The odds of being attacked by an animal are slim. Almost to the point of being able to statistically dismiss even the dimmest of possibilities where such things are concerned. Yes, I take certain precautions against even such an outside occurrence by not cooking in the same spot where I’m going to sleep; never taking any food into my tent–not even a snack; and hanging all of my food and heavily scented things (like toothpaste) from a sack high in a tree before I prepare for bed.
But there are a few things that I do worry about when I go backpacking alone. First and foremost is the possibility of being attacked by a human. This does happen to hikers and backpackers and almost always when they are hiking or camping overnight near a trail/road intersection. The kind of person who is going to do such a thing as victimize a backpacker is a lazy sack of shit and will only walk a short distance. Thus, I always try to camp at least several miles from the nearest road.
Then there’s lightning. Lightning does kill people. You don’t have to be hiking to be killed by lightning, but when you’re outside, the great, gray dome of stormy weather overhead can be a threat. Whenever I hear thunder I know the possibility of a lightning strike is there and so I mitigate them by doing my best to stay away from high ground (such as summits) during an electrical storm. I will go down into a cove or gap and wait it out if I can (additionally being sure not to hunker down near a tall tree).
And that brings me to the one thing that I do actively worry about when I backpack. And that thing is deadfall.
When you’re in a forest a respectable percentage of the trees are dead, dying, or growing in a place where a stiff gust of wind or saturation by water of the loose soil can bring it down. If you happen to be camped under such a tree it can fall over on you, or it can lose a stout limb overhead. And then it’s curtains for you if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The possibility of such a thing is rare, but it is one of the concerns that I seriously take when I am picking out a spot to pitch my tent before nightfall.
On this trip into the Pisgah National Forest I was travelling in mainly heavy rain, and during brief periods of gusty wind as bits of the front passed through. I saw limbs falling, and at one point in the night I heard a very large tree give up the ghost somewhere in the woods and hit the earth. Later, on my way out of Butter Gap I saw what was probably the tree I heard as it fell. It wasn’t far from the shelter I used and it had fallen across the trail.
But even that–my main concern when I backpack–is less than the odds of being involved in an automobile accident on my way to or from a trip to the forest.
|This tree had very recently fallen at an established campsite along the Cat Gap Loop Trail. Anyone under it would have been crushed like a slug.|
|I encountered a ridiculous amount of recent deadfall on this trip.|