportunity.

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  1. Louise Brown says:

    Camping solo have special feeling point but also have some disadvantage. So I think 2-4 person are good for camping or hiking

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