Breaking Through the Fear
I felt empowered the moment I declared my time off from work. “I’m going to hike the Superior Hiking Trail by myself,” I proudly proclaimed to all of my coworkers, friends, and family. I honestly hadn’t even heard of the SHT- a 300 mile trek along the North Shore of Lake Superior- until I moved to Minnesota. I had hiked the AT in 2014 with my partner but he had now moved on to other adventures with work. I was in the ‘honeymoon phase’ post-hike where I only remembered the great memories of favorite places, interactions, crazy trials that I can now laugh about; and now I wanted another taste. I forgot about those days where it was just me and my internal dialogue. The hard days when the miles seemed to take forever. No matter, I stock-piled gear and food drops and took one overnight on my own to a small, local park. I felt ready to tackle my first solo hike.
With my pack strapped and my boots laced, I waved goodbye to my ride and set off. The miles came easily and the landscape continued in lush, late summer woods. At long last the shadows stretched out and with no designated campsites the wide-woods were my option for the night. I spent miles looking for a flat spot. No luck. It was late enough that I just accepted setting up practically on trail. I made dinner and went to bed as twilight was just officially shifting and the last daylight evaporated from the trees.
That first night I heard movement. Those first rustles had me irrationally concerned and on edge. Then I began to play a game. What noises could I identify? Fear turned to curiosity and then I slept easily. The next night was also uneventful.
The third day is when I encountered the bears. There’s something about facing down a big mama black bear in close proximity by yourself that seems to use up all allotted courage. Thank goodness I met the one other thru-hiker on this lonely trail later that same day and I had a camping buddy for a few nights. When I did go out on my own again I did not have the same peace of mind. The woods felt suffocating and desperately empty of company- the good kind of company. I’m sorry and embarrassed to say that I was not able to break through my fear and instead broke from the trail at the halfway point.
This is a call out to all those adventurous solo hikers. Have you ever had a negative trail experience that shook your mental hike? How did you break through to the other side of that crushing fear? Is a solo-hike even a worthwhile endeavor or should we always expect to share our trail adventures with company in tow?
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.