Solo Hiking and Why You Need it in Your Life

First and foremost, I want to preface this by telling you that I didn’t want to do this hike today and this post is not going to be about how cool this hike was. My mind was saying no, no, no, noooooooooooo! at every decision point today. I was up early because I had to go into work for an hour. One hour was enough to send my mood spiraling and remind me of this panic-inducing sense that I don’t belong…

After arguing with myself the whole way home, my brain was telling me I was still tired. So I opted for a nap and settled for spending the day doing laundry, cleaning the house and prepping to drag myself to 36 hours of work over the next 3 days.

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Does this person look tired?! NO!

2 hours later, I was done with all of the chores and was excruciatingly bored, watching tv… Tyler called and asked why I didn’t hike today and I immediately felt panic deep in my chest. WHY didn’t I hike?!?! For a few minutes, I let it consume me… I was nearly hysteric with hate for living here, in this “awful” place where I feel like I don’t belong, and where any type of decent hike is 60+ minutes away.

This week has been really, really hard on me. Since I came back from Alaska, the part of my brain that holds the on/off buttons for anxiety/panic has felt broken. I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost control of, well…my ability to control it. On Monday (at work, unfortunately), I had a full-blown, blackout panic attack for no apparent reason. On Tuesday, I came scary-close to another panic attack when I was put in a situation that triggered memories of horror. Panic attacks, for me, leave me feeling like I have nothing left. I was running on empty.

But dammit, my (incredible) husband was right. WHY DIDN’T I HIKE?!

So I got up, put the panic away and I left.

The second my feet hit the ground and my heart rate began to rise, all of the panic that had been brewing inside me this week seemed to dissipate.

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I realized that while my brain said “go home, take a nap, prep for work”, my heart wanted the mountains. And I desperately needed them. I am so grateful for the silence that is nature for giving me a chance to reconnect with my body.

Taking care of your body is important but you guys, taking care of your MIND needs to come first.

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Raven Rocks

While this is only my second solo hike and I fought it every step of the way, I truly feel like hiking alone has changed me. It gives me this incredible outlet to connect my mind to my body in ways I didn’t think were possible. I feel like I belong, even though I’m completely solo. Instead of the usual sense of impending doom that comes with the night before going back to a job I despise, I feel as if this hike gave me enough mountain air to keep breathing steadily through the next few days of work until I can get back out there. Enough mountain air to pull in when I feel that sense of panic in my chest…

For those of you who are on the edge about a solo hike… I implore you to take a leap of faith, trust your heart AND your mind, and do the damn thing!

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A favorite quote of mine reads, “into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” Sometimes, I think we need just that. To find (and re-connect with) our soul. It’s painfully easy to lose that in a world that holds such unfounded societal expectations of humans, let alone young women.

We are ORGANIC, we break just like any other organic material. Finding a way to put those pieces back together and connect the feelings in our heart with those in our brain is when we can truly see clearly.

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Stay wild/xoxo– Dylan

Old Rag Mountain: My First Solo Hike

I DID IT!!! If you read my last post, you know that solo hiking is something that I wanted (and needed) to conquer.

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Aside from the birth of my little sister, my parents’ wedding day and my own, it was one of the greatest days of my life. I can say that with absolute certainty, me and my thoughts will be venturing into the woods solo again soon.

When I first started this blog, I promised to be excruciatingly real with you… so I’m going to do just that. I wanted to quit. More than once. In fact, I almost wanted to quit before I even started. I layed in bed for an extra few minutes this morning after my alarm, thinking to myself, “is this really something I NEED?”

YES. It ABSOLUTELY was something I need. I think it is something that EVERY young woman should experience because I have truly never felt more empowered in my life. To me, that’s saying something! I’ve done a lot of things that were “empowering” in my life— I mean what’s more empowering than being a barely-18 year old, clueless CHILD moving to Italy?! Talk about a situation that required me to find my inner strength and comfort in my own being.

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November 27th, 2013 was probably the last time I really felt that sense of true empowerment that was derived solely from ME. My first full day in Italy was Thanksgiving. I knew no one, had no friends… hell, I didn’t even have linens in my dorm room or food (other than a measly box of cereal from the Shopette) because the store on base was closed. I also didn’t have any mode of transportation. I walked to the main gate, called a taxi and managed to squeak out that I wanted to go to the Pordenone train station. I hopped on a train (of which I honestly had no idea was going the right direction) and spent the day in Venice, eating pizza and gelato while taking shameless selfies in FREAKING ITALY!!!

Solo hiking was different (mostly because of the animal threat and the impending rock scrambling I’m about to tell you about). The first mile or so, I obsessed over bears. I don’t even know where to buy bear spray in this damn state. In Alaska, they sell that shit at Costco! Then I realized I’ve probably developed a severely irrational fear of serial killer bears, so I put that one to bed.

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The next voice screaming “turn around” came when I got to the rock scramble. There was a point where I was standing on a giant (literally giant) boulder with about a 10-foot drop below me. And a nice blue trail-marking arrow pointing down. WTF?!? I stood there for a good five minutes and thought to myself… how in the actual fuck is my 5-foot, 3.75-inch ass going to get down there to the TRAIL? I looked up at the summit and started to think… well, I made it this far so I still solo-hiked and I don’t need to make the summit.

No, woman, YOU DO!!

Once I turned off that nasty, quitting voice in my head, I re-evaluated this crevice that was the supposed trail. The summit was there and I was here and I needed to be there. So I found a foot-hold, trusted my body and you guys… I DID IT. And then I did it again. A few more times in a few more crevices. Each time, I got down with the biggest smile on my face.

This rock scramble was no-joke.

I did it. By myself. No hand to hold on the way down or someone to push me up one of the many scrambles I had to drag my body up.

I got to the summit and I cried. I thought that the moment I walked across the graduation stage and received my Bachelor’s Degree was the proudest I’ve ever been of myself. I thought I knew myself, through and through. Boy, was I wrong. That summit was, without a shadow of a doubt, the proudest I’ve ever been of myself and it showed me parts of my soul that I’d never met.

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Shoutout to the equally brave woman who scaled some rocks to get this shot for me, then said “wow, that spot was made for you.”

And I’m so damn glad I met those parts because it has forever changed me. I’ve learned that I’m not a quitter. That I’m a strong hiker. That I’m stronger overall than I could’ve ever imagined. That I’m confident. That I’ll shamelessly take selfies until the day I die. That even when I’m scared out of my damn mind, I’m braver than I know.

“Be Brave” (and that damn good, well-deserved brownie) found an entirely new meaning today.

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My dad has always said, “Dylan, you are a force to be reckoned with.” Today, I believed him.

Stay wild, friends.

XOXO/Dylan

 

P.S. Hike Stats:

4 hours, 58 minutes

9.44 Miles

2,432ft Elevation Gain

1,607 Calories

Solo Hiking — I’m Coming for YOU!

I grew up in Alaska. I walked to the bus stop every day in the pitch black mornings… we don’t have street lights in the valley I grew up in. I’d come home from the neighbor’s house after dark, on a game trail through the woods. I’ve stood 10 feet from a Mamma Grizzly bear and her two cubs, in a river, with three fish on a stringer behind me. I’ve stood on the deck and watched the same, familiar moose wander through the yard with her calves. I’ve done countless hikes into the complete wilderness with my family.

I’ve never hiked alone.

Yep—that’s right. I’ve never ventured out on to a trail by myself. Why? Because I’m scared. But not because of wild animals or kidnappers. Because I’m afraid to disconnect and truly be alone with myself.

Who am I supposed to talk to?! The dog isn’t going to talk back…

I’ve always been a social person (maybe overly so) and silence is scary. To me. I took a trip to Alaska a few weeks ago, sans hubby, and CRAVED hiking. Seriously, you guys—I wanted nothing to do with the gym, I just wanted the mountains. My sister was in school all day, so I had ample hiking time. I asked my mom a hundred times before she left if this trail was okay to do alone, if I was safe on another trail, etc…

I never went alone.

Honestly, I’m not really sure what I meant by “safe” when asked my mom about trails. Did I mean bears? Did I mean crazy serial killers? Did I mean terrain or accessibility?

I was hiding behind all of those ^^ really (for an Alaskan girl) normal things. Well, not serial killers… maybe serial killer bears, but even THAT is unlikely. I think safety was the wrong question to ask.

Is it acceptable to hike alone? Will I be okay (mentally) if I hike alone? Will I be able to disconnect and enjoy nature? I think those are the questions I needed to ask myself.

The answer is YES…. fucking YES!!! I CAN hike alone. I WILL be okay.

There are women out there who have done the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Oregon Desert Trail and the Appalachian trail (I’m positive there’s more) ALONE! What am I waiting for? Since I’ve taken a step back and evaluated why I’ve never hiked alone I’ve realized that I NEED to. I’m excited to feel the empowerment of conquering a peak solo. I NEED to do this to remind myself that despite what the world is telling me, women are powerful. The insignificance I feel every day when I drag myself to work— I truly believe that a solo trip into the mountains will give me that rock solid reminder that I desperately need.

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(2018, Mount Magnificent)

I won’t lie to you—I’m scared. I’m nervous. I planned to go a few days ago but I made an excuse. All of those same fears are there. But solo hiking, I’m COMING FOR YOU IN TWO DAYS, dammit. There’s just something about mountain air that makes me feel at home like nothing else does.

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(2018, Halfway up Blacktail Rocks)

Being powerful (for me) isn’t about having the power. It’s about knowing, in my heart, that I have a powerful soul.

XOXO/Dylan