Creepy Moments in Solo Travel: The amorous camp ground host

A few years back, I traveled solo for the first time.  I’d been working at Summer Camp USA in the beautiful State of Maine and had about 6 weeks before my visa ran out and I had to return to Oz.

Not entirely sure how I would spend this time, I happened to be browsing in a book shop, looking at the National Geographic Guide to State and National Parks, when I noticed that many parks had camping facilities.  Being an outdoorsy sort of girl, I figured why not drive across country, visit and camp in the parks, with my final destination to see friends on the West Coast, at Portland, Oregon (or as it has been come to be known recently, Portlandia).

My friends have often questioned whether a female traveling solo in the US was a great idea (especially my Aunt Foxy who lives in Nevada and who insisted I call her daily for an alive-ness check).  Still, save for these few moments I am to share, I was always very comfortable.  And let’s face it- those adventures that don’t turn in to a bad TV thriller, make for a good yarn later.

I wonder where the name ‘Tall Pines’ came from?

My first destination was Sugarloaf Mountain in northern Maine for a spot of mountain biking.

On the way I thought it prudent to stop off and buy a tent from Walmart ($32.95!)- very handy when camping, I’ve found.

Of course, that night at the Tall Pines Camp Ground, I felt like a bit of a fool (tool?) as I struggled for a good hour to put the tent up for the first time, not helped by the fact that I couldn’t find the instructions, (which turned out to be permanently located inside the tent cover).

Still, it was hardly a creepy moment in solo travel… that was still ahead of me.  After a week or so, I became a pro at setting up my tent and repacking the car, and survived the entire trip without significant bear maulage.

When at Devil’s Tower, avoid the shower

When I found myself half way across the country 9 or 10 days later, the trip had largely been smooth sailing.  I was headed to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming- an extinct but intact volcano, for a late afternoon hike with a fellow solo traveler I’d met at another national park, and a look at the attached prairie dog reserve.

By the time we got to the back side of the Tower, it was quiet, almost deserted and deeply shadowed as the afternoon light faded.

This might have been quite unsettling, had I been there alone, but with the quiet stoic Bethany by my side, it was just beautiful.

So this is what a volcano core eroded by time looks like

Bethany left after our walk to find the center of North America (Lebanon) inviting me to go with her, but as that was back east, I decided to push on to my next destination.  Only problem was, when I got in the car, I discovered I was low on gas- and the tiny town at Devil’s Tower was all out.  As I didn’t fancy being stranded on the side of highway I-90 at night, there was nothing to do but look for a camp ground in this odd, eery and transient place.

Now, one of my rules was that there had to be other campers….safety in numbers and all that.  From where I was in my car, I could see a couple of RVs set right up close to the road, so I figured the grounds must be quite full.

The camp had what looked like a large lodge, which turned out to be the restaurant.  The proprietor, a man in his late fifties came out, told me I could pick any spot on the ‘circle’ and inquired as to whether I had had dinner.  He advised he was the chef, and a good one at that, and said if I came back in he’d buy me a glass of wine.

Well, I thought that was right mightily friendly of him, and having generally been living on a diet of Wendy’s, tinned things and an enormous never-ending bag of chips I took from Summer Camp, I decided to dine in.

However, I was a bit surprised (read: dismayed) to drive my car around the back and discover that aside from the two RVs, there were NO other patrons.  Not one.  On the upside, I had an amazing view of the Tower.  On the downside, that glass of wine seemed a lot less tempting.

“Oh, no, I think that’s Steve”

Still, a woman has to eat, and after setting up, I made my way inside and was looking over the menu in the foyer when the proprietor came out, and said “Oh, hello again”. He then proceeded to put his hand on my shoulder and give it a slow, sleazy massage.  Now, while I can handle a degree of male forwardness, and I’m generally quite polite, there is a line.  I visibly recoiled and stepped away…. but remarkably, he wasn’t deterred and began making some menu recommendations.

After choosing the ‘delicious house specialty’ just to get away as quickly as possible (incidentally, it was breadcrumb-coated deep fried something, and horrid), I took a seat in the almost empty restaurant.  The only other patrons (and occupants of the RVs) were 6 blokes working on a construction project down the road.  Comforting.  True to his word, the owner came out shortly thereafter and offered a glass of wine, “on me”.

I declined, mumbling something about not being much of a drinker…. to which he replied “Why- does wine make your knickers fall off?

The next hour had me fending off this and other such delightful remarks as “You must get cold out there sleeping by yourself”  and “Traveling alone, sounds like you could do with a hand sometimes” before I finally made my escape and headed for the (relative) safety of my tent.

I thought I had shuddered off his remarks, but found myself a bit creeped out.  So much so, that despite having had a long day, which included tours of the world’s second and fourth largest cave systems, and the hike around the Tower, I couldn’t bring myself to have a shower.  The bathrooms were connected to the main lodge and the internal door was secured by a mere hooked lock.  I really didn’t fancy being naked within 50 miles of Mr Amorous.

Back in my tent, I decide to take some precautions.  Sure, I could have slept in my locked car, but a fierce sense of independence (and the fact that I would have to move

“Great views come at great price”

my bike off the back seat) made me to decide to put a camping box in to the awning, so that any unwanted visitor would trip over it on the way in, and alert my army of prairie dogs.

Still….nights alone and slightly uneasy in a tent are long, long nights indeed and I was alert to every sound and rustle from beyond the walls of my tent.

The next morning, to my immense surprise, I awoke at sparrow’s to find myself gloriously alive and unravished by a bear of the human kind.  The prairie dogs were calling to wake me (though I think they got my name wrong, as they seemed to be saying Allan! Allan! Allan!)

I leaped from my sleeping bag in to the chilly, dewy morning air, and packed up my car and wet tent faster than you would ever have thought possible, dreading at every moment a morning meeting with the man who had attempted such a skillful seduction of me the night before.

Everything packed at last, (and no breakfast in bed option having appeared), I breathed a sigh of relief and hopped in the car…. only to discover my car keys were nowhere to be seen.

Stay tuned to find out what happened in the next episode of Creepy Moments in Solo Travel.

Thanks to the  The Lazy Travelers, a couple of my favourite bloggers, for inspiring me to write this blog!

About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Apparently, there are people who go traveling and just see things and nothing weird happens. I'm not one of those people....come on holiday with me and find out why!

9 Responses to “Creepy Moments in Solo Travel: The amorous camp ground host”

  1. Oh crap, Allan, what a creepster! Glad you made it unscathed.

  2. WELL this story is horrifying. we are both flattered we inspired you and sorry we brought all these memories flooding back. xo!

  3. Creepy indeed! Reminds me of the aptly named ‘Creepy-creep guy’ who loitered by the showers in the international student college I stayed in while on exchange in NL; although the doors did have proper locks, it was always awkward to accidentally almost barge into the fella who just happened to be passing by at the exact moment I (or my female roommate) were exiting the showers… And then again the next day… And the next…. If I remember rightly he was from the States….!

  4. I love that You Tube of Allan and Steve the praire dogs!

  5. I worked in a comic shop for around six months and had my fair share of sleazes and weirdos… But I think you win!

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