Elaboration on being a solo female hiker

I’ve gotten a lot of responses to my blog post “On being a solo female hiker.” Almost all of them have been positive and I feel encouraged to know that I have a community of supportive men and women. However, there is one response that I would like to address, and I will tell you why.

As women, we do not have to live in fear, and I would never want my stories about the trail to deter a female from hiking solo. So I felt sad when I received this note,

Looked at the link to solo hiking. Wow. I can’t imagine worse advice for any young woman. I’m a criminal justice major, just graduated actually, from PSU and I would NEVER, EVER encourage a young woman to solo hike. As to “sex starved guys” these are just the types that sexually assault solo female hikers. Responsible women understand that the world is not a fairy tale and they don’t hike solo, no matter what lame excuse may be provided regarding freedom and/or safety. Good luck.

I appreciate this woman speaking her mind and I think that her goal is to protect other women, which I respect. But I have to disagree with her saying that it isn’t responsible to hike solo, because, honestly, the trails are way safer than cities. In two and a half months of backpacking, I may have felt annoyed by men talking about “plastic boobs,” but I never felt in danger from anything but bears and rabid voles.

Even though I joke about being lonely on the trail, solo hiking has tremendous benefits. I have had so much time to sort out things in my head, to discover what it means for something to be beautiful and to get a clearer picture of what I want my community to look like. Even running into those frustrating men has given me the opportunity to grow in assertiveness and have stronger boundaries. In fact, I am now more confident in my ability to take care of myself.

Women can get hurt anywhere. I do have a friend who was attacked recently, but this happened in a town. She had driven to visit me and was assaulted while she was waiting for me to arrive.

Even though this was terrible, I am certain that she would never be to tell women to let fear deter them from from being independent. Her response was to press charges against the man who attacked her. Even when the police told her several times that it was “a lot of work” to fill out the paper work and that the man was “very sorry,” she insisted on advocating for herself and I am proud of her for that. That whole situation still makes me furious, but, to me, the most constructive response to things like that is to rally around survivors and insist on justice.

It is fairly obvious that no woman can avoid being alone in cities. Both men and women get hurt all of the time and that is a reality we must all wrestle with, but fear can be poison. Be alert and be aware of your surroundings, but don’t be crippled by your fear of getting hurt.

And not to belabor a point, and I am going to risk being annoying by putting this in bold: The woods are much, much safer than cities.

I’m afraid that my stories about the trail may have told only one side of the story. I want to point out that I met a lot of wonderful men on my trip. Here are a few examples. I stayed in a hut with Frank N. Stein and Brave Little Toaster. Frank N. Stein can recite all of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” like it is an Edgar Allen Poe poem. And, yes, it was a life altering experience for me to hear it.

TNT and I traveled together for a few days and discussed fate, community, and the annoying college freshmen that kept us up late at night. Big Blues and I got lost together, trespassed by sleeping behind a small town historical society, and had deep talks over a box of Fruit Loops.

Men have told me that I am doing a great job and that I should keep it up, others have said that they are proud of me and glad that women have the opportunity to hike solo. There is an ever growing community of people who want to encourage females to be independent, and I think that we as women can draw upon both this support and our own inner strength when we want to explore the world.

Tales from the Trail

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