Heading out into nature on your own might seem daunting, but hiking solo can be both enlightening and exciting. A mistake I made when I initially starting planning weekly hikes was that I waited on others to join me. Although I greatly enjoyed spending time with friends, if I relied only on tandem hikes I would likely not have gotten out onto the trails as much as I would have liked.
It was on July 22, my birthday, that I decided to take a solo trip to Bloomingdale, NJ to hike to Osio Rock. My previous hikes had been enjoyed with close friends and I was somewhat hesitant about entering the trees without somebody to talk to and enjoy the sights with. However, that morning, I found myself standing at the foot of the rocky trailhead of the Hewitt-Butler Trail by myself.
During that hike, I made my way up a very steep incline to start, found the unique trail destination known as the “Living Room” (an area where slabs of rocks have been stacked into chairs and end tables around a fire pit), enjoyed a wide 360 degree view that included the NYC skyline, and climbed, almost vertically, up the face of the rock.
At times, I got that unnerving feeling that I was being watched. Scientific experiments have been conducted that prove this feeling is likely due to something in your vision, either frontal or peripheral, actually watching you, even if you cannot clearly see it. There are also claims that this same sensation can be caused if you are being watched from behind.
Nevertheless, if something was watching me as I walked through the woods that day, it never unveiled itself. In fact, I get a strange satisfaction from that feeling as it flares my senses and pumps my adrenaline. I believe that this sensation must be caused by some old evolutionary trait that our species was never able to shake, basically stirring that extra awareness to protect against predators.
I also found myself making snap decisions on that hike. I decided when I would take a break, when I would stop to take pictures, and which route I would take, without having to convene or come to an agreement with a hiking partner. At one point on the trail, there were blazes carrying on straight ahead and there were arrows pointing straight up the face of the mountain to the right. Without having to worry about anybody but myself, I decided I would climb. It was exhilarating and challenging and it required no more thought than simply gauging my own ability.
The sights are to be enjoyed and experienced in the moment. When I thought about nobody being there to relish the scenic overlooks or amazing visual, my camera was more than capable of bookmarking the moment for later consumption and exhibition. I felt more comfortable stopping to make sure I got a good shot and took even more pictures of the sights that nature laid out before me.
I enjoy strenuous hiking and I am mentally prepared for it. I understand not everybody enjoys seeking out the more difficult paths or keeping a rapid pace, so hiking alone gives me the opportunity to test my boundaries and take myself to the limit. Not having the responsibility of another person allows me to really let loose and “hike my own hike”. Then, at times, when I feel like just standing in one spot to do some breathing exercises, I am entirely free to do so.
To be clear, I am in no way dismissing hiking with others. I have enjoyed many interesting, fun hikes with friends and shared some very good experiences with them on the trails. What I am hoping to convey is not to wait on others to do something that you truly enjoy doing.
Over the past year I have made many invitations to others who wanted to join me on hikes, but only a few people made it onto the trails with me. Some people just couldn’t work a free day into their schedule, some didn’t want to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, and some just didn’t feel physically ready to go on a long trek with me. I understand all of this completely. I make sure I carve out the time to do this every week and know it is more difficult for others to do so.
Since my birthday, the majority of my hikes have been solo. Some of what I have experienced throughout these expeditions would have likely not been any fun for others and much of what I have done may have been too difficult for others to comfortably attempt. It would be a shame for anybody to either call off or change their plans for others.
So, whatever it is you have been wanting to do – fishing, biking, jogging, hiking – just go and do it. It might feel strange the first time you find yourself enjoying an activity by yourself, but by the time you’re finished you will likely find yourself with a surge of motivation to do it again. Once you realize that you don’t need somebody to go along with you, it will be apparent that your options are endless.