My first solo hike!
I've been walking since I was 7 months old (true story) , and going on all-day hikes from London for close to two years. I started going out once a month, then twice a month, and now pretty much every weekend... and now I'm writing a bloody blog about it! You can see it's somewhat of a theme in my life. And somehow on each of these hikes I've managed to find a buddy to come with me, get a group of girls together or join group walks. Each of these options have their benefits: meeting new people, amazing catch-ups and deep chats with friends, someone to laugh/swap snacks with and help out with navigation. But the more I've gotten into hiking and wanted to push myself and work towards multi-day hikes I've been curious to try out walking on my own. Would I be dead bored, or scared to be alone in the woods? So I plodded out on a 13-mile hike in Oxfordshire to find out!
For large sections of hike I absolutely loved it. One with nature! Wow that's a big bird! I hear rain! I chose a hike I'd done before so navigation wasn't too tricky and I could rely on memory for some of the way, which meant I didn't have to deal with inevitable field-gate-count confusion when I got lost. So far, so easy! I walked pretty quickly to get away from a couple that were walking the same route (ew, people) and really enjoyed the peace of being alone on a walk. Letting my thoughts come and go, taking in the landscape and paying attention to my surroundings and moving through the countryside at my own pace felt relaxing and peaceful.
Once I got to the lunch pub I was met with a few funny looks by families and couples as the only single person in the pub – covered in mud to the ankles no less. I sat in a cute open room and ordered a beer (I'm such a lad) and read my book... and felt fine! I am woman, watch me eat sandwich.
By the afternoon I have to say things got a tad on the boring side. I'd downloaded a new podcast in advance in case this should happen and was really glad I did. I listened to three episodes of She Explores and am now totally hooked! Listening to badass women talk about hiking, surfing and following their dreams was exactly what I needed to feel connected to a community – even though I was alone.
So yes, there was a moment when I felt a bit creeped out. On this particular walk there's a section through a beautiful beech wood, where they trees are *very* high and you can't see much of the path ahead of you. I somehow got in my head that I was a bit exposed to... ghosts? The Blair Witch? God knows. Anyway, I thought of every horror movie I've ever seen and at one point even looked back over my shoulder where of course there was NOTHING, and got a a teeny case of alone-in-the-woods-goosebumps. I knew this was all a bit silly so I focussed on my steps and thought hard about dinosaurs (seemed comforting at the time) and basically shot out of the woods where I ran into a lovely Labrador who cheered me right up. Praise be doggos.
I really enjoyed hiking solo. I loved walking at a fast pace (not just when propelled by fear of the supernatural) and zoning into the simplicity of just walking. We all have different reasons to hike, which also change over time: some people just want a day outside, some are training for something bigger and working towards a goal. I'm really inspired by bigger hikes: long multi-day trails, elusive and almost mythical stories of thru-hikers who beat out weeks and months walking 15, 20 miles every day, alone or fading in and out of hiking packs that form on the trail. Even though I have no idea if I'll ever physically or logistically get to that level, I'm somehow drawn to it. So for me I think the sweet spot is somewhere between hiking on my own, and with someone I can share my goals with, and who can ultimately push me to go further.