“And who are you going with?”
If you’re into long-distance hiking, you’ve probably heard this question.
I get asked it pretty often when I talk about my upcoming hikes, usually followed by a grave look of concern (or at least some raised eyebrows) when I admit that I’m going alone.
In the two years since I got bitten by the hiking bug, I’ve completed about 80% of the 1000-kilometer Bibbulmun Track in my home state of Western Australia – most of it solo.
It always amazes me how much of an alien idea this is to a lot of people.
“But what if you get lost?”
“Is there phone service?”
“What will you do for water?”
Never mind that you’re safer slogging through the bush than you are driving to the trail head!
Don’t get me wrong, I love other people. There are plenty of fantastic people out on back country walking trails, and it’s (almost) always a thrill to meet them.
The sight of a friendly face after hours of trudging through the bush is always welcome, as is the chance to swap trail stories, hear about the path ahead and simply hear another human voice.
But for me at least, the real joy of hiking is in going it alone.
The feeling of independence is incredibly liberating, and you can’t get much more independent than a solo adventure through the wilderness with nothing but your food, your water, and thousands of dollars’ worth of ultra-lightweight gear in your backpack.
That doesn’t mean you actually need to be alone all the time, but rather that you be unattached to others’ schedules and unencumbered by others’ expectations. Every mile is your own personal achievement, as is every setback, every spectacular view, every blister and every mountain climbed (or in the case of WA, every hill).
I’ve pinched the name of part two of Roald Dahl’s autobiography for this blog, not only because it’s an excellent book, but because it sums up everything great about hiking.
There’s something romantic about going solo that I can’t get enough of.
I’ll be posting regularly about my hiking adventures on my quest to finish “the Bibb” this year, and ultimately hike the Pacific Crest Trail.