Solo or No Go
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Re: Hiking alone--a female perspective on 06/06/2006 08:06:47 MDT Print View

>> I said nothing..just finished my coffee..picked up my pack and hiked on.

A great, if not unfortunate story, Sunny. Give'em heck and don't let 'em wear you down.

I think hiking alone for a woman offers far more benefit than hiking alone does for a man. Women are bombarded with social pressures to a much greater extent. The down time gives them a chance to foster an intrinsic spirituality that is not so easy to maintain in (at least) American society.

Solo quiet time is good for everyone. But it's vital to the survival and sanity of a woman.

Cool thread, thanks for bringing this topic up.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Hiking alone--a female perspective on 06/06/2006 18:29:45 MDT Print View

I backpack alone frequently. I like to take trips mid-week to maximize my solitude. I don't agree with Ryan though. It seems to me that men are subjected to huge social pressures as well as women. Backpacking alone gives anyone a chance to reconncect with their spiritual side (if it has slipped in the midst of the day-to-day rush). I love backpacking with others, but there is a totally different focus when going solo - most importantly - no conversations! What I do: I leave a trip plan and a time to call the ranger if I've not been heard from (and a number for the ranger). I carry a butterfly bandaid just in case. I'm careful. I backpack around the country, but in fairly tame locales like the High Sierras. I hike on trail and not in grizzley territory (at least not yet :) I guess the main thing is that I'm careful, which requires a certain concentration that I don't need trekking along sidewalks. I don't usually get hyper alert in the night anymore, but I used to. Especially when I first started sleeping under the stars - I felt so exposed! Now, I feel closed in under a tarp and prefer the sky's expanse above me. It's all a matter of getting comfortable with something different. Remember when you first started driving? How you were hyper alert and a little unsure in your movements? Now, we all think nothing of hurtling along at 65 mph with 10 other cars within feet of us. We just got comfortable in that environment. An environment we are in daily that is probably more hazardous than a backpacking trip. My advice - get out there and do it. Stretch your comfort zone gradually or scare the heck out of yourself with a big challenge, whichever is your style. Trust your style, trust yourself. Hike your hike.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Hiking alone--a female perspective on 06/06/2006 20:12:45 MDT Print View

Carol, I really love your comment. I think when people are out in the wilderness gender just doesn't matter unless you happen to be with a member of the opposite gender who is making things difficult for you. The rewards of being out there alone affect every individual, woman or man, as an individual; some people are deeply moved, others never want to be out there again.

Perhaps Ryan's comment can be interpreted in that societies often give women the impression that going solo in wilderness areas (let alone just traveling alone on the beaten paths of cities) is not something they should ever even entertain doing. And so many women will never attempt it. When they do, however, it can be a very liberating experience, something that men are encouraged to seek since childhood.

My wife and I have hiked and traveled by bicycle together for over 15 years. Last year she finally got up the nerve to try out the solo tent I bought her and go camping by herself. She still hasn't developed the confidence yet, but she told me last week that she is going to go to several more challenging mountains this year. It's wonderful to see her gain this kind of confidence, of knowing she can take care of herself out there and move more easily within those places that she has come to love. For me it brings me great joy in having been able to share my own love of nature and the wild and to see the joy reflected in another's eyes.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Solo hikers, busy-bodies, etc on 06/07/2006 12:55:01 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by dwambaugh on 06/07/2006 12:57:40 MDT.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Hiking alone--a female perspective on 06/07/2006 13:52:36 MDT Print View

Sunny, I have a question. Before I ask, I want to state that what the guy did was wrong, period. I don't want my question to be construed as condoning his behavior in any way. So here goes... Do you feel he was being "fatherly" or was this an obvious gender bias as your account implies? By the way, being "fatherly" is also wrong in this situation, and often even with your own kids. There has to be a better word than "fatherly". I hope you get my meaning. This is just the curiosity of an old Psych major.

Edited by ericnoble on 06/07/2006 14:01:19 MDT.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
patronizing? on 06/07/2006 14:05:46 MDT Print View

Eric, is that the word you wanted?

Maybe protective?

Tom Gibson
(TerribleTom) - F
Re: Re: Re: Hiking alone--a female perspective on 06/07/2006 14:06:21 MDT Print View

That is a great (and really funny) story. Isn't it funny how the guy just assumed that your Aqua Mira water treatment was somehow 'too risky'. Would he have said the same if you were boiling it? Using iodine tabs?

You did the right thing.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: patronizing? on 06/07/2006 14:18:56 MDT Print View

Protective is far too positive for what he did. Patronizing is close. It definitely conveys the "I know better" mentality. I'm looking for that and "I am older and therefore know better". Wisdom does not necessarily come with age. I can personally attest to the that, and my wife will back me up :).

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: patronizing? on 06/07/2006 14:51:53 MDT Print View

So many words come to mind and few of them publicly acceptable. It is SO rude to alter someone's else's property against their wishes, particularly with a complete stranger. Could you imagine someone popping the hood on your car and making adjustments on the engine or draining the antifreeze because they felt you had the wrong brand? To mess with someone's food is really asking for it-- so much more personal somehow. It's a case for heavier hiking boots :)

It is an age-old American problem-- minding someone else's business. Someone hand me a hiking pole so I can get down off this soap box!

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Re: Re: patronizing? on 06/08/2006 08:58:51 MDT Print View

Gentlemen..Yes I agree that what the man did was probably "all of the above" fatherly, protective, patronizing and rude". BUT the man was at least my age (almost 50) and he acted his age. I had spent the entire day hiking and camping with him and his wife..we had shared food, trail stories and checked out each others gear. In his "world view" that probably made me a part of his tribe and under his care. I considered his motive and chose to go graciously. I imagine if I needed help or had any problems he would have immediatly been there for me. Now if a 30 year old guy had messed with my gear I would have been polite BUT would have not been quite so gracious. Of course most of the 30 year old dudes I run into on the trail think I am way to cool because I am a solo female. They spot the cool gear right away and are interested in everything I can share with them. My theory about all of this is what I call "world view" or maybe "frame of reference". Guys in their 30's have women bosses, women mechanics, women doctors, ect ect ect so their reaction is different fromm a male in his 50's.

jeff woods
(jeffwoods55) - F
sunny on 06/08/2006 09:22:35 MDT Print View

you should have slapped the crap out of him

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: sunny on 06/08/2006 09:29:51 MDT Print View

Jeff...may I ask how old you are??

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
solo on 06/08/2006 09:52:24 MDT Print View

Sunny, I don't know the proper word to describe his actions. I can only guess at his motivation.

What I do know is that you handled the situation better than him.

jeff woods
(jeffwoods55) - F
my age on 06/08/2006 09:59:24 MDT Print View

i'm 13

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: patronizing? on 06/08/2006 10:09:56 MDT Print View

Sunny, thanks for your response. You are obviously very good at reading social situations and I think your reaction was commendable. I asked my question because I assumed age might have played a role. It didn't in the way I was thinking, but in a much more interesting way. Etiquette is still important when you're away from "civilization". I am sorry that I contributed to the side tracking of this thread. I am still very interested in the pros and cons of going solo, and a female perspective is highly valued by me.

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: patronizing? on 06/08/2006 12:15:44 MDT Print View

I have lots of pratice reading social situations. I got hooked on the outdoors early. My dad took us all camping when I was 2 and my brother was 4. We used his marine corps gear..we ate army rations from a mess kit and slept under poncho tarps (hey maybe that explains my fasination with poncho tarps :) I was lucky enought to be in the girl scouts and the explorer scouts where I learned to backpack and rockclimb. I went to one of those BIG churches that thought outdoor recreation was a great idea. I had an outdoor ministry with a couple of friends and we took groups out on overnight backpacking trips. I helped some friends of mine start a high adventure kids camp. You learn to navigate very carefully when you dealing with a variety of adults and kids. So my experience and frame of reference is very different from other female solo hikers. I wish I had the guts to really go out there and push the envelope but alas I am part chicken.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: sunny on 06/08/2006 13:04:44 MDT Print View

"Jeff...may I ask how old you are??"

I guess you did work with kids! I'm 52 and the thought crossed my mind too(of slapping him) -- I guess age mellows expressing such things, however much the testosterone drives it.

Like the bumper sticker says, "Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot"

"Of all the trails in the world, how did he wind up on mine?"
----- Hiking to Casablanca

Sunny Waller
(dancer) - M

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Re: Re: sunny on 06/08/2006 13:13:36 MDT Print View

Dale...I have asked you before not to crack me up while I am working...

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: Re: Re: sunny on 06/08/2006 14:15:38 MDT Print View

I love to hear stories of people doubting lightweight gear. (I have heard so many.) My solution to anything like that is to say, It works for me and the guy who hiked across the continent, And I also like to mention my daily mileage (usually about twice that of the "expert" heavy weight hiker) as graciously as possible of course :-)

Hi Jeff W.
Im glad to hear I am not the only 13 year old on the forums

Edited by ryanf on 06/08/2006 14:18:16 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: sunny on 06/08/2006 14:36:06 MDT Print View

Wow imagine someone altering your experience, that would have bummed me out. Great job Sunny. You were very gracious.

As for being outdoors and having people look at my gear. I got the chance last weekend in Emmigrant Wilderness. I met an older solo gentleman coming out after a few days on the trail. We got to talking about my gear (he thought I was a day hiker) and I was proud to explain to him the benefits of going light. I sure hope he took it to heart and checked out this site. He had a large external frame pack that he said weighed in over 50lbs for a weekend trip....ouch.