September 30

The Lonely Hiker: An Essay on Solo Hiking

hiking Colorado
CDT Near Berthoud Pass, Colorado – Photo Credit Ryan Choi

John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go”, but what if I’m used to going as part of a “we”?

After 12 years and close to 10,000 miles of backpacking I have found myself in a strange situation…time off in the summer and the desire to go hiking. What could be better? Well, the truth is that I am used to sharing high ridge walks, dips in alpine lakes, hail, snow, ice-cold springs, and the deep, black starry night sky with others. My husband, also a thru-hiker, has his heaviest workload in the summer. My other faithful hiking companion, Gimpy the dog, passed away last spring after 14 years of vagabonding with me, his tail wagging and his giant, velvety ears always on alert.

hiking with dogs

Solo hiking is nothing new in the hiking world, but it is new for me. I guess I could say I hiked the AT as a solo hiker, but that is not a solitary experience. Whenever you set foot on a long trail, in the same direction as most thru-hikers, you are bound to share views, water sources, and stories with kindred spirits.

The idea of going to many of the wild places that I’ve been dreaming about seems somehow less enjoyable without at least one of my two favorite companions in tow. When you are used to being part of a team, even if the other member of your team has four legs and can’t help you put up the tent, it takes a lot more effort to venture out alone.

hike Wind River Range
Hayley Pass in the Wind River Range – Photo Credit Sarah Zhang

It’s not that I’m afraid to go by myself; I just want to share the breathtaking views with a fellow enthusiast. My other thru-hiker friends are working and have only a couple of days on the weekends. I have tried forcing some of my colleagues (teachers) out into the backcountry – and they loved it – but their not itching to do trip after trip after trip.

As I finish this short essay, my backpack sits ready by the door for a three-day middle of the week adventure high on the divide. I’m pretty sure it is going to be the first of many amazing solo trips. I’m pretty sure the views will blow me away. And I’m pretty sure I’ll miss my two favorite hiking companions just a twinge when I settle into the tent alone.

hiker mountain goat
POD with Goats on the CDT in Colorado – Photo Credit Ryan Choi

The mountains keep calling…and I’m going to go. I’ll enjoy sharing the views with lichen and dwarfed flowers and alpine butterflies.

This post was contributed by Trail Ambassador Felicia Hermosillo who goes by the trail name POD or the Princess of Darkness.