I’ve done a lot of my long distance hiking solo. Well, that is to say I’ve started out many of my trips solo. As much as I like to plan I’ve given in to the philosophy of, “the trail provides,” even when it comes to hiking partners.
I hiked with a good friend, Average Joe, on the Appalachian Trail, but when I had a foot injury that took me off the trail for a few weeks in northern Virgina and she had to keep hiking to meet family, I spent the next month and a half solo hiking and coming and going in different hiking groups as we traveled north. When Average Jo got Lyme Disease later I was finally able to catch up and we finished together.
When I left the Mexican border on the PCT in 2006 I had started the trail as a solo woman, but didn’t find myself alone all that much. In fact by the time I had reached the Saufley’s at mile 454 I had found one of my best friends to this day, NEMO. The trail magic that a hiking partner can bring has the power to make or break a hike, meeting NEMO and lots of other hikertrash made my PCT hike.
When I chose to thru-hike the Colorado Trail in 2007 after a summer of leading trail crews out of Durango, Colorado, I had spent so much of my time in close proximity to other people that I craved time alone in the wilderness.
Maybe it was growing up in the backwoods of Wisconsin climbing trees or exploring the shores of near-by Fountain Lake, but I thrive in nature alone. I didn’t count the days between seeing people on the Colorado Trail, but I do remember thinking three weeks was long enough to go without much human contact. Now, after having spent the last five years working long hours, living in a city, and not hiking more than a few days at a time, I can’t imagine a more delightful way to spend three (or more) weeks than walking alone.
Inevitably the first question I get asked when people find out I’ll be starting a thru-hike alone is if I’m scared. Sure, the first few nights out I’ll jump at noises in the night. I’ll sleep with my hiking pole by my side ready to turn it into a deadly stabbing device if bothered in the dark of night, but after realizing nothing is out to get me, after relaxing into the pace of days spent walking and watching the world pass by one step at a time, I love it.
Because the Continental Divide Trail is less traveled than the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, I know the opportunity to hike with others will be fewer and farther between, but on the otherhand I followed a few hiking journals this year and was surprised to hear how many people were on the trail. The word was an actual “tread” was getting developed through the New Mexico desert because so many feet had traveled the same path.
I’ll take it!
I hope to travel long segments of the CDT alone, but I also hope to meet and hike with others.
Much of the magic I find on the trail is other people. The point is, I like hiking alone, and I’m not scared…much.