On Hiking Alone
I really like this quote, thanks to my sister for sharing it with me. There has been a lot of talk in comment sections, in the NY Times and on Social Media about the woman who died in Maine. A lot of people are posting reminders, never hike alone, it’s not safe. Let’s understand something, hiking is inherently not safe, you can ask a lot of my hiking friends, or me for that matter. Hiking is a dangerous activity one misstep can lead to damaged, knees, backs, bones or even death. We talked about this a lot on the Appalachian Trail last year. A wrong turn can get you lost and in some places lost for good. You can get bit by poisonous snakes, mosquitoes (the most dangerous), bears, or mountain lions. But I’ll tell you this, sitting on the couch will kill you a hell of a lot faster and in less pleasurable surroundings.
It’s not always possible to have a hiking partner and most day hikes are unbelievably safe, at least as safe as any hike can be. There are also some serious benefits to hiking alone, you’re quieter so you see a lot more wildlife. You get to be alone with your thoughts and even find natural quiet. You get to pick your own pace and control how far and how hard you go without inconveniencing anyone else.
Now, there are trade offs, there always are, hiking alone is more dangerous and remote hiking can exponentially increase that danger. I just think in most places, on most days, the trade offs are acceptable, but my eyes are wide open and yours should be as well. If I die on a hike because I’m alone, I’m good with that, not the dying part, the fact that I willingly put myself in that situation and knew the potential consequences.
More important than having a hiking partner, in my estimation, is preparation. I think a solo well-prepared hiker is safer than a pair of unprepared hikers. You should know the area, at least at a general map level. You should have a map, supplies (yes your pack will be heavier), you should give an itinerary to someone and they should know what time/day means you’re overdue and they should be concerned. You should have a compass and know how to navigate with it. Knowing at least a little bit about living off the land is also a good skill to have. You don’t have to be Suvivor Man/Woman, but you should have some basic skills especially if you are going remote. Knowing how to properly deal with wildlife like bears, snakes and mountain lions is also a good idea.
NONE OF THIS, is to say that people who have gotten lost or died weren’t prepared. No matter how prepared you are things can happen that you can’t control. It’s horribly sad when hikers get lost or injured and end up dead. So please be prepared, be careful but don’t completely abandon the idea of hiking alone, I’m not going to give it up anytime soon, and I plan on having many happy hiking days. ~ Rev Kane