“With each day and experience our confidence grew and we thought we were invincible. Look at us – we were killing this travelling thing, nothing could possibly go wrong! Or could it?”
My first experience of long term travel was when I left university and embarked on a 3 month trip across the States. I had all the usual feelings of nerves, excitement and trepidation, not knowing what was ahead but looking forward to all the new experiences to come.
And what amazing experiences they were! From attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans to staying with Najavo Indians in Monument Valley to sightseeing in the Big Apple, we really packed it all in.
With each day and experience our confidence grew and we thought we were invincible. Look at us – we were killing this travelling thing, nothing could possibly go wrong! Or could it?
So far we had travelled from Vermont down the East Coast as far as West Virginia by Greyhound bus.
Our fellow passengers on those buses were ‘interesting’ to say the least but that’s a whole separate post so I will refrain from elaborating any further on that for now!
In West Virginia we rented a car for the rest of our journey which gave us so much freedom and really made us feel like we were Thelma and Louise. Our roadtripping dream had become a reality!
After one particularly long driving day we were in need of a much needed rest and decided to stop off at a national park, do one of the walking trails for a bit of a breather and fresh air before continuing on. So we got out of the car at Table Rock National Park in South Carolina (one of my favourite states by the way).
So without any prior planning we set out on the first trail we saw with visions of a nice little stroll, maybe ending up at the waterfall we’d heard so much about. Maybe a little dip and a picnic, that’s what idyllic travelling days are all about right? Maybe a bit stupid to start the walk after 3pm in winter when it goes dark quite early plus the fact we didn’t know how long the trail was, but everything would work out perfectly wouldn’t it?
Hmmm, not so much. We ended up walking and walking never reaching the waterfall and we did talk about turning back but we were so determined to find it we ploughed on regardless. Bad mistake. Soon it was dark and we could no longer see the markers directing us which way to go so if we turned back we wouldn’t have a clue where we were going. By this point we were both getting creeped out, 2 girls alone in a pitch black forest, perfect setting for a horror movie right?
In the distance I could hear a road and thought civilisation! We walked towards the road but 2 dogs came running out of nowhere and chased us back into the forest. Now there was no way out! Then it suddenly dawned on us that this region was known for black bears living in the forest. Would a bear stumble upon us accidentally or come up behind us and savage us in a vicious attack? We were terrified.
Now if you’d have told me beforehand I was going to be in this situation I would’ve predicted that I would be hysterical, an emotional sobbing, panicking mess. But this is when I surprised myself by staying calm and thinking of the most logical way of getting us out of this situation. I was on complete auto pilot and determined to not die here, eaten by a bear on my once in a lifetime trip. (Maybe a bit dramatic but the possibility felt very real at the time…)
With no signal on our phones, no way out to the road we could hear due to the aggressive dogs, the only thing we could do was call the emergency services. Believe me, I felt so stupid and embarrassed dialling 911 but there really was no other option.
Luckily they sent the park ranger to come and get us, he arrived a couple of hours later (during which we sat on the ground huddled together freaking out that every twig breaking was a black bear stalking us). He also informed us there were mountain lions in the forest too although I’m not sure if that was true! Soon enough we were in his truck and he delivered us safely back to our car where we drove back into civilisation vowing to never be so stupid again!
What the experience did teach me about myself though is I can keep calm under pressure and not crack in intense situations. It also taught me that I’m not invincible and not to be so naïve in the future!
Tracey Crofts is from North Wales and has been living in Auckland, New Zealand for the last 2 years. She has travelled through the US and Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. She loves road trips, the beach and going on lots of adventures with friends. You can get in touch with her by emailing email@example.com.