A few months ago, I devised a plan. Yes, a plan to go outside. Not only that, I planned to go outside, armed only with a few cleverly sewn bits of nylon fabric and a mound of pop tarts, and stay there for a few days. This weekend that plan was realized.
Having done my last hiking trip solo, I knew that to be a poor plan. Thankfully, my friends Chris and Brandon agreed to come along. The three of us piloted my car up to Vogel State Park on Friday. As the driver, I operated the wheely turny part and the pedal mechanisms. Chris navigated using his iPhone, and Brandon snored in the back seat.
It is also surrounded by bloodthirsty 500lb bears who would like nothing better than to bite my soft city ass off, but I’ll get to that later.
Once at Vogel, we paid for a hiking permit, a fishing license, and a parking permit, and checked our gear. I had all the essentials. Sleeping bag: check. Hiking poles: check. 16oz Bourbon: check. Red Crocs: check.
We shouldered our packs and headed up the road to the start of the Coosa Backcountry Trail, marked by the yellow blazes. If you don’t know what a blaze is, it’s a little patch of paint on a tree that shows a hiker which trail they’re on. These trails spiderweb through the backcountry, you see, and it can be confusing to navigate them even with a map. The blazes help a lot, usually. On this particular trail, however, the blazes came in as bewildering an array of colors as Crocs do.
We hiked three miles to West Wolf Creek, found a suitable site, and set up camp. It should be said, at this point, that the common wisdom is that one does not cook and eat one’s dinner in the same area as one’s tent. This is because food smells attract the aforementioned bloodthirsty bears, who will happily disembowel city dwellers and prance merrily on their innards.
For these reasons, we cooked and ate our dinner a suitable distance from our tents, then gathered around a fire as the light faded. Belly full and bedtime fast approaching, I happily nipped at my bourbon.
Brandon sipped coffee. Chris looked out into the distance, toward where we’d cooked dinner. “That,” he said, with admirable calm, “is a bear.”
We all looked. It was indeed a black bear, wandering around near where we’d cooked our dinner. Later, on retelling the story, many have asked me if it was big. I’ve only ever seen one wild bear. It looked to be the size of a schoolbus. He wandered back and forth over our cooking site, then disappeared into the woods. The three of us chatted excitedly, exchanging wild conjecture and ideas for hasty bear defense.
Brandon was in favor of sharp sticks. Chris wished he’d brought a gun. I suggested we appease the bear with sexual favors but was voted down. In any case, the bear had left the scene and did not return.
His memory, however, lived on in technicolor. Once in my sleeping bag, I began a long mockery of sleep. The wind blew in the trees, causing them to rub and creak together. Every little sound was the bear returning to slay me and my friends. Do bears like bourbon? I had no idea.
After a long, long while, it was day time. I had survived the night. We hiked in excellent weather and didn’t see any bears for the rest of the weekend, but I know they’re out there, waiting to kill me.