I started hiking solo because I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t know anybody who backpacked. I didn’t get the idea from friends or family members—nobody in my life had heard of the Appalachian Trail before I had. When I first read about people walking 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, I thought, "how is that even possible?" And then I thought, "I’ve got to do that." I read on the hiking forums that there were thousands of people out there every year, that I would make friends, that there was little danger in going out alone. I took that at face value, because what other option did I have?
Since my first trip on the AT, I’ve hiked many hundreds of solo miles and I’ve made dozens of hiking friends. While I enjoy the company of other hikers, people in my life who understand the power of nature, and the joy of getting all up in it, I still feel most at home with a pack on my back and nobody but the birds within earshot. In some ways, I have wrapped myself in the solo female identity and spent a lot of time and energy encouraging others to have the unique experience of aloneness in the mountains or the woods. But I have also come to understand the power of community and of sharing the things we love.
Even in the building of the Rugged Outdoors Women Write community that has worked so hard every month to share their words here, I have found the same balance of doing something--writing--both alone and together. With the support of friends and sometimes the direct help and input.
Solo v. Together
by Christine Reed
When I reach the summit
I can look down at my own two feet
And know that they brought me here
I can pat myself on the back
And know that it has carried everything we need
I can hear my own voice say, “what beauty, what grandeur”
And know that it has made this all possible
We are in this together
We always are
My truest companion has always been myself
Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman
Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.
by Marty Cowan
I travel and coexist with multiple sides of myself - the voices being much louder while wandering in the woods. Excavating the depths of my psyche while I stride
up, up, up,
trying to go fast,
rushed as if there is a taco truck and keg of beer waiting for me at the summit.
Toxic Marty says to Vulnerable Marty, “You suck! Plenty of others are in waaaaaaaaaaay harder life situations and manage to be stronger and have better endurance than you. Oh, and why isn’t your writing better? Why have you procrastinated so much?”
Positive Marty says to Angry Marty, “You need to chill the fuck out, you are doing great, don’t listen to that garbage.”
Defeatist Marty says to no one in particular, “Just turn around, you obviously aren’t going to make your pathetic goal today anyway.”
Cheerleader Marty says to Frustrated Marty, “Think about how good you are going to feel when you are done, everything is awesome, just enjoy it!”
(cue in the circus music here)
Sage Marty pulls the plug on the noise and suggests thanking her inner critics,
our greatest teachers, and to
Marty Cowan is the author of Table To Trail a collection of plant-based recipes for day hikers. You can find her on Instagram @tabletotrail
by Meaghan Martin
I’ve never been one to keep a bucket list.
When you grow up thinking you’ll die before you’re twenty,
I guess you just don’t see the point.
But somehow my twenties came and went,
and now, as if I must make up for lost time,
or check the boxes before the sand runs out,
I reach for the extraordinary, never satisfied with modest simplicity.
But pushing myself for more and more and more,
means nothing can ever be quite good enough.
I find myself now wanting to know the grandeur of the Tetons,
the wild expanses of Alaska,
the commanding presence of the Giant Sequoia.
I want to watch the northern lights dance above my head,
instead of behind the lens of a camera with a sensor more powerful than my eye.
I want to see the remote, the rugged,
and feel myself become a part of the mountains.
I want to experience the endless beauty found in the vastness,
and be reminded of just how small I am.
With living has come loving, and with loving, yearning. Seeking,
to travel the world with beloveds, who crave adventure as much as I,
To not only see these places, but to not see them alone.
And so now, in the recesses of my mind, lives the unwritten bucket list,
cloaked in the fear not only that I’ll never complete it,
but that we won’t experience these moments, these places,
Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures
The Duality of Being Solo
by Belinda Arndt
As a kid, I did anything to have friends because I was lonely. I was the only person in my entire family with no siblings. I hated to do things by myself. I thought if I had friends then I would not be lonely, and I would finally belong in this life.
This feeling carried on from high school throughout grad school until I decided to take my first solo trip to Canada. To be honest I wanted someone to join me, but between people not having a passport or not wanting to go on a trip with me, I ended up going alone. I was excited, but also had no idea what hell I was doing.
While driving over the border, I met someone I had never met before for a hot second.
She was even more curious, excited, sensitive, and sure of herself than I was. She was pure and at peace with herself. Things I didn’t know I could be.
She was manifesting feelings I never thought I had or had subconsciously hidden away.
She knew better than me to keep the peace over herself even when we got detained coming back to America. She knew that things would be okay and to just
go with the flow despite my magnetic pull of doing the opposite. Plus, she knew she didn't look well in orange.
I am still in awe of this person every time she comes out and the strength and confidence she has.
That was the start of becoming a solo female traveler a title I am proud to have.
Each time I traveled solo, I start to learn more about myself. The more I sit with myself, the more I begin to like myself and hate myself: my flaws, quirks, and the constant thought of, "What the fuck is wrong with me." Whenever I hate myself, she pops in with her peace and teaches me it would be okay.
I continue to do more solo things like reading at bars, camping, and wandering random streets in America and abroad. I started to hate myself a little less each time because I learned the things, I hated were years of trauma finally surfacing.
I can't fully explain the freedom there is when it's just you on the open road, trail, or streets. It's you finally sitting down and processing. Healing. Even screaming because it's not always sunshine and roses trying to figure out this wild thing we call life.
Solo travel has helped reconcile the notions of who I am with the help of that person I met on my trip to Canada. That’s something I am grateful for each day, even when she doesn’t come out in my daily life.
I am the most centered and sure about myself and life when solo. There is a freedom I get being solo, freedom away from others' thoughts and beliefs, freedom to learn my voice and desires, and freedom to live my real life, even for a week or two.
Every time I travel, I feel like I have a dual life. My life that is and my life that is on holiday, and I much prefer my holiday life. This duality is a common theme for me since I am a Gemini. One aspect of being a Gemini is being a lone wolf who loves adventure and spontaneity. But Geminis want people to be around them.
As much as I am a die-hard solo traveler and would never give this up, I may be leaning into the notion, "I can do things on my own!" a little too much. When I sit on my couch on a Friday night, look over to my left, and there isn't someone there, I feel that loneliness creeping in from my childhood.
Those nights I wonder if I will get too comfortable being solo though I crave a relationship. The moment I step towards a relationship, I step back because I am never sure, thanks to my trauma, a Peter Pan I loved, and the fuckery of dating.
There is beauty and loneliness of being solo. I have myself, but I only have myself.
At least it's freedom.
Belinda Arndt is a solo traveler and adventurer based outside of Washington DC. Her tagline is "It's always an adventure with me!" Catch her adventures on her website WanderingBel.com which aims to build a community of solo travelers to share their travel stories. You can find her on instagram @wandering_bel and Facebook at Wandering Bel Blog
The Impossible Alone
by Bronwyn Preece
solo | ɪnɪkˈstrɪkəbli təˈɡɛðə |
interconnected relationship, undeniably
Bronwyn Preece is honoured and privileged to live on the unceded Traditional Territories of the Lil’wat # and Squamish Peoples in Whistler, BC. This awareness brings with it many levels of responsibility, humbleness, transparency, and collaborative possibilities. She is a site-sensitive poetic-pirate and multi-disciplinary, community-engaged arts practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance, along with an MA and BFA in Applied Theatre. She has taught, facilitated workshops and performed internationally. She is the author of Gulf Islands Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2012); and the forthcoming knee deep in high water: riding the Muskwa-Kechika, expedition poems (Caitlin Press, 2023) and Sea to Sky Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2023); along with multiple academic and artistic publications. She is an avid solo, backcountry-backpacker who writes on the trail, with the word gratitude tattooed on her arm. Find her on instagram @poetichiker and Facebook at Bronwyn Preece.
by Anne Whiting
This piece is an original song with music, available to listen on Youtube
We’re better together Two make more laughter Adventures together More fun hereafter Say words in season Give the feelings reason And live life to fullness – together Speak out the dreams you live for So I can share the wild ride Paint bold your canvas of calling I’ll cheer you as your find your stride Walk with me a mile in my shoes After I walk a mile in yours Boots, clogs, heels, Wellies or Uggs Fields, heights, forests, and shores I’ll hold the lantern up high So you can see the way to go Tell me it’s worth every failure Ground me when the harsh winds blow Sure up your feet from stumbling Catch my hand when I fall True, kind, honest, thoughtful, sincere Safe, good, lifeline, loyal
Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne
by Sierra Eberly
Solo. Independent. Companionless. Lonely.
I am alone with my thoughts
but how can I be lonely? It’s so loud here
so many conversations
so many questions yearning for answers
I head to the trails to quiet my mind
I need a break from the buzzing that never stops
One foot in front of the other
I breathe in, I breathe out
My breath slowly overtakes the noise in my head
finally, some solitude
The forest settles over me like a warm blanket
comforting, cozy, quiet
A chipmunk alerts me that someone is coming
I remember to smile as the biker passes by
Back to my thoughts
I focus on the single track
I breathe in, I breathe out
sweet solitude once again
I am alone,
but I am not lonely
I am not companionless
the forest guides me
Independence is a gift
it allows for experience
Solo female traveler
running through the forest
with a quiet mind
and a happy heart
Sierra is a trail runner and backpacker who lives full-time in her campervan with her dog, Snow. She started her own copywriting business, Boondock Consulting, and when not working, she explores trails less traveled every chance she gets. You can find her on Instagram at @sierrastraverse and read her personal blog at www.sierrastraverse.com
by Tatiana Corbitt
Take my hand
The void inside fills
At being seen
One drop of sand
At a time
The hourglass of life
Is more full
With you here
Let us forage
Mushrooms and shiny things
From each others’ hearts
Fill that little red basket
And float away
We may hold this moment
In our heart
Tatiana is a writer and artist living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She graduated with her M.S. in Applied Biological Sciences in 2019 and is currently working on her debut novel. Her writing is frequently published on narcolepsy.sleep-disorders.net
Lunar Light in Peace
by Lauren Jones
Last night I mooned the moon!
I had to poo and it was the middle of the night (a fart became a little bit more than just air). Perfectly clear skies, crisp and chill air from being 11,000 feet in elevation, mountainside to my right, valley to my left with the brightest beaming moon with only a few prominent stars (the lunar light faded the starlight).
I am the only one here.
Birthing myself from my lopsided tent (worst tent placement on the trail yet), I
quickly realized there was no need for my solar light to lead the way, the moon lighting was all that was needed and it sure was phenomenal.
It’s just me in this space.
My face was kissed by the lunar light shower first, then my belly was blessed with her light as I moon salutation-ed in a sleepy receiving stretch, followed by my upper thighs, lady parts and lastly, smothered in moon light, were my butt cheeks as I proceeded to moon the moon. In the middle of the night, my entire sleepy need-to-poo body was drenched in lunar light.
Just like this trail is drenched in my DNA. Poo everywhere*, blood too, pee, my hair, my nails, my skin, my spit and my snot. My DNA is all over this state.
I moon the moon. Flash the mountain side. Straddle the bushes, trees, declines and trail sides with legs wide open.
This trail has seen all parts of me, inside and out.
And yet, not the slightest bit invasive.
Solo or not.
It still accepts me, all my parts, nonetheless.
*authors note: leave no trace practices were in full effect while on trail. Poo was not literally everywhere, rather, buried deep and wipe-less, packed out, and undiscoverable for other passersby.
Lauren ‘Yardsale’ Jones works professionally as a Colorado state employee and School Counselor. For a living, she hikes, strolls and saunters with her pup Journey on the daily; meanders with her three chickens and nurtures her mini-urban farm with a newly acquired 1956 Canned Ham named Xanadu parked in the backyard. Her husband joined her for many parts of the Colorado Trail serving as the BEST trail angel on the planet and they now have adopted 5 miles of the CT in Segment 9 and are still aspiring parents-to-be. Yardsale’s chosen footware includes crocs, Altra Lonepeaks and ExtraTuf boots. She is also an aspiring author writing casually with the Rugged Outdoors Women Group aspiring to eventually finish her infertility, thru-hike memoir-like sort of self-help/inspiration mini-book. You can follow her ventures on Insta @stillaspiringjourney and @sol_y_luna_soilpluslove
by Leslie Neidermeyer
I set out alone, grateful for the quiet
No conversation to drown out the sigh of the wind through the pines
The tumbling of water over rock, crow cawing from above
I can gently lift the heads of wildflowers, look upon their faces
I scout for a spot, finding fellow hikers
Pitching close by, making fast friends
I am not alone, a tent among tents
Talk of gear, this pack, that pack
Blister care, water filters
Stoves blaze as the sun sets
Dinner cooks, bits of chocolate shared
Evening chores, talk of turning in
Retiring to our tiny shelters, zipping of tent doors
Headlights bobbing behind thin fabric
Organizing our tiny lives under the stars
The rustle of sleeping bags
The pages of my book turn
Waiting for the late night tent zip
A last bathroom break
The shadow of the mountain looms
Content for the safety of the group
Comrades in the wilderness
My neighbor snores as I doze off
Leslie lives in Denver, she owns a women's guided backpacking business; Strange Trails Women's Adventures. Find her on Instagram @strangetrailsco
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