Making Strides

I am excited to report that I finished 2016 with the fulfillment of a personal goal! I went on a five mile hike/trail run completely on my own! I’ve definitely ventured into the woods alone before, but not to hike alone.

Often, I have found myself about to go hike alone when I chicken out. I’m so used to people telling me its dangerous or stupid to go outside alone that those insecurities have been ingrained in my mind. While I appreciate people’s concern for my safety, I also appreciate people not discouraging me from my hobby.

There are definitely a lot of things to take into account when going outside alone, but it’s also more likely for me to be injured or killed in my drive to the trail head.

When I come across someone knitting, I don’t give them a lecture about the integrity of their scarf or how to do it because I only knit occasionally, so I assume they have a better understanding of what they are doing than I do. Similarly, if someone doesn’t regularly hike, I would appreciate them taking my experience into account before telling me just how likely it is for me to be injured. I appreciate concerns for my safety, but I don’t appreciate it when someone takes the conversation from polite concern to projecting their own insecurities on me.

I’ve been hiking and camping my whole life and backpacking for about eight years. I’ve been a leader on a number of backpacking trips, and my dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was sparked when I was just a fourth grader. In my years of hiking, I have hiked injured, I have helped those who have been injured, and I’ve been caught in some really scary weather. None of this has discouraged me. If anything, it has encouraged me. I love and crave the simplicity of life on the trail. It is humbling and inspiring, and on my worst days, it is a reason to live.

Not just as a hiker alone, but as a woman alone, I take a lot of precautions when I go outside. Though nature can be scary, I trust it. People on the other hand- if I don’t know you, I don’t trust you. Nature can be mostly prepared for with a smartly packed daypack, but every person met, has a different motive, good or bad.

I am thrilled that I finally went more than a mile outside on my own. It was freeing and a personal best. The only time I was wary was in passing hikers I did not know. I started my hike with some frozen rain that dissipated with warming temperatures. Despite the grey sky, my heart felt happy. The fear instilled in me from countless lectures from various people, dissolved as I found myself right where I was meant to be.

I want to validate those who express concern for me because it is genuinely appreciated that you care, but I want my feelings validated too. Being outside puts me at ease, and I would never go out alone unprepared. So you hike your hike, and I’ll hike my hike, and when we need each other, we’ll reach out to support but never to discourage.

Cheers to 2017, and hiking your own hike. Let 2017 be a year of love, support, and respect.

 

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