Our Scariest Moments on Trail


Matt “Details”

I was hammock camping along a section of the Florida Trail that passed through farmland. In the middle of the night, I heard loud, aggressive, breathing just outside of my tarp Thinking it was a boar, I started screaming hoping that it would go away. I turned my headlamp on and shined it outside of my hammock but I couldn’t see a thing. I kept yelling and shouting but the animal stayed put and kept breathing loudly right outside of my tarp. When I woke up in the morning, I looked outside of my hammock to discover that it was just a stupid cow. It’s funny how the darkness can make things so much scarier than they really are.


When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016, I broke one of my trekking poles just before the White Mountains and stopped early for the night. I ended up staying in a gravel parking lot off a forest service road at the southern end of Smarts Mountain (I think that was the name). At around midnight, a truck pulled up and parked 10 feet from my Duplex, shining his headlights on my tent. I remember hearing the sound of the engine running and the glare from the lights. Shortly after, he/she turned on his overhead light bar onto my tent, which made it about 100 times brighter. They sat there for 12 minutes (I kept track) shining me in my tent. The craziest thoughts raced through my head trying to figure out a logical explanation of why he/she was doing this. At the tipping point, I had a plan to sneak out the opposite side of my Duplex and run for the hills. He/she eventually left, leaving me thinking about it all night and whether or not they would return(they didn’t). Those were the scariest 12 minutes of my Trail life.

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Last summer my Beardedself and several other hikers were a part of a filming project and out hiking the Uinta Highline Trail in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. One evening a thunderstorm crept up on us while I, Matt and Joe were on the side of Leidy Peak. Standing at 12028 ft / 3666 m above sea level and stripped of any vegetation. Leidy Peak was the last place we wanted to be in a lightning storm. Just as things appeared that the storm was gonna pass us with no issues it began dropping hail and lightning bolts all around us. The rest of the hikers got off the mountain, but Matt, Joe and my Beardedself continued on our route. We were experiencing nickel size hail and the lightning was hitting within 50 yards of us. As scared as we all were, we were still smiling ear to ear. Absolutely the most scared I’ve ever been on trail, but also the most alive I’ve felt.


My wife and I, and a few other hikers were on the CDT in the San Juans in Colorado. It is a really remote section and a lot of it is 11,000-13,000 feet above the tree line. We got caught in an early blizzard a few days in. It was a near white-out and the trails disappeared under the snow. We had several days of hiking in deep snow. We had to just keep walking. We took food breaks walking in place to keep from freezing.


It was in Kings Canyon National Park. The great Sierra Nevada of the Pacific Crest Trail. After spending days with a partner in this part of the trail. My friend got hurt and had to leave. I decided to continue and when the time came I would have to cross Evolution Creek was preparing me to cross. The river did not look too deep or strong. When I was in the middle of the crossing the river had already covered me up to the neck, I started swimming and the current began to take me. I was very lucky to find a log where I could hold myself so I could get out. From that moment the river crossings became for me a thing that deserves respect.


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Zpacks Olivia

About the Author
Olivia Magee oversees Social Media at Zpacks and helps monitor trends within the industry. Her contributions to the hiking community includes her work with the American Conservation Experience where she performed trail maintenance in the Smoky's and across the Southeast.