I hike/backpack solo. It started as part necessity and part desire, but it’s developed into my preferred method of outdoor recreation. I’ve always taken the alternate path, and I’ve typically done it solo. Hell, that’s how I made it out to Arizona… it’s been over 20 years now!
I never did any hiking until my early 20s, and I had gone camping maybe a handful of times up until then. As I got into my 30s, life had a lot of changes and I had some more opportunities to do some very mild hiking. I always loved nature and being outside, but never made it a real recreational destination (if that makes any sense.) As relationships came and went and my professional life made some changes, my 30s turned into 40s and I found myself reverting back to my solo tendencies and I started to do some hiking.
At first a dayhike to Sedona or a fall hike up in the aspens in Flagstaff. Then it turned into researching hikes in the Superstitions and watching hiking videos on youtube. Youtube had a big part in my turning into a hiker/camper/backpacker. Gear, trails, best practices!
I lived in this state for years and never really explored Arizona’s amazing sites. I hadn’t even gone to the Grand Canyon until about 3 years ago!
I started with a solo (car) camping trip up outside of Williams, Arizona. Then I did some camping up on the Mogollon Rim at a campground which turned out to be packed. Unfortunately I was camped next to 3 screaming mothers and 12 children (no bueno). Ever since then I swore that campgrounds will be a last resort and when possible, I’d rather backpack miles away from a trailhead away from everyone. Less creature comforts, but more solitude.
In the past several years I’ve hiked with people a handful of times. I enjoy solo hiking and camping. It provides a perfect environment for your mind to completely turn off or conversely go off on tangents and explore your thoughts and ideas. I also love to stop quite frequently to take photos and videos, sometimes laying on the ground and reaching for those “perfect” shots for IG (lol, no really). An introvert at heart, I love my alone time doing what I feel like doing as the moment arises.
The challenge, isolation, and internal reflection time are all great and everything, but I also run into issues that way too often win over my good intentions and send me on a comfy (and lazy) weekend on the couch:
- Being solo most of the times mean I need to prepare quite a bit more than if I were going with other people. I need to know where I’m going, what my options are, is there any water out there? I also, like a responsible hiker, notify an email group of my specific plans and estimated timeframes and then follow up with real time satellite text messages along the way. I don’t pursue risky routes or unknown trails (no recent data). I’m about as careful as you can be. This means a lot of leg work before heading out. If I don’t this nailed down a day or two before my departure time, there’s a good chance I won’t get out… or that a backpacking trip turns into a lazy day and then an easy dayhike.
- My work life, like everyone else, has evolved and has become quite busy. My weeks have been long and most weeks I’m busy right up until Friday evening when I would typically force an end to my work. This means that if I didn’t have trip planned for the weekend, I would have very little time to figure out my route, gear, food, weather, etc. What I’ve learned: If I’m not planned out by Thursday evening/Friday morning, I’m probably not doing a full 2 day backpacking trip.
- I like to eat. Yeah, everyone likes to eat, but in my early days of backpacking I got sick of the crappy dehydrated food. I was watching a lot of youtube videos and people doing steaks over a fire… come on, now that sounds freakin awesome! So I started carrying frozen steaks and beer with veggies and grill… BACKPACKING! Yeah, I was eating like a king, but I was also carrying like 30-40lbs of gear! I will admit there’s been a few trips that got canceled or severely shortened because I couldn’t decide on food. It’s ridiculous. Yes, I know.
- Over-preparing. I actually like the research and planning part of my trips, and this is part of the problem. I get so wrapped up in researching routes and reading trip/trail reports. I end up with a google doc with several pages of bullets, a new subset of items bucket list items to add to my list, and I completely lose focus of the task at hand.
I think the thing that keeps me going is the fact that, without doubt, every single time when I’m done with a hike or a backpacking trip I’m incredibly glad to have done it. No matter how tired and sore my legs and feet may be I’m usually feeling great and wanting more.
It’s a cool, rainy weekend here. I’m just watching the storms outside. I’m hoping next weekend will be my first night out camping for 2021… we’ll see. 😉