When you’re hiking, whether it’s just for the day or on a multi-day epic, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Dangerous animals, weather conditions, and the land itself all play a role. But what happens when things go wrong in a different sort of way? Here are the 8 most embarrassing hiking experiences, highlighted with my own personal misfortunes.
1. When You Come Across Someone Pooping
This one is easily the first one to come to mind. Everybody poops, right? Yeah… sometimes it’s all too obvious. Luckily I am not the poopee in this story. I was hiking along the Susquehanna River Trail in my home state of Maryland with my mom, enjoying the leaves as their fall jackets of red, yellow and purple began to show. We rounded the corner and there was a woman squatting behind a log right next to the trail.
“What is she doing?” I whispered to my mom, obviously naive to this offense. She didn’t answer. The woman saw us, stood up in a hurry, and shuffled off down the trail. As we passed the spot where she had been, the overwhelming stench of feces hit me in the face. I had just learned what she had been doing.
Hey, sometimes you gotta go. And putting myself in that woman’s shoes, there would be nothing more embarrassing to me than really having to go only to have hikers walk up on you like we did. A note to the wise: if this happens to you, do your best to get as far off-trail as possible. If you don’t have time, well… you’d better hope that it’s not a busy trail day.
2. When You Are Hiking At the Same Pace As A Stranger
This one has happened to me multiple times, and there’s usually a great way to avoid it. If you find yourself hiking next to someone else, take a break and let them go on ahead.
That being said. There are times where no matter what you do, it seems you can’t shake your unwanted guest. When hiking in western Maryland with Alex, there was an older woman and a dog with shaggy white hair. Initially they were hiking faster, so we let them go on ahead. A little while later, we caught up to them, as they began speeding up again as soon as we reached them. Later, when they slowed, we hustled to pass them, only to have them right on our tail for a half mile. This continued throughout our hike, made worse by the absence of any other hikers.
Although this was more of an annoyance, it got a little embarrassing when we returned a “hello” to the woman for the fourth time.
Sharing the trail is a part of hiking, but sometimes you don’t want to share the trail that much.
3. When You Think You’re Allll Alone
This one has a lot of connotations, but my story here is innocent. Hiking on a part of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, Alex began to belt out a song with his own made-up lyrics. The words escalated from a bit strange to absolutely ridiculous. Just as he let out a particularly loud verse, a group of very serious men came around the bend in the trail and stared at us in surprise. They hurried past without a word, and I couldn’t hold in my laughter.
It’s easy to act like you would at home when the trail seems really empty. I’ve even come across someone clearly picking their nose, who hastily pretended to rub their neck. Next time you’re on the trail or in a tent, keep in mind it may not be quite as private as you think.
4. When You Fall Crossing That Stream/Log/Rock
Gosh, the times I have done this are… countless, honestly. I am very much a
klutz, just ask Alex. I possess no rock-hopping skills, and always am getting my ankles wet. On Billy Goat Trail (See the review of this trail here!) I was
goofing around on some rocks in the wetland area. There were a lot of hikers so of course there was an audience. Alex jumped all the way across, but I hesitated. I had one foot on the first rock, and the other stretched wayyy across to another in a half-split type situation. I stood like that for a long time, as other hikers casually walked across the bridge five feet to my right. Definitely a little embarrassing.
5. When Your Clothes Get Damaged In An Unfortunate Way
There are lots of variations of this one. The thing that happened to me happened a while back when I was a little younger. I was hiking in Rocks State Park near my hometown when a sharp branch poked straight through the side of my thin flannel shirt. I immediately pulled away. This tore the side of my shirt wide open, exposing the left side of my bra and my entire left side. Layers, people.
A few fun variations on this: slipping in the mud so that you get completely coated, splitting your pants when your foot slips, and getting your underwear snagged for an all-natural wedgie. The opportunities are endless, really.
6. When That Bear Is Actually Just A Squirrel
Guilty as charged. My first time hiking in the Shenandoah area, I was very nervous about running into my first bear. And not even a brown bear, a black bear. Every time I heard the leaves rustle, I would have to turn and look. I was frequently looking over my shoulder. This was mostly embarrassing to me personally, because I consider myself tough (like, I can eat my weight in spaghetti tough).
Of course, when I actually did run into a black bear, I was completely caught off-guard. There it was, silently standing on the trail about fifty yards ahead. It took one look and me and ran off in the opposite direction. This did not seem to ease my concern, and I spent most of the night in the tent thinking every little rustle was probably a bear (note: do not watch “Backcountry” on Netflix before camping).
7. When You’re The One Person Without The Right Gear
We’ve all seen that person on the trail. The one wearing the sneakers with no tread, hopelessly trying to gain purchase on some scree. Or the one with no map who is desperately asking everyone in sight how to get where they’re going. What was that person thinking?
I was totally that person. The thing I forgot was to layer. Alex and I were heading to western Maryland for some hiking in February. There was still snow on the ground in spots, and I had foolishly chosen to wear two shirts and a thin jacket. I shivered my way all up and down the trails. This one in particular can go from embarrassing to dangerous, so be careful.
8. When You Get That First Post-Hike Meal
Picture a nice, well-groomed family sitting down to a pleasant dinner at a local chain restaurant. Now picture a creature with long greasy locks, limbs covered in dirt, looking around at the building like it is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. That creature is me, and I am hungry.
The first post-hike meal, especially if it is after a long multi-day trek with lots of miles packed in, is absolute heaven. I have actually teared up staring at a shrimp on my plate during one of these meals. It is the hard-earned cap of a successful trip, and it is something to be relished.
That being said, while you are sitting there in food heaven, that nice, well-groomed family is watching you in horror. You slurp down every last morsel, even lick the plate, oblivious to their concern.
The problem is when you sit back, come down from your food high, and realize that you look like a starving homeless person. How do these other people look so much cleaner than you? You realize you can smell yourself, and it’s not a good smell.
Oh well, at least you’ve gotten some good food.
Well, that’s all of my embarrassing 8.
Do you have embarrassing stories of your own? I would LOVE to hear them!
Please feel free to comment below.