A Quiet Panic in the Woods

Photo by Adam Chang on Unsplash

It was cold out. The crunching of the snow was becoming quieter by the minute as fresh snow fell just as the sun was beginning to go down. The quiet surroundings were in contrast to my own feelings. Everything in me was shouting as loud and desperately as possible to return back to my warm cabin. I couldn’t believe that on my last day here I had gotten so lost. I should have listened to the ranger’s advice; it was far too dangerous to be going off alone so late into the day. But who could resist the endless silence of this landscape.

But now that natural peacefulness was replaced by a primal fear of freezing to death or being eaten by something in the night. My only solace in these thoughts was in deciding which of these fates would be preferable. But still, I pressed on.

The rustling bushes were becoming more of a background noise than a terrifying monster which I guess was good. I could swear that I was just going in circles. In the end, taking the less traveled trail was becoming just as dangerous as the ranger had said. But perhaps it was only this dangerous in my head. My fear subsided and was replaced by the curiosity that had taken me on this journey in the first place as I noticed that the trees were suddenly thinning out as I continued to climb. The thick forest among the mountains was only broken up by sprawling snow-filled plains. A lack of trees at such a height was a new sight.

The trees became further and further spaced apart as I got higher. The final ascent had initially been obscured, but I could now see that it was quite steep. I scrambled up the remainder of the climb and was greeted with the most spectacular view of my surroundings. Not a road in sight, no power lines, no houses. Just the snowy rolling hills for as far as I could see. I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the surroundings while the sun set and the sky became darker and the snow continued to fall. I stayed for as long as I could, until the view started to become obscured from a combination of the darkness and the snowfall that was becoming heavier and heavier.

The remainder of my walk was a strange contradiction in that it was both more stressful and less stressful. The beautiful vista that I had seen had made the trip worth it to me, but the rapidly increasing darkness and the thick snow was making it hard to imagine that I would ever find my way back to my cabin. In what I can only attribute to the strength of the human desire to survive, I continued to walk. My surroundings swung from looking familiar to unfamiliar as my outlook became more hopeful and more dire. Just when I was seriously beginning to consider clearing a spot in the snow and making a makeshift camp, I finally saw what I had been searching for for what must have been hours by now. My home away from home. My cabin. A feeling of primal relief washed over me. I pondered how our ancestors would have felt after returning from a particularly difficult hunt and wondered how that might compare to my own relief after wandering off from my cabin which I had voluntarily decided to stay in rather than in my city-based apartment.

Why do we do it? I thought as I took off my boots and lit the fire (and turned on the central heating). Maybe it’s to rediscover a simpler lifestyle. To understand that our modern problems aren’t as troublesome as we like to think. Maybe it’s simply to use our natural surroundings as a way to destress. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why we do it. The most important thing is that we do it. Doing things that make us feel better, things that change our daily lives, are important. I needed a change and I needed an escape and what better way to do that than to get nearly hopelessly lost in the woods. Now I was back in my cabin and although all I had really done was walk in a circle, I felt that I had accomplished so much more. Our busy lives aren’t bad, but neither is taking a break from them every once in a while.

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Jacob Mitchener

Jacob Mitchener

(Mostly) tech writer based in NYC. Other interests include movies, games, music, soccer, and traveling. You’ll find a little bit of all of that here.