Sunday, September 23, 2012

Traversing the Outdoors Alone

In my book Trail Swap Swap (the female main character) hikes alone from Georgia to Maine. Swap had a few close calls, but was aware of ways to be safe. If you are planning to hike, ever if for a few hours, you should take precautions.

Picturing a young adult withering away in the Alaska outback in the book Into the Wild kind of makes me not want to camp or long-time hike alone. I, however, have done it. The fears and worries that I went through, inspired me to write this article. If you are going to hike, even if it is a day hike alone please do it safely. There are few things I am weary of in the wilderness: weather, people, skunks, and dehydration.

  • ALWAYS let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to be home. Leave a message on someone’s answering machine/voicemail if you can’t reach someone. I have had several times when I was in the woods longer than expected and thought, “Nobody knows I am out here.” I have learned my lesson.
  • At least bring your best friend. Bring your dog. It is a nice psychological barrier to thinking you are alone. People with ill intentions are less likely to bother an individual who has a dog. (Now if you have a mini/small dog depending on their spunk, I am not sure if that would work.)
  • Bring plenty of water.
  • Bring the proper gear. Bring the right footgear, clothing appropriate for the weather, survival pack, a cellphone, police/ranger number, and a map. Remember there are several true and fictional stories where someone throws away a map and throws caution to the wind and ends up meeting their doom.
  • If there is a sign-in log at the front of the paths, sign in your name and a companion’s name. When I hike, I write down my brother’s name. I figure, he has the same last name, and people are less likely to think I am hiking alone. *Women/girls even who are hiking in pairs should consider putting a males name down on the registry.*
  • When hiking or camping and running into someone, if you can pull it off, don’t admit you are hiking alone. You can say things like, “Did you run into my husband/brother? He ran ahead to pull off the trail and go to the bathroom.” If you have your campsite set-up while pointing to the tent you can whisper to passing hikers/campers, “My fiance is sleeping.”
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Where would you go to for help? Where is the nearest road, house, etc. Be aware if there are any vehicles coming down the road as your path crosses a road. The less people who see you hiking alone, the better.
  • Carry some sort of protection. You have to decide on your comfort with this. Depending on state laws and park laws, you can carry pepper spray, a knife, or a gun. I have a friend who used to hike in NY State with a shotgun strapped to her pack. If that is not a deterent to people, I don’t know what is.
  • Know your ability. Don’t take any unnecessary risks (swinging from vine to vine, boulder jumping etc). You have less access to the hospital in the woods. If you are tired, slow it down, hydrate, and take care of yourself. People tend to get hurt in their first few days of hiking due to fatigue and injuries related to pushing themselves too hard. Don’t overpack your pack. Practice hiking with your pack before you go out.
  • Avoid skunks by avoiding dusk and before sunrise hiking. Avoid other nocturnal animals by stowing your food appropriately and not leaving food scraps around. Don’t bring food near or in your tent.
  • Stay on the trail!!! Besides your potty breaks, stay on the trail. Not only safe but it supports the “Leave no Trace” rule.
  • For more ideas, of how to be safe in the woods you can read my fiction ebook Trail Swap.

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