I see both sides of this question.
On the one hand, it can be dangerous. When Darren and I were hiking Hermit Gulch in Catalina, I got a little ahead of him and ran into a man on the trail. He asked if I had seen a woman, and described her. I said that, yes, I had seen her.
As I was talking, though, he kept asking for more details and inching closer and closer toward me. I started thinking, “There’s only one way she could have gone…and why is this guy getting so uncomfortably close?”
It always takes me a minute to right myself in these situations, to see them for what they are and understand what’s happening. That asshole was planning to hurt me, I have no doubt about it now.
That’s when Darren came around the corner and said, “Hey, babe!” The guy backed away, said thanks, and continued down the trail. I sure hope he didn’t catch up to the girl.
The case for solo hiking
On the other hand, though, I find being alone restorative. I find hiking restorative. Combine the two and it is bliss, just you and nature.
I want to continue to hike alone from time to time, to not let vague fears of “something bad happening” deter me from that. Climbers don’t let a fear of falling stop them, surfers don’t let a fear of sharks stop them. And I certainly don’t want to avoid something I enjoy just because I’m a woman. But I also really don’t want to be stupid.
(If I do happen to die in this way and major news outlets happen to cover my stupidity and people look for me and find this website, welcome new readers! Steve, Regina and Darren will be handling the updates from here on out while I rest for eternity).
The linked article reaches many of the conclusions that I have: man or woman, don’t be stupid. Don’t think that you’re perfectly safe. Take precautions if you’re going to hike alone. Assume that if something happens to you, you’re on your own, so brush up on some basic survival skills. And also:
- Be alert, no matter what.
- Wear bright clothing that is easily spotted if you need to be rescued.
- Carry a compass (and know how to use it) (This is on my to do list).
- Bring plenty of water.
- Have a healthy fear and skepticism of people you encounter on the trail, and listen to your gut if someone seems off.
- Hike on busier trails. The more people there are around, the better off you will be.
- Stay on the trail!! STAY ON THE TRAIL!
- Carry pepper spray or some other kind of tool for ass-kicking.
- Let someone, or several people, know where you will be hiking, what route you will use and when to expect you back.
- Hike in areas with some cell service and carry your phone with you.
- If you are at all uneasy about a planned hike, grab a friend and go instead.