Hiking Solo – It’s a Choice, Not a Punishment
A constant struggle I face is trying to explain to my friends and family back home why I’m hiking solo. Hiking solo has been a choice, not a punishment.
The first part of my thru-hike was focused around experiencing this new and exciting lifestyle with my trail family, while the second part has been focused on personal growth. I didn’t plan for this to happen but am very happy it did. When I left Springer Mountain back in mid-March, I was surrounded by what people call the bubble, which is the large group of thru-hikers starting at the same time. I was always surrounded by friends and even hiked with a large trail family of eight or nine up until I was injured. When I returned to trail after recovering from my injury, I was getting on in Southern Virginia at the end of June, which was a month or so behind the bubble. I was running into way fewer thru-hikers my pace as I headed north. I soon fell in love with thru-hiking solo and decided I was going to continue hiking this way when I caught back up to the bubble. When you’re hiking solo, you’re still surrounded by friends at shelters and hike with others every now and then. The thru-hiker community is so loving and looks out for each other, so it’s really easy to make new friends. I’ve just learned to open up more quickly and enjoy my time with people, even if it’s only for a day or two.
After my last blog post, some friends and family reached out trying to come up with solutions to my loneliness, like waiting for friends behind me so I could hike with them, catching up to others so I could summit Katahdin with a crew, or coming to Maine to finish the hike with me. They were throwing out solutions, when there wasn’t a problem to be solved. There’s no need to worry or feel sorry for me. I slightly took offense to their comments, wondering if they thought I hadn’t made friends out here. I know that’s not the case and just a misunderstanding of the experience, so I’m hoping to educate with this post.
The AT has taught me that nothing lasts forever. All mountains have peaks. The rain will eventually stop. Just like AT thru-hikers are told to embrace the suck when it comes to terrain and weather, I wanted to embrace everything I was feeling, even the negative. My pain, discomfort, and loneliness soon turned into strength, empowerment, and happiness. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much Oprah or Brene Brown since I’ve been out here, but this is the experience I seek. We so often run away from situations that make us feel uncomfortable. I want to lean into it. I head into the 100-Mile Wilderness tomorrow and am so thankful for everything I’ve experienced. Talk to you all after Katahdin. 🙂
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I’m with ya toots. Hiking solo is the best. Gives you time to get inside your head and work shit out. Fair winds and following seas.
Vince aka The Dude, SOBO, ’17/’18