Several people have asked me if I get lonely being a solo hiker and here is my answer:
I am a hiking solo female. Solo Hiking alone is not so bad. I make up games to pass the time. My favorite one is “Count to 1000.” Not to be bested by “Count to 1000 again” and “Which piece of gear will I jettison next?”
I imagine that last one as a TV show like the Bachelor where I tell things they haven’t made the cut:
1. Oh, fleece jacket. You’ve been so good to me these last five years, but, let’s face it, for this trip, you’re just not working out. I mean, its July so I don’t need you for warmth and you take up too much space in my pack. My down jacket is just as warm but weighs less and compresses smaller.
Don’t worry, we can still be friends.
2. Oh, Arc Teryx Bora backpack. I have taken you all over the world and you have been great, but I’m needing other things right now. I’m not saying that your hipbelt is too fat, what I am saying is that I need to be with someone lighter for a while.
Maybe in the future I can take you out sometime?
3. Oh, second pair of underwear. Well, I might keep that, but you’re on notice, buddy.
Other games to play while hiking solo are “What creature is trying to get into my food?” And the challenging, “Will I have to amputate my foot and walking boot to get free of this sinkhole?”
There is also “How can I smack the bug that is stinging me while still holding trekking poles?” It’s not a very fun game because you end up hitting yourself in the face a lot.
At first, I didn’t realize how proactive you have to be as a solo hiker. On my third day out, I was sitting by a stream and a northbounder named Easy Going sat down next to me.
He didn’t even say anything, but his face said (nicely), you are going to talk to me. And I did. If I had known that he would be the only person I would talk to that day, I would have chatted him up longer.
I soon developed this same look-it is the look of the solo hiker. I was camping out in the woods alone at night and not quite caught up with my group, so when any northbounders came by I smiled and gave them that look. For the most part, they were glad to talk to me.
Hiking solo can do some strange things to you. One day, I met a solo northbounder. By the time they get to the 100 mile wilderness, northbounders are at the very tale end of their trip and have been away from civilization for a while.
Meeting other hikers
I asked him how far ahead of me the other southbounders were and he told me he had seen them that same day. I started to walk away when he turned to me and said, “You are so beautiful. It is so good to just know that there are women like you out on the trail.”
I thought: you poor sex-starved guy. You have probably not gotten to talk to women very often these past months. But, as I am broken out, smelly, and covered in mosquito bites, I will take any compliment I can get. I smiled at him and walked away.
Everyone says you are not alone on the trail, but that is not always the case for southbounders. I spent 4 days and 3 nights without seeing another hiker, even a section hiker, going my direction. I finally hiked a 20 mile day just to find the group I had summited Katahdin with, and I stayed with them for the rest of the 100 mile wilderness. My system now is to hike alone during the day and then stay in or near the shelters. This way you get to be around people, and, if you are going the same pace, you get to hang out with the same people each night and make friends.
So it turns out that hiking solo isn’t bad as long as know where to go and get used to introducing yourself to new people.