Originally published September 28, 2009
Yes, we can. (Wait, haven’t I heard that somewhere recently? Nah…)
I live alone, and one thing I have learned is that while I can do many things (rewire an electrical socket, figure out a plumbing problem, use a drill, kill any manner of bugs without freaking out), there are other things that I just can’t do on my own (hang a fifty-pound chandelier from the ceiling in my dining room — thanks, Gary and Erik).
The simple truth is that, as an average woman, there will be things of the physical sort that are just more difficult for us than they would be for a guy. Maybe a couple of us could handle it, but the whole point of this blog is to talk about solo camping and hiking. As I keep saying (so it must be important), the best weapon you have as a solo hiker is to be aware of the risks and be prepared to handle them. So that brings me to Rule Number Two:
Don’t Confuse Enthusiasm With Ability: Realistically Assess Your Abilities and Plan Accordingly
This rule could also be called “Don’t Overestimate Your Abilities.” What it means is that I think it’s great if you want to camp out on your own and tackle the outdoors because your boyfriend/husband teased you that you wouldn’t last ten minutes without your manicurist once you chipped a nail. However, I don’t suggest that you decide to prove him wrong by shouldering a fifty-pound frame pack and hiking twelve miles into the back country that is known for its aggressive population of grizzlies, if you’ve never slept outdoors in your life.
Solo camping and hiking is not the time to attempt some grand feat that you’ve never before come close to even considering, when that could land you in some serious trouble. If you go with the boyfriend/husband (or a girlfriend, or your mom, or whatever), then at least there’s someone around to help when you realize that you need to dump half your pack or else collapse from fatigue. There’s someone to encourage you when your muscles start screaming. There’s someone to go for help when you step wrong and twist your ankle.
Rule Number Two doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself. It simply requires that you realistically assess your abilities and limitations, and plan accordingly.
The key here is being realistic. Are there some women who can rebuild a transmission? Sure. I’m not one of them. Could I learn? Probably, but right now I can’t do it. When I was on my road trip, I knew that if something happened to my car, I’d have to get help. When my tire blew out while I was flying down Rte. 40 in New Mexico, I called AAA to come and help. Good thing, because the guy was also able to direct me to the nearest town that had both a hotel and a tire place that would be open in the morning.
Just be realistic. Don’t be afraid to push yourself, and try new things, but have an escape plan ready in case you need it.
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2009.