Going It Alone

I write a lot about the physical aspect of going it alone on this blog, but rarely delve into the emotional aspect.  People often recoil at the notion that I am traveling/hiking/biking/kayaking/RVing alone.  I recently had a man stop me on the trail just to ask if I was hiking alone.  He remarked that he was seeing more and more solo women on the trail, and did I think it was because of “the book?”   I replied perhaps, but I have been hiking solo 20 years before Cheryl Strayed wrote the “Wild.”  In fact, traveling alone is the most comfortable default for me.  No one writes a book with the title “Alone but Never Lonely” unless they enjoy being alone.

Many assume there are reasons other than desire or personal choice. There aren’t. It’s the one time when I don’t ever hear myself say those soul-sucking, insipid words, “I don’t care…whatever you want to do” for fear my true choice will disappoint the rest.  Or vice versa.  Being alone guarantees that 100% of the time, I am doing exactly what I want to do.   As soon as I start following someone else’s path, it’s no longer “my journey.”

I recently contemplated the perspectives of intentionally hiking alone, versus being with a group and finding myself alone.   Why should the two scenarios really be any different?   But they are…one feels intentional, while the other can feel a bit isolating.  I’m a slow hiker, so I tend to find myself at the back of the pack. It’s “victor versus victim” mentality.   I try to avoid the latter.

There are times when I write about risky situations on the blog.  Most recently, I heard several “virtual gasps” in regard to my Kanarraville Falls solo hike.  While some commented, “Oh, you are so brave,” others said downright “foolish.”   😉

But consider this…You are standing alone at the bottom of a rickety ladder in a waterfall.  Or at the end of a lone 4WD road, or an icy precipice overlooking a steep, dead-end drop of a canyon.  You are pretty sure there is something at the other end that reaps a reward possibly much greater than the risk.  You ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does someone know where I am and would question if I don’t show up or report in?  Yes, someone knows where I am at all times.
  • Do I have adequate food and water?  The 10 Hiking Essentials? Yes, and even a space blanket for extra warmth.
  • Do I have some sort of self-rescue training or knowledge?  Yes, months of self-rescue from technical dive training, cave training, First Aid training, and Map and Compass course.
  • Do I have people who depend on me for their livelihood?  No, they would be sad, but in fact are better off as beneficiaries.
  • Do I have some type of communication device with me? Yes, if the cell phone doesn’t work, the Delorme Inreach will. If it doesn’t work, well, at least I was prepared.
  • Is my financial house in order?  Yes
  • Have I told my loved ones how much I love them?  Yes

So do you press on alone, knowing you have accessed the risks?   Or do you say, “Naaaahhhh….I think I’ll just wait until I can find someone to go with me.”

Brave is the woman who bucks the system or pokes at the glass ceiling to say “Follow me, I know a better way.”  Courageous is the woman who fronts the spousal abuse to protect her children.  Bold is the woman who asserts herself in the male-dominated field of exploration.   No, I take the chicken way out….I go it alone.

Apparently I am "alone" in my desire to be alone. Check out this "Love Locks Dream Catcher" just outside of Zion's gate.

Apparently I am “alone” in my desire to be alone. Check out this “Love Locks Dream Catcher” just outside of Zion’s gate.

Apparently they have done this to stop people from putting locks on the cables of Angels Landing and other trails. According to research, each engraved lock is about $25. Seems like there are better ways to show the love...

Apparently they have done this to stop people from putting locks on the cables of Angels Landing and other trails. According to research, each engraved “Love Lock” is about $25. Seems like there are better ways to show the love…

Overlooking "Weeping Rock" from the switchbacks on the way up to Observation Point.

Overlooking “Weeping Rock” from the switchbacks on the way up to Observation Point.

I want to do a hike I've never done before in Zion, so I am on the way up the East Rim Trail to Observation Point.

I wanted to do a hike I’ve never done before in Zion, so I am on the way up the East Rim Trail to Observation Point…alone.

After some long, grueling paved switchbacks, the trail reaches Echo Canyon.

After some long, grueling paved switchbacks, the trail reaches Echo Canyon.

Another female solo hiker. Was she inspired by "the book?"

Another female solo hiker. Wonder if she was inspired by “the book?”

Towering walls on approach to Echo Canyon.

Towering walls on approach to Echo Canyon.

Bottom of the slot of Echo Canyon.

Bottom of the slot of Echo Canyon.

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The trail continues to climb along an exposed face. It's actually almost too warm to do this hike.

The trail continues to climb along an exposed face. It’s actually almost too warm to do this hike.

First glimpse down into Zion Canyon…still another mile to go across a flat plateau.

Observation Point is an 8 mile hike round trip with 2,100 ft elevation gain. I made it in spite of the "November heat!"

Observation Point is an 8 mile hike round trip with 2,100 ft elevation gain. I made it in spite of the “November heat!”

Angels Landing is the "dragons back" ridge below. Kinda cool to look down on it...

Angels Landing is the “dragons back” ridge below. Kinda cool to look down on it…

"Lunch with a View"...for Pam.

“Lunch with a View”…for Pam.

Views from this point are about 270 degrees...beautiful!

Views from this point are about 270 degrees…beautiful!

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Heading back down the East Rim trail.

Heading back down the East Rim trail.

A different hike...my favorite. Many Pools.

Different hike, different day…my favorite. Many Pools.

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Lots of opportunities for alone time in these canyons, which makes it a favorite.

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Mark and Bobbie enjoy hiking “alone but together.”

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Trapezoid Rock

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Maple leaves look like they are wet, but it's pine sap from Ponderosa Pine overhead.

Maple leaves look like they are wet, but it’s pine sap from Ponderosa Pine overhead.

Exiting Many Pools via the Petroglyphs trail. A slot at the end is added bonus.

Exiting Many Pools via the Petroglyphs trail. A slot at the end is added bonus.

Another solo hiker...

Another solo hiker…

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47 thoughts on “Going It Alone

  1. Another excellent entry. I cannot believe the warmth there.

    You have all your priorities in line. Well done.

    • Thanks, Marilyn, but I am a bit behind on the blog. This hike was in November. The warmth didn’t stick around much longer than I did.

  2. This is one of your most inspiring posts, Suzanne! I just want to get out and hike something – alone!, even if with others on the trail. And you’re right we all miss Pam’s ‘Lunch with a view’ signature photo(s). Thanks for filling in.

    • Thanks, Jeff! I am delighted that you found it inspiring. And I too miss Pam’s “Lunch with a View” shots, but I suspect neither of us miss them as much as Pam does. 😉

  3. This is such a timely post! About to head out with my View and toad, my first time towing and my first trip longer than 10 days. Your photos and words cause my heart to flutter a little…I can’t wait! Thank you for this wonderful post. Kat

    • Kat, you are never more alone in this RVing world than you want to be! Good luck with the new View! Please let me know how it goes, and where you’re headed. Hope you enjoy the rig as much as I have mine!

      • Thanks Suzanne. I’m headed south from OR to AZ for the winter…so will stay put there for awhile. A little apprehensive about the first towing trip but think I’m well prepared. There’s so much great info on the internet. I was hoping to make it to the Quartzite rally in January but looks like that will have to wait till the next one.

        • Kat — Make yourself a checklist for hooking up, and follow it to the point of being robotic. If someone comes up to talk or ask if they can help, politely tell them no, you need to make sure you have covered all the bases, and will talk to them as soon as you are done, but distractions can be deadly. Always check your trailering lights before you pull out, and try to make a slight curve as you leave the lot so you can see in the side mirror that all four wheels are rolling. When you get to your destination, NEVER forget to put the emergency brake on in the tow car before you unhitch! (Don’t ask me how I know!) Also, before you remove the pins, turning the tow car wheel back and forth will loosen some of the torque on the pins, making them easier to remove. So will a squirt of WD40. And always carry a spare pair of pins. If something happens and you lose one while disconnected, you’re not going anywhere! Once you’ve got it down, the View leads like a dream! Good luck!

  4. I agree with you, Suzanne. You are well prepared. We don’t know how many days we have on this planet, so be happy! Go & do whatever brings you joy! I love you and your attitude!!!

  5. Could I do this? Eight miles, I think so, but 2100 ft. elevation, maybe not. Still, you are an inspiration. Oh and thanks for the correction on the Moab, Red Cliffs Lodge thing. That’s why I don’t hike alone….I never know where I am.

    • Betty, if you have the desire, I have no doubt you could do it. Just take it slow, and don’t go on a day that’s too hot. But if you get halfway up and decide it’s more than you bargained for, you will have still seen some spectacular views back over Zion Canyon! And the beautiful Echo Canyon. So tackle it without being too “goal oriented,” and turn around when you’ve had enough, as it’s all down hill!

  6. As much as I enjoy your more “organic” posts with lovely photographs and defining prose, I especially appreciate when you take the time to answer the unspoken “why” with more than the esoteric “why not?”. Because of you, and your insightful worldview, I will be setting off on my first solo camping trip in January, a few states away from the Comfort Zone and nowhere near family or friends. Blog posts such as this underscores that a creative life is best lived when, at least occasionally, one crawls out of the box. Thank you. :-)

    • Rhonda, I love this! So are you going to reveal your secret destination, a few states away? Inquiring minds want to know. 😉 Good for you!

      • I’m a bit sheepish to report my destination is nowhere near the level of your getaways, but a girl’s gotta’ start somewhere. :-) I follow Technomadia who have written about Cedar Key, FL enough to whet my appetite. So not really *alone* but solo, with no fam or friends, for two weeks in January in my darling little Shasta. I’ll be dipping my toes in gingerly, both philosophically and literally, as I’ve secured a waterfront site. Might not be as warm as I’d like but those Mai Tais will be mighty tasty as I sit and watch those beautiful sunsets with my man Leon singing “Back to the Island” in the background. So excited! :-)

        • Oh, WOW, Rhonda, that sounds so fantastic on all counts! I do remember the sunsets they posted from Cedar Key. And you are talking some of my favorites…Mai Tais and watching the sun go down….to one of my favorite Leon songs! What a nice getaway you have planned! Very excited for you!

  7. Great post and lovely photos of Zion !! I do a lot alone and I traveled alone for 2 years in an RV so I know what you mean about all the comments on a woman alone. And guess what, I will be out there alone again and soon. I hope to have found my RV by springtime and have sorted thru all my stuff and shed most of it. Just lost all my elderly pets (4) in the last year so ready to go. Not that you can not travel with a pet. I had a cat on my last RV travels. But my current crew was old and sickly so I didn’t want to change it up for them by putting them into an RV. I love hiking alone too. I also Love meeting new people. I am not a total loner but very comfortable alone.

    • Sue, sorry to hear about the elderly pets, but I am sure once you are past the grief stage, it will offer a new level of freedom. I look forward to hearing about your next RV!

  8. As an introvert that does not do well around people (Yep, those are two separate issues.) I’ve been a solo traveler/hiker/kayaker/biker since the 80’s. As such I am a strong proponent of your position as well as all your risk-reducing ‘questions’ especially planning on self-rescue (I made the choice to be out here, what right do I have burdening others with retrieving me??) ; except I have to admit that I don’t often follow rule #1: making sure someone knows where I am and my approximate schedule. In fact I very rarely follow this rule.

    I know, I know,bad ju-ju. True it’s a risk, but one I understand and accept, and like you, my heirs will be well off. A life lived consciously is a life well lived, however long it lasts.

    • I think you forgot some things, Suzanne…such as how you apply your amazing intelligence to every experience and challenge, you always have amazing insights and plans (based on intensenive research, experience, and input from so many people that you have met along the way), and your amazing fortitude.

    • Greg, if you are a hiker and not going to “file a flight plan” with friends, a good idea is to leave a note inside the vehicle. I’ve heard of others doing this and labeling it “SAR” so the search and rescue team knows the note is for them, and they will know where to look if you don’t show up…

  9. I am so inspired by you and your journey. I crave the alone time and really don’t get enough of it, which wears me down. I live vicariously through you right now., but someday….I’ll get my chance.
    Safe and blessed holidays my friend!

  10. I enjoy my own company and find travel/hiking alone I get more out of the experience. 40 years ago I was being asked if I wasn’t afraid of traveling alone, in a Vega with a dog, and more than half the years since I still go solo. Not that I don’t enjoy company sometimes too. Fuck “the book” that I haven’t read.

    Love the view of Angels Landing, and your lunch with a view.

  11. Just this week a workamping coworker gasped when I told her I travel alone. Then the words “I refuse to travel in fear” poured out of me with such conviction, even I was surprised. Later I thought I might change that to a positive affirmation like “I am at home everywhere I go.” Thanks for the fabulous photos & insights.

  12. What a lovely post. As I get on toward the magical senior age I wonder what I have been afraid of all these years is really not worth worrying about. Just enjoy the moment in time and let everyone else worry. Thanks for the great pictures.

  13. Suzanne, this was a wonderful post. I love how easily the words flow. I so understand what you are feeling. While I am not a solo woman, I do think of John and myself as solo travelers/hikers. We really enjoy hiking alone, than it is our adventure and done the way we want it done. I personally enjoy the silence in hiking so when with others I miss so much. We, too, are what I would call slow hikers. What’s the hurry! The journey is just as important as the destination. A few bloggers I read always have others around or with them. Not for us. Don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy time with our friends and sharing some favorite hikes with others. But our alone time is important. We are prepared if there is a problem. The Delorme is on our list as soon as we get to Tucson and REI. We have the SPOT button now. The Delorme wasn’t out at the time. I like it better because of the ability to communicate with someone on the other end. With the SPOT you never know if your call for help went through. Hopefully, we will never need it!! But I do feel so much better knowing we do have some emergency device since we enjoy Jeeping and hiking away from others. All this being said, I can hardly wait to meet up with you and spend some time chatting and laughing together…and sharing a few milk stouts:) We WILL find a way to meet this winter/spring!!! I will reroute us to meet you!!

  14. “Free Bird” comes to mind after reading this post…

    “If I leave here tomorrow
    Would you still remember me
    For I must be travelin’ on now
    There’s too many places I got to see”
    and
    “Lord knows (you) can’t change”
    Nor should you!
    Nice work here,
    Box Canyon Mark

  15. I find it fascinating (and annoying) that people feel they need to project their own insecurities upon others by judging their choices. “They” don’t have to hike alone if they don’t want to….

    Regardless, you certainly are as prepared as one could be to enjoy the solo pursuits you choose. Personally, I LOVE alone time with nature , it is therapeutic to my sanity; I daresay it is the same for you. Hike on, girl friend!

  16. Although I enjoy, and sometimes feel the need for the solitude of a hike or bike ride alone, I think even you would agree there is something special about being able to share the joy and beauty of nature with others.

  17. It’s 18 degrees with heavy snow on the way, but oh, your words and pictures make me yearn for a hike!! Walking down the cold roads just don’t cut it. Wonderful post! Thank you.

  18. Wow, can I ever relate to what you said about “those soul-sucking, insipid words, “I don’t care…whatever you want to do” for fear my true choice will disappoint the rest. Or vice versa.”

    I frequently say something like that to questions about why I travel, shop, sightsee, hike, etc. alone. Whether it’s judged selfish or just not standing up for myself, I don’t like being in a position to even have to worry about if I want to stay someplace too long or leave early – whatever. I don’t want to have to worry about if they’re bored or not. I’m sensitive enough to feel that kind of energy and I can’t help that it affects my own enjoyment of an activity. I want to feel free to change my mind at the drop of a hat and not follow through on something I had planned when I did feel like it but don’t feel like it anymore.

    I’m also a slow hiker, mainly because I don’t hike to be in a hurry, but to really relish and experience the sights and sounds I came for.

    The questions you recommend being able to ask yourself while standing at a precipice were wonderful. I admit I’m not nearly as prepared as you are many times, but I’m not up for doing the kind of hiking (length and difficulty) that you do anymore. But in any case, you gave me something to do better at next time because it’s good advice anyway.

    Great post!

    • Malia, thank you so much for saying hello! I love what you said about being sensitive enough to feel that kind of energy. We come from the same place…

    • Hello, my dear Linda. No, I am taking a more northerly route. Sorry I will miss you and Chester, but I’ll catch up to you one of these days! Have a wonderful holiday!

      • Thanks, Suzanne. We will catch up with you before long. In the meantime, we see your stories and photos and feel like we are there with you. Hope the holidays find you someplace special.

  19. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the source (other than it was reliable) where I read that there are more solo women rvers than men.

    I’m like you. I’m as prepared as I can be for an emergency (probably safer than at home, truth be known). I like not having to ask someone whether they want to turn left or right, etc.

    I do like to meet up with other solo women who are camping. Nothing like a bunch of women laughing around a camp fire.

    I’m hoping to spend a lot of time in Oregon and Idaho beginning in May until weather forces me south and home this coming year.

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog nor how many times I have recommended it to friends.

  20. There are some, both men and women, who probably should not hike alone. I don’t believe you are one of them. You know the risks and rewards and are well equipped to handle most issues that may come your way. I love the solitude – wind rustling the leaves, birds twittering, water rushing by. I can’t think of a better solo activity.

  21. Your blog is very special, Suzanne. Your thoughts and photos and your quotes. How do you do it all?!
    I have been a widow for about 30 years now, and knitting while watching Netflix is nice, some of the time, but not too much. I got tired of being fearful and bored with my rut, so I have been full time in my Casita travel trailer since August.
    Visiting friends in Michigan, relatives in Virginia and Florida has been my MO so far, but since Texas is my home base, I will always come back here.
    For 2017, I want to see some of the National Parks that are new to me. I have really enjoyed your descriptions and photos of your travels, hiking or whatever.
    Thank you.
    Happy Travels.
    Pamelab in Houston for now

  22. Hi, I’m new here (came over from a post on another solo RV blog), but if I had a nickel for every time someone said, “wow, you’re brave” when they find out I travel alone, we could go out for a very nice meal.

    You’re only brave when you’re scared and you do it anyway. If you’re not scared, you’re not brave, IMHO. And not being scared is a *good* thing.

    I’m not a fulltime RVer, yet, but I did go across North America (Washington state to California to North Carolina to Nova Scotia and back) for four months in my van last summer, and I am now working towards going full time. Thank you for the inspiration.

  23. Being an only child with parents who worked I’ve spent time alone since I was 8 years old. I like the opportunity to hike/travel with others occasionally, but really do prefer being able to go where I want when I want. Luckily my hubby understands, he does his own thing too, I have no interest in ice fishing for instance! I’m always a bit perplexed when people comment on my being outside alone, so sexist since men wander around out there alone all the time. I always say it’s way more dangerous in a crowd of folks at McDonald’s than in the woods.

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