Several months ago I wrote an entry about women (in particular) traveling alone on photo expeditions called Should Fear Keep Photographers from Exploring Outdoors Alone? I made a suggestions regarding safety and trusting your instincts.
I made a trip last week to Providence Canyon State Park last week in Lumpkin, Georgia. I've been wanting to visit for some time as it is promoted as Georgia's "little Grand Canyon". To be honest, that name gives the park too much credit, as a disappointed couple I talked to at the park would tell me, but at least I can check it off my list of places to see in Georgia.
My husband was busy on Army business so I ventured down the Lumpkin on my own. Providence Canyon State Park was not staffed and it was overrun with shrubs and trees blocking the canyon views. Most of all, I felt eerily unsafe being there alone.
Knowing that it is unmanned is unsettling. Providence Canyon is in the middle of nowhere, which makes for great night photos, free from the light pollution of the closest cities, but it also means if you take a tumble or twist an ankle.. or are accosted... you are completely on your own. The park is supposed to close at 9 pm, but we drove back for night pictures and the gate was still wide open after 9. From what I've heard and seen, no one actually polices the park the majority of the time and the $5 parking fee is null, since no one is at the post.
Being there alone with just my camera was unnerving. I did encounter a few people and hoped that they were decent, and they were, but I ventured into the wooded area around the canyons for some shots and felt very vulnerable. I was actually a bit scared. At one point I heard the rustling of leaves not far off and what sounded like, gulp, a bear snort. The fact is that this is out in nature with nothing of consequence anywhere nearby. So if a weird ax murderer doesn't get you, a bear or wolf might!
The park is off the main road meaning that a trucker can go by, see you alone and stop in the park to do whatever he wishes, and if he knows the area and the fact that it is isolated, deserted and unmanned, you may be in trouble.
When my husband and I returned later that night, at sunset, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach and decided not to stay. It was just a gut feeling telling me that something wasn't right and that something wasn't safe. Maybe there were wolves or a bear in the woods, or maybe it was just one too many murder shows, but whatever the case, I went with my gut and we left. I was disappointed for days later because my hope was to photograph the Milky Way and the meteor shower with the canyons, so obviously I was very uneasy to let an opportunity like that slip away.
The bottom line is that a photographer does take risks every day, both big and small, but at the end of the day, we must trust our instincts. I am a firm believer in "the gift of fear", that God-given instinct that warns us against danger. (The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker is highly recommended!)
See my previous blog post Should Fear Keep Photographers from Exploring Outdoors Alone? for tips on protecting yourself and being safe while exploring. In the meantime, here's one of the scary photographs I shot at the canyon!