Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail
Display Avatars Sort By:
Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/12/2010 13:36:49 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/12/2010 14:31:22 MDT Print View

Great trip report!

I grew up in Fort Smith and spent some time (though not enough) around Devil's Den State Park and Lake Fort Smith. The last time I was in the south, I purchased books on the Ouachita and Ozark Highlands National Trails. It's in the back on my mind to do those someday.

Also, it is nice to hear another's thoughts on fear, both rational and irrational, in the backcountry. Last weekend, I did a dayhike on the west side of Mt. Adams. I never saw another hiker and definitely felt my senses were heightened, but the time I felt the most fear was after a detour left me with a long forest road walk back to the car. I must have looked over my shoulder every minute.

Regardless, it is a good reminder that the wilderness can really be the best place to . . . think.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
hiking alone on 10/12/2010 19:44:30 MDT Print View

i prefer to hike alone, there are times when im afraid, like when i see two boars infront of me on the trial or nearly step off a ledge, other than that, i consider it safer then driving down the road-and im not afraid then. I enjoy the solitude as long as i can and im willing to accept a few fearful moments here and there to get it. Thanks for the report, great job. And it is true, i dont care how fast you are, high mileage days cut out relaxation time.

David Heath
(snowguy) - F

Locale: Boulder Colorado
On solo trekking on 10/12/2010 21:06:47 MDT Print View

I consider my solo multiday trips to be much more fulfilling and meaningful than my hikes with others. I do like to share the outdoors with friends at times but to really get away from "life as usual" solitude is necessary. Wilderness is to me the perfect place to find the space and absence of human distraction so necessary for the pursuit of lonliness. When all of the distractions are gone I am more aware of the fears and aloneness that are hidden in my day to day life. Perhaps they are always there and if so solitude is a good way to learn and grow from them. I tell people that to really understand the transcendent spirt of Thoreau and Muir one should follow them on solitary journeys into the wilderness of the world and the mind.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/12/2010 21:07:13 MDT Print View

Very good report. Well done.

I chuckled at the "steering-wheel wave," because I do it all the time when I go to my family's cabin!

I'm sure many of us know how you feel having to cut your trip short. I know I do. Had to bail halfway through the Superstition Mountains due to my fiancee's wrecked knees. We were both very disappointed, but with the help of some trail angels, we made it back safely.

Brent Doss

Locale: SW Missouri
OHT on 10/12/2010 21:52:01 MDT Print View

Lucas, A very descriptive & entertaining article. A co-worker ,his sons, & myself are starting a section hike of the OHT this very weekend at Lake Fort Smith state park. We plan to hike the entire trail through the remaining fall, winter, & spring. The timing of your article is uncanny. Thank you so much.

Allen Childs
(childthor) - F
Allen Childs, Hemphill M, NC on 10/13/2010 05:23:04 MDT Print View

Lucas, great report and all the feelings and thoughts of us who solo. Could you post your gear list (major items)? Thanks!!

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/13/2010 07:58:16 MDT Print View


Your article was a very frank, insightful and open sharing of experiences and concerns. I thoroughly enjoyed and identified with many portions of your trip report. The pictures have a very surreal beauty about them.

Trail Angels are real not imagined.

Two years ago "Lazarus" and I were assisted by some trail angels in the guise of college age day hikers. We were dehydrated and they shared their water with us. They were traveling in the opposite direction on the same trail. We thanked them for their kindness and continued down the trail. Lazarus was in the lead and remarked that he was on spider web duty with his hiking staff. I called a halt to the hiking and asked Lazarus, "How can you be knocking down spider webs when those day hikers just came from the same direction that we are walking?"

Once again I applaud your article and its content.

Party On,


Eddy Walker

Locale: southeast
Members only?? on 10/13/2010 09:36:44 MDT Print View

why is this a menbers only trip report?

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/13/2010 09:42:07 MDT Print View

Become a Member, support the website and the effort put into generating these reports, and see what all the fuss is about!

Lucas Boyer
(jhawkwx) - MLife

Locale: 38.97˚N, 95.26˚W
Thanks on 10/13/2010 09:45:23 MDT Print View

Thanks for the kind words. There is a very different dynamic to hiking alone. Much more different than operating alone in day to day life with so many outside sources of stimulus(radio, internet, tv, etc.) providing distraction from your own thoughts.

Steven, I had a similar experience at Mt St. Helens several years ago. I wasn't even alone, but my wife and i were exploring the lava tubes on the backside of the park and found it rather spooky. It was late in the day near dusk and just felt rather cold out there.

Allen, my list is in my forum profile w/ a few post trip comments.

John, you captured the sentiment of trail angel magic perfectly.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Fear & Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/13/2010 10:37:07 MDT Print View

Great trip report Lucas!! I can relate to your story from when I first started backpacking. I have not hiked solo since I joined this community of passionate hikers...Thank goodness!

Gerry Brucia
(taedawood) - MLife

Locale: Louisiana, USA
HIking Solo on the OHT on 10/13/2010 15:54:44 MDT Print View

I too am starting a four to five day section hike on the OHT starting this weekend. Thanks for the wonderful trip report and reflections on fear and loneliness.

Question for those who do much more soloing than I you bring a book to read? I am contemplating doing so but am wondering if this will enhance or detract from my solo experience.

In the past, especially if I hike with boy scouts, I do take along some reading for sanity sake. Also, when I have solo hiked in the past, I have taken my dog with me for company but this time it will be a true solo hike. Feedback welcome!

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Solo on the OHT on 10/13/2010 16:01:03 MDT Print View

Gerry, Take a journal--great way to pass the time or bring a paperback--I usually bring a IPOD w/ a small speaker to pass the time...

Leigh Baker

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
Lucas, What a wonderful trip report on 10/13/2010 17:44:52 MDT Print View

It has me itching to hit the trail for my first Arkansas backpacking trip at the end of the month! I've canoe camped on the Buffalo a number of times, but last fall was my first hiking trip. I got lucky and timed it dead on with the peak of fall foliage in the upper Buffalo area. After that I knew I'd be back for more hikes. Thanks again for sharing, it was a delightful read.

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
loneliness, pacing on 10/13/2010 19:11:38 MDT Print View

I too really enjoyed reading your report. Thank you for sharing it.

I have not done much solo overnight hiking. But I got that spooky feeling--what am I *doing* out here?--on a New Mexico trip when I took my younger son, then 14, and his 13-year-old friend. Pecos Wilderness in August, "monsoon season." All the horse parties passed us going down. All the other hikers didn't even try. Steady rain all the way up to Pecos Baldy Lake. On other trips to that area, we've always seen other groups. This time, no one at all up there. It hit me during the night, here I am up here miles from anyone with 2 children to care for...yes the boys were old enough to be competent, and they were, but that's how it felt. We completed our 4-day circuit in the rain, ate wild strawberries, saw more kinds of mushrooms than I've seen anywhere.

My older son through-hiked the John Muir Trail solo at age 17 in 1998. He said it was beautiful country, and a good adventure, but that he will *never* do a long hike solo again. For him, it was just too lonely, he said.

Thinking about your injuries. It sounds like you paced yourself for some pretty high mileages, but perhaps that is your normal pace. Still, I found myself wondering if pushing yourself like that, even with a light pack, contributed to the problems. I understand that for many folks going fast is part of the fun, but it seems like it might work better to give our urban selves a break, go more leisurely, be more "on vacation." I do hope you experienced a speedy recovery when you got home.

We have done a little bit of hiking in the Buffalo National River area; it really is beautiful, rough country. We are hoping to hike one of the long trails up there when we get more time.

Lucas Boyer
(jhawkwx) - MLife

Locale: 38.97˚N, 95.26˚W
re: on 10/14/2010 08:10:42 MDT Print View

Ditto on the paperback & journal. Some nights sleep comes before reading time, especially if I journal and look at my maps, guidebook, etc., but those nights when you need a little unwind time, a book is great. Plus, a good thought provoking book gives you something to chew on while you hike. Journaling is much easier solo. I always get distracted when I'm with others and usually just read at bedtime.

Get out there now Leigh. In the next couple of weeks the Ozarks are going to be blazing w/ color. If you miss it don't fret. Leaf-off is a great opportunity to see the numerous valleys and hogbacks that make up the Ozarks.

Mina, I was up at Pecos Baldy this summer. We tried to go over the saddle to the northwest of the lake and found the trail turned into a goat path on very loose talus. My wife was uncomfortable on the loose rock and asked that we go the other way. We turned back and went around the other way towards trail rider's wall. Nice place.

I was careful to pace myself pretty lightly the first few days, but pushed it too many miles on the days w/ the steep descents and multiple creek crossings. I run marathons when I'm not backpacking, so I'm pretty comfortable with an aggressive pace. Unfortunately, I just pushed it too hard. That's the bad thing about short trips that you can't make up mileage on the back half as easily when you have weeks to build up your pace. I was back out running within a couple weeks of returning home. I agree that one needs to find a balance in leisure and pacing. For me, seeing more trail was a priority over relaxing. My wife and I did a section hike a few weeks after that we took much easier and did a lot of lying around on. So, I get both worlds, despite my anxious tendencies.

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
OHT on 10/16/2010 14:06:06 MDT Print View

Thanks Lucas for sharing your adventure. You really brought back memories for me. I thru hiked the trail (plus the extra 15 miles to get to a ride at Hwy. 65) in Apr/May this year. By that time it was full leaf on. Fortunately I hiked it with 2 others but I can relate to your loneliness/isolation. It is a trail than can intensify those issues. We encountered only one backpacker in out 18 days on the trail.
I suffered from a swollen leg--not real painful but an annoyance. Loosing the trail, bushwhacking, bloody scratched legs, rain etc. seem to be part of a common experience on the OHT. In spite of it all I'll always be grateful for having done it. Don

Edited by amrowinc on 10/16/2010 23:48:39 MDT.

Eric Gray
(CrankyRat) - F
Loneliness on the trail on 10/17/2010 02:47:43 MDT Print View

In my twenties (75' thru 85') I'd go it alone in the Canadian Rockies, British Columbia, and Washington State for weeks at a time. Strangely, I never felt lonely. On a 6 week Banff to Jasper trip I went one stretch for two weeks without seeing a human soul. I remember a deep sense of serenity during that time, true peace. I'd feel like I was the only person on another planet. When I finaly did meet someone though did I talk their heads off!

The fewer the people the more special the chance meeting.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Fear and Loneliness on the Ozark Highlands Trail on 10/17/2010 16:56:41 MDT Print View

Thanks for sharing your story. It was different from most posted here...more personal, less gear driven. Someone once said, "When you start your hike, you worry about the animals. Once you approach the end, you worry about the people."