I’ve hiked for years, but always it has been with at least one other person. A couple of years ago, I found myself between hiking buddies, yet still with the urge to get into the mountains. So, why not just go alone?
(The worrier-me has reasons: What if I fall and hurt myself? What if I startle a bear and the probability of his horribly maiming me is 100% instead of the 50% or less I’d have if I was hiking with someone else? What if Mount Baker chooses that moment to erupt and I’m buried under hundreds of feet of ash?)
One thing helped sway me in favor of going in spite of all of these dangers — my new(ish) Nikon D50 digital SLR.
One of the first solo hikes I went on was to Lake Ann. The trail is one of my favorites, passing through meadows and finally switchbacking up a rocky slope before coming up to Lake Ann and, more importantly, a stunning view of the backside of Mount Shuksan.
The day was one of those perfect Northwest days of sun and cloudless blue skies. Being alone on the hike made it feel like an adventure.
Later that same year, I took the Heliotrope Ridge trail, another popular trail in the North Cascades. However, this was in September and the clouds meant I was almost completely alone on the trail — especially when I veered off the main trail to follow a climber’s route.
This branch was not as well-traveled for two reasons. One, it diverted from the most common destination for hikers on the trail — Coleman Glacier. Two, it was very steep. When I left the main trail, it was raining lightly, but it didn’t take long to gain enough elevation that the rain turned to wet snow.
Climbing up a trail through falling snow surrounded by misty fog hiding the spectacular view of Mount Baker that would normally be there, I was completely alone. The only sounds were the flakes (well, drops really) of snow hitting the ground and my Gore-tex coat, my boots hitting the ground as I walked, and my breath when I stopped — often — to rest and wonder what the hell I was doing out there alone.
The truth is, though, that I kind of liked being in a place where, at least at that moment, no one else had chosen to be. If only I had a hiking buddy to share the experience of being there alone. Oh, wait…