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The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Backpacking with Brynn: The Harsh Reality of Solo Camping 

Looks can be deceiving
Brynn Meisse
Brynn Meisse camping in the woods by herself.

This is the second part of my caving trip that I went on at the end of January. 

After I left the caving trip, I wanted to go camping because it was a 4-hour drive back to Ashland University and there was no way I had the energy to make the drive.  

I drove an hour south to Monongahela National Forest, which is in the mountains of Appalachia. This forest was beautiful but something that I noticed right away was the small towns nestled into the mountains.  

There were several small mountain towns that speckled this national forest but seeing all these towns put me on edge. I didn’t want to camp where there was high traffic because you never know what people will do.  

My gut was telling me to leave so I followed my intuition and left the forest. However, at this point the sun was fading, and I was now five hours away from AU. My plan of action was to find a campsite on the border of Ohio and stay there for the night. 

I found Salt Fork State Park on Google and it seemed to be a safe-looking park. 

Looks can be deceiving.  

While driving the three hours to the park, the clouds started to darken, and it began to pour. I knew that I had to stop even though my gut was telling me to finish the drive to Ashland.  

I arrived at the park around 8 or 9 p.m. There was only one other person at this park, so I decided to set up on the completely opposite side.  

I pitched my tent and threw all my sleeping gear into the tent while trying to avoid being soaked by the rain. It took me about 20 minutes to get completely situated in my tent before I made dinner.  

While my food was cooking, I called my dad to let him know where I was and what time I planned to leave. After I hung up the phone, I crawled into my sleeping bag and started to dehydrate chicken and dumpling meal  

The time trickled by as the rain on my tent lulled me to sleep. 

As I was almost in a deep sleep, I heard something outside my tent. It sounded like footsteps, but I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. It had to be the rain, I kept telling myself.  

It wasn’t rain. 

The squishing of the ground moved around my tent until it was on the side where I was sleeping.  

I held my breath as the footsteps got closer. I started to shake with fear because I didn’t grab my pocketknife out of my car, it sat in my trunk scattered among my caving gear. I was cursing myself in my head for making such a rookie mistake.  

The footsteps moved a little further from my tent entrance and closer to my car which was parked right next to my camp. Through the rain, I could hear the light tugging of my car door handles. 

Someone was trying to get into my car.  

I immediately grabbed my car keys and got ready to press the car alarm, but something in my head was telling me not to.  

What if I pressed the panic alarm and it alerted the guy at the end of the campground who turned out to be creepy? What if I pressed it and the person tried to enter my tent instead? 

As I pulled myself from my mind and the what-ifs, the blue light of my automatic start lit up showing a figure directly outside my tent. I was about to start crying from fear, but knew I had to remain calm and think through this scenario.  

I called my dad and put his voice on the speaker phone. I figured a male voice might discourage whoever was ever outside my tent, and it worked.  

I let my dad’s booming voice ring out and asked what was going on. I whispered to him that someone was outside my tent, and he spoke even louder.  

I tore my eyes away from my dimly lit phone to see if the figure was still there. The blue light of my car went off again and revealed nothing. The figure was gone.  

I instantly poked my head out from under my tent flap and looked around. I didn’t see anything, so I ran out of my tent with my keys positioned in my fingers as a weapon.  

There was no one.  

I circled my tent and car then decided I needed to get out of there. I gathered my gear up at record speed and threw it all into my trunk. I started my car and peeled out of the state park.  

I drove the two hours back to Ashland in the dead of night with rain pounding against my windshield and the high of adrenaline flowing through me.  

There were so many different outcomes that could’ve happened to me that night and I am forever grateful that some higher force was watching over me in that moment.  

This experience has shown me the true realities of solo camping. You must always be prepared and cannot expect the best of people.  

If you plan to solo camp, always let someone know where you are, when you plan to leave, and have a weapon on you. Your life is worth so much more than you realize. 


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  • S

    Sammi L. WinniskiFeb 13, 2024 at 8:24 am

    What a great story teller you are. Thank you for sharing what could have been a potentially horrific experience in your life. And extra thanks for being so selfless in taking the time to share with whomever might read this taste of reality. Being a lover of nature, (& people) myself, your experience was just the confirmation I needed to remind that my thinking isn’t so fat off regarding weirdos. Never know when the wrong kind might show up to jostle up a nice time. Blessings aplenty for You and your wise eords. Thanks!