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!

Get The News

Updates delivered to your inbox the first day of every month.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

11 comments on “Confessions with Crystal – I hate hiking alone, and yet I am planning my first thru hike!

  1. As an avid outdoors woman I admit this topic creeps into my mind from time to time. Hiking alone … Is that smart? And like your conversation with your husband I would begin breaking down that feeling to understand why that fear was even there. Ultimately, I realized it was where my comfort level was at in that moment in time. I had always hiked with people so I started to grow my comfort level and began hiking alone little by little. Was I capable absolutely, it was more of a comfort thing for me.

    As I entered my career in Outdoor Education, I realized the value and importance of that feeling of being nervous or fearful of doing solo hikes. Theses feelings prompted me to arm myself with new knowledge and skills that would prepare me for the “what if” situations on the trail. So I sought out first aid and cpr classes, map and compass skills, knot tieing, mountain lion safety, etc… With these new skills and knowledge I felt even more prepared to handle situations as they came in isolated areas.

    Now fast forward 15 years and I would confidently say that I am a very competent and experienced outdoors woman. However that fearful feeling does creep into my mind now and then. And I think that is good! This feeling helps me to think constructively of my trips and plan accordingly. It doesn’t make me less outdoorsy or less wise, if anything it makes me wiser. So at the start of the trail, ride, trip or climb I go through my checklist in my head and say to myself, “I got this!” And when those unpredictable situations comes up for me or another hiker, I know I can handle the situation to the best of my ability.

    • I love this, and you’re very right. I’ve noticed myself looking at more courses to improve my comfort level and abilities. The more knowledge one can gain the safer a hiker (or anything) they will be! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Fwiw, I think determining which voices are healthy fear (the type that keeps you safe) and which voices are unhealthy fear (the type that keeps you from living your life) is important. That can be hard, but I think similarly to what your husband has said to you already, if you have a plan for every possible ‘risk’ then you are proceeding with the knowledge and skills necessary to mitigate and/or navigate those risks successfully. Which means that any voice that keeps nagging at you and telling you that you “can’t” is probably the voice of unhealthy fear, keeping you from living your life. That said, if you don’t have a plan for the various risks that are involved, then those voices are probably healthy fear telling you that you should do more research and planning and practicing of those skills. All skills take practice to develop confidence in them, and anything that we don’t do every single day on the regular is going to be more unfamiliar to us and therefore carry some ‘fear of the unknown’ with it. But again, to parse it out as healthy or unhealthy fear is a good start, I think. Military personnel spend months in training, immersed in situational environments to get them prepared for what they might face in their careers. It doesn’t remove the fear. It just ‘trains’ it. Fear of bears or mountain lions, etc.— know the risk mitigation, know the response, and then to some point you have to just walk with the remaining fear, talk with it, tell it you understand why it’s there but you’re not going to let it stop you. Train it. I’m not sure if that’s helpful at all. I think this is a topic that would be great as a round-table discussion.

  3. I hiked the AT in 86 with my sister TnT. I hiked alone with my dog since because I’m deaf. Ppl can walk right up to me from behind I would never know. I guess the upside is I sleep well through Storms etc. I live in PA and hike in PA and North so more power to ya with Florida! The best advice follow your instincts and don’t let fears of others stop you. Be safe have fun and Trail on!!

  4. My fear is that I will quit. I have always felt more accountable to other people and perfectly willing to let myself down. My fear of doing any adventure alone is that I will quit and since there is no one else to be accountable to, I will let myself quit. I will have no one to share the blame with. Also, do I like myself enough to spend that much time with me? What if I find out that I don’t…?

    • I have heard from multiple thru hikers that one of the biggest challenges is mental. Physically, yes, it’s challenging, but you expect that. The mental aspect is a whole new level.

  5. I hike alone regularly, and I feel much safer when in the woods. Trailheads, road crossings, road walks (our local long-distance trails always have a few) — those are the places my hackles raise and I am extra cautious. It may be naive, but I feel like hikers, the people you meet in the woods and on the trail, are generally not threatening. I feel like the odds of encountering a bad egg looking for trouble are much higher in close proximity to roads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *