Hiking Alone: Welcome or Avoided?
The California section of my SOBO thru-hike has been interesting, to say the least.
Early on in Washington and Oregon, I had the pleasure of having people around, sometimes to hike with, but more importantly, people to camp next to. It was nice. The sense of community was special.
Yet, when I flipped to navigate the NorCal fires and I started the Sierras NOBO, I knew there wouldn’t be many people crazy enough to hike that direction, into the Sierras nevertheless!
I was right. I saw one other JMT hiker going north, Pika, and the two days we were able to spend together were nice. The company was welcome, especially when going up against the intimidating passes and mountains of the southern Sierra.
Pika and I had to part, though; our plans didn’t coincide completely. So there I was, alone again, hiking north into the Sierra.
I knew what I was getting into, but as I mentioned in previous posts, the Sierra got to me, especially alone.
Not gonna lie, they terrified me. That mountain range is so menacing-looking. The peaks are high; the weather (as I learned) is unpredictable. You really feel “out there.”
Yes, you can literally be alone, but I really felt alone.
I wasn’t a fan. It wasn’t about having someone to walk with. In fact, I’ve realized I prefer hiking alone. I can go my own pace, stop and start when I want. It’s at night, though, that I realize company is really special, someone or people to say, “wow, what a section.” “Wasn’t that pass insane?” “ Have you ever seen so many granite boulders?” “Did you see that bear?”
I didn’t have that, and even now, having flipped again and resuming my SOBO trek, I still don’t have it! I’m at the tail end of the southbound train (figures 🙄), and getting back on trail at Kennedy Meadows S, I have seen no one!
Three-day stretches, five-day stretches—it has literally only been me, the bear, and the rattlesnakes.
BUT, something is different now. I am more at peace with being alone than I have been yet.
Maybe it’s because I’m in the desert, and the Sierras are past me. Maybe it’s because I am more confident now. I’m not exactly sure what the reason is, but I no longer feel alone.
I came across this quote from the poet, Rumi, and it resonated so deeply with me that I saved it to my phone:
“Whenever you’re alone, remind yourself that God sent everyone else away so that there is only you and him.”
A flip has been switched, and as I go into these final 600+ miles to San Diego, I’m at peace hiking alone. I had thought others would be alongside me, but for various reasons (long water carries/ timing/etc.), they are not.
And guess what… that’s ok. Thing is: I’m not alone. (I quite literally have a Garmin GPS and I can message people whenever and however much I want😂)
But, I had that before; this shift has occurred internally.
Now, I welcome the solitude. I make it more of a point to meditate. I heed the messages I receive.
More and more, hikers, especially women, are going at it alone! Rock on, sistas! NOBO, you’re never really alone (I realize that’s debatable, but chances are someone is always not too far ahead or behind you walking north). SOBO: completely different story.
All I know is that I have to finish this journey. This thru-hike is my journey and mine alone. Especially with my recent diagnosis, this trek is more of a spiritual one for me. And, in order to finish, I have to put one foot in front of the other, regardless if there is another person alongside me or not. So, I think I’ll do just that…
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