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Thread: Hiking Alone...

  1. #1

    Default Hiking Alone...

    Just curious about some of your views on hiking alone and how many people actually do? I am dying to get on the trail but not being an experienced hiker or being able to find a reliable hiking partner I am unsure about getting out there. I know obvious solutions like using common sense or "trusting your gut" but what are the real dangers when hiking alone? Should I really be that worried about taking the plunge? Any advice on overcoming this? Thanks in advanced for your help.

  2. #2

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    Common sense is the key
    My worries are more likely with any partner than myself anyway. (are they having fun? keeping up? have enough food/water? too much weight?)

    Maybe if you are in Maine during a hurricane and creeks are too high and you don't have the necessary experience to know what you can ford and what will get you.

    I use a 3 second rule for lightning. Many use more but I'm OK with 3 seconds between sound and light before I would go down. (and stay away from big trees)

    When I'm alone, I perhaps spend a bit more of my mind thinking about how much water I have. But, I tend to camel up when I do find good water and don't carry much anyway.

    Don't get off trail unless you have a GPS (till you get more experience)


    Look up for widow-makers when setting up your tent.

    GPS is an excellent idea as trail maps won't show you all the ways out if you do have problems.

    Don't carry too much weight (most injuries come from too much)

    The rest of the posters here will tell you to always tell someone your plans. But I don't generally.

    Don't leave your pack unattended. (even when going for water, I don't)

    Be street smart.

    Have fun.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Captain View Post
    Just curious about some of your views on hiking alone and how many people actually do? I am dying to get on the trail but not being an experienced hiker or being able to find a reliable hiking partner I am unsure about getting out there. I know obvious solutions like using common sense or "trusting your gut" but what are the real dangers when hiking alone? Should I really be that worried about taking the plunge? Any advice on overcoming this? Thanks in advanced for your help.
    if i didnt do things alone i wouldnt get much done as im a hermit/loner type. dont fear a journey alone you will have the ultimate chance at h. y. o. h. its kind of akward sometime that you cant count on someone to watch your back,but in reality its humans that you have to watch your back from.now the real problem with being a loner is your biggest danger is that people fear what they cant understand.if they cant find a round hole to pound your triangle ass in you become either too much work for them and they will snap judge you because its easier than taking time out of their precious day,and what they imagine is by far worse than reality.watch for desperate people as a lone wolf is an easy target.you can feather human contact as you need with others around you at your will no mary ellen problems.stangest part of my nature is that in life i find not much in common with people around me and avoid most conversation but on the trail ive found more people willing to accept my freak type look and defiant to foolishness personality.avoid situations where it seems too good to be true it probably is.being alone with your thoughts will make you a deeper thinker, and a better examiner of self.good luck

  4. #4

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    I went solo for 270 miles in winter and I am solo tomorrow in the Smokies. I would worry about getting lost because it happened to me more than once. After a week solo you will learn what not to do. Sometimes the A.T. is very unforgiving.

  5. #5

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    You're harder to sneak up on when hiking solo. A group has more senses collectively, but is much noisier and way more distracted

  6. #6

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    I hike alone.best advice stay on the trail.if you're off trail and get hurt you might be hardor to find,otherthan that just trust your instincts.

  7. #7

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    Although I enjoy company, I really love hiking alone as well.

  8. #8
    Registered User oldbear's Avatar
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    Oddly enough hiking alone can be safer than hiking in a group because when you're alone and you screw up the cavalry is not going to come over the hill to rescue you : you are the cavalry
    The practical end result of that is a heightened awareness of one's own vulnerability which results in a conservative , humble , very knowledgeable and a very pragmatic hiker
    Then there is the whole ego aspect of group -think
    Many of have seen groups rush into situaions where solo hikers fear to tread
    Addressing specifics
    I would restrict my miles per day to ten and under
    Keep my packweight under 30 lbs -since there is no community property the packweight of two solo hikers will always be higher than that of 2ppl hiking together
    Use water bottles rather than bladders and stop once an hour on schedule to hydrate , add some calories, check your feet and figure out where you are.
    Stay on trail
    Go from water to water
    Start early an end early
    Become obsessive about proper foot placement .After a while you'll develop educated feet that will be conditioned to respond to the nuances of trail conditons But until you do just become really obsessive about where you put your feet
    A badly sprained ankle in a group is a treatable injury However for a solo hiker a badly sprained ankle is a potentially life threatening injury.So the name of the game is don't sprain the ankle in the first place ...and that requires situational awareness ........which is easier to do when you're by your lonesome and just focusing
    Good luck

  9. #9

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    I hate people.

  10. #10

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    One factor to consider is which trail? If you're talking about the AT, chances are you're rarely "alone" unless you hike week days in the dead of winter in less-traveled stretches such as west of I-81. If a severe emergency occurs e.g. broken leg, don't panic; someone will come along. Meanwhile you should have brushed up on basic first aid and carry a decent kit. That's not to say you can be careless like those hiking in the Whites whose "preparation" consists of a strong cell phone/radio/SPOT etc.

    Also most of the AT is reasonably close to road crossings and side trails to bailout points. Finally, the AT is in much better condition than other Eastern mountain trails by virtue of its National Scenic Trail status and popularity. Every mile along the corridor is covered by the maintaining clubs. You're less likely to have a mishap.

    Other less-trod trails are riskier with less fellow hikers and without the maintenance standards of the AT. I found that out firsthand hiking the Allegheny Trail.

  11. #11
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Post Your question is, for me, bizarre

    Simply because the idea of hiking with even one other person makes we want to puke. For me, hiking alone is the only way to go. But I recognize that my preference DOES have special challenges.

    > what are the real dangers when hiking alone? Should I really be that worried about taking the plunge?

    The main "danger" of hiking alone is that you'll be on your own if you suffer any injury or illness. Which means you'll have to do a LOT of planning and preparation to ensure (1) you don't suffer either and (2) you can handle the situation if you do. The most important component of this preparation is HUMILITY -- being willing to forego something (dangerous shortcut, hiking in bad weather) that increases the risk of injury. This is, of course, a judgement call; simply being on the Trail already greatly increases the risk, which (to me at least) is part of the reason of being on the Trail in the first place! But this where "your gut" comes in -- it it's telling you not to go near that cliff to get a view, best not to go there!
    It also means learning as much as possible about potential dangers for the area and weather in which you're choosing to hike, and then taking steps (sometimes fairly minimal) to mitigate against such dangers.

    Another part of humility is carrying items that will make being found a lot easier. A cell phone (but don't talk while in the shelter!!!), a whistle, a small mirror, and a highly visible piece of orange cloth.

    A third part is having someone at home who knows EXACTLY where you will be, and will contact authorities if you don't return in time. There's a HUGE lowering of danger level when your solution to being immobilized (broken ankle, snake bite) is simply to wait for rescue, even if that means waiting for a couple days.

    And, perhaps the most important part of humility is being able to say, "Darn -- I truly CAN'T handle this." Yes, it's embarrassing to just turn around and go back. And it's even more embarrassing to call someone and say, "I'm just not prepared for hiking in this area at this time, can you come pick me up?" But I can assure you that your friends and family do NOT want your life story to end up as a book and a movie directed by Sean Penn. Just learn from your mistakes, and do better the next time.

    > Any advice on overcoming this?

    The best way to increase your confidence about hiking alone is to do an overnight hike, during which you can easily get back to your car if you realize you made a mistake. My first experience with "backpacking" was when I drove to a state park, pulled into a camp site amongst dozens of other people, got everything into my backpack, and then walked three meters to where I set up my tent -- and then steadfastly used only what was in my pack for that night. Adventurous? Of course not -- but that was the POINT. If I had made a mistake, if I had forgotten something that I should have included -- no harm, no foul! I then increased that to hiking a few kilometers from the road for a one-nighter, and I'm now into doing multiple days of true back packing. Along the way you'll find what things you can jettison and what things you should include, which will quickly make your pack just the right weight for you.
    Last edited by GoldenBear; 07-08-2012 at 13:58. Reason: Fixing a typo

  12. #12
    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    I hate people.
    LOL i agree.
    More I'm Around Some People, The More I Like My Dog
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  13. #13
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    Much depends on whether you are speaking of the AT or some other trail. I've done AT section hikes alone and with other hikers and enjoy both. As others have said, you are rarely alone on the AT. I've never gone a whole day without seeing someone else on the trail. It's hard to get away from people, if you wanted to.

    Since you are close by, let me suggest the Nashville Backpacker Meetup group, which has several hikes a month. You can attend a monthly meeting, where we talk about backpacking and/or you can sign up for a hike and learn from the group.
    Nashville Backpacker

    If you want to be alone, but are cautious about it, you might consider doing a hike with others, but hiking the reverse way, and meet at night for camp. It's also a convenient way to do one's own shuttle, and I've done it several times. One (or more) hiker(s) hike from one trailhead, the other(s) drive to the other trailhead in another vehicle and start hiking back. They meet in the middle and swap car keys. Can be done on a day hike or an over-nighter.

    Anyway, lots of alternatives. Fortunately, you live in a area with lots of good hiking and lots of good hikers.

    RainMan

    .
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

    www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker

    .

  14. #14
    Registered User Driver8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Captain View Post
    Just curious about some of your views on hiking alone and how many people actually do? I am dying to get on the trail but not being an experienced hiker or being able to find a reliable hiking partner I am unsure about getting out there. I know obvious solutions like using common sense or "trusting your gut" but what are the real dangers when hiking alone? Should I really be that worried about taking the plunge? Any advice on overcoming this? Thanks in advanced for your help.
    Hi Captain:

    The key here is your comfort level. If you're gonna go out alone for a hike, it's a good idea to start small and build up. Go hike in a place near your home where you know a lot of people like to hike. Read good trail guides for the places you hike. Always bring a map - find one online or get it from an outfitter. The more you hike, the more skilled and intelligent you become about the experience, the more confident and comfortable you become. You find your boundaries and comfort zone expanding.

    As with most anything, as others have said here, sound fundamentals are vital. Build up good gear over time - maybe a nice new item as a reward for completing a significant new hiking experience (first 5 mile hike, first 1000-foot elevation gain and loss in a day, first 2000, etc.). You'll figure out what works for you, what keeps you going.

    And if you read up on good websites and connect with smart, experienced hikers - there are plenty here - that will also help you gain confidence and experience. You can do it - and the more you hike and hang out in the hiking community, the more people you'll meet that you can hike with if you want. Best of both worlds - able to get out on your own or with others, as you see it. Good luck and happy trails!
    The more miles, the merrier!

    NH4K: 21/48; N.E.4K: 25/67; NEHH: 28/100; Northeast 4K: 27/115; AT: 124/2191

  15. #15
    Registered User BigHodag's Avatar
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    Default re: hiking alone

    On my recent section hike of NY, I encountered as many solo hikers as I did small groups. Mel was the youngest, having just graduated high school and she did fine.

    GoldenBear gave you some of the best advice. Have a safety person with a copy of your maps and other planning documents. Use TrailPhone, SMS messaging and short telephone calls to give location updates. Stay within earshot of the trail.

    I like the humility advice best. Last week I limped in to Dennytown Road (NY) with an inflamed knee and a few small blisters. After a night of Ibuprofen, I tested my knee on a small section of trail. I made the hard decision to abandon my hike while I could still walk on flat, level surfaces rather then become disabled 2-3 miles up trail and need rescue. Blisters I can walk on, a bum knee is disabling. Took many hours to road walk to where I could find a ride to the nearest train station. Rather that than a dozen people having to spend their day hauling my butt and pack off the trail. So, yes. Know when to stop, where to get medical assistance, and where your extraction points are located. I highlight town names with blue for medical and orange for transportation points on my maps. If you're able to walk out, at least go in the right direction.

    Not having a companion is no barrier to the A.T.. Borrow or rent some gear from REI and take a 2-3 day journey. You'll learn from every trip and eventually become as wise and experienced as any thru hiker.
    Appalachian Trail Online Course
    http://at-trail.blogspot.com
    Information and resources for the A.T. hiker

    Follow @section_hiking on Twitter
    http://Twitter.com/Section_Hiking

  16. #16
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    Every one of the above longer posts is a well-written, well-thought-out letter by someone who knows whereof he/she speaks. I am in "heaven" when I am walking solo on the trail. Once at the shelter area though, I enjoy having several hikers already there because there is so much camaraderie and sharing. When I had a hard face plant out of Damascus though, I knew I was injured because of the blood. That is when Golden Bear's recommendation that we carry a small mirror became important. There was lots of blood coming from my face, but I could not determine the depth of the cuts. It cost me. If I'd been with someone else, he/she could have advised me. I had the equipment to clean the wounds, but I couldn't do a good job. They were, obviously, full of dirt. I hiked out, caught a ride to town, had the doc look them over and clean them up. It cost me, not just his work but his orders that I return in THREE days. For want of a small mirror . . . or a partner. The pull back to the trail, however, is the time alone to think, to evaluate, to recall, as well as to observe one's surroundings. That is impeded by having another person with me too much of the time.
    You never know just what you can do until you realize you absolutely have to do it.
    --Salaun

  17. #17
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    Yea leave a note to relatives as to what you are doing and where you parked - I locked myself out once and ended hiking more miles because I could not describe where the car was.
    Dogs are excellent judges of character, this fact goes a long way toward explaining why some people don't like being around them.

    Woo

  18. #18

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    I posted the link to www.hikesafe.com in the health forum the other day.great advice for newbies and some good reminders for the rest of us.

  19. #19

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    I just attempted a thru hike this year...I wasnt alone but a lot of my friends started out that way. there are SOO many people out there, you will very rarely be alone! Dont worry! Its a great experience and I can't wait until 2014 to try again!!!!

  20. #20
    Registered User Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerboy57 View Post
    I posted the link to www.hikesafe.com in the health forum the other day.great advice for newbies and some good reminders for the rest of us.
    I took a look at the site, its more for education and folks who did not attend Boy Scouts, really its almost the same stuff.
    Dogs are excellent judges of character, this fact goes a long way toward explaining why some people don't like being around them.

    Woo

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