My first solo camping experience

There was this period during which I had this will continuously pushing  inside me to try wild camping. I’ve once done it before and this made me even more excited to try it again. Surrounded by really “hard” camper friends has also increased my motivation to go hike and camp in the nature and wild forests.

Living in Stuttgart, South-Western Germany, there would be no better place for camping and hiking than the famous Black Forest. I’ve discovered a very famous trek across this mysterious and rich region, the trek is called “Schluchtensteig” in German (Canyon Walk in English). 120km, 6 stages, 5 days, breath-taking landscapes and nature. I directly became charmed and I hardly could wait.

I called a couple of friends and convinced them to join, but none of them had that big motivation and perseverance as I’ve had. I skipped two weekends, once waiting for them to change their minds, and once chasing a good weather, and in the third one I said well screw all this, I’m gonna head there alone. A first experience for me.

I decided then to drive there, put the car in the arrival point and then take a 2 buses to the start point. It took me 5 hours to arrive to the start point. I left home at 6 am. at 11 am I put my first foot on the hiking path: a village called Todtmoos. As I had only a weekend to do this. I selected the best 2 stages of the trek and I planned to do them on 2 days (42 km).

I camped just one time before. And it was one night only. So this time I could learn more and anticipate some stupid mistakes that one usually do as a newbie, like efficiently load your backpack and not forget stuff. Except one thing, which I had to pay for later, adequate shoes…

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Preparing my backpack and hoping I won’t forget anything

Stage 1: Todtmoos- St. Blasien || 20km

I arrived to Todtmoos around 11:00. It took me some time to reorient myself as I had a poor phone reception. After asking a couple of locals, I finally found the path and I started the hike. I quickly found myself inside the calm of the huge forest. The sun disappeared behind the long dense trees after few hundred meters. I was wondering at that time whether I made the right decision coming here and whether I’m gonna make it. But I continued.

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As I was making my way inside the forest, some great landscapes started to show up. Around 2 pm, I arrived to a breath-taking view point. An endless view of forest hills. I had such a good luck with the weather: clear blue sky, even fog was not there. When you reach a certain high points, you can see clouds underneath you level and got stuck between high hills. You will think for while it’s some kind of a white see over there in the horizon.

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Around 4 pm. I arrived to the end of this stage, St. Blasien, a very small city inside the forest. the 20 km of the first day are over. But the count down has started to find a good camping place before the sunset disappears. As I was approaching the city from a neighboring mountain, the path was too rocky and narrow. Impossible to set a tent here and lie adequately. The sun was hurrying to meet the horizon. Finally, I realized that I had had no other option left, except crossing the city and find the beginning of the next stage. I’ve never been so stressed because of a sunset.

I finally could find the beginning of the path. My bad luck. It was an uphill, with a rock wall on my right and a river on my left. The path was like 1,5 meter wide. I almost run while climbing. I didn’t have enough time anymore. I spotted a mediocre place to set the tent. But I said let’s go ahead a little bit more, maybe I’ll find a better one on the top. 5 minutes later, I realized that this was not a very wise decision. I almost could not see anything anymore. So I went back down to that spot and set up my tent in a marathon-time. The ground was rocky, so I couldn’t dig for the metallic tent’s rods. So the tent couldn’t stand up 100% right. But it was reliable.

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I need to learn how to set up a tent in a rocky place

The dark of the night completely settled down. I was under my lamp, the sound of the water flowing through the river was quite high, but so relaxing. No phone reception, no noise, I was listening to some music and drowning in my thoughts until I fell asleep. The last time I checked my watch, it was 19:30…

Stage 2: Sankt Augustin – Schluchsee

I woke up around 7 am and decided to stay in my sleeping-back for a while. Temperature outside was around 0°C degrees. So I couldn’t resist staying a litte bit more in my tiny warm surface, especially with the sound of river smoothly flirting with my ears. I finally stood up at 8:00, everything was crispy outside because of the low temperature. As I was on a downhill, I decided to pack up my tent before breakfast because I wanted to enjoy it somewhere else sunny. As I forgot my gloves -newbie mistake I admit- I was struggling to pack my stuff and my tent in my backpack. I was literally spending several minutes exhaling in my hands and rubbing them against my legs to warm them, until I made it after some time.

When I started walking, my hopes to find a sunny places quickly evaporated. Because each time I think I have made it to the top, I see another mountain behind. So that meant for me no sun -and no breakfast- for at least the next hour. The path just continued going up and up, with a harder gradient, although it was very cold, I was already sweating like a crazy. Around 9:30, I found the place which I was dreaming to have breakfast in. The top of the mountain is here, sun is shining so clearly, blue sky and even a cut trubnk of a tree where I can sit and enjoy the view. Although I brought only some basic food, it was one of the best breakfasts of my life. And wait, I forgot to bring a spoon…

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Where I had one of the best breakfasts of my life

So my batteries are now recharged. Energie and motivation are back. I spent 3 hours of a non-stop walking, until I felt some pain in my feet. I was a litte bit pressed because of time. I wanted to reach the arrival point (where I left my car) around 3 pm so that I can avoid Sunday-evening traffic jams on the road. I arrived to the beginning of Schluchsee , a very famous lake in the Black Forest, and then I couldn’t make it any further. I thought the pain was because of the wrong shoes I was wearing. So I changed them and took 15 minutes break. Finally, this didn’t help, the pain didn’t disappear, actually both shoes ware bad. I realized then that it won’t go away. So I decide to just continue no matter what. I was feeling pain in every step I make. I admit I had that weakness of taking the train which passes by the lake. I even checked its schedule. Thank god, the next one was in one hour. So it wouldn’t be worth it anymore as I still had 90 minutes only of walk.

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Where I had to change my shoes to desperately make the pain go away

I then left Schluchsee behind me and started climbing the last mountain of the trek. The weather was so, clear, so sunny and the sky so blue that I could see the Swiss alps on my right as I was climbing and climbing. That view gave the last push of energy I was in need to. 20 minutes only and I make it to the car. I almost couldn’t feel my feet anymore. Well with a heavy back pack, 42 km of hiking with a bad shoes, it should be predictable. I don’t know how the last 10 minutes were, because I was seeing already my car, and nothing else.

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The Swiss alps in the horizon

And I made it. I didn’t wait a single minute to start driving, it was already 3:30 and I was scared I would get stuck in the traffic. On my way, I was already having problems pressing the car pedals. My feet didn’t respond correctly anymore. But I forgot all the pain because I was having this very special feeling for the first time, a mixed feeling of victory, proud and ecstasy. I did the first solo camping in my life! in the black forest of Germany, I walked 42 Km in 12 hours only and with bad shoes. An exploit for me…

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Ever since, I was literally haunted by those kind of trips. It was last November when I did this one. Autumn is almost over and Winter was coming. It was my last chance. Ever since I have been waiting for Spring to come to do this again. I’ve even created a short list of future destinations.

A lifetime experience, to be continued…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Doug Busack says:

    Shoes, the Achilles heel of a hiker! I’m going through a similar struggle right now. Trying to break in my new boots. Congrats on your journey!

    Like

  2. Hella says:

    Awesome, Ashraf. And this is waiting just around the corner …

    Like

  3. Ramdas says:

    Give me a shout next time! Won’t disappoint like your other friends 😜😜

    Like

    1. Achraf says:

      Won’t miss that next time my friend :-)

      Like

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