Solo Trips

Anatomy of a Solo Trip

Article and photography by Sean Hootz

After a successful summer of backwoods camping with my friends, I was eager to head out on an overnight solo-trip in the familiar wilderness of Duck Mountain.  It's late October, well into autumn and there has already been a snowfall or two, but I'm ready for it.  My bag is packed with everything I need.  The camera is set to shoot a time-lapse from the back seat, and my dog is already making a mess of my back windows.

The two hour drive to my destination has gone by unusually fast as the familiar barricade at the end of the road comes into view. I waste some time shooting the first bits of video, throw on my pack and start walking. My jacket is already wet from the sleet that had been falling since I left Kamsack. I had built up a bit of an ego from our previous adventures, but when I step past the barricade, I can't ignore the feeling of self-doubt. 

In the spirit of Les Stroud, I had to include a picture of us walking out into the wilderness. 

The path gets pretty narrow at times- coupled with bear and mountain lion tracks in the fresh mud, it's easy to feel a bit claustrophobic.

I scrounge up whatever deadfall I can find for my first attempt at building a shelter. 

Anytime I crouch down to work, he'll sit right behind me and watch my back. 

One of many false alarms. There's nothing like being in absolute silence, concentrating on whatever I'm doing only to have it interrupted by a deep, worried growl. 

As warm and comfortable as it looks. 

A spruce sapling among mushrooms growing out of a fallen tree.. 

The shelter is up, blanket laid down, and fire roaring. Jean Paul finds his place for the night.

As the sun sets behind the valley, I start to feel that every extra minute I spend out there will make it harder to pack up and abandon my camp for the warmth of my vehicle.

As my woodpile gets smaller, I can't help but miss the company of my friends. I finally run out of wood around midnight. By the time the sun comes up I can't feel my feet. 10 hours of absolute darkness of which I only slept a measly 2 hours.

The next morning, I head back to the vehicle. This is the stretch of path where I see the first wolf...

Where it ran back into the forest. 

The grouse which the wolf was stalking before I rudely interrupted it. She stayed in that spot the entire time until Jean Paul went after it. How they are not extinct, I do not know. 

A slough I wouldn't swim in. 

Besides the cold, snow and lack of sleep, it is an uneventful night. However, it is one of the most humbling experiences I've ever had. Being twenty kilometers from the nearest person, I did not expect the loneliness to hit me as hard as it did. It's hard to appreciate the situation when you're out there in the cold. Once I'm home with my bag unpacked and my gear cleaned, I'm anxious to get back out again. The attraction to wilderness is difficult to explain. It will remind you of your place in this world, while being completely indifferent to your presence. After spending one night by yourself, don't be surprised if you carry the memory for a lifetime.