I did my first interview! Big yikes.
It was a little weird to talk about myself (in writing I do it all the time, but to a stranger?! On the phone?!). It was a lot of fun though, and it has really given me the impetus to get movin' again in terms of posts.
Big shout-out to "The Healthy" for the feature, and Alyssa Sybertz, the author! The title of the article is, "My Severe Back Pain Turned Out To Be A Hip Misalignment."
Read the full article here.
I know I haven't posted in a while, life just got in the way! Remember that time I decided to redo my kitchen myself? Greeeeat idea.
But seriously, I'm happy they featured my journey to get a diagnosis. Don't ever stop looking for a solution! It can be awful, and hard, but you are so worth it.
Joanne Rogers passed away yesterday. She was an extremely accomplished musician and lover of music, an excellent patron of the arts, and did a significant amount of charity work. She headed the board of the foundation her husband, Fred Rogers (better known as “Mr. Rogers”), started, after his death. She was a kind, generous woman.
I noticed, in reading all the online articles, that nearly every single one of them described her as “Mrs. Rogers” and went on to detail her life in relation to her husband’s career and life. And it bugged the hell out of me – she was her own person, who deserves to be remembered for her own accomplishments and life, not just how she contributed to her husband’s.
This isn’t anything new.
More than once folks have greeted us as “Dr. Tobin and Mrs. T” – they just assumed he was the one with the doctorate. My husband takes great pleasure in correcting them.
It happens often in the outdoor world, too. When I’m at outdoor stores, they assume I’m there shopping for my husband/boyfriend.
Or that I’m a casual hiker – the other day I was at REI, because I needed a new pair of boots for hiking. The guy said he had just the thing and brought out a very pretty pair of boots, that were clearly not for someone that hikes more than occasionally. I mentioned that and he asked, surprise, “oh, you hike weekly? You and your husband must have a great time!” Mine? “I go alone.”
Or they ask where my husband/partner is, because it’s not safe for me to be out alone. Ladies and gents, I’ve been leaving my house alone since I was a kid.
It’s a social construction that dates back millennia – defining a woman (and her life) in relation to her spouse, whether she’s alive or dead. It’s something I’ve done myself.
We need to recognize it and stop it.
Has this ever happened to you?
Quehanna – land was once held in stewardship by the Susquehannocks
I've been processing my last solo trip for a little while, which was to Wildcat Hollow in Southeast Ohio. I love Wildcat. It's challenging with elevation, lots of spots to stop, pretty, has bug out points, and is perfect length for a weekend. That's why I love solo-ing there.....correction....LOVED solo-ing there.
The last time I stayed there I was down in the spooky-ass valley. I got there as dusk was falling, the camp I wanted to stay in was taken. So I'm in the mostly overgrown, super creepy camp spot. The ONLY spot I get icky vibes off of. Of course. And it was cloudy. SO ZERO LIGHT.
Whatever, I'm badass and awesome, so I just trundled off to bed with Lucy, my mostly fearless companion....and a book on tape to drown out my own imagination.
Let me say I felt pretty comfortable. I wasn't *super* creeped out, just my own imagination running wild. I fell asleep, feeling good. And then was awoken at 1:30ish to light beaming in my tent. WTAF. WTAF. WTAF. Bear spray in hand, I peered out. First thought was aliens. Second thought backpackers coming in late after work. But I could see them on the trail, about 40 feet away, flashlights in hand and stumbling along, no packs visible. Roads intersect Wildcat and they seemed drunk or high, so I guessed they were out there to party. My campsite was overgrown, and it was very foggy, so I figured they didn't see me (Lucy just crouched low to the ground and stared, not barking for once lol). I waited about fifteen minutes, prayed I wouldn't have to pee, and then snuggled back to bed with Lucy. Quite proud of myself, I'd like to mention.
Then the FUCKING GUNSHOTS STARTED. Two in the morning, and close. Like, it could be the guys kinda close. And not one or two, like 20 or more. I noped the fuck out after that. Lucy was losing her shit, terrified. I was afraid but not terrified, but I wasn't sticking around. I jammed everything in my pack, called my dad to come meet me at a random road, and hiked four and a half miles out.
There were a lot of things that ran through my head - one dude just murdered another and I was going to see a body that night (drug deal gone bad? illegal dumping? all of those things are present down there). Or, more likely, two drunk dudes illegally poaching deer. Didn't wanna run in to them doing that, either. I grew up 20 minutes from there. Not folks you want to run in to.
It was legit scary. But I'll tell ya what - I didn't panic. I assessed the situation, deemed it no longer safe to remain, and got myself out of the situation. And I don't feel bad for bugging out. I go in to every solo (and regular bp trip to be honest) with a solid foundation of what to do if shit hits the fan - what are the ways out of the woods? Who do I call? Do I have a means to get help if I can't get out? Do I have a means to survive the most obvious situations until help arrives?
These are all questions you should ask yourself - and have answers to - every time you go out in the woods, whether to hike or backpack, alone or with others.
In the weeks following my bug out, quite a few folks in my hiking groups have mentioned staying at Wildcat and the significant amount of gunfire they heard while there. Not just me. It's frustrating, but also good to know.
I WILL be solo'ing again, and I'll post some of my theories at another time.
What's the worst thing that's happened to you at night while backpacking? Solo or with others? How did you overcome it?
All By Myself....
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!
Ladies Alone on the Trail
The other day, a woman in the hiking fb page I'm part of made a post about being frightened on the trail when she's by herself and asked how others stay safe. Probably a doze or more other women said they also really want to get out and hike, but they are scared to do it alone.
Lots of folks chimed in, with lots of helpful tips. Nearly all the men (and a few ladies) said get a gun. Let me say this - I have no issues with gun ownership. However, very few folks out there are going to be well enough trained to pull a gun under duress/surprise attack and be able to shoot it accurately. I don't carry a gun because, frankly, I'm clumsy and I'm much more likely to get a twig stuck near the trigger and shoot myself. I read somewhere once that under a 100 hours on the range and don't even bother.
After doing some reading, carrying a gun without significant training and practice can also lead to a false sense of security. You have the gun, right? So folks often become lax in keeping up their other safeguards.
And while a number of guys chimed in that they, too, were scared when they first started hiking alone (kudos!), I was surprised to see woman after woman posting. So why so many women? Well, let's be real - society teaches women that it's dangerous for us to go out alone. Rape culture, right? Carry your keys, be aware of your surroundings, etc. It's a real thing. There's safety in numbers. Add the visceral fear humans have of the unknown AND being alone in the woods, and it's easy to see a stranger waiting to hurt us behind every tree.
What's also real, though, is (taken from the Bureau of Justice Statistics):
- Females are generally murdered by people they know.
- In 64% of female homicide cases in 2007, females were killed by a family member or intimate partner.
- In 2007, 24% of female homicide victims were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse; 21% were killed by a boyfriend or girlfriend; and 19% by another family member.
- In an additional 25% of cases in 2007, females were killed by others they knew. An estimated 10% of female murder victims were killed by a stranger.
I tried to google information about crime/attacks on women in National Parks, and frankly couldn't find any (I kept getting information about bison and bear attacks). I tried local state parks in Ohio, and came up with a grand total of 3 instances over forty years - a man with a mask approached a jogger on a trail, but she ran past him; a woman was murdered in a parking lot by someone she knew; and two children were taken to a park from elsewhere and killed. Horrifying.
There were other instances of violence in some urban metropark parking lots, but they involved those that went there for things other than hiking (drug deals, etc.).
Random attacks by strangers in rural areas is lower than those in urban areas. Can something happen on the trails? Sure, of course. Yet, throughout the day, we still walk to the store, go to the movies, take our kids to the park...go about our every day lives. And as we do, most of us don't actually take any precautions at all. We don't even think about it, if it's daylight.
I'm not downplaying these instances or fears by ANY means. But I do believe that you can be a woman (or man) and enjoy the trails on your own, without fear, by taking good safety precautions. We should make sure that our fear of being alone on the trail is proportionate and appropriate, not paralyzing or preventative. We're going to talk about these precautions later on this week. They're also good against animals, too, because to be honest you're more likely to have a run in with wildlife than a person.
Have a tip for safety on the trails when out there alone? Leave it below!
When I was getting ready for my solo trip to Dolly Sods, the only thing I was actually concerned about was the wildlife. Dolly has quite a few bears, and the frequency of them in camps has been exacerbated in recent months with the influx of folks (new AND old to the trail) not practicing proper food and scent storage. I spent a lot of time reading about black bears while I was getting ready - I kept having this reoccurring nightmare of walking up to a bear's face two inches from mine. While not realistic, it WAS motivating.
As I was doing my research, I was surprised by what you're actually supposed to bag and how far away you're supposed to bag it. Most places say 300 yards! Though, truthfully, I think I ended up about 100 yards away, as I didn't want to be wandering around unfamiliar woods at night with black bears and human shit (that's a story for another time).
So what are you supposed to put in your bear bag?
- The obvious - any food and any empty food wrappers.
- But also anything scented - bug spray, chap stick, gum, sunscreen, etc.
If you're alone, it's even more important to make sure everything is hung correctly (we'll discuss why another time). So what about the lesser known stuff you should hand?
Here's some of the lesser-known items and factors to consider:
- Fuel - Did you know that bears can pick up a scent up to TWENTY MILES AWAY? Yikers. So in my reading I found they'll also check out fuel. So bag that, too, baby!
- Cooking Paraphernalia - Anything you cooked in or ate with, even if washed (which should be down stream and remnants not dumped anywhere near camp).
- YOU - No, you can't fit yourself in a bear bag, but if you can avoid it, don't wear anything scented in to the back country. A lot of folks say to avoid deodorant, washing your hair the day of your trip, and no scented body lotion.
Black bears are curious, peaceful creatures that will rarely become aggressive unless you startle them or come between a mother and her cub. So far, no people have been killed by black bears in West Virginia, which is where I was. However, if a black bear attacks a person, they're automatically hunted down and killed. Even if it was due to the person's own actions - such as improperly stored food, etc.
So please, do your part to keep yourself - and the bears out there - safe.
Anything additional that you store? Any tips for bear bag hanging? Comment below!
MISFIT SHOWCASE - JEREMY R.
So for me, this year has been a bit of a transformation. I've been able to lose about 50 pounds or so (estimated, didn't own a scale) in the past 6 months through major changes in diet and mountain biking 3-4 times per week. I have come to be quite passionate about mountain biking and have been improving my skills little by little each ride.
I would always delete photos of myself, especially as I got closer to 300# at the end of last year unless they were at the perfect angle, or focused on other people and I was hidden, but I'm not looking to hide anymore. I have gained and lost this amount of weight 3 times in my life and I always get complacent and end up fading back up, but this time is different - I'm not hating myself at the gym, I'm not starving myself with unsustainable eating habits. I found a passion, and a responsible eating pattern that has worked for me for 6 months and will continue to do so.
I'm enormously grateful for my local trail systems and the volunteers and organizations that maintain those. I have spent many weekends doing volunteer work, I donate to these organizations and I plan to continue to do so. I recommend anyone who is looking to do something similar to do some research and see the hidden gems around where you live!
Check out other showcases on the blog - link in bio or linktr.ee/misfithikers!
[Image Description: Image 1: Jeremy stands in front of Machu Picchu, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and camel bak. He's smiling, and has short sandy-brown hair and bread and mustache. Image 2: Jeremy rides a mountain bike, wearing black pants and a black shirt. He's in the woods, trees all around, and is finishing a low-dipped jump.]
I think I'm a misfit hiker because there are not a lot of African American Women on the trails. My goal is to diversify the trail. I have met some wonderful people and made some great connections over the 10 years of hiking. However, my love for the outdoors started 25 years ago with my husband and kids who were little then. We use to go RVing, boating and fishing. I truly have found that the outdoors and hiking brings me piece as well as solitude. My philosophy would be that everyone in some point of time needs to venture outdoors so that they can be in one with nature and themselves. There are so many places that I would like to travel and hike Kilimanjaro as it looks like it would be a great and humbling experience. I would also like to backpack through Fugi to experience the people and its beautiful terrain. My favorite outdoor moment would be my visit to Bryce Canyon in Utah. During my visit the canyon had snow. To view the canyons in my distance with the snow on the valley and peaks was breathtaking. - Kenya (@kenyatallandbeautiful)
Check out other showcases on the blog - link in bio or linktr.ee/misfithikers!
[Image Description: Kenya stands in a desert/canyon landscape, with scrub brush all around and red-rock cliffs behind her. Dark clouds hover in the sky. She's smiling, wearing a very full backpacking pack and a blue rain shell over purple patterned tights.]
Misfit Showcase - @himandcats
From a young age I was introduced to the outdoors, by my dad, naturally I fell in love. Hiking and camping are my main loves, then the passing of my dad in 2006 put that love for nature on hold, not sure if I'd ever find it again. Several years later and I rekindled that relationship with the outdoors. It's where I can peacefully and easily sort out my thoughts, where I go to rejuvenate, to relax, to talk with my dad, and to recollect myself. There's also been challenges out on the trails that made me feel unwelcomed. Possibly being female in a "male dominated" activity? Or being a POC in a "white dominated" activity? Either way, I still pushed and I will continue to push for my presence in the outdoors. I'll push pass the stares. I'll push pass the whispers. I'll push pass the unwelcoming.
Also if you want to get dolled up for the trails, then by all means, GO FOR IT! Tell 'em I said it” - Arianna (@himandcats)
[Image Description: Arianna stands in front of a snowy landscape filled with pine trees. She's smiling and wearing wooden earrings and a green sweater, her long blue hair all around her.]
June 23rd, 2020
“You’re hiking by yourself? You can’t do that. That’s not safe.”
I’ve heard that statement way too many times, and it always frustrates me on multiple levels.
I do most of my hiking by myself. In fact, my favorite hikes are typically the ones that I go on by myself - where I can just be alone with my thoughts. There’s truly something magical about it.
Whenever I hear that statement, I wonder if they would say that if I was a guy hiking by myself. I doubt it since most of their concerns seem to be about strangers that I may come across on the trail, not about accidental injuries. I really find that to be unfortunate.
When I’m on the trail, I often ponder the concept of “hiking anyway”. No matter how cold, rainy, muddy, icy, etc a trail has been, I’ve never regretted an opportunity to be outside. Because of that belief, I hike anyway.
Being a woman isn’t going to stop me from enjoying the peacefulness of nature, so I hike anyway. Does that mean I’m oblivious to my surroundings? Not at all. I’m always aware, and though I’m well prepared in how to stay safe if I meet an unkind stranger on the trail, I’m more concerned about getting injured on the trail than rather than dealing with an unsafe situation just because I’m a woman.
Years ago, I never would have considered hiking by myself as a form of rebellion, but maybe it is. Either way, I’m going to hike anyway. You should too. Be smart about it, but go enjoy the outdoors. You deserve to be there just as much as anyone else.” - Sadie (@islandgirltalk)
Sadie would like to give a shout-out to: I finished the 52 Hike Challenge for 2020 already, and I plan on doing it again next year. I also just completed the Hiker Babes Journey to 100.
[Image Description: Sadie stands in front of some dead, winter field vegetation in a grey t-shirt and dark "wing" glasses. She smiles, her hair in a brown bob with bangs]
Support For Trans Folks
There's a lot of trans folks that follow Misfit Hikers. Transgender people face a lot of discrimination, particularly in hetero/cis, alpha white-male dominated outdoor world.
They face discrimination and hate - from access to housing and restrooms, to inadequate healthcare and hate-crime support.
In 1995, Tyra Hunter was in a car accident. And when the EMTS discovered she was trans, instead of helping her they called her derogatory names and refused to treat her. She was finally taken to a hospital, where the same held true. She died, suffocated to death. And it was completely preventable. She was murdered through inaction. Her death was a rallying cry that lead to significant change for transgender people in the healthcare world. (Not NEARLY enough, though).
On June 6, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order revoking discrimination protections for transgender people seeking healthcare. It's to go in to effect mid-August.
This administration has actively and continuously sought to dismantle the protections and persecute those in the #PridePack. In the midst of a pandemic and in the wake of a better supported and acknowledged #blm movement, this executive order is particularly insensitive, damaging, and demonstrative of his agenda. How can those that are transgender feel safe in the outdoors, when they aren't safe on the street?
To my transgender followers, I'm sorry this is happening, and please know this is a safe, supportive space. You are important to the outdoors and your voices are heard here. If you need additional support during this time, there are many resources for you to take advantage of, these are just a few.
If you aren't trans, but want to better support a transgender person in your life, here's a good place to start.
If you have others, please feel free to comment below.
*Misfit Showcase!* Misfit Showcase features stories, highlights, art, etc. of individuals who have a love of outdoor adventuring, but may not fit the "typical" outdoor mold. Read on to see how we're changing the outdoor narrative, one story at a time!
I grew up very involved with the outdoors. I was in scouting and became an Eagle Scout. I enjoyed hiking, hunting, and anything that kept me outside. I even joined the Army and went into the Infantry.
When I transitioned it was amazing to be able to live life as my authentic self but I was so worried that it would come with giving up so much that I loved. There still isn’t a ton of visibility of trans women, and when we are visible it’s usually not in an outdoor setting. It took me a little time to rediscover my passion for the outdoors but I’m so glad I did. -Chloe (@cenderton)
Chloe would like to give a shout-out to the @VentureOutProject, where she'll be attending this fall to attend training to lead hikes with them!
Please feel free to share, and check out the blog (link in bio or linktr.ee/misfithikers) to read past showcases!
[Image Description: Chloe stands in front of a waterfall, against a railing, smiling, one arm outstretched and the other holding a little blond-haired girl, whose arms are also outstretched. Chloe wears sunglasses and a dark coat laced in hot pink, and the little girl wears a pink tutu and dark leggings, with an animal hat.]
Water At Wildcat
Wild Cat Water - water water everywhere and not a drop to drink? Sorta.
A few people commented or sent messages regarding the water situation at Wild Cat Hollow in southeast, Ohio, for which there is a surprising amount of confusion based on responses to a post I made in a hiking group asking about it.
There are quite a few streams which are running at Wild Cat right now, thanks to all the Spring rains. I would imagine that in summer/fall most of these streams would be dry. I carried 3 liters of water with me, just in case when I went, and I ended up filtering twice for more.
HEAVY METALS: I didn't know this when I first started planning my trip, but southern Ohio used to be KNOWN for mines of all sorts. And while most of them are closed, the runoffs from the mines have tainted a lot of the water sources with heavy metals. This means that if you're going to filter water, you need to MAKE SURE you're filter will filter heavy metals (along with all the other icks in the water). Really, this is important. Heavy metal poisoning is a THING. And while there I saw a number of folks using the wrong types of filters.
If you don't want to mess with filtering water, or taking a chance the streams might be dry, then there's another option - caching water. There's several roads that traverse Wayne National Forest (where Wild Cat is) and it's easy enough to stash a couple gallons of water. Make sure they're sealed gallon jugs, and put your name on it/initials, and "cached water" so people don't toss it. The downside is navigating those back roads to find a cache location, but if you use All Trails, you'll be able to find where road meets trail fairly easily.
Lastly, people wanted to know what filter I use - it's the LifeStraw Flex with Gravity Bag Water Filter by @lifestraw. It's hella light, acts as a back up water bag, and yes, it exceeds the NSF 53 standard for reduction of lead and other heavy metals and NSF 42 for chlorine.
What water filter do you use?
For my first solo backpacking trip this past weekend, I went to Wildcat Hollow in southeast Ohio. A number of folks mentioned how much they want to do an overnight, but the idea of being out at night alone really freaks them out.
First, I am a HUGE scaredy cat of the dark. Despite my age, my imagination still completely runs away with me at night. Whether in my bed or out in the woods, I can imagine all matters of ridiculousness (and some not so ridiculous possibilities).
It all started many years ago, when I was about 5, when my father would drive down the wood-lined dirt road to our farmhouse. He'd suddenly stall the car and say to lock the doors, the Gamork was in the woods (from the Never Ending Story), and then pretend to not be able to restart the car. Needless to say, it absolutely sparked my life-long creativity and story-telling....and also freaked me the fuck out about the dark.
So how did I manage to get out there and make it through the night? Between Tin Can Man, coyotes, and no fire? And how the heck did I build up to doing it in the first place?
There was a couple of freaky things going on that first night alone in the dark. The most realistic problem were the coyotes. They were really howling. And not too far off. In Ohio, even in daytime, you have to be careful. They'll come right after you - or your dog. Luckily, they just freaked out my dogs (who knew enough to stay quiet), and never got that close to camp. But their yips were definitely unnerving.
I never did get a fire started, I got to camp RIGHT at dusk and all the wood was super damp. It just didn't happen. So it was a dark, quiet night at the beginning.
I was actually doing okay, until....Tin Can Man. It was SO weird. So at like one a.m., there was this weird, scraping noise from the direction of the trail. Like someone with a bag of cans and other, heavy stuff. They'd pull it, then it would stop for a second or two like they were resting. The dogs and I were like WTAF, and I didn't even poke my head out. Lasted for about 20 minutes until it was way down the trail. It was really unnerving. Next day, the ladies at the camp before me passed me on the trail and I asked about it. They were still up. Apparently, it was NOT my imagination, but a dude on the trail with a load of scrap metal from the weird shanty down that sits abandoned deep in Wayne (though there were folks there when I passed it...the ladies said the squat there, but I'm not sure if they were squatters or campers). So there was that. I was glad I had dogs and mace, needless to say.
So how did I stay calm and carry on?
1. (I think this was most important) I wanted to keep hiking over the winter, which with working full-time, that meant night hiking. I didn't realize it at the time, but it really acclimated me to being in the dark and every time I went out, and nothing happened, I got a little more comfortable.
2. It was a full moon at Wildcat, again not planned, but I think it helped tremendously being able to see without a light.
3. I downloaded several books on tape and several t.v. shows, and played them throughout the night, so the weird night noises didn't bug me or the dogs. I did have a battery pack to recharge my phone, and I think without the shows, I would have really just FREAKED out, because my mind would have focused on scary stuff.
4. I found a camp site on top of the valley, so I had cell phone reception. It was comforting knowing I could still reach the outside world.
5. My dogs were freaked out and needy, and I had to comfort them, which weirdly enough made me not worry myself. Cause they NEEDED me. Lel.
6. Sometimes, I would repeat a phrase from Stephen King's book, IT: "He thrusts his fists against the post and still insist he sees the ghost." I repeat it until I stop thinking about whatever it is I was thinking about.
7. And finally, my WANT to get out there, to go backpacking, to DO IT, got me out there. With no end in site for COVID, I didn't want to pause more of my life than I had to, while waiting to go with friends.
So that's it! That's how I got through the night. Seems like a lot, but it all really seemed to help. I don't think I'll ever LIKE sleeping alone, in the woods, and in the dark, but I now know it won't stop me from doing what I want to do. Everyone's different, but hopefully one or two will help get you out there solo!
Did you face any obstacles to your first solo overnight? Any tips or tricks? Comment below!
Misfit Showcase - @megan_sykora
**Misfit Showcase!** (megan_sykora)
I am a misfit hiker because I am fat, I am a woman, and I struggle with depression, anxiety, and ED.
The outdoors have been a part of my life since I was a kid, hiking and camping with my family. As I grew up, being outside became a challenge and a taunt, because I longed for an adventurous life that I believed (and was told) I was too fat to have. I never felt welcomed in the outdoor communities. This past year, however, I've become reinvigorated by many things - the fat liberation movement, friends and family, and the things that bring me joy, most notably hiking and biking. Being outside is a private time for me, when I contemplate and discuss things with myself, and when I am most free to feel joy. It is also where I feel most valid as a human being, equal to every other. We all have different physical abilities and different stories, but nature doesn't know or care. It is beauty and life, two things I'm trying to focus on most.- Megan (@megan_sykora)
Tag #misfithikers to be showcased!
[Image Description: Megan stands, wearing black leggings and salmon-colored shorts, with a black shirt and long-sleeved jacket. There's a cowboy hate on her head, and she dons sunglasses as she points to the sky. Her curly brown hair touches her shoulders. In the background is thick scrub, and dry grass and bushes lay all around her. The sky is blue with wisps of clouds.]
A Milestone At West Branch
It was at West Branch State Park, which has two large loops. This is good for avoiding folks during the pandemic. I'll do a full review of the trail later, but it was a lovely one.
The first six or so miles followed closely to the reservoir, which was beautiful. This will sound weird, but I actually had a dream the previous week about hiking a longer trail. I hadn't planned to, I was going to stick to my normal 10 mile weekend one. But on Saturday morning, as I was driving to my normal loop, I went to put on the directions from All Trails and this one - literally across the street from the one I normally do - popped up. It said 11 miles and I figured, "PERFECT." Of COURSE with All Trails, I should of figured it would be longer.
Lucy and I even set up the camp stove for lunch at the turn around point. I wish I could say I sat there, looking out over the water, thinking deep thoughts, but truthfully I just pet Lulu, ate some food, and listened to my book on tape.
I didn't see anyone on the first leg, but I did on the second - two rabbit hunters running their dogs, who were in the wild life portion. The dogs eventually found us on the trail but were VERY nice. The second gentleman I encountered was also very nice - and carrying a pistol - which was a little unnerving.
I walked through the pines.
I walked through the trail that meandered up a creek bed.
I saw the view of the water and trees across the way.
I saw fields.
I saw many a fallen tree.
I saw the old rock wall in the quarry.
I heard the haunting sound of baying hounds as the wind carried it to me.
It was amazing.
I did it.
I didn't have anxiety about it.
And truthfully, while I was tired and ready for a real break, I wasn't exhausted. I even went out the next day for another hike on Easter.
My back held up.
Lucy held up.
We did it. It's taken a long time to get there, but we did it.
Even in dark times, there are spots of light.
What adventure did you get in to this weekend? Comment below or feel free to email me here!
"I grew up in Indianapolis in a neighborhood with lots of trees, a creek and neighborhood kids to ride bikes and explore with. I loved to be outside. Sometime in my teens my love for the outdoors got replaced with sitting on the phone talking for hours with friends instead of going for walks. Watching television all day instead of riding bikes. It only took 20 years to rediscover my love for the outdoors and my passion for hiking. And I’m elated that I did. Being outside reminds me that no matter how small or out of place I feel- I belong in this great big beautiful world." - Erikka (@yancypantz)
📍Rattlesnake Peak - This land traditionally held (past and present) in stewardship by the Tongva peoples.
📣Erikka would like to give a shout out to: @blackgirlstrekkin
[Image Description: Erikka stands, pointing at a triangular-shaped sign with the number 39 on it. She wears shades, a maroon jacket and eggplant colored leggings. She stands, with a big smile and one hand on her hip. The landscape is rocky, with blue skies and large white-capped mountains in the background.]
I was never one of those "fit" kids, I was overweight and didn't exercise. I started walking my dogs when I was 18/19 and started to lose weight. I ended up loosing 30kgs and I fell in love with running. I gave it up a few years back and lost my drive. My first major hike was the Inca trail for part of my honeymoon. I started hiking after this and loved it. I lost a family member to suicide three years ago, I had a breakdown two years ago and found myself diagnosed with severe anxiety. I now use hiking to ground myself, to be with nature and spend time with loved ones. I also love pushing my limits and doing multi-day hikes. - Kristy (@Teacher_adventures_)
[Image Description: Kristy stands on large rocks, the ocean a dark blue behind her with large white clouds in the sky. She wears a light colored crop top and black leggings, her hair in a messy bun.]
March 24th, 2020
"I have been labeled many things in my life. Too long to fit on a social media post. Misfit hiker is one label I take on with pride!
Why do I consider myself a misfit hiker? I hike alone. I hike with my service dog. I work hard at finding trails where I can find total solitude.
I have always found the outdoors as my safe place. I feel safer hiking alone in the back country then I do anywhere else or with anyone. The outdoors has been a lifeline. The outdoors has taken me out of deep, dark spaces. The outdoors gives me something to keep me looking forward. On days that are physically and mentally difficult, if I can get up, get out and walk a trail, I always feel better!" Mary (@LittleAngelsMollie)
Mary would like to give a shout out to - Little Angels Service Dogs has changed my life by matching me with Mollie. Mollie not only keeps me safe while hiking alone, she helps me enter social and public settings that would not have been possible prior to our match.
[Image Description: Mary crouches on a dirt and rock precipice, next to Mollie her service dog. Mary wears a black t-shirt with grey shorts and sneakers, Mollie a blue harness. The sky is blue, there are mountains in the distance, and greenery in the background.]
How is COVID-19 affecting National Parks and those that make them their livelihoods? My good friends Jeremy and Emily were in Wyoming, visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Jeremy offered this perspective on what it takes to maintain nature:
"A moment to reflect as we leave this wintery wonderland and return back to the reality of a COVID-19 world. We may be facing unprecedented challenges with social systems, with our supply chains and economy. In Jackson Hole we met many people whose lives are about to fundamentally change. Being in the tourism / hospitality industry they are facing massive layoffs with no hope of alternative employment or unemployment compensation. Many are leaving, as the rent prices are close to that of Seattle. The Commercial properties are closing permanently as they cannot afford $60k a month leases.
This all puts into perspective what it takes to keep wild areas wild, even in the current commercialized world where you can visit national parks on a whim. This may not be the case in the future, or there won't be as big of an industry around it.
Enjoy nature as you can. Stay safe as you do, and if we end up with quarantines of course follow them, but until that happens - you'll find us in the woods."
Pronouns: He/Him and She/Her
Wyoming - This land originally held in stewardship by the Arapaho, Arikara, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, Kiowa, Nez Perce, Sheep Eater, Sioux, Shoshone and Ute tribes (and possibly others).
Pics Courtesy of Jeremy.
Have you noticed changes in the outdoors and outdoor spaces due to COVID-19?