My First Camping Trip

By: Tamara Mackie


The year was 2006, and I was 12 years old. My middle school took each 8th grade class on a camping trip every year and it was finally our turn to go. This was the year we had been waiting for. I vividly remember the excitement that swarmed my classmates and me as we prepared to head off to what would be the first camping trip for many of us, myself included. We were going to brace the remote wilderness, learn to survive with nothing but a box of matches, and use the stars to navigate our way around…or so I thought. In reality, camp ended up being much like Lois described in “Death by Landscape,” there were obnoxious chants, canoeing, arts and crafts, and counselors that took their jobs very seriously. While I did enjoy myself and the time spent on outdoor activities, I found myself disappointed that I was going to leave camp without gaining any new skills or survival techniques. However, our last night at camp showed me that I had more of a survival instinct than I had realized.
The sun went down and darkness took over, the boys and girls were in our respective cabins, getting ready for bed and packing for departure the following morning. As we were packing we suddenly heard a unified scream from the boys’ cabin…causing chaos in the girls’ cabin. Some of the girls were frantically asking what on earth had scared the boys so badly and others started crying and yelling that they just wanted to go home. We all huddled together in the middle of the cabin in a frenzy and I knew it was time to step up. My friend and I did our best to calm everyone down and I told the girls that we were not going to be scared as easily as the boys were. Finally, we heard a rattling outside our window. Whatever had frightened the boys had come for us. Quickly I told all the girls to hide under their beds and not make a sound. Someone had started banging and growling at the windows and I can still remember the feeling of my heart stopping in my chest. Impressively enough, none of the girls made a sound. We all held our ground and stayed in our hiding spots. Finally, after what seemed like hours but was probably only 5 minutes, the banging and growling stopped and we heard a voice say “Are they even in there?”
It had turned out that it was a tradition of the camp counselors to give the kids a scare on the last night of every camping trip, and we were the first group to not scream and respond accordingly. I was proud of how we reacted in a fearful situation and when the counselors had realized what we had done in response to their scare, we all knew they couldn’t help but be impressed. Looking back, I wonder what would have happened next if there was actually a real threat. I would like to think that we would be equipped to handle it but I can’t help but be thankful every day that it was only our counselors trying to give us a scare and not something far worse. And admittedly, to this day whenever I hear something at my window, I can’t help but jump.


5 thoughts on “My First Camping Trip

  1. As you noted, it is interesting to think about what you and your classmates would have done if there actually had been a real threat. One of the most terrifying things about horror is that you can never be prepared. Although you took precaution and hide under your beds without making noise, it is likely that that wouldn’t stop or prevent what would have come next if there had been serious danger. So I am left asking, how can we truly protect ourselves in this world? Are we supposed to just let danger reach us?

  2. It is times like those, whether real situations or fake real scary situations make you see what you would actually do in those situations. Hindsight biases obscure many people’s view on how they believe they would act. It is different for every person and you will never know unless you end up in that situation.

  3. It’s very impressive that you guys were able to not respond to them! I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that, especially if it was dark outside and probably my first time away from home. It definitely would be interesting to know what you would have done in a real situation, but I’m glad that it was nothing serious and you were all fine.

  4. I had a very similar experience while on an overnight at sleepaway camp several years ago. We were in the woods in a tent on our way to falling asleep when we heard rattling, banging, and loud sounds. We realized in the morning, when some food was missing, that it was probably a bear. This obviously does not make it any less scary, but it is nice to have an explanation. Still, that first feeling of fear when you hear something out of the ordinary and your imagination begins to run is indescribable.

  5. This post shows that setting and sound are the contributing factors to horror. The sounds you hear late at night makes your imagination go wild and think of the scariest things that could possibly be happening. Most of my fearful experiences have a clear explanation and most are people playing pranks, however, you bring up a great point about questioning reactions when it is a true threat. We laugh at horror films and characters irrational decision making, but I can’t help but think I would make some of the same decisions in those scenarios on impulse.

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