Spent my final pre-U.S. walkabout eve in Lansing at my mom and stepdad’s house.
Tested out my sleep system in the side yard. Needed practice unpacking and repacking the bivy and sleeping bag. I intended to stay put and sleep out there all night. Thought I should start getting used to snoozing outside as soon as possible.
After about four mostly-sleepless hours it was apparent that I had much to learn about sleeping in a bivy cover.
I was absurdly twisted up and considerably colder than I should have been in a sleeping bag rated for boldly cold temperatures.
There was a voice in my mind that mocked at me for wanting to head into the house. “Can’t even handle one night out in the yard and you think you’re thru-hiking the U.S.?”
Why, yes, good voice. I do think I am thru-hiking the U.S.A. As I said, I have much to learn about sleeping in a bivy. And learning, I am. With great rapidity!
Wanting to get some solid rest to start my trip, I went inside and slept in a bed.
Reflected on those four hours in that bivy.
What the hell is a bivy anyhow?
Well, I first read of them in this article. Essentially, a water proof ground shelter.
Originally I wanted a solo tent but I became attracted to the idea of inconspicuous ground sleeping. Just find a good spot several yards from the road and bivy it up, passersby none the wiser thanks to the cover of night and a well-selected bivy color to blend with grass and brush.
I remain attracted to all that following my initial side-yard excursion. But… there are a few unique problems to manage.
The bivy itself does not provide much in the way of warmth. Its primary purpose is to provide enclosure and dryness. And provide enclosure, the bivy sure does. It’s like being in a womb. Comforting in a sense, while producing a potentially claustrophobic situation. Breathing in there can be difficult. Where’s that amniotic fluid when you need it?
Warmth comes into play via sleeping bag. Mine is a mummy bag. Appropriate title. Zipped up, can barely move in the thing (I may consider replacing it with a blanket, or using the bag but not zipping it up).
My sleep system is topped off by this trippy looking inflatable pillow (which I may forsake and use my coat as a pillow to save space).
More reflections on my first night in a bivy
March 31st struggled to shift into April 1st. Me, out in my parents’ yard.
In my cocoon. Feeling decently comfortable at first but not satisfactorily close to catching z’s. Rolled onto my side and then the other and then back to the first. The mummy bag is clearly optimized for sleeping on one’s back.
Finally found my zone. Groovy. Then came… the noises.
Footsteps, first. Little feet, not human. Hm? As I wondered what manner of creature was strolling by, I was totally caught off guard by SOMETHING pressing into the side of my bivy. Was my visitor sniffing me? I had no idea. I felt cowardly and unnerved.
Thought about making a sudden movement and scaring it off. But what if it was a fearless, hungry mountain lion (Lansing, Michigan’s specialty, right?)?
I’m too precious and middle-aged to die.
Then my fantasy took a more plausible turn: a skunk. It might have been a skunk. No way was I letting my bivy get hosed down by skunk juice so soon.
And so, I just laid there and tried to pretend that I was not imagining getting devoured and farted out by a mutant skunk.
Sounds like I am trying to be funny, but my mind really went there.
Some people applaud me for being brave, but sleep evaded me thanks to a potentially non-existent skunk.
Fastforward to now
It is currently 5AM on April 2nd. I walked about eighteen miles on day one, and am in Charlotte, MI.
Around midnight I set up my sleep system in the shadows by a tree-line behind a closed business. Slumber was light with frequent interruptions, but this bivy business will only get easier from here. I’m getting tougher all the time (except when the skunks show up
Next I am headed through Bellevue and onward to Battle Creek.
I will be utilizing www.couchsurfing.org when possible, but the traversed areas so far had no available hosts. Love roughing it like this, but I also love… showers.
Also published on Medium.