On solo camping / by Wookie Kim

As excited as I am by all the running I'm about to do, there's another aspect of the trip that I'm eager to experience: solo camping.

Indeed, this trip is as much about immersing myself in the natural world as it is about traveling and running the country. I explicitly chose to avoid traditional lodging because I want to be, by night, where I'll be by day--in the wild. Also, the idea of going it alone seemed attractive, not because it would prove that I can, in fact, manage it, but rather because I anticipate learning things that one can learn only when alone in Nature. Having space to myself to reflect, and to take everything in, just seems incredibly appealing.

While I've gone camping a good number of times in my life, I've always done that as part of a group. That has also always meant that I could free-ride on the expertise and labor of others. Sure, I'd pitch in, but I never took the lead on anything. So I never really "learned" all that one would need to know to camp--let alone camp solo. Over the course of this trip, I hope to overcome that deficit. As with everything I'm doing on this trip, I'm taking things in steps.

The first step is to acquire the gear. I've done that. After talking things over with several experienced outdoorspeople (thanks Victoria B., Garrett M., and Lucas M-B!), and after several REI visits, I finally bought everything I needed (note: it wasn't cheap).

The next step is to familiarize myself with that gear in a controlled environment. Even if I theoretically have everything I need, I may not know whether I can "work" with what I have. Can I properly set up my tent by myself? Do I know how the ResQLink system works? Etc. I'm still 2 days away from hitting the road, but I've at least answered the first question. Yes I can.

Experienced and non-experienced campers alike may laugh at the above. How hard can it be to set up a tent? The answer? Really not that hard. But until I've done it with my own two hands, I can't be certain. And if I'm not certain, well, that means I'm taking another risk that probably need not be taken. 

Next, I'll take this into a semi-controlled environment. In advance of the Twisted Branch 100K, I'll be camping with Jeremy L. and Lisa P. at a county park near Naples, NY. There, I'll be outdoors, in a campsite, with all my gear. I'll truly be able to test out, in the elements, my home for the next 45 days. I'll also be able to try my hand at cooking food using my Whisperlite camp stove--another essential skill. If something goes wrong, I'll let Jeremy or Lisa (help me) figure things out. And then I'll keep practicing until I reach mastery. Again, the tasks I intend to be able to complete are easy in the grand scheme of things. But I won't leave upstate New York until I feel confident that I know the very basics of setting up camp.

From there, I'll gradually add layers of complexity as the trip progresses. On my first day alone, for instance, I'll be at a "backcountry" site in the very tame Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I'll be relatively close to a major road, but I'll have none of the amenities that proximity to civilization usually provides (i.e., no water, no electricity, etc.). Moreover, I'll have to "leave no trace." And so on. The hope is that, by the end of the trip, I'll be comfortable setting up camp anywhere and in any conditions.

*   *   *   *   *

With just over 50 hours to go until the start of the most epic race of my life, I'm continuing to taper. I'm running almost nothing (I've run <10 miles this week), eating like a pig, drinking water like a camel, and, most importantly, resting like a sloth. It's all a little uncomfortable, but that's part of the process. On that note, it's time to test out my sleeping arrangements in a very-controlled, air-conditioned, environment. Goodnight!