When Backpacking Goes Wrong

Caroline Stratton
February 23, 2016

With orientation over, six of my friends and I decided to plan a trip before classes started.  Our plan was to stay at Lake Tekapo Thursday night and then…well, there’s no point in telling y’all what we planned after that because after Lake Tekapo, all of our plans changed.  But anyways, back to my story. 

We arrived at Lake Tekapo around 5 PM and headed down to the lake where we took in the beauty and threw some skipping rocks, disrupting the peaceful water.  We realized we didn’t have camping arrangements for the night so we began driving around the lake looking for a spot to pitch our tents.  We had no success, so we began driving back into civilization to try and find a hostel to take us in.  As a last resort we pulled over before leaving the lake because one of us saw a sign just off the road.  The sign informed us that there was a hut just a 7km hike into the mountains.  The time was 6:45 PM, so we had two hours until sunset; just enough time to hike 4.3 miles into the unknown, right?

I had brought with me a four-person tent and someone else brought a two-person tent.  But thinking that we were going to be sleeping in a hut that night, I removed the tent from my backpack (like an absolute kook) to spare my back from the extra weight.  We enthusiastically began our hike; dry, excited, and optimistic. 

I’ll fast-forward three hours when our moods changed a bit.  After multiple river crossings that left us a bit damp, and for one unfortunate member of our group who fell in, a bit soaked, we were desperate to find this mysterious hut.  My mile tracker told us that we had been hiking for around 9km, 2 km father than the sign said we would need to go.  The sun had set, we were walking straight into a storm that was welcoming us with thunder and lightening, and below us was a river with dark rushing water and no clear trails to follow in any direction. 

Now remember how I added in the detail about leaving my tent in the car?  Yea this is where that small detail became a substantial issue.  As the rain poured down we decided the safest thing to do was pitch the two-person tent and attempt to take shelter.  This tent was around the size of the doghouse my family’s Husky used to sleep in.  Somehow we managed to fit four boys and three girls into this tent that we named Gerald.  The two doors to the tent had to stay open so that we could stick our legs out, so I guess if you want to get really specific we only fit around four people in the tent. 

As I tried to fall asleep, I could feel raindrops hitting my sleeping bag and soaking through to my legs.  I woke up around 4:00 AM thinking I was in the scene from The Parent Trap and someone pushed my sleeping bag and I into a lake.  My entire lower body was soaked, and the rain hadn’t stopped.  The puddle my legs were in was also soaking the hair of the girl I was sleeping next to.  We woke everyone else up because of our shivering and discussed switching bodies around so that I could take refuge in a dryer spot for a few hours.    

This night may have been one of the most miserable nights I have ever spent outdoors, but it was also hands down my favorite night yet since being in New Zealand.  When we realized sleeping probably wasn’t a possibility, everyone began sharing personal details and stories about themselves that I would have never gotten to hear if we would have found the mystery hut.  At around 4:30 AM, we all peeped our heads out of the tent and were welcomed by the most amazing scene in the sky I have ever seen.  The last few hours I had spent hadn’t been the most enjoyable, but seeing the stars riding along the Milky Way turned on a light in me that strengthened my faith and reminded me that I am always being looked after. 

Waking up the next day, I knew that was the most important night I had had yet.  Not only because I felt I had created a bond with each member of the group, but also because we managed to turn an unfortunate situation into a night I’ll always remember and treasure. 

If you are wondering about the mysterious hut, it was less than a five-minute walk from where we set up Gerald.  If you ever stay in that hut, tell it I hope we can be friends one day.

Until next time,

Caroline. xx


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Caroline Stratton

<p>I&#39;m Caroline, a native to Southern California, and a student at Texas Christian University. &nbsp;I&#39;m studying Social Work and hope to eventually work in the field of child welfare, where I&#39;ll give children who haven&#39;t had the best start to their lives a chance to be successful. &nbsp;I love to play soccer, surf, go on backpacking trips, and eat delicious, healthy food. &nbsp;I&#39;m hoping to meet new people, explore as many places in New Zealand as I can, and gain cultural awareness through my experience abroad. &nbsp;I&#39;m ready for some new adventures and in New Zealand, those aren&#39;t hard to find.</p>

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