The Beauty of Hiking Alone

By Michelle Sullivan, Girls Who Hike Idaho Ambassador

For so many, hiking is a grounding, meditative and stress reducing activity. Surrounding oneself in nature and being present in that moment is one of the most freeing experiences. Whether you’re working through some stress at home or at work, redirecting your life, or just have an addiction to get outdoors (don’t worry, you’re not alone!) hiking can be a perfect fit.

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Four years ago I used hiking to help heal from an abusive marriage. Nature was always a special place for me and suddenly I found myself hurled into a life turned upside down and with very little community. I’d always heard “Never hike alone!” and allowed that to limit my confidence within myself and the variety of hiking areas I’d visit. Slowly, I managed to crawl out from that place of hesitation and what I found on the other side has been amazing!

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Now, it’s not to say that this process was fast for me, or that everyone desires to hike alone either. Over the course of many months I learned and my confidence grew. I started out sticking to a large BLM area in Southern Idaho and as I started developing a familiarity with the area, I branched out. I learned the importance of carrying a map and adequate food and water. Although I’m still not the best, I worked to develop the habit of informing people of where I was going and when I returned. Slowly, I gained confidence and skills. Today, I hike with just my dogs multiple times a week. In the summers, we go backpacking in the Idaho mountains together, with or without friends. I don’t let other’s schedules limit me from getting out in nature!

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Now, if you’ve been reading this and thinking “You make that sound so easy, where does a person start?” then hopefully I can help give you some steps!

 • Familiarize yourself with an area by hiking with friends or family. Once you’re comfortable in a familiar place, tackle some short solo hikes. Be sure to let people know where you are and when you’ve returned.
• Carry maps of the area you’ll be hiking in and be sure to bring water, food, a first aid kit and other essentials with you, especially if it’s not a very popular hiking area.
• Pick a place with cell phone service as you get started. You can put your phone on silent so as not to be disturbed but it gives a peace of mind to know if you needed help it’d just be a phone call away.
• Hike with your dog! This is my personal favorite!! Bringing a dog along that has good trail manners is a great way to help build confidence in hiking alone. Unless your dog is Lassie they probably aren’t going to save you in a pinch but they do help you feel like you have company on the trails.
• Get started! The hardest part really is stepping out the door and making it happen. Trust me, you won’t regret that you did!

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Michelle is the ambassador for our Idaho chapter. You can join her local meetups and discussions through the Idaho chapter by clicking here.