Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why I Hike Alone

I have lived in Washington State for almost all of my life, and as a kid I may have hiked a handful of times, but I never thought about it as something to really get into, ever!

Then I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone, and it helped her find herself after some really bad times in her life.  I loved that idea. I decided I wanted to try hiking for exercise and for my inner self. I took my dog, Abbey, and my first hike was Snow Lake at Snoqualmie Pass on September 4th, 2012. I hiked with my 4 year old grandson several times that fall, because I was babysitting him a lot.  But after that fall, I hiked alone.

So, why do I like hiking alone? There are several reasons

1.       I can go where I want- I can do a hard hike or an easy hike depending on my needs that day. I can do a trail with a waterfall, or a view, or a lake, or just a trail through the quiet forest. I don’t have to okay it with other people, I can change my mind at the last minute, and it’s simple and spontaneous. Occasionally, I hike with my dad, and usually I tell him the day before where I want to go, and he can say yes or no. He always says yes though! I use the Washington Trails Association website and phone app to help me choose hikes, it’s the best!

2.       I can go when I want- I am retired, so my time is my own (at least until recently!), and with the Google weather on my phone, I can look at the weather for the week and pick a nice day and just go!

3.       I can go at my own pace- I don’t have to wait for anyone, or keep up with anyone; I can go as slow or fast as I feel like.

4.       I don’t have to visit with anyone- That is the reason why I can do so much thinking; I don’t have to be social. (I am naturally introverted anyway!)

5.       My mood improves- I believe it’s just like a runner’s high, the endorphins kick in, and I am happy! And what is so much better than running, there is always a payoff at the end of the hike, a view, a beautiful alpine lake, a powerful waterfall, something that catches your breath and you have to sit down and take it all in!

6.       I do a lot of problem solving- It is amazing how clearly I think when I am walking, even just around where I live. Maybe it’s the improved circulation to the brain, the oxygen in the lungs, and the endorphins making me smarter (?), but I actually come up with solutions to problems, or I come to a conclusion or decide on one of my life’s truths.  Hiking is therapy to me. I feel it in my brain and my heart when I don’t get to do it!

A lot of people ask me if I am scared, worried about attacks from people or animals, of hurting myself, or getting lost. No, I’m not, because I am extremely careful and I have my strict safety rules.

1.       I only day hike, so I make sure that I am done before dusk.

2.       Someone always knows exactly where I am and how long it should take.

3.       I hike well-travelled trails.

4.       I read WTA’s trip reports and if there are bear or cougar sightings, I pass.

5.       I have actually gotten hurt before, I sprained my ankle on the Annette Lake trail.  But, I still managed to get home before anyone worried about me. I limped down using a walking stick for support and if I couldn’t have done that, there were people on the trail who would have helped me.
      In my mind, the benefits completely outweigh the risks, so I plan to continue.

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