By Jenika Doberstein, Tubbs Ambassador
As the first snow of the 2017-18 season fell at my home in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, I spent my first weekend day catching up on sleep, watching the movie Wild, and reading A Walk in the Woods. Cheryl Strayed and Bill Bryson instantly gave me the itch to plan a hike for the following day (it’s not like me to be lazy for long). I thought of all of the trails in the area that could get me deep into the wilderness, what animals I would see, how high in elevation I would hike, and how exciting it would be to prepare for all four seasons during the hike (it’s easy to hit them all during the Fall in the Rockies). I quickly contacted my wilderness-loving friends and was saddened to learn that no one was available to join me. Although I consider myself an experienced hiker and strong wilderness woman, I typically hike with my husband or with friends, rarely solo, so I started to doubt my plans. But wait, “I am an experienced hiker and strong wilderness woman” I thought to myself, and began to plan for my hike.
Yes, yes, I know, I shouldn’t be afraid to hike solo. However, for a woman who loves murder mysteries and has a keen sense of intuition, I am cautious of putting myself into situations where I am vulnerable. Yet, I am not willing to miss out on a beautiful, invigorating, crisp, heart-pumping, Colorado hike. So I will hike…solo.
Along with the typical hiking gear of water, food, proper clothing, et cetera, hiking solo requires additional considerations. I always hike with a whistle, a knife, a first aid kit, and a cell phone, which are vital to solo hikers. The whistle is to ward off animals, use as an emergency signal (3 blasts indicate an emergency), or scare off an attacker. The knife is multi-purpose and should always be quickly accessible in a hip-belt pocket, pants pocket, or strapped on the front of your pack. For me, the knife eases my mind and makes me feel like I could pull out some fantastic ninja moves if ever needed. But in all seriousness, if you carry a knife, be sure that you are comfortable with it and can use it with ease. The first aid kit is necessary because if you are injured you will need to care for yourself. And finally, a cell phone is your contact to the outside world should you run into some misfortune. In addition to making phone calls, many areas throughout the world have 9-1-1 text abilities, which is very helpful when cell phone service is minimal. I do caution you should always turn off, or place your phone on airplane mode, while in the wilderness to conserve your battery.
It is always important to be aware of your surroundings. Not only to know your bearings and take in the beautiful scenery, but also to know who and what is around you. If you are hiking solo in an area with a high black bear population, you will want to make enough noise to alert the bears of your presence. If you are on a somewhat popular hiking trail, you will want to know who is behind, in front, and passing you along the way. This isn’t for you to play out another scene in the murder mystery going on in your head, it is more about being aware of who is around you. Instead, the young woman who you passed a few yards back could become a new hiking partner (after all, she was available today).
I find that when I hike with my husband or friends, I am so focused with our group conversations that I rarely speak to passerby. When I hike solo, I find great pleasure in saying hello to others, encouraging a young couple carrying their toddler and newborn up the steep trail, taking photos for groups so they can actually capture the beautiful landscape instead of a selfie full of only faces, or pointing out to a tourist that they are “almost there…just around the bend.” Hiking solo gives your introverted self some time to reflect, while also giving your extroverted self an opportunity to socialize.
A friend of mine states often the phrase “be where your feet are” which is indicative of a solo hike. Take it all in, enjoy it, appreciate it, you’ll never be here, at this moment, again. Be prepared, be aware, be present, and you’ll also enjoy hiking solo.