I don’t recommend camping in thunderstorms. Please note the in word – not under or near, but in. This may sound obvious, but as with many aspects of life, occasionally we don’t see events coming.
A particular summer’s evening in south-east England springs to mind to illustrate my point. I was sixteen and walking the South Downs Way with my best mate, Andrew. Setting up camp on Kithurst Hill, there was no sign of any impending doom The sky was ablaze with red and orange as harmless clouds drifted across the scene, trying to resist a light breeze.
Six hours later, in the early hours of the morning, both of us were screaming in terror at the unexpected prospect of imminent death. A huge storm had rolled in, illuminating our world every few seconds with lightning as the deafening roar of thunder cracked. I genuinely thought my life was over.
Mt Rose Hiking Trail Map Photo Gallery
Come sunrise we emerged from our leaking tent sodden and exhausted, just glad to be alive. We abandoned our mission and plodded to the train station. I remember wondering if hiking was an interest I wished to pursue.
Since then I’ve hiked around 12,000 miles through remote and unforgiving landscapes around the world, and some kinder environments too. I’ve battled many more storms, meteorological, physical and psychological.
I chase dreams, shun society’s expectations, run from financial commitments and flee from relationships because my most important goal is freedom, or as near as I can get to it. Sometimes, like that night in the thunderstorm, I fail and make poor decisions. But I learn from those mistakes.
In this book I share a few of my adventures, from the rolling South Downs near my home, to the wild and unforgiving landscape of the New Mexican desert. Ever since the storm all those years ago, I continue to love the great outdoors, our wild and free open spaces. They have taught me, and I’ve learnt from them I’ve travelled far.