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Everyone goes out into the wild expecting things to be just perfect. Sunny days, bug free, no dangerous animal encounters, all limbs in tact. But, that’s not always the case. The adventure starts when things don’t go quite to plan. Backcountry bloopers can range form funny to well, downright life threatening. In the end we come away a little tougher and with a little more know-how. And hey, it usually makes for a great story! So kick those feet up, get snuggled up next to that fire and roast a marshmallow. Let’s share some campfire tales!

Leeching in Borneo

Visiting Borneo has been a dream of mine ever since I was a child. After finding an amazing flight to Kuala Lumpur and a $20 flight to Sandakan, the gateway to the Kinabatangan river, I went for it.  We stayed in an amazing accommodation that was eco-friendly with staff that was incredible at spotting the monkeys, no matter how far away they were.  In all, I saw five types of primates, including three wild orangutans!

The catastrophe came on the day that we went jungle trekking.  Even before the trip, I was TERRIFIED of leeches and even purchased leech socks to wear.  That morning, I asked our guide who told us it was better in some ways not to wear them, so you can feel them–and flick them off (rather than keep looking down).  He convinced me, so I decided not to although I still wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt.   
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It had just rained the night before, which does not bode well for leeches, who wait on the leaves around the hip level to jump onto you.  I decided to tie my shoe and as I sat there, two leeches fell from above: one onto our guide’s shirt and the other onto my boyfriend’s covered arm.  One was flicked off quickly, but as I watched the one wiggle up Vincent’s shirt (our guide) and try to bite his neck, I was proud for not being the target.
As we kept walking, I felt a weird stinging bite near my ankle, but didn’t notice anything.  I ignored it although it continued and I was concerned that if I stopped or pulled my sock down, it would be worse than checking.  As soon as we got on the boat back, I was SO proud that I had not been bitten by a leech. 
After a beautiful and slightly tricky trek, we go back to our accommodations where I discovered a leech had bitten entirely through my sock–and into the skin. I cleaned it off quietly although I started carefully visually inspecting every leaf (as well as my ankles) for leeches until we left Borneo.
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By Karen at Wanderlusingk

Karen is a New Yorker now living in Amsterdam who loves adventure travel, seeing wildlife in their natural habitats, and exploring cultural destinations.
You can visit here over at:
Or check her out on Instagram at: @wanderlustingk
Her Pintrest is also full of goodies: Wanderlustingk

Bad Decisions 101 – Life on the PCT

1100 miles into my thru hike of the pct I fractured my ankle. Actually at the time I convinced myself that it was ‘just’ a sprain. To make things even more exciting when this happened I was 2 miles from camp but 33 miles from the nearest road! After a lot of tears and help from my hiking saviors I limped to camp. I was already in get-to-Canada-or-bust mode so I knew I needed a plan. (full disclosure: this injury was totally my fault born of my fear of river crossings. Moreover rushing water + wet shoes + wet log = bad fall) So my plan was to limp/hike 10 slow miles a day, over Sonora Pass out to a road and hitch to town.

Easy, well so it seemed. Except on the very first day I took a wrong turn and limp/hiked 3 miles in the wrong direction! Suffice it to say I had a huge breakdown in the middle of nowhere and didn’t get very far that day. I managed day 2 without getting lost, figured out a way to limp/hike faster and made up some miles! Day 3 my confidence buoyed by the thoughts of being somewhere warm and off my ankle that night. I was making great progress stopping occasionally at snow fields to stuff snow in my sock!

Forester approach (2)

Coming over the last snowy pass I knew I would make it! I could see the road from the summit! I could also see the trail winding off around ANOTHER mountain! No I thought, that’s so far. That’s when I made the oh so brilliant choice to-leave-trail, and make a bee line to the road. I could slide down the snow (glissading, way better than limping), cross the wooded field and be there in no time. So off I went. Bad Idea.

 PSA: Never leave the trail, especially if you are injured and nobody knows where you are!

After quickly sliding down the mountain I realized the error of my ways. The small wooded field was by no means small and there was a steep drop off between me and said field. DOH! With the sun dropping quickly I couldn’t bring myself to climb back up so I continued on. I found a way down but I would first have to cross a stream of rushing snow melt. Remember that fear of stream crossing I mentioned. After some crying and beating myself up I forded that freezing stream wonky ankle and all. Bushwhacking the whole way I finally made it through that ‘small’ wooded field and up to the highway! With some help I hitched into town and subsequently made it to Canada! Lessons Learned! It’s not an adventure til something goes wrong!

And so it begins Southern Terminus

 By Elyse at Wandering Chardonnay

Elyse is one badass hiker having completed the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail (way to go!) and most of the Appalachian Trail, and is now preparing for the ultimate US thru-hike: The Continental Divide Trail in 2017.

You can follow her adventures at: Wandering Chardonnay
Check her out on Instagram: @elysew

Wet Boots and Bear Scat

So it was our first backpacking trip as a couple. My boyfriend and I had slogged down this steep downhill all day after outrunning a storm in an exposed valley at 12,000′. Despite being tired, spirits were up as we reached our chosen for camp that night.

As the sun began to hang low on the horizon we headed down the trial a bit to fetch water. Squirrel decided he would hop across the stream to a small patch of grass to get to a better spot to grab water. His enthusiasm got the best of him and he slipped and plunged into the beaver pond beyond the stream. Oops…


No biggie, we thought. It’s still pretty warm and we can get a big fire going and make a teepee of sticks to hang the wet footwear over to dry. Naturally, we began grabbing wood for a larger fire.

“Uhhhh, Squirrel, what’s that on the ground? It looks like bear shit.” I said suddenly moving a large log.

“Well Fox, that is indeed bear scat.” We looked around, there was poop everywhere! With wet footwear, tired bodies, and a sun on the run towards the horizon we weighed our options. Laziness set in. We chose to kick that fire into high gear and stay put for the night.

After a night of fitful sleep we woke at 5am with an urgency to get the hell out of there. We set out in the early morning sun and as we rounded the bend in the trail there was a sudden crash, bang, crunch. A creature, quite larger than us, was also in a hustle to get moving. We never saw what it was lurking in the trees, but we were happy knowing that we made out it all in one piece!



What’s Your Story?

Do you have a campfire tale? Been stranded? Had to deal with an unexpected encounter with wildlife? Ever dealt with spooky things that went bump in the night? Lost the trail? I want to hear from you! Send me your stories! You don’t need a blog. Submissions are to be 300-500 words long with 2 high quality photos. Drop me a line here!

Short stories from bloggers about what happens with things go wrong in the outdoors. From Borneo, Malaysia to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), to backpacking in Colorado and beyond we've all had our blooper moments!

Happy adventuring.



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38 Thoughts on “Campfire Tales – Shorts Stories in the Outdoors”

  • Great stories that are both interesting and offer something that we can all learn from out in the wild. Being in a tight spot can also bring out the very best in us… to be able to overcome – although it is usually best to avoid these situations in the first place if this is at all possible. Thank you for sharing – really enjoyed it.

    • Thanks Nicole! Sometimes you just get trapped in these situations – what’s amazing to me is how you react. I feel like there’s a moment to just panic and if you collect yourself for a second you usually end up making a rational decision.

  • I am not really scared of anything but damn leeches would creep me out too. And I would have probably gotten a 2nd wind to move camp if I found more than one pile of Bear Poop! haha. I was in the Boy Scout so we were always doing knucklehead things that most likely should have killed us. Wish I was young and fearless (dumb) like that again cause now I think my caution often leads to more accidents in the wood or other adventures rather than blind stupidity!

    • Oh in hindsight we should have moved, but it’s always one of those things were at the time you’re kinda like ehhhhhh I’ll deal with it. Having a dog in camp sure helped me feel better. I miss being young and fearless – totally get what you’re saying!

  • I would love to submit a few stories but there are no pictures of those horrifying moments when someone decides to “scare” the elephant and you see your life passing through! But like you said, now we laugh about it! Great stories here!!

    • Haha – I hope no one was taking a photo! Sounds like it’s time to run! Please feel free to submit Sara! The photo doesn’t have to be from the moment – it could be from the trip or region you were in.

  • Great concept for an article series … when I was in Sumatra I had a close escape with an Orangutan! I thought they looked cuddly … but no! I think I even have some pics just before I got charged at!

  • Great stories. Travel brings the best out of facing such situations. I loved the wet boots…… I once lost soles of my both shoes while climbing a hill in the rain and had to stay barefoot for half a day in the forest. That was a bad planning as I trusted my 8 years old shoes. That was a real camp experience for me that I will never forget

  • Oh Dear! I luckily don’t have any stories like that but I would freak so much. Especially Elyse’s about being injured and alone. Though it’s cool hearing these stories and seeing it end mostly okay. At least you all have good stories to tell! ha

  • Oh wow, these are great stories. From challenging situations to positive endings. Not always the case!! The leeches story is frightening. I would probably consider going back 🙂 Great series and looking forward to reading more.

  • Leeches, off trails, 1100 mile hikes, river crossing, bear brave and adventurous travellers here. Hats off to all of you. Very inspring stories and lessons…

  • Seems like amazing adventure! I love hiking, I wish my husband too so I could organise some trips like that! I would hate the leeches tho 😀 so gross haha

  • This made me remember that one time our safari guide decide to charge through the middle of a big fire in the Kruger National Park… Ah good old Africa 🙂

  • Oh gosh! Leeches really make me cringe. Had a similar experience in Vietnam and I was a bit paranoid for a while after. I love this piece, very similar to my own blogs that are more story-based too!

  • I’ve had leeches on me in Brazil – they really hurt. Love hearing about other people’s travel disasters – hopefully you’ll find some more stories to share with us! The ones in the comments are pretty good too!

    • Owwie ya they do! I have enough of my own stories to write a book at this point – but I love to hear about other people’s travel mishaps as well. There’s always something to be learned and when things go wrong you always gain some perspective about yourself – it’s interesting to hear about what others have learned.

  • Great stories. I did a lot of trekking in kyrgyzstan and nepal. my first time trekking in snow in kyrgyzstan was rather scary and I am also no hero when I have to pass those big yaks on the trails in nepal.

    • I was just thinking about the yaks today! I’m afraid I’ll be scared if I’m on the side of a steep hill and I have to get out of the way! Heights scare me, but I live for the adventure! How did you find Kyrgyzstan? That place is on my list! 🙂

  • I got the willies reading the leech story! My ankle started to itch and I literally just looked down to make sure nothing was there. Ahhh to be in nature.

  • Haha! I didn’t even know that leech socks existed! Earlier this year I stayed on a vineyard where on the first day I saw, the stuff of nightmares, an Indiana Jones-esq tarantula. Despite being told that they didn’t bite and couldn’t hurt me, I slept with the light in every day for the month I was there.

    It would have taken some serious persuasion to talk me out of wearing the socks! Great read!

  • I didn’t even know that leech socks existed! Earlier this year I stayed on a vineyard where on the first day I saw, the stuff of nightmares, an Indiana Jones-esq tarantula. Despite being told that they didn’t bite and couldn’t hurt me, I slept with the light in every day for the month I was there.

    It would have taken some serious persuasion to talk me out of wearing the socks! Great read!

  • Except for the fractured ankle, these are the “exciting” things about hiking and adventuring. Don’t worry about leeches; I’ve been bitten so many times during our hikes that we got used to them. Their bites are not really dangerous although they do look disgusting.

    My most “memorable” hike story was that time when I underestimated a mountain. Being an experienced hiker and mountaineer, I didn’t physically prepare myself for a grueling climb up the most difficult trail of Mt. Pulag, the Philippines’ 3rd highest mountain. I paid dearly with a massive, extremely painful 10-hour cramp on both legs!

    • I’ve never been too bothered by leeches – they definitely look scary when they are all swollen with blood. I too am an experienced hiker and mountaineer. I feel it’s pretty easy to look at something from the comfort of a couch and be like “ya that will be no big deal,” but it always is. The “easier” 14,000′ peaks in my neck of the woods are still challenging mountains that deserve respect. I recently successfully completed a winter ascent up the class II ridge of Atlantic Peak and was reminded of that. It was only 6 miles round trip, but I got 3/4 of the way down and collapsed in a heap of exhaustion! Well worth the effort, but I was sore for days!! It’s part of the joy of being outside and why I yearn to continue to explore the far corners of the world. Cheers!

  • I love reading other people’s travel stories. Such an interesting idea for a post. That story about the leeches got me. They terrify me! I freak out if seaweed touches me when swimming though so I’m just a general wuss lol

  • And here I thought throwing our backpack which had my phone in it over a cliff of rocks that landed in the water in the Narrows at Zion National Park was a hiking blooper! Our story is nothing compared to these haha. Love this idea and all the stories. Now that they are all safe and sound and well it really is fun to look back and laugh or say phew to their experiences.

  • Oh my gosh the leeches!!! I HATE leeches. But being a Missouri farm kid, we encountered them all the time. I would cry every time I found one haha I haven’t had a leech in years but I have a feeling I would be very dramatic if I ever did.

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