Hiking solo....or not? | High Sierra Topix  

Hiking solo....or not?

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

Hiking solo....or not?

Postby balzaccom » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:45 am

Colin Fletcher, the author of "A Walk Through Time," "The 1,000 Mile Summer," and "The Complete Walker," loved to hike solo. He treasured his quite moments alone with nature.

But he also made comment about his paradoxical meetings with other solo hikers. Those other hikers would frequently stop him and want to chat for hours about how wonderful it was to hike alone.

Fletcher, at least, noticed the irony!

On a recent trip to the High Sierra, we had a somewhat similar experience. We treasure those hours on the trail without seeing other people, and always try to give other hikers, and groups of hikers, as much space as they need to enjoy the wilderness.

But on this trip we started up a pass, only to see another hiker on the trail ahead of us. No problem. We needed some water so we stopped to pump and give him a good head start up the trail.

And yet...he didn't seem to be in any hurry. As we hit the trail we could see him, still visible ahead of us.

Each time we hiked up closer to him, we would pause and take a break, have a drink or admire the view. And each time as we started hiking, we found that he wouldn't be far ahead. It was almost as if he were waiting for us.

Finally, around lunchtime, we came upon him, just packing up and getting to leave a lovely spot with a nice view. We greeted him, shared a quick trail report, and started getting out our lunch.

And he slowed right down and started chatting with us some more. Pleasant conversation, and we enjoyed the chat. But it did go on a bit longer than we expected--at least twenty minutes. And then he hoisted his pack and hit the trail.

We gave him plenty of time to build up a lead, and then finished up our lunch and starting hiking.

Less than half a mile ahead, our companion was waiting. We stopped before we reached him, to tighten my wife's shoes. He started hiking again, and so we started off again. Again he stopped and was waiting. This time we stopped for me to snap a couple of photos.

We started off again, and there he was, only 100 yards ahead, with his pack on the ground and settled in for a long wait.

Fine.

We gave him a friendly "hello" and hiked on past him. But as my wife passed him on the trail, he hoisted his pack and fell into step behind her.

We had been joined.

Since we didn't know this guy from Adam, we felt a little awkward about this. But we decided that if the lone hiker took so many breaks, we would quickly leave him behind if we just kept hiking. So we did. We hiked for a solid two miles, straight uphill. And after all those delays earlier in the day, he didn't take another break all afternoon!

We arrived at our campsite and watched him stroll in just moments later.

To be fair, he camped on the next peninsula over, and was a quiet camper.

He did stop by to chat a bit, but my wife was trying to get out of camp for a stroll when he did that, and I was fishing...and distracted enough that the conversation didn't go swimmingly. We did learn that he had broken a tent pole....although that's not something we could really help with. Then again, the weather was lovely and he assured us his rainfly would do just fine.

And the next morning he hit the trail early, heading north.

We slept in, and when we got to the junction, we turned left and headed south.

We hope he had a great time on the rest of his trip.

And we were happy to be hiking on our own again.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/



User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1290
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby sparky » Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:07 am

Chat for hours? Wow! Who has time for that! On the other end many times I feel like a jerk when I barely let out a grunt as I hike past others. I try to be friendly, yet when I hike I'm going somewhere and chatting with strangers just isn't top priority.

Its strange to hear your voice after a few days of silence. Almost startling. The silence it amazing though, it really makes you feel as if you have melted into the enviornment....it is an experience where you can lose yourself as an individual and really feel to be a cog in the machine of the universe. Almost a psychedelic headspace.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
User avatar
sparky
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 880
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:01 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby Jimr » Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:40 am

Maybe he was lonely. I make a habit of no more than 5 minutes chatting with others. Usually, it lasts only a minute. Less if they're moving uphill. Nobody likes being detained with so much work ahead of them and built-up steam you don't want to lose.
What?!
User avatar
Jimr
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1122
Joined: Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:14 pm
Location: Redondo Beach
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby balzaccom » Thu Sep 15, 2011 11:59 am

I guess it all depends on where and when. But you are right--when I have a good head of steam climbing uphill, (or I am on a roll, heading down to the end of the trail for the day) I tend to want to visit less.

Then there are those wonderful spots where you just want to linger....
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1290
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby Tom » Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:53 pm

I come from an era where meeting people on the trail was a social event (1960's). That is where trail conditions, equipment, fish, bears and other topics were exchanged.

Most of the time nowadays I have interest and patience to chat with people on the trail. However I can tell what a reasonable amount of time is for each person or groups of people. Last year my wife and I ran across a couple of guys that were in the Sierra from Tennessee. We had lunch with them and we all shared trail stories. It was late afternoon before we hit the trail again.

We also met some guys that I knew a quick hi was all that was going to happen. So I guess it all depends on the people and the circumstances. I wouldn't be offended if someone would say it was nice meeting you but we have some distance to go...have a great trip.

I have been on solo trips to some of my funny little fishing creeks where I didn't see anyone for a week. Upon meeting someone I would tend to be overly chatty...then catch myself and apologize and move on.

Which reminds me, I need to apoligize to the ranger I met coming out Taboose Pass. The poor woman probably thought that I was a lunatic. However, I had been snowed in around the Middle Fork of the Kings for 5 days and thought that the world population had dissappeared.
User avatar
Tom
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Mon Oct 30, 2006 9:55 am
Location: Santa Maria, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby Ozark Flip » Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:56 pm

This is a pet peeve of mine. There are too many people out there who want to talk to you about your business (trip itinerary, how’s the fishing, or inquiring about trail/snow conditions). I love solo backpacking and only get to do a couple of solo trips per year. I am not there to make conversation with anyone. In fact, I prefer to not even see another person while backpacking solo. While hiking solo I am never rude and I will politely respond when greeted, I just don’t start a conversation with those I meet.

Last year I hiked solo into Humphrey’s Basin and French Canyon areas. I went over Piute Pass from North Lake then my plan was to cross country by Lower Deso and Mesa. Right before I left the trail to go toward Lower Deso, I encountered a group of ten (count em) people parked right next to the trail enjoying a lunch break. They sparked up a conversation with me and ask me where I was headed. I only talked with them a few short minutes and when I left, they donned packs and were in hot pursuit…I had been joined….by ten others. There were 5 folks around my age (45 to 50) and 5 college-aged kids. The older folks stayed around me and the kids would briskly hike ahead but would keep coming back to confirm our direction…weird. I tried some of the tactics you described Blazacom but just like your companion, they would not venture too far. Bottom line, they all followed me all the way to Mesa where they too spent the night. They were really nice people, but they were, ah…well,…people.

I really hate the ones who want to go on-and-on-and-on……

I cannot remember the author, but I used to read trip reports from a die-hard solo backpacker many years ago. He would make clear how much he enjoyed all the aspects of solo backpacking, most importantly the quiet and solitude. But his reports were chalked full of “I met a person from….”, or “I had a nice visit with a group of people going to…”, or “I stopped and made conversation with…”, stuff like that. Oxymoron-ish trip reporting and I actually got tired of reading because of all the encounters.
User avatar
Ozark Flip
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 12:31 pm
Location: Escalon & Cottonwood California
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby copeg » Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:20 pm

Interesting read balzaccom. Enjoy hiking solo, in fact almost exclusively backpack solo. That being said despite how much I enjoy everything that comes along with hiking and backpacking solo, sometimes I find meeting people is just as fun (although tailing a crowd, or being tailed by a crowd is too much for my tastes). For what its worth, here's an old thread that touches on this subject, with some fun stories: Meeting People in the Backcountry
User avatar
copeg
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
 
Posts: 1968
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:25 pm
Location: Menlo Park, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby windknot » Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:25 pm

Yikes, that doesn't sound fun. Luckily I haven't met anyone of the sort, although I'm usually pretty amenable to striking up a conversation with another backpacker depending on how far in I am and whether I'm hiking solo or with others. As Tom said though, I can usually tell what is reasonable/expected when I come across another hiker. If he/she wants to chat, I'm happy to stop and talk for a few minutes.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:23 pm

I can't say I've ever had an encounter like that. I've certainly had some conversations with folks (solo and othewise) on the trail, but nothing like that. I myself seldom initiate a conversation other than to just say hello, but like most I frequently field quick questions from hikers coming in the opposite direction who ask how close they are to a certain destination or various conditions.

As related on the meeting people in the backcountry thread, I've had many enjoyable meetings and conversations with folks in the backcountry and I can't say I've had an encounter that would cross the line into annoyance.

I myself prefer to backpack with someone rather than backpack solo, although I have backpacked solo in the distant past (1980 in Montana) and enjoyed it.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby calipidder » Thu Sep 15, 2011 7:13 pm

Well, I guess it kind of depends on where I am. If I'm hiking the JMT thoroughfare I would expect to encounter, hike with, and chat up lots of people. It's part of the experience and you get to become friends with people who are hiking around your pace and you run into over and over again (I never understood people who complained about how busy the JMT is - there's lots of other Sierra to hike in if you don't want to see people).

If I'm off trail or in a less populated place it's probably because I want to get away and although I enjoy the short chat and exchange of info, I'll move on.
User avatar
calipidder
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 204
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 3:00 pm
Location: Above 10k
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby markskor » Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:09 pm

Having backpacked solo some, here and there Sierra…Had many a backcountry encounter with other solo artists, usually miles in too…Like it!
Agreed sometimes, when passing, especially when you both have the "steam up", just a smile and a respectful nod suffices. “How much farther to…How’s the trail?” – That sort of exchange, but usually there is plenty of time to stop/ visit a spell with everybody.

Maybe naïve or lucky, but never had any problem reading anyone in the backcountry, especially miles back. More than one day in, you can generally tell in just a few seconds who wants to chat and who wants solitude…OK with both.

Met a few great friends back there, often altering trips after just a few moments of powwow, the end result, more often than not, fond memories of great fishing lakes, fatties, epic tales and fishing lies swapped.

Whether "hooking" up for a few days, (not uncommon among solo wilderness fishermen) - or just that 10 minute conversation trail-side – or camping at some trout lake shared – can’t say I ever stumbled into a bad psycho situation.

The trick is always being 100% self-contained and flexible. Whenever people/situations start to get hinky, simply pack up and walk away – lots of places to go. In the instance as described above, would probably have popped off trail a spell, taken a break, and let him disappear… (Maybe would have heard his story first and then decided.)

giantbrookie wrote: I myself prefer to backpack with someone rather than backpack solo, although I have backpacked solo in the distant past... and enjoyed it.


An acquired taste, perhaps borne out of necessity these days, but recently prefer solo hiking best. Hiking solo relishes the silence, alas a condition palpably absent when hiking among others. Even when accompanied by good trail companions, hike at my own solitary pace…Always nice though, to fish with someone who knows enough to appreciate the quiet.
Mountainman who swims with trout
User avatar
markskor
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
 
Posts: 2047
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:41 pm
Location: Mammoth Lakes
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Hiking solo....or not?

Postby bheiser1 » Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:46 pm

Hmmm, that thing about "being joined" seems almost a little creepy. The term 'stalker' comes to mind.

I've noticed a distinct difference in how people interact with others, depending on the type of trail. On most trails I find other people stick to the "friendly greeting" approach, occasionally exchanging a few more words, or making some kind of comment. But on a recent trip in the Kearsarge Pass -> Forester Pass area, involving about 8 miles of the JMT, it was very different. In that short distance I felt like I had joined a clan ... leapfrogging the same people over and over on the trail ... and they were all very friendly beyond "greetings" ... asking about my destination, my origin, etc, etc. And then, on my return trip (heading back towards Kearsarge), the southbounders consistently engaged me in conversation to inquire about "the pass" (Forester). Nearly everyone I passed (and there were lots) asked about the pass, places to camp before the pass, distances, etc, etc, etc. Definitely very different than on "regular" trails.

It actually did seem very busy. But as someone else said, it's the JMT ... and for me it was worth it to be able to experience that place. And it was fun interacting with the thru-hikers (it actually sparked an interest in doing the trail some day myself ... oh no, not another one! :). But as others have described, "going for days without seeing anyone" is a very different experience ... I believe giving one a much better opportunity to "connect" with their natural surroundings and really experience "wilderness". Even though that area I hiked thru had amazing scenery, and technically was "wilderness", it didn't feel like it with so many people around.
User avatar
bheiser1
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 176
Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:39 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Google [Bot], Yahoo [Bot] and 3 guests