Can I be honest? I am completely and unequivocally petrified of hiking by myself. I am so scared that I sometimes go thru mild panic attacks just before reaching the trailhead. And yet, I have a dream, a goal, and a passion to thru hike The Florida Trail in 2022. I have a plan in mind to hike with my fellow Ambassador Natalie, as we do small sections (1-2 weeks on the trails and then 1-2 weeks off) until we finish. But, what if something happens and I have to finish it alone? What happens if I have to start at a different time than Natalie can? I can’t rely on constantly being with someone to contain my panic of being alone in the woods.
When I talked with my husband about this fear I was shocked to hear his response. “Why are you scared? Are you scared of seeing a bear alone in the woods? What do you do when you come across a bear?” Quickly, I responded with the entire breakdown of how to handle a bear encounter. “Slowly back away, talk in low tones, have a conversation with the bear. My favorite being ‘Hey Bear, what’d you have for lunch today? Was it yummy? Sounds Yummy! I’ll have to have that sometime!’ If all else fails I have my bear spray ready as a last resort.” He then looked at me and said, “So if you know what to do with wildlife, what else are you scared of? Are you worried about being injured? About falling and not being able to get help?” Of which I replied, “No, because I plan to check in as often as possible to let you know exactly where I am. That way If I don’t make the next check point you know approx where I am at to send help.” With a smile on his face he said, “Are you scared of someone attacking you in the woods? What are the statistics of someone being attacked in the woods? Especially a woman? Is it around the same percentage as winning the lottery or being struck by lightening?” To be honest I am not sure, but I am pretty sure it’s a lot lower than my brain wanted to tell me it was. Lastly my sweet husband looked at me and said, “So, here’s what I am hearing. You are 100% capable of handling a wildlife encounter, know the basics of hiking in the woods, will have a thorough plan in place to check in, and will probably run into lots of friendly hikers that will be ok with hiking along with you for even small sections. Basically, the only thing I can think of that scares you would be me getting upset that I have a wife who is independent, strong, has the drive and passion to do anything. So basically you’re scared of what I will think, and I am not worried at all. So stop being scared.”
No matter how reassuring this is, and it really is reassuring, I’m still scared. Maybe it’s all the True Crime documentaries I watch and love. Maybe it’s the voice of my mother telling me as a little girl “Don’t take a short cut home. That’s where the creepy men hide to kidnap little girls”, or maybe it’s just the fear of the unknown.
How do I shut that part of my brain off? How do I stop those neigh saying voices playing on repeat over and over in my head? How do I become brave?
This is what I plan to try and learn over the next year and a half before I plan my trek into the wild of Florida. Before I hike 1400 miles thru swamps, sand pines, and beautiful springs. Those are the thoughts that I have to keep with me as I learn to overcome this fear, the fear of hiking alone!
What are some tips and tricks you have learned to do while hiking alone? Were you scared at first? Are you still scared? Share with me, I’d love to hear your story!
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