I love to backpack and fish. When I was younger, I was an avid hunter. Now wildlife photography has replaced my need for hunting. In hundreds of camp outs and backpacking adventures, I’ve only experienced two cases of vandalism and one of theft.
The theft was when I was a Boy Scout master and some bikers invaded our campsite and stole several backpacks. That was in the early 1970’s when hippy bikers needed packs. The vandalism occurred to my vehicle parked at a trail head during hunting season. Some anti-hunters target trail head parkers. Now I decorate the back of my truck with environmentally friendly decals; these work because my truck is passed over by the “green vandals.”
When in the back country, I camp away from the usual campsites. I’m hopefully 200 yards from any water source such as a lake or stream. My campsite is hidden, and I only make a small fire if needed. The vast majority of campers I’ve met are honorable people. Crime here is not a problem. The criminal type can be easily dealt with. Give them respect. Honor them as another friend. Their lives are full of what they consider disrespect. Anyone who treats them with the golden rule will likely be safe in their presence. Share a candy bar or a story with them. Don’t treat them poorly because that’s what they really dislike.
Thank goodness our wild places are generally safe in comparison to our cities. Troublemakers rarely hike and likely stay in, or close by their vehicle. If I have to camp next to the road, I prefer a forest service campground equipped with a campground host. Federal employees frequent such sites often. Security is a phone call away.
Hike and camp with a group of friends. There is real safety in numbers. Trust your instincts with strangers. Do not disclose your itinerary. A sole female should never hike with a stranger or hitchhiker. Recently in the news there was the sad story of an avid, experienced, young woman hiker. She had her black lab with her and I guess she felt safe. The report was that she was seen with an older man at the trail head, someone she had never been with, that she had just met there. Not too long after she was seen with the older man, she was found dead along with her trusted black lab. The older man was found and indicted for murder. Hiking with strangers can be safe, but trust your feelings. You don’t want to end up like this poor girl or like Meryl Streep (actress) with Kevin Bacon (actor) in “River Wild.” Meryl Streep and her family had been befriended and then taken as prisoners by Kevin Bacon and his pal. They were forced to take them down the river after they had robbed a bank.
When you’re using public rest rooms and showers keep your valuables in sight. Put them in a small bag and place them safely in a cargo pant’s pocket. Do the same in restaurants, stores, and the like. Also, watch your backpack.
The potential for theft is always a possibility. Maintain an awareness of your surroundings and watch your valuables, especially expensive electronics and fly fishing rods and reels. A few summers ago I was parked by the Madison River and was giving a fly fisherman I had just met some of my favorite flies for the area. My new Sage rod was leaning up against the railing. I forgot it was there and just drove off without it. I came right back within five minutes but it was gone. A truck with two young men had just pulled up along the side of us before we left; they weren’t there when we got back. It was never found. Someone sure has a nice fly fishing rod with my name professionally printed on it.
Make friends while afield. Share hot fishing flies and stories with others. Tell them about the wildlife or scenery you have sighted. Help them enjoy their stay. They will return the favor and this improves both party’s experience.
Avoid mountain bikes, four wheelers, and pack stock on the trail. Move off the trail in an uphill direction. That way you’re less likely to be rolled over or kicked by a mule. Be cautious of vehicles when hiking on the shoulder of a road. You don’t want to be run over.
Enjoy the outdoors. You cannot plan for every possible peril, but be aware of your surroundings and avoid possible injury. Remember you’re safer in the wilds; the real criminals rarely brave the natural world.