"A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American"
That is rather how I feel.
I could die in the backcountry. My wife would (hopefully!) lament it. But I truly think that people would feel happy for me in the sense I am doing something I love when I pass on.
I remember seeing my grandfather a few days before he died. This man who fought a war, raised a family and was strong well into his old age. More importantly, through example, he showed my brothers what it was to truly be a man. Not the macho BS that is looked on to be "manly", but rather the real way to be a man: Be honest in your dealings, work hard for those you love, and there is no such thing as "man's work". Grandma would cook a wonderful meal that often last all afternoon; my grandfather would clear the table and wash the dishes while she was enjoying coffee and dessert.
However, the man on his deathbed was not my grandfather any more. Old age robbed his strength. Dementia robbed his personality. He did not die peacefully in his sleep. He was obviously wracked in pain until the end.
I do not romanticize dying out in the wilderness. Could be painful or lingering. Could also be quick and painless.
I do know that I do not want die robbed of whatever makes me *me*, however.
Having said all that, I obviously love backpacking solo.
Another pertinent quote:
"I wait. Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of lonliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness
and a quiet exultation. "
So said Cactus Ed....
I really can't say it much better..but because obviously I ramble on, I'm going to say something anyway. :-)
When hiking solo. I do not feel alone. I do much thinking that otherwise would not be done.
Everything is more intense. Somehow the views are vaster, the sounds sharper, the smells more intense. The feelings are overwhelming. In short, I feel intimately
connected to the universe in which I walk. I do not feel alone...but more connected. The longer I am out, the more this feeling is intensified.
On a past hike, I remember being out nearly four days without seeing
anyone. I stumbled in a herd of elk on a damp Oregon day. The sounds of hoofs crashing through the woods, the smell of damp earth, the incredible sight of the
large elk going through the woods. Years later, this image is etched vividly in my memory.
On a trip in he San Juans, I was caught in an early September snowstorm on San Luis saddle . I bailed into Creede. The following day, I was again on a divide. The mountains around me were white, the sky was a deep blue. The air had the crispness of Colorado in autumn. It was an over-whelmingly intense scene. My eyes filled up with the
intense emotion I felt with the beauty encompassing me. Being alone can do that and I am not ashamed to admit it.
Solo hiking can be difficult. You are by yourself, in your own thoughts. You must use your own resources. I don't think being alone is what makes going solo
hard...I think confronting yourself, having all around you that much more intense...that is what people find difficult.
For me, solo hiking turns a backpacking trip from an extended vacation into a wilderness pilgrimage. When going solo, I am forced to confront on a very gut level what I am seeking on the pilgrimage. The beauty, the emotion, my thoughts. And I would not have it any other way.
Is it more dangerous? Perhaps. But I do not take any unnecessary risks. I do not ski avalanche paths. My hiking on technical terrain is on the conservative side and does not take me past my ability level.
Most importantly, my wife has a plan of my itinerary and often a map.
Perhaps I am being foolish gy going solo.
But if we only did things that were 100% safe, a bicycle would never be ridden for the first time, skiing would be something I would never do and I'd have been too timid to ask out my now-wife out on date less I get turned down and embarrass myself (I embarrass myself with Mrs Mags in many different ways now!)