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Old 12-09-2012, 10:01 PM   #1
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Are you afraid of the dark?

I just watched a show on the History Channel about why people have an innate fear of the dark. I thought this might be interesting here since some of you do overnight camping.
Come clean, do you feel apprehension at night? Lets keep this lighthearted and try not to be too judgmental.

I'll go first. As my handle implies I spent the first 25 years growing up in New York city. In my college days I spent many nights roaming the streets after midnight. I was never afraid. Even though logically I realize now that I was more at risk from PEOPLE I never gave it a thought. Nowadays I spend my evenings on my screened porch in summer at my camp in the Adirondacks about 1.5 miles from the road. I'm not scared but I always make sure I'm away from the screen. Its crazy I know but I've always felt ill at ease in the wilderness.

Getting back to the documentary there are two theories.
1. we fear the dark because in the ancient past we were prey.
2. we learned our fear from more recent past where we were mugged by “highway men” who preyed upon people stupid enough to travel the roads at night.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:18 PM   #2
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No. But if I were a cityperson, my answer would be different. I have some 30 windows in my house in the Maine woods and one has blinds. Those are in the bedroom for our visitors from the city.

I agree about the menace from people. I am way more afraid of the human criminal than any animal. I have had turkeys and moose stare at me through the windows and walk away. If there were a strange human out there I would think far differently.

Now lots of my "neighbors " feel as you do. Some recent arrivals from the "city" have mercury vapor lamps on their property. These light up way too much and I do have a friend that will pop some pellets the way of the lights .

Part of why we venture into the woods is the contrast with our daily life. It seems natural that we have some apprehension with what we are not so familiar with.

Take me to NYC and I go only if dragged. I am pure petrified there.

So I live in the woods and camp some 70 nights a year. I will be Everglades bound for a two week canoe trip there in the beginning of January. fear. To me it feels like home. I count it a blessing if I can find a panther!

I think you would feel more at home too cityboy, if your life circumstances allowed you to reside year round at your camp. There is hope. I lived in the New York City area ( Westchester County..aka per my cousins from Queens as the Country) from 1950-1970.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:30 PM   #3
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I do alot of solo trips and get asked the same question from people who don't camp. I always ask them what I'm supposed to fear, the boogey man, crazed axe murders, packs of coyotes? I always tell them that I worry more about my wife and kids at home. As I'm bringing my young children into camping "outside" campgrounds (they do love state campgrounds much to my ire), they all have that apprehension of the dark, going to bed or tinkle at night. Based on your two History Ch. options, I'd say niether. My guess is Hollywood and TV have made us afraid of the dark.
Red means run son, numbers add up to nothing.....
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:30 PM   #4
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Afraid of the dark, or more cautious of my surroundings...depends on what I'm sleeping in!
When tenting, I definately feel more vulnerable to bears, or worse (people).

In a cabin, I leave the winows and screen doors open.
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Old 12-09-2012, 10:51 PM   #5
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I have 3 Malamutes. They eat bogeymen.
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Old 12-09-2012, 11:37 PM   #6
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afraid of the dark or afraid of whats in the dark?

To answer your question no, I am not afraid of the dark, i've spent too much time outside to be afraid of the night, plus I'm 25, so I'm 6'8 and bullet proof, I.E. nothing scares me

If I camped in africa, I would be afraid of the dark

In truth I exposed myself to the fear of the night when I was young, I wanted to get over it so I could go out on "big boy" trips into the woods...many a sleepless night was spent shaking in fear from the evil forest creatures/deamons/monsters/commision points huskies/axe murderers/crazed scoutmasters that lurked outside the light of my fire, but eventually I got over it.

Yellows Canoe
Take me to NYC and I go only if dragged. I am pure petrified there
....I've been shot at by poachers, charged by grizz and bison, and seen alotta death...I'll take all those in a day than go to NYC, i'd find a tree, climb it, and cry till the nice firemen come to rescue me

new thread, "Are you afraid of New York City?".
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet"
-William Blake
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Old 12-10-2012, 12:32 AM   #7
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I'm at home in the dark, and in the woods. They are my element. I grew up on the plains and was introduced to the outdoors almost as soon as I walked. When I'm in the woods, I'm at ease. Rather then a fear of bears I hope to come across some when I'm out there. Unlike NE Ranger, I've never been charged by "Grizz" (Pilgrim?) nor Bison even though I have been in close proximity to both. I learned their habits as a youth.

As for the dark, it will conceal me as much as anything else. One of the reasons I mostly cold camp is so I don't lose my night vision. I guess several tours of combat including night patrols doesn't hurt either.
"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it." Lyndon B. Johnson
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Old 12-10-2012, 12:54 AM   #8
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I've had several meetings with bears. They were all in daylight.Black and grizzly. So far none at night though I have given them plenty of opportunity.

Yes fear these. Taken with a normal lens. The thing is right next to me. Didn't really matter that I was in the car.

The herd wanted to cross. The herd crossed.

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Old 12-10-2012, 08:50 AM   #9
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Redhawk....I'm kin to the bear that bit jim Bridgers a$$

Being in close proximity to these creatures was part of my job, enough time spent around them and you'll get charged too, but then again, maybe they just don't like rangers

...I wasn't trying to sound like a hardcase, I was illustrating a fact similar to Yellow Canoes. Our world is the outdoors, the associated factors of it, night/bears/avalanches etc. are commonplace and familiar, "feared" and respected. Where as the concrete jungle (with all those places for me to get ambushed and my milk money stolen) are foreign, unfamiliar, and overwhelming.
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet"
-William Blake

Last edited by NEranger21; 12-10-2012 at 08:52 AM.. Reason: misplaced words
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Old 12-10-2012, 10:11 AM   #10
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I suspect part of my problem is visual. Night in the wilderness is much darker than the city.
I am not afraid of animals including bears as long as its daytime. I've hunted deer for 40 years and still am uncomfortable headed out pre-dawn even with a gun.
I think with age comes wisdom and I think I was incredibly stupid to travel at night in the city on foot.
One of my favorite books by Richard Laymon is called "Lonesome night in October". The premise, and I've found it to be true, is that the weirdos come out late at night.
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Old 12-11-2012, 02:02 PM   #11
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I am not afraid of the dark, but I do try to be more careful if I am in an unfamiliar place in the dark. At home I can walk down a mile long gravel road nearby that I know well enough that even when all I can see is the treetops above me against the sky I know where I am, and once I walked through there when all I had to keep me on the road was the sound/feeling of the gravel and dirt of the road under my feet and the different sound/feeling of the dead leaves on the sides of the road. When I am hiking at night (even with a headlamp) in a place that I don't know very well I go more slowly and feel that it is easier to lose my way, since the lamp only shows me what is fairly close by.
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Old 12-11-2012, 05:50 PM   #12
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When you lose your sight (darkness) things seem larger than they are.

We had a fun workshop at Maine Canoe Symposium last year. Participants were blindfolded and barefoot. There was a rope course set through the woods (all sharp stuff removed). It was only about 200 feet long..a square. Some went through foliage and some went through a pine sapling forest and other misc surfaces..sand and rock.

All reported that they thought the course was a LOT longer than they thought it was and that that "forest" of young pine went on forever. Everything was magnified when they relied on tactile stimuli from their feet.
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Old 12-11-2012, 06:41 PM   #13
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When I guide trips into the wilds, I like to do a little exercise at night if conditions are right. I like to be in a place with good (safe) footing, far removed from anyone else, with mixed sky views. Along a lake shore is a bonus.

I ask each person to walk at least 20 feet separated from the next in single file and with dark adapted eyes, look, listen, and feel. No artificial lights and no talking allowed. At the end of the exercise, which need only be a very few minutes, I ask each what they experienced that they have never noticed in the same way before. They tell me of the swish of their and the next person's feet, the sound of footing ahead to be aware of, shadows of trees and brush, sounds of insects, frogs, and the lapping of water, the brightest stars they have ever seen, and maybe a meteor. I have arranged at times to do this when an Iridium satellite flare appears, which can be bright enough to cast a shadow, then it fades into a dimly moving "star". At the end most will return to the campsite with a completely new and positive respect for "the dark".

Lets be adults. Know what the dark contains and act appropriately, not like children afraid of unseen monsters. Being alone on a dark inner city street is not a place for me to be, and as far as I am concerned I would be terrified to find my self there. But put me in the woods on a dark night, and I relish in the experience.

Campfires... I know groups like campfires. Try it without sometime, maybe with a single candle. A campfire focuses attention to the center, and makes some people feel "safer". They are missing the natural experience that is all around them by staring into a roaring flame. As rational adults, enjoy the woods for what it offers, learn to overcome irrationality, or stay home.
"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman
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Old 12-11-2012, 07:13 PM   #14
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" As darkness settled in across the valley the landscape turned from mystical to magical. Briefly I was concerned about navigating my way back across the creek in the dark but I caught myself, I wasn't going to allow myself to speed up after reaching this coveted low gear. Whilst hunting one's alertness is intensified which allows him to see the alchemy of transition from light to dark or visa versa. He is fortunate to be able to experience that special madness as objects continually morph into different coherent and incoherent shapes. What was once a clump of cattails is now a trophy buck, no wait, a stalking bear? That's magic.
I slowly walk the quarter mile back to camp, happy to be on edge, eyeing the shadows. There is nothing like walking alone in a big woods surrounded by darkness. The air one inhales has a unique quality, somehow more ancient, more real, more basic. It's the same air that was inhaled by primordial man. It's a connection to the past, a time before man became separate from Nature."
"A culture is no better than its woods." W.H. Auden
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Old 12-11-2012, 07:28 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Wldrns View Post
with dark adapted eyes, look, listen, and feel.

On every single night spent in the Adirondacks, I always make it a point to be sure to walk away from camp for a little while, find a spot to sit down, look around, listen, and feel.
Always a highlight of the trip for me, even when it's raining, and especially if it's snowing.
Even when you walk away from the campfire and turn your light off, it doesn't take long for your eyes to adjust to the dark night...well, for me at least.

When I was a kid, I was pretty scared of being in the basement in the dark, but that was about it.
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Old 12-11-2012, 10:35 PM   #16
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At night , when your vision fades your other senses become more acute - hearing, touch (even to the breeze and cold), and smell, well maybe not taste.

I fly fish a lot at night, You just feel the rod and line, comes with practice. Most of my friends that stay late just stop fishing after a while and are amazed at how you can catch fish (usually the biggest in the river) w/o being able to see. I tell them it will make them a better angler.

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Old 12-12-2012, 08:56 AM   #17
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Old 12-12-2012, 05:33 PM   #18
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Only thing I remember about fishing at night was bats grabing the line mid-cast and deer sneaking up and snorting and stamping their feet. I did catch fish though.
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Old 12-12-2012, 09:37 PM   #19
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"Let me assert my firm belief, that the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.": Franklin Roosevelt
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