Hey Paul, it's Rachel, the coworker you wrote about in your piece on how dangerous it was to car camp last weekend.

If other readers missed your article, they can read it here, along with all the interesting comments it collected on Facebook:

First of all, thank you to the Montana moms, dads, and grandparents who care for the safety of us young and reckless humans, whether you're related to them or not

I'll admit some of us my age (in our early- to mid-twenties) can be quite careless. Our brains are still developing and we're just getting used to this whole adulting thing. Frankly, we are toddlers in adult terms.

And no, I'm not exaggerating that our brains are still growing; apparently, they're not biologically finished until age 25. Take a look at this study published in the Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat Journal:

The development and maturation of the prefrontal cortex occurs primarily during adolescence and is fully accomplished at the age of 25 years. The development of the prefrontal cortex is very important for complex behavioral performance, as this region of the brain helps accomplish executive brain functions.

So, yeah, we're not all that "smart", objectively speaking, when it comes to behavioral performance. We might've survived teenhood just fine but adulthood is a whole different set of choices. But this letter is to argue my scenario wasn't all that "foolish", as you put it.

What exactly went down in Big Sky last weekend with this car camping situation?

A college roommate of mine who lives in Utah was visiting for her birthday to ski Big Sky. I drove over for a visit.

Big Sky Montana
Credit: Rachel Helgeson, Townsquare Media

I'm on a tight budget and have always enjoyed traveling cheaply no matter where I go (I've stayed in many sketchy hostels while traveling Europe alone in college... My mom wasn't too happy hearing about those over the phone), so I planned on car camping in my Subaru to avoid paying through the nose for a hotel room. It's relatively free to camp and Montana's national forests are exactly what the doctor prescribes for someone who loves solitude like me.

My loyal little lab-heeler mix and my .357 Magnum revolver came with me. The dog is my beloved guardian angel who alerts well (almost too well) and the revolver is just as beloved, from my father. And yes, I know how to use it.

Credit: Rachel Helgeson, Townsquare Media
Credit: Rachel Helgeson, Townsquare Media

I "camped" off Highway 191 for one evening, and my friend had my location in case something did happen. I loosely use the term "camp" because all I really did was sleep in the back of my car.

It turned out just fine - I was the only one on the road, no one followed me in from the highway, and the worst thing that happened was getting cold at night around nine degrees. The next morning I awoke to some friendly snowmobilers hopping on the trail, and I drove back into town to see my friend.

I've car camped in Montana and beyond plenty of times, and nothing horrible has happened

Am I jinxing myself? Maybe. If you believe in that stuff. I am not aloof to the responsibility of adventuring alone. I've always come over-prepared with things that would keep me safe in the outdoors, especially when it's winter.

My dad who's made his own outdoor mistakes taught me well to not be "foolish" like him. He is just as protective as you, Paul. In fact, my boyfriend who is a first responder in Montana gives me grief for regularly packing TOO much on my excursions.

Some of the commenters on your post, Paul, got it right in my opinion.

Deane said,

"I have done it since I was young and still do. Being single, I don't have a choice but to do it by myself. I feel safer doing that than many hotels and other things. Yes, I am normaling [sic] packing when car camping by myself. It is safer than many things and I feel closer to God out there, whether I am with people or by myself. Nothing is 'safe' anymore."

Another from Tracy said,

"This is such a weird article worried about nothing… I’ve car camped a million times. Waaay safer than so many other options ESPECIALLY in the forest! Let her be in peace my god can we do anything in the world anymore."

Couldn't have said it all better myself!

So, is car camping alone as a woman in Montana THAT dangerous?

Honestly, I am way more paranoid about sleeping in my own home in midtown Billings than I ever am camping alone. Nearly every weekend there's some wack stuff happening randomly that I have no control over in town, but I can't count more than one or two outdoor tragedies that have happened to women alone in Montana in the last few years.

Like that person who barricaded himself in someone's home while they were having a birthday party? The one you mentioned in your article, Paul, who also shot that man while he was just warming his truck up? That wasn't too far from my house. It could've happened to me.

My thoughts and prayers sincerely are with anyone affected by crime in Billings and throughout Montana, and I also take heed from those who commented on Paul's post who have law enforcement or medical backgrounds and have witnessed innocent victims' suffering and the aftermath.

But Tracy is right, nothing is really 'safe' anymore, whether or not the headlines and social media sensationalize crime nowadays. Not to be morbid, but I'd rather have my life taken outside while adventuring in God's green earth than be snatched from my car or home in town. Even if people can't hear me screaming.

Weigh your risks, but don't let risk stop you from living. Paul, I still appreciate your caring for my safety. You're the dad a lot of kids never had.

And to one commenter Carley, I might take you up on your offer:

"I've car camped by myself in Montana all the time. If she needs some good spots I can give her some of mine :) "

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