One colleague seems to have worked herself into tizzy, concerned that I will be eaten by a bear or fall into a pit and rot. It is at times like that that I recall Sigmund Freud's dictum "A fear is a disguised wish". She reports to me. One colleague wanted to simply to ensure that I had documented the big project I'm working on, in the event probably of being kidnapped by a band of otters. That's reasonable (the mitigation of the generally anticipated possibility of not returning, not the specified risk scenario).
One colleague believes that I am going to get my own TV show like Survivorman. Survivormungo. Hmmm - I'd like that.
Some think solo camping would be scary.
The first time I went camping by myself - about 15 years ago - I lapsed into a depressive state. Over and over the following words resonated in my head: "I am such a loser. I have no friends. I am all by myself in the woods. [Repeat Chorus]" Honestly. It was fairly miserable. It was probably made worse by the actual fact that I'd just broken up with a girlfriend and I was not in touch with any of my old friends at the time.
The second time I went solo camping the hopelessness and blackness receded. It was replaced by an electric, panicky, painful dread of the savage, terrifying and threatening unknown wilderness around me. I remember I took ages to fall asleep every night in my nylon tent, hearing sounds of what later turned out to have been bark-beetles chewing away on the trees around me. I was convinced that there was a wild creature out in the woods about to attack and tear me into bloody shreds. Somewhat seriously.
But the third time I went solo camping, the fear and the bad thoughts slipped away and vanished. They were replaced with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, of confidence and a sense of connection with the nature about me. This is what has remained to this day every time I go.
I now relish solo camping and find that it replenishes me.
There are - as I see it - three top risks that I can reasonably mitigate against:
- Breaking an ankle while portaging, and subsequently rotting in pit.
The actual portage route is - by the only account I could find about it - fairly level, and hazard-free. Since I am not significantly constrained by time, I can take my time and walk slowly and carefully. I can always drag myself through the bush if needed. I wear hiking shoes that have a metal shank down the length of the sole, to help stabilize my feet. I carry Band-Aids.
- Falling into the water and drowning, yelling "saaaaaaavvvvve meeeeee (gurgle gurgle)".
I always wear a life jacket. On a trip once, a friend of mine decided to take the canoe along the shore edge for a 5 minute exploration. He came back soaked to the bone, and looking a bit scared. He'd been close to the shore, and decided to grab an overhanging tree branch so that he could step onto a rock. He'd lost his balance, fallen out and missed striking his head by inches on the rock. No matter what - always wear a life jacket. I do. Plus I appreciate the extreme danger of hypothermia, having experienced it severely about 10 years ago. I know how to right a canoe, how to get back into a canoe, and that you should never leave a canoe that has tipped over in the water (unless it is headed directly for Niagara Falls).
- Being attacked and then carefully eaten by a bear.
I wear a bear bell while portaging. I sing while portaging (that would keep even the hungriest of bears away). Remember, 99.99% of bears are skittish around humans and do all they can to avoid them. I always look around while portaging, and do not listen to an iPod... I light a fire and keep it going at my camp site to let any potential intruders know that there is an annoying, unpredictable human at the camp site. I make noise. I have an early detection system called a beagle and his incredibly powerful sense of smell, and inherent (and very welcome) confidence albeit wariness while in the bush. I know never to play dead with a black bear and always to fight back. I respect their power and speed - Mike Tyson has nothing on a black bear in a bad mood. I carry a sheath-knife with me always. I know that this won't be the most effective defense against a bear. I took a negotiation seminar at work a few years ago.
Well, time's a-tickin'... 5 days to go!