Solo Hiking…Running…Walking…Existing as a Woman

This past weekend, as I was talking with my mom and preparing to say good-bye, she said to me, “Jenn, I want to ask you, once more, to please never go hiking alone.”  She has asked me this numerous times. She can’t ever believe that I go out alone. That I leave, early in the morning, arrive and hike Shenandoah National Park (or anywhere) all alone. She can’t fathom that I’m out there for hours and sometimes only see 1-2 other people.  I sometimes don’t tell her I’m going so she doesn’t worry.

This question was asked because of Mollie Tibbets.  My mom heard her story and believed the reason she was targeted was because she was running alone. Mollie wasn’t killed because she was running solo.  A woman does not face violence BECAUSE she is solo.  There have been women killed when together. Sometimes in groups. Often times at parties.  The fact is, men go missing and die while out in nature as well and guess what, I never see, “Hey men! Be careful as you hike solo.”  I haven’t ever seen it up for debate.

I get tired of hearing, “Don’t go alone.”  Well who is going to go with me? My son? That’s been discussed here already. My daughter is too busy. I ask friends and only once out of 20 times will someone try to go with me. So my choice is to never go hiking or to act like a grown up woman and go anyway.  The violence that follows women who are alone has more to do with the men who attack them. I guarantee if you ask your female friends they all have a story about a man who reacted poorly because he was turned down, refused, or ignored. I have more than one. I have been on the receiving end of a hand that ended up across my face, in public, where no one (including my boyfriend at the time) did nothing.

Hiking alone is one of the best things I do in life. I love the solitude. I know I can take as long as I want to take photos. I can take my time or I can hurry. I do all the things I’m supposed to do: let someone know where I’m going, carry a weapon, carry bear spray (more for people than the bear), and carry my SPOT in case I get lost (this has NEVER happened – not even while bushwhacking).  I read a lot of blogs and admire the women who have hiked the PCT, John Muir, or Appalachian Trail solo.  I think it is incredible and I long to do something similar.  I refuse to be scared. I refuse to let worry overtake my life and stop me from doing the things I want to do.  When I used to travel for work, I would go out hiking wherever I was and never had any fear. I have walked the streets of Washington, D.C. at night with no fear. I have sat at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 2:00 am with no fear.   It just isn’t going to happen.

Thankfully, I haven’t ever had an issue while on a trail. I am always aware. I look around. I take notice if anyone is around me. I listen. Maybe I’m lucky that I haven’t had any issues.  I walk, hike, carry myself in such a way that shows I’m not intimidated. I’m sure that helps. I look people dead in the eyes as we pass each other on a trail.  Also, I am well versed on where I am so that if I have to take a different trail, I can. Or, I can bushwhack to safety.

This is probably getting a bit long. I hate being treated like I am not strong. I hate being treated like I don’t know what I’m doing or that I’m not careful. The words, “Be careful!” for the most part annoy me. I understand people are showing their concern but honestly, how about, “Have fun!” instead?

 

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About Jennifer G

Nature lover. Being outside keeps me sane and balanced.

Posted on August 27, 2018, in General Hiking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Very true. I cringe every time someone says women shouldn’t run alone because some men have a hard time hearing no. Mollie Tibbetts did nothing wrong. Violent men are a problem and the answer isn’t trying to change how a woman chooses to run, hike, etc.

    Hiking solo is far better than the alternative of not hiking at all. It’s great that you enjoy it. I’m impressed. The majority of thru and section hikers I see on the AT are solo, but every single one of them were men. Granted, my observations of here and there are barely a slither of who’s actually on the 2200-mile trail. It’d be interesting to know if there are fewer female solo hikers and why.

    I wish I had the skills to bushwhack! That is next level. There are a few peaks in the Catskills that require some bushwhacking. Maybe someday. I love running alone, but solo hiking isn’t for me – mainly because my fear of bears is far too intense. Sometimes I wish there was a simple way to connect with a few other hikers without having to join a group. I invite friends to join my boyfriend and I all the time, and never get a yes.

    Cheers to your next adventure!

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    • Thank you for the lovely comment. I appreciate it. I have actually followed a few women who have been hiking the AT solo. It’s impressive and I’d say out of all of them – they’ve mentioned maybe 1 creepy dude who happened to be creepy to everyone.

      And I understand being afraid of bears but black bears, specifically, are afraid of you too. I try to educate people on them. Follow protocol and you’ll be okay.

      The Catskills seem so beautiful. Bushwhacking is how I get to certain waterfalls. I love doing it but only in winter with no snakes and poison ivy. 🙂

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  2. I happened to be hiking along the Appalachian Trail this past weekend up in Maine (near the end of the trail) and came across a number of thru hikers who had maybe two weeks left on the trail. We saw a few women and a few solo hikers, but never a female solo hiker.

    I sometimes get similar comments when I travel alone. Of course I’m going to be careful and be safe. Hiking, running, walking, traveling solo is better than not doing any of those activities. I’m not going to let fear stand in the way of living my life.

    You know what I have to say to hiking solo: get it! Have the best time out on the trail!

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  3. Amen, Sister! A solo hiker, I too am annoyed when someone tells me to be careful, or to let them know I’m home safe. I let my family know where I am going and when I get home, that’s it. And because I want someone to know, not because they ask me to. I will not tell friends, and I never told my mother. They have a right to their worry nature, but don’t foist it off on me! 🙂 Keep on hiking! Today I’m going camping by myself.

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