You know how they say there are no atheists in foxholes? Here’s a corollary from a story about a guy who hiked the full length of the Appalacian Trail:

Townsend said he nearly lost his life the first day in the wilderness, when he tried to cross a fast-moving stream.

“It had been raining a couple of days and the stream I needed to cross turned into this raging river. I was by myself and started to cross it,” he said. He was halfway when the current ripped his trekking poles from his hands and he was swept under, his back pack holding him down.

“I finally popped to the top and grabbed a rock. I saw I was about 10-15 feet from the bank so I threw my pack over to it and it stuck. I dove for it and was able to hold on and pull myself out,” he said. “I came to get a grip and get closer to God,” he said. “That 5-10 minutes in the river changed me.”

I have a theory about the wilderness, which goes like this: the wilderness wants me dead and out of its way; fortunately, the wilderness has few options for acting on this desire, and the only way it gets what it wants is if I do something stupid to help it out. Being a bit paranoid is helpful in the wild, because even though it is not really out to get you, it can seem to be at the precise moment you stop paying attention to what you’re doing out there.