Everyone’s preference on the perfect hiking companion is different. From groups of friends to significant others or even going it alone, each person has their own style. Personally, I always like to hike with my dogs and wife by my side, so when I was on my most recent solo road trip I had to get used to hiking alone. Now, there are a lot of great things about hiking alone. The solitude gives you time to think, to reflect and to get to know yourself. But I would be lying to say that my solo hiking didn’t come with some trepidation.
I was in a new place on trails I didn’t know, in unfamiliar landscape and in bear country to boot. Add it all up and it can be a little nerve racking. From the outset my hiking speed was slower than normal listening to my surroundings, getting to know the sounds and what was making those sounds. I think I was most worried about what I might run into on the trail. Not other people, because there wasn’t a single other car in the parking lot at the trailhead, but what wildlife I might encounter. I had stopped at the local outdoor shop to chat with the experts about where to go what to expect. By the way, I always suggest this if you have never hiked in the area before. It is a great way to find the best hikes and learn about the trails. When we were discussing the trails, the shop owner told me to watch out for moose. She said I wouldn’t have to worry much about bears, but moose are seen on the trail ALL the time. Now moose don’t frighten me, but on the winding trail with blind corners every 300 feet things can get a little tense when you don’t know what you might see around the next bend. You start questioning what the noises you are hearing are and if that really is just a squirrel rustling in the branches. When a pile of snow from the evergreen trees hanging over the path falls on your head you jump a little bit.
As I continued, my pace picked up and I got a little more confident. I was getting used to my surroundings and had plenty of time to come up with ways I might fight off a moose if it came running through the woods at me. The scenery distracted me from my worries as I was greeted with beautiful views around every corner instead of a giant moose.
I made numerous solo hikes on my trip and every one of them had a few tense moments. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t go on a solo hike again, on the contrary, I fully enjoyed my time in the wild alone. There is no shame in being scared. Being scared can teach you a lot about yourself. And with learning comes growth and with growth comes new discoveries, discoveries that you otherwise might never find. This isn’t to say go out and do something stupid. Fear is there to keep you in check. Don’t go jump out of a plane without a parachute, but go ahead and jump out of a plane with a parachute. I hear it is incredibly fun! Go ahead and tackle your fear head on. You never know what it might lead to.
Tips For Solo Hiking
Let Others Know: Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. There are also some great phone apps for this.
Sing A Song: If you don’t want to run into wildlife on the trail, it is OK to talk to yourself or sing. Bear bells are also popular among solo hikers, just in case you don’t want anyone you run into to think you are crazy.
Pack Everything You Need: You won’t have a fellow hiker there to bail you out if you forget something at the trailhead, so double check to make sure you have everything you need.
Tackle Your Fear: Fear can keep people from doing things that they love or things they have always wanted to do. You don’t have to act like you aren’t scared, instead embrace the fear. You will be a better person for it.