Sunny, I agree-- your "helper" probably wouldn't have done the same to a man. I flashed on how he would use the pump after I got done with it [BIG EVIL GRIN]. I guess scenarios like that are why I like to get out by myself-- putting up with idiots like that all week.
My hesitation to be too forward when I encounter a solo female hiker comes of not wanting to be threatening. They may just be day-hiking, but I can't imagine they feel 100% comfortable when coming across a large man in the middle of nowhere. Running into a couple is a whole other social situation I think. If another solo hiker were to initiate a conversation, ask for bearings, etc, then I would respond.
And people do go out alone for the solitude. There's nothing like sitting down in the woods and listening to the wind in the trees. I find the pace of my hiking changes radically when I'm alone and I really enjoy walking at my own pace. If there are arguments, they are short, and I always win :)
I've worked with a lot of women with a lot of education and training-- MD's, PhD microbiologists, chemists, architects, artists, social workers, psychologists, network administrators, and my wife is an ICU nurse. I know what they are capable of and the flip side is that I won't tolerate the "blink-blink-I'm-so-helpless" bit from women-- or men. If asked for help, I try to teach them to fish.
Ryan, I don't think the need for solitude is gender-based. In modern life we're all too streesed and can use the connection with Mom Nature and a break for the phones and cars and kids and the whole darn thing. There is a lot of research on the psycho-social differences between men and women, but we all need some peace and quiet.
I would like to think that getting out in the woods is an empowering thing for women. Boys get the he-man-Rambo-Daniel Boone thing from early on, but women need to reach out for that enculturation. It's a good thing to know you can sustain yourself for a week, navigate in the wilderness, climb mountains, and ford rivers.
And there are many men who didn't get the hands-on stuff either and I think it is just as empowering for them. There's alot of assuming done when it comes to men, but we're not born knowing how to repair cars or make a fire. I sold auto parts for many years and I saw a lot of guys stuck in the myth. They wouldn't dream of taking apart their $500 refrigerator, but somehow, because they were MEN, they would go home and spread their $40,000 SUV all over the driveway and then get frustrated because they couldn't fix it. Just because you can walk into a store and buy a set of wrenches sure doesn't automatically make you a mechanic. I've said many times that screwdrivers are dangerous in the wrong hands and should be licensed :)
If you really want to visit the whole process of being a creative individual and dealing with "helpers" check out Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way.