Once upon a time, I had a great backpacking trip planned -- it was going to be the perfect escape from the fairly miserable existence I was living at the time (going to college and working what amounted to two full-time jobs, one of which was unpaid). Said plans fell through, but I didn't want to go back to my (unpaid) job as a live-in caretaker early; I'd worked so hard to get the time off. I ended up sleeping in my car for that first night before I finally made it out into the woods the next day.
Sleeping in my car wasn't great fun -- it was a tiny little hatchback and even though I'm not very big, there's just no way to get truly comfortable when you're half-in, half-out of the trunk, trying to stay inconspicuous beneath the semi-coverage of a blanket draped between the seats. Even so, I felt more comfortable sleeping in my car in a relatively well-traveled location than just pitching my tent at (or very close to) the popular trailhead I'd planned on departing from. Here's why.
My vote on the matter is pretty clear: For me, camping right at a trailhead (assuming it doesn't have a dedicated campground available) is questionable at best. If it were in a place where that's common practice and there were some sort of community I felt halfway comfortable in, that would be one thing -- but up here in Alaska, I've seen too many people who full-on live at or near trailheads (I figure they're probably doing that for a reason) and at least one confessed serial killer used to troll trailheads for potential victims.
I feel safer sleeping all the way in the woods, or all the way out of the woods, than on the cusp in-between.
What do you think?
Photo © Lisa Maloney