Who wants to miss out on views and experiences like this, all because they can't find someone to go with them? There's already enough obstacles so many face in getting out to enjoy the outdoors, why should our fear of being alone and what could happen be one of them? Last post I wrote about the fear of being out there, and that the chance of being attacked (by a person) on the trail was actually extraordinarily low. But when you're out alone, there ARE some precautions you can take to help keep yourself safe - against people, loose dogs, injuring yourself, etc. (note: always read up on the wildlife on the area and prepare accordingly). So read on for some of my own tips and tricks, as well as some from my readers as well!
- Step off the trail when possible to let folks pass, so you have full view of them.
- GPS/Life Link through All Trails - I have a Garmin InReach, which has an SOS button which summons search and rescue, and I can text my family (with coordinates) when I don't have cell service. This is GREAT if you hike alone, where the danger of twisting an ankle or falling means you could need some help.
- A lot of people said get a dog - this is an inbetween for me. Dogs can be a great protector, but they can also cause problems if in a dangerous situation (I'll do a separate post about this). I have a dog. I'd rather take my chances than leave my boo home.
- Mace/Pepper Spray/Bear Spray - I carry bear spray now at all times, because loose dogs. It's in a holster on my belt. If you carry mace or something similar, then keep it handy - around your neck, wrist, etc. NOT in a pocket, and PRACTICE pulling it out!
- Use hiking poles - not only will they save loads of strain on your back and knees, but handy to beat away dogs. They also keep you from slipping and injuring yourself.
- Trust your gut - if you feel uncomfortable, get out of there
- Take a self defense class
- Carry a weapon - if you're going to carry a weapon - from bull whip to knife to gun to stun gun - you need to be experienced in its use. A few hours at the range doesn't count. I mean, I saw a dude running on rocks with an ax at Dolly Sods. Don't do that, my guy. In fact, because it gives you a false sense of security, you may ignore other safety measures that have significantly more impact.
- Snap a pic - sometimes I'll be in a parking lot and there will be someone waiting in a car, which is normal but always weirds me out, so I casually snap a pic of them/license plate and send to husband.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you should be back. EVERY TIME.
- Find a way to quiet your mind - Look, a lot of the fear you feel out there about being alone and what can happen is just that...fear. It's gonna hamper you, and the anxiety can be intense. Find a way to distract yourself - I listen to books on tape (no earpods or just one!!). There's music, talking to yourself, reciting a poem over and over (mine is "he thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he sees the ghost).
- Don't wear earbuds - or only one earbud - you need to be aware of your surroundings.
- Don't be afraid to move on from a conversation - you don't owe anyone anything on the trail. If you aren't comfortable showing a solo-guy on a map where you are, then don't.
- Don't randomly meet up with someone from the internet, because you think hiking with a stranger is safer than hiking alone. Even if a woman, be careful, do your research and meet up ahead of time to check them out. JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE FEMALE DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN THEY ARE A SAFE STRANGER.
- Don't park next to cars in the parking lot if you can avoid it. And ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings in the parking lot. Don't be distracted here.
The chance of being injured by someone on the trail is extraordinarily low. SO LOW. When I say low, I mean LOW. I had trouble finding any cases at all - really only a handful. Folks are more likely to run in to someone in the parking lot (STILL very very low). Folks are definitely more likely to encounter a loose dog or trip and fall. Be prepared for those situations.
In the end, the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll be. It's natural to feel scared and unsure in the woods - we're taught that being alone is a bad thing and from the time we're kids that the woods hold monsters. Coupled together and WHAM! But while you should be careful and respect your surroundings, you shouldn't let it stop you from getting out there. If I - who has an imagination that goes WILD - can hike in the dark and even do solo trips - can do it, then YOU. CAN. TOO.
Any other tips and tricks of the trade? I know there's more!