On day eleven of my wandering trek I found myself fearful. I found myself alone, on the side of a forest road, in the pitch black, head spinning and heart racing.
Was I in serious danger?
I really don’t know.
I couldn’t tell you.
But, boy did it feel like it.
After a long day of driving I hunkered down about a mile away from a free campsite I found on Campendium. The road up to the official camp side was rocky and steep and I didn’t feel like chancing it - Luna’s tires are new, but better safe than sorry!
So, I pulled off, parked under some ponderosa pines and got ready for bed.
An hour or two later the rain began pounding down. At first it felt nice, reminding me of the sounds of home. And then I began to hear an echoing that didn’t seem quite right. I popped my head into the front seat and saw a flash of light a few yards away from my car.
I quickly slid back into bed, pulled out my phone and texted a friend. The light didn’t stop, it moved, but I could see it in my mirrors. It went on like that for fifteen or so minutes. I thought to myself, “maybe it’s a ranger, more likely a camper.”
But at that point, it didn’t matter. Someone was in my space, snooping around my home and I felt super vulnerable. No one else was there.
I called my friend, they told me to leave. And with that, I knew I had to. But here’s the thing, it was pouring down rain, Luna’s brights don’t work, I had to trek back down a forest road and my eyes are trash at night.
And ya’ll, if i didn’t have a backup plan, an exit route, in the back of my mind, I may not have left. I may have hunkered down, held my knife and bear spray tight and tossed and turned until dawn.
But I did have a plan.
Before I left home, my sweet mamma and I talked about always scouting a second place to sleep, just in case I need to get the the hell out of dodge. I’d also talked with my good friend about having a nightly routine that made a quick exit easy. So, with both these precautions in place I was able to drive away.
I grabbed my keys that sit right next to me every night, the knife I keep nearby, and routed my map to the rest stop I had scouted a few miles away. I drove slow, and calm, I called a friend and texted my mom.
And as a drove away I saw a man with a flashlight sitting all alone in his car, just staring at me.
Even if he was a lone camper, a hiker looking for a lost item, or a guy who was just as afraid of me as I was of him, I was happy to leave.
While I was freaked out internally, I was able to function with a sense of calm, because I knew what I was doing. I had a plan. An exit route.
I spent the night at a well-lit rest stop that overlooked a beautiful lake and had the most amazing rest-stop bathrooms I’ve ever seen. I talked to sweet friend and cried as my adrenaline dissipated. I drank water and ate snacks and took a deep breath realizing I was safe.
So here’s what I have to say. I am thankful for my exit route. I am thankful to be safe and to have the skills and plans in place to care for myself. I am capable. I feel confident in navigating scary situations. I will continue to keep my keys in the same place and follow my nightly routine. I will always have a backup plan, so I can bail as soon as I feel unsafe.
And I will also know, that sometimes, calming down after I’m safe is the most challenging part, and in those moments, where I feel alone, because frankly I am, it’s always okay to call someone who loves me and ask for support!
So here’s to exit routes, to being prepared, to knowing our strength and ability to protect ourselves and also to asking for help!