If you’re going to squat in the woods, Maine has prime real estate options. As a state covered in 89% of forest, you could squander out there and never be found, if that’s what you so please.

I’ve given it some thought in the sense that I’ve thought about what that would be like, but I know I wouldn’t survive one week. I am deathly afraid of the dark.

In the midst of facing hardships, family losses, and adversity, Southern Mainer Pat Hogan fled society and made a life for himself, by himself, for 29 months in the woods of Saco, Maine.

That is 28 ½ more months than I would survive.

Everything I am about to share with you was reported by the hermit himself in an article he wrote in Mainer titled “Woods Queer”. I was waiting for a beer at the Great Lost Bear and picked up a copy of the newspaper to peruse while in line, and instead of placing it back in the stand like I normally would, I brought it home with me so I could keep reading his survival story.

For you Mainers familiar with Stephen King, you may recognize the term “woods queer”. As stated in Hogan’s article, woods queer is, “a mental decline caused by long periods of isolation in [Maine’s] vast forestland.”

This is Hogan’s woods queer journey.

For the first 14 months of his hermitry, Hogan resided not far from a nature trail near a community farm, living without responsibilities other than staying alive and combatting intermittent thoughts of suicide.

He stated that his fears were hobos, teenagers, travelers, and cops. Ironically, a teenager and some cops were the first things to ruffle his feathers.

He was discovered by a runaway teenager and cops came soon after to inform him he was squatting on private property. Granted with a 24-hour eviction notice, Hogan began his move to his next campsite.

After 6 hours, 24,000 steps, and 13 round trips across a four-lane highway, Hogan continued his advanced-level social distancing within another patch of woods, an area that was actually suggested by the officers.

To give your mind’s eye something to picture, Hogan shared with Mainer that his living arrangement was built using whatever reusable trash he could find; surrendered wood, discarded tarps, and insulating materials. His bed was made up of a futon pad, egg-crate foam, and carpet, tucked away in an insulated ‘tent’ with battery-powered lights.

Not bad. It kind of sounds like my first dorm room.

As for survival resources, he commenced daily around 9 p.m. to get food, a 2.4-mile round trip hike to the bins behind the supermarket. He became resourceful and found buildings with Wi-Fi and water sources where he could fill up for cooking, cleaning, and hydrating purposes.

This self-isolation was sparked by dark times, mental battles, and life circumstances that pushed him into hermithood.

What brought him out of this? His great epiphany?

Choking on a piece of steak.

He took a bite of hot steak, felt unbearable pain on a damaged tooth, and swallowed it whole. Alone in the woods, he shoved himself into a metal-framed chair and saved his own life.

The panic attack that followed came with a great awakening: it was time to stop being an asshole.

That little wedge of steak was the catalyst to his great comeback; a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and forgiveness. Hogan shared with Mainer that although it was a dark and wild ride of hermithood, he is now more mentally healthy than he ever was, more honest, more connected with himself, and has more belief and confidence in himself.

Moral of the story: you’re only one piece of steak away from your moment of sudden revelation.

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