Even though I’ve been on hundreds of hikes, I’ve never gone on a hike into a forest alone. I’ve done urban hikes alone, but I was never truly alone and still close to a main road. Why? I just never considered it before because I have always viewed hiking as an activity to do with someone else. I was also told to never hike alone, so I never did.
What Inspired This?
On a hike with a friend, I noticed and was in awe of how many single women were hiking solo. I remember telling my friend, I would never do that, especially that late in the afternoon, when “rush hour” hiker traffic is over. Well, one Saturday afternoon at 3pm, I just decided to take my dog, Kula, and go. I had an itch and didn’t really think about it other than – it’s a small parking lot and with the majority of hikers done and gone – I might get lucky. Sure enough, I pulled up at 4:37 pm and got the one and only spot.
Where did I go?
Barclay Lake – I had never done it and I wanted to check it out as a potential backpack trip with some newbies later in the summer. Taking newbies means a fairly short hike with very little elevation, this one was 4.4 miles and only 500 elevation gain. I had read several posts that said it was good for beginner backpackers.
I’m glad I did it because it confirmed for me that I am not a solo hiker!!! Funny thing was, there were two solo female hikers with their dogs coming out as I was going in. You go girl!!! But not for me!
What was I afraid of?
Pulling off the main road and starting the 4 mile climb on the narrow, unpaved gravel Forest Service Road was my first clue, I almost turned around! The canopy of trees made it seem like it was dusk already and I didn’t see another car/soul coming down until 2 miles in. Silly I know, but remember, I’ve never done this alone and my mind was working over time on all the reasons why I shouldn’t being doing this alone:
- Bears – per this article, even the data supports that I should be more worried about bees and dogs than bears. Plus the collective wisdom is to hike in groups.
- I’m Female – all I will say here is that I’ve watched way too much Dateline and Law & Order SVU. I had to stop watching years ago- too much violence against women.
- Getting lost – although I carry the basic survival must have’s with me, I would rather not be lost and alone in the forest.
- Getting hurt – what if I sprained my ankle and no one was around?
Brain working over time!
The second clue was how uncomfortable I was once we got going. I was under a heavy canopy, so even though I had plenty of daylight left, I found myself waking super fast thinking it would be dark soon. I was also very aware of how enclosed and quiet it was not having someone to talk to. For me, it was very eerie. Good news – it was only 2 miles to the lake or I might have turned around.
We walked fast and I shook the leash as we walked to make noise. There is a treat bag, a container with poop bags and a set of house keys on the end of Kula’s leash at all times – it makes a nice clinking noise. So I used it to warn bears of our presence as we walked. I also talked to Kula just to add some more noise. He agreed with everything I said 🐶. He’s such a good listener.
Half way there, there was a nice big open area where you cross over the creek on a bridge. I could feel myself finally relax. After this, the forest wasn’t as dense, which also helped me to relax. We hadn’t seen anyone since the first 15 minutes in and didn’t see anyone else until we got to the lake. There was a boy scout group on an overnight trip – 16 of them plus another 10 or so chaperones. They invited me to join them for dinner – sweet – but I passed on the broccoli and mac n cheese (yuk).
After a water break, we headed back out, but this time I carried my bear spray in my hand. Although I was more comfortable, because I knew what to expect, I still wasn’t able to fully relax to appreciate the experience – being in the moment enjoying nature with no one around.
I was running through a bear encounter scenario in my head as we walked back; what if I saw one ahead of me mid-way? The guidance is to back away slowly. Ok, so back away and go where? If he leaves, do I continue? And what if he came back? Should I go back to the lake with the boy scout troop? I’m not gonna wanna walk back out by myself at this point – NO WAY!!! Would I have to stay overnight with the troop? I don’t have overnight gear and my husband is expecting to hear from me by 6:30pm.
Then I started thinking about all of the women out there that not only hike on their own, but the thru-hikers doing the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT)! It truly amazes me that there are so many brave and adventurous women out there. I admire them for knowing what they want to do and going after it, despite the pressure they must get from loved ones not wanting them to go alone.
I’m not built for hiking solo in a remote area! Being an introvert, I do require plenty of solo time, but I prefer to have solo time in the comfort of my own home or on my lanai taking in the sunset. I realized I don’t like the feeling of being alone in a forest by myself. My husband and my friends are just going to have to continue to be my hiking buddies (along with Kula). But I whole heartedly support and admire women who can do it and can enjoy it!
I’m actually following a female, solo thru-hiker on the PCT right now, her name is Gretchen. I do not know her personally, but I have been reading her blog and find her journey fascinating. I’m rooting her on and admiring her from the sidelines!
Thankfully, we each have our own way to enjoy nature!