View Full Version : Hiking Alone

09-28-2005, 21:37
What are your opinions about hiking alone?

I still have a fear of snakes and bears, but as of now I still hike alone.
Have only seen one snake while hiking. I did stop and watch it slither away. It was somewhat interesting. Haven't seen any bears yet.

On a more serious note though, I currently hike alone and I do wonder what I would do if I was bitten by a poisonous snake or attacked by a bear.

Do you recommend hiking with a partner?

09-28-2005, 21:55
I've hiked alone alot and loved it however, BE PREPARED and carry essentials to help you survive in case you get into trouble. I also hike with a partner who also saved my life one night on the Black Mountain Crest Trail. I became very sick during a hike we did and a storm hit us late that evening while we were trying to get me to safety. I collapsed at Mt. Craig and Patrick stayed with me until he realized I was in dire straits. I was rescued by the Yancey EMS and Rangers at 3am and taken to Spruce Pine ER. I would have died from hypothermia if Patrick had not been there the temps at 7am that morning were zero degress at the summit, plus he is a MD from Abington, VA. I still hike alone (last year in the Middle Prong for a couple of days) and still use extreme caution. As far as critters---well, hike in deep winter, that way they wont be up on the high ridges. Black bear attacks, yell, scream, bang pots or use sticks and fight back. Grizzly?? You're on your own!! Snakebite, follow backcountry first aid rules and if you see another hiker, get medical attention asap!!

09-28-2005, 21:57
I hike and backpack alone. It is recommended that one not hike alone, but many people do. I just educate myself on what to do in the event of some type of emergency. I do carry a cell phone for emergencies and to check in with family if need be; however, one has to be prepared to deal the best way one can without one because they don't always work in the backcountry.

I will add that when it comes to murders, etc. on the AT, most have happened to two or more people hiking/camping together.

09-28-2005, 22:11
i love and prefer hiking alone very much:cool: neo

09-28-2005, 23:19
I hike alone year round. Always leave an itinerary and stick to it. I've seen both poisonous snakes (a rattler and a copperhead) and bears. I almost stepped on both the snakes. The rattler let me know it was there and the copperhead sprang to the side. You need to get medical care ASAP if bit, walk out.

I hike with a buddy sometimes too, but don't feel it's necessary.

09-29-2005, 00:36
I hike alone all the time, and I get lonely on a long hike. That isn't a problem for some people, but it is for me.

I have no fear issues with bears, snakes, possums etc.

09-29-2005, 07:04
You should base your decision on other things besides snakes and bears. Very, very few people get bitten by snakes (i've been hiking 30 years now and never met anyone who has been snakebit) or attacked by bears. (don't know any of those people either) You have less chance of being bitten or attacked by these things than dieing in a plane crash.
Hiking alone has taught me many things about myself. I feared it at one time because of the lonliness but discovered that it was a whole new freedom and made me even more in touch with nature. I lost my fears and still enjoy my alone time on the trail immensely.
That being said, i also like to hike with others sometimes. You probably need to go out and try it yourself to see how you feel. but you should give it at the very least a few hundred miles before concluding anything.

09-29-2005, 07:46
Hiking alone? Part of your answer depends on where and when you are hiking.

If you are contemplating a popular trail such as the AT, then in general, you are never really alone for too long. There are a lot of other people out there hiking also. And, at night people tend to congregate at the shelters. I'm very comfortable hiking alone on most established trails. In fact I prefer it that way. I can go at my own pace, and stop when and where I wanted to.

If you are planning on going off trail, then you will probably be alone. I seldom see anyone else when peak bagging the trail less peaks in the Northeast. I usually take some one else along when peak bagging. In fact, I abandoned a bushwack from Crocker over to Reddington while thru-hiking because I felt that if anything ever happend to me, it would be a very long time before anyone ever found me.

Likewise, it's generally not a good idea to do serious winter hiking with out a companion.

09-29-2005, 09:04
I hike alone all the time, and I get lonely on a long hike. That isn't a problem for some people, but it is for me.

I have no fear issues with bears, snakes, possums etc.
i never feel lonely,i thrive on being alone:cool: neo

09-29-2005, 09:21
I hike alone about half the time. Being married to a hiker, it's pretty tough to plan a trip and not have her right there with me. I did not have a hiking partner on my thru in 2003. I met and hiked along with several people but was free to come and go as I pleased ...which is sometimes a true blessing.

What I can say about hiking alone is that I tend to notice more. I stop more often and hike a bit slower. I see more animals.

All in all I like both solo and partner hiking but hiking alone allows me to get quiet with myself and take in more of the natural surroundings.


Rain Man
09-29-2005, 09:33
I still have a fear of snakes and bears ....

WHY? Are you afraid to get in your car and drive down to the store?



09-29-2005, 09:43
I solo hike partly because I enjoy the solace but also because I have yet to find any of my friends who share my passion (aka obsession) for backpacking. It's strange in a way for me personally because as a kid I was always afraid of the dark. I was even afraid to go out in our backyard at night to feed the dog because of what might be in the woods. Now, I have absolutely no fear of being several miles from a highway alone in the woods. I just came to the conclusion that I wasn't getting any younger and that I wasn't going to let an unsubstantiated fear of the unknown keep me from doing what I wanted to do.

As for snakes, that remains one of my biggest concerns. Fortunately (for me anyway) I have only encountered one snake thus far. It was near the Grayson Highlands in Virginia. He was headed South just like me when I spotted him ahead of me on the trail about six feet up. I stopped and let him continue. He left the trail to the right (in tall grass) and I waited a minute or so to give him plenty of time to move on. It did reinforce to me that there were snakes out there but that I just had to remain observant and allow them to do what they do. I wouldn't say I have lost my fear of being snakebitten, but I would say the statistics do provide some comfort that the likelihood is remote.

I would very much like to see a black bear; albeit, at some distance. To date, I have not had that good fortune.

I guess each of us has to find our own comfort zone. I hope you enjoy your time in the woods whether you're alone or with a friend. Strapping on a pack and striking out on the AT was the best decision I ever made. I keep trying to get my friends to make the same choice. I want them to experience the same joy I do from being in God's creation. Take care and enjoy your adventures -- whatever form they take.

the goat
09-29-2005, 09:43
Black bears and snakes (if awake) almost always yeild to humans. I've has countless encounters with both, each time it gets my adrenaline pumping, but i've never had a problem.

A hiking partner won't be much help in a bear or snake encounter.

09-29-2005, 09:51
We should have a new Forum: Hiking Alone.
At least on most of the AT hiking alone is not as dangerous.
You're never far from civilization.

09-29-2005, 10:08
I agree with the above...hiking alone on the AT isn't a big deal, especially during the warmer months. I would be careful about going off-trail if no one knows where you're going. At the same time, you should be prepared to sit overnight or longer if you do have an immobilizing injury and can't get out yourself.

09-29-2005, 12:45
Your feedback was very comprehensive and helpful. Thanks!

I have only hiked about 125 miles so far and all of it has been alone. I don't get lonely at all. Don't have time for those types of feelings.

I get totally wrapped up in the next step and whether or not that rock I come upon is slippery or will wobble. I also notice those slight noises in the brush closeby. Sometimes its a deer, sometimes its a chipmunk and sometimes a woodpecker. In some profound way, they are my company.

All I can say at this point is "Hiking is Amazing".

09-30-2005, 00:37
i prefer to hike alone, but have a 10 year old daughter who comes with me about half the time.

i like the silence, the freedom, and the sense of being part of the natural world... at some point you stop being an observer and revert back to being a participant...

as far as safety goes, i leave my wife an itinerary, the location of the trailhead where i'm parking my car, a map marked with my route(s) and probable campsite(s), options for alternatives if i haven't made up my mind exactly where i'm going, the phone number for the ranger stations in the area, and an expected return time.

bears? i don't camp in grizzley country. i have smelled black bears twice in the past couple years, but haven't seen one close up since 1977. not sure a partner would be of any use. most bears fear humans, and if you don't sneak up on them, they'll try to stay out of your way.

snakes? i hate them... god inspired man to invent the hoe not for cultivation of the soil, but to kill snakes with... it's irrational, i know... and i don't go around killing them for no reason... but i do hate them. something without legs or wheels shouldn't be able to move so fast. it jest ain't right. they gives me the willies. that said, i've run into one rattler and several copperheads in the smokies. they all got out of my way (though i 'helped' one copperhead with my staff, lifting him out of my path and sending him on his way, downhill of me.) haven't had any run ins with any snakes here in LA in the past 3 years. most snakebites are caused by picking up the snakes, and alcohol is often involved... i forget the exact statistics and circumstances. my chances of getting bitten are pretty low. common sense, like being careful where you reach, sit, squat, and step, being aware of the warm places snakes like to lay to warm up, and listening for a rattle, will help me not get bitten. a partner would be useful if bitten, but i'd still have to walk myself out to help...

possums and other critters... i have never been molested by a non-canine 4-legged creature... good bear bagging helps keep them away too. have had a shelter mouse run across my face, but it was a cold night, and the poor guy probably needed to warm his little feet up...

09-30-2005, 01:00
i never feel lonely,i thrive on being alone:cool: neo
I've walked a few thousand miles alone. I usually enjoy it, but after a week or so without seeing anyone at all, I now get lonely. I didn't used to. No idea when or why it changed. Maybe the getting older, maybe who knows what.

When I hike on the AT, I wake up after everyone else, leave later, come in after they're asleep. It's like being alone in a crowd. I guess, now that I think about it, that's when it started.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this year's fall/winter hiking season, and within about a week I'm going out on the Bartram for about a week. I won't see a soul, and it won't bother me until the last day or so. But the hike will be great.

One of these days I'm gonna find saomeone else who can take off a week at a time on a whim...


09-30-2005, 01:04
I usually hike alone as well, although I expect my son will be joining me more and more as he gets older. Although I look forward to that, I will miss my time alone on the trail. I have never encountered a bear, though I heard some near Gooch Gap 2 years ago. I encountered a snake stretched across the Approach Trail on my way up to Springer. I stopped and waited for it to move. It just sat there, motionless. So I decided it needed a little help and pushed it with my trekking pole. Well, it didn't like that too much and colied up to spring at me. I just backed off about 10 feet and waited for it to slither off. I waited, and waited and waited...... It never did move off the trail. I had to go around it. I kept looking back to see if it was still in the same position and my last view of it confirmed that it was. Maybe someone on the forum who knows about snakes can tell what the problem was with this one. I also encountered a snake near near Tom Floyd Wayside. It was a big rattle snake sunning itself on a rock. I was just walking along, minding my own business when I started hearing sort of buzzing sound. I stopped dead in my tracks once the sound registered. I glanced to my left and there it was... a big, fat rattlesnake. It started to move and it seemd to be in my direction so I made a hasty retreat from the area. The thing that surprised me was the sound its rattle made. It didn't sound like what you hear in the movies.

09-30-2005, 07:32
I'm generally a solo hiker too, although many of them have just been dayhikes, coupled together with a stay in hostel. I've done over 800 miles and somehow still have not seen a poisonous snake or a bear. One additional caution -- I don't wear headphones, which to me might screen out the noises that might alert you to a bear or snake nearby.

Sky Rider

09-30-2005, 19:20
Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this year's fall/winter hiking season, and within about a week I'm going out on the Bartram for about a week. I won't see a soul, and it won't bother me until the last day or so. But the hike will be great.

You're right about probably not seeing a soul! I was on the Bartram Trail this last weekend and hiked from Warwoman Picnic Area to Dick's Creek Falls, overnighted and hiked back on Sunday without seeing anyone at all except at the trailhead parking lot. Twenty-some odd miles over two days on a beautiful, late September weekend and not another soul anywhere. It was blissful solitude. How many folks do you think I would have seen around Blood Mt. the same weekend? I'd have probably lost count within the first hour.

Ragarding that section of the Bartram, two separate guidebooks I looked at show the mileage from Warwoman Dell to Sandy Ford Road to be about 9.5 miles. But the stone marker at the road states 12 miles. Has the trail been re-routed to account for the additional distance? Or, is the marker simply incorrect? 2.5 miles is a fair distance to be off for a short stretch of trail.

Anyway, enjoy the Bartram's solitude!

09-30-2005, 20:33
The thing that surprised me was the sound its rattle made. It didn't sound like what you hear in the movies.You reckon they don't use real rattlesnakes in Hollywood?

09-30-2005, 21:00
Just a few years ago I would have not considered hiking alone. Now, most of my hiking is solo. This past two week section was a half & half, both halves outstanding, both were different. When I was a kid, I had no problems going off in the woods by myself. I gradually "learned" that that was unsafe and foolish so didn't do, or think about doing, for many years. Ah what I missed! Oh well, I'm catching up then and will surely hike with others still, as long as i get a few weeks of solo in between.

09-30-2005, 21:17
I hike solo, always. Have felt in danger from time to time, usually (99.9% of the time) it was a figment of my imagination. Once I may have been in danger, Hypothermia, but symptoms started only about 1/2 hr from the shelter I was headed for that day so, no problem. the other time, Hypothermis again, I was stoopid (yes, I know it is spelled "stupid") & missed all the signs, fortunatly hikers look after their own (& others) & I was saved with minimal fuss & bother.

All of the rest of the times I was "in danger" as I said, were only in my over tired, under fed, over imaginative head. A good sleep, some food, & the perceived danger went away. I am cautious at road crossings, and try to stay very aware of my surrondings, watching my step a little closer, etc. But all in all, I usually feel totally safe in the woods.

I prefer to hike solo. Most likely, if I hiked with a companion, it would most likely be: "Ill meet you at ________ for lunch, and at _______ tonight." & may not even be that formal. Could be, see you in a few days even.


09-30-2005, 21:17
Regarding that section of the Bartram, two separate guidebooks I looked at show the mileage from Warwoman Dell to Sandy Ford Road to be about 9.5 miles. But the stone marker at the road states 12 miles. Has the trail been re-routed to account for the additional distance? Or, is the marker simply incorrect? 2.5 miles is a fair distance to be off for a short stretch of trail.

Anyway, enjoy the Bartram's solitude!
There was a lot of re-routing last year due to hurricane damage. That probably accounts for most of it.

I usually start at Oconee State Park in SC and walk from there to the 28 bridge before I get to the GA section. That's about 12 miles or so, then the first 6 miles or so of GA are really easy. Later on, as you get closer to Warwoman Dell, it gets AT-ish, and the views get good. After the dell, it gets even nicer. I've only got a week. I haven't decided if I'm gonna do the Foothills or the Bartram. The Foothills, which I've done lots of times, has some nice views and good ups-and-downs, plus I know that I can do it in a week. The Bartram, I can probably make to Franklin and hitch home. It's a great time of year for it, either way.

09-30-2005, 21:20
You reckon they don't use real rattlesnakes in Hollywood?
It's all about the recording technology. Have you ever heard a Harley sound real in a movie? Probably the same thing with the snake.

Stale Cracker
09-30-2005, 21:42
This is a great thread. Thanks Glessed for starting it. Upon reflection I think that the "aloneness" is a big part of what draws me. It is certainly true that hiking alone increases the risk. How much depends on who you are and where you are going. But, "who you are" and "where you are going" is the whole point. If being alone accentuates this part of the walk then so much the better. If, on the other hand, being alone robs you of some of the enjoyment then by all means seek company. Don't know where you are but drop me a line, I try to get out every other weekend somewhere here in the Carolinas.

In the end if you find that you enjoy hiking alone you will probably hike more. I never have to mesh my schedule with a parther because it is not an issue. By myself or with a crowd it is always new and always somthing that I didn't expect.

As a final, final word as many others have said, it's not going to be the snake or black bear. Much more likely a sprained ankle, torn muscle or, god should never hear it from my lips, a broken bone.

walk far!

10-01-2005, 12:23
I was forced to go solo as it became increasingly difficult to find anyone to go out with me for a week. Regardless, I prefer walking by myself throughout the day, but it is nice to share the day with someone at camp.

Certainly there is risk to being out alone, but the AT is a well-traveled trail for much of the year. With a nominal first aid kit, dry clothes, and shelter you should be able to keep yourself together until someone comes along. Sharing your approximate itinerary and signing registers will help locate you if things really spiral downhill. I do try to be very careful about wandering off-trail.

10-01-2005, 12:27
Either way is cool. Somtimes I like to hike with someone else, so many times I have missed things, or seen things the other hasn't - glad I didn't miss out on them....another set of eyes and ears as well. It's a good hike either way.