Out of the office: A case for hiking alone

Not working Mondays is the bee’s knees.

No start-of-the-work-week blues and no lines at the grocery store or other places most people frequent on a Saturday or Sunday. The converse effect of my schedule is that I have to work Saturdays, and am rarely able to scrounge up a hiking partner on my days off.

This leaves me to strap on my pack, full of way more gear than I would bring on a group trip, send my roommate the “please call the troopers if you don’t hear from me by this time” text, clip on my bear spray and head into the hills alone. An admittedly social and talkative person, I loathed this scenario at first. Who would help me carry out all the cool rocks I was sure to find along the way?

I’ve come to find, however, that there are certain advantages and rewards that come with solo adventuring.

Sure, there’s no denying it’s easier to explore with other people. This truth hit home particularly hard a few weeks ago while I meandered (struggled) my way to the almost-top of Slaughter Ridge trail in Cooper Landing, the latter portion of which was still trapped in winter’s clutches.

The snow conditions were such that the surface appeared firm and supportive, but gave at the slightest misplaced pressure or wrong step. Cue my 5-foot, 1-inch frame breaking through a packed-down top layer of snow and sinking hip deep about every other step. Someone there to help pull me out would have saved several scrapes to my shins. (Note to self, don’t wear capri hiking pants until June.)

But, after snow-punching my way to the top (or close enough, the ridge was ominously covered in snow as well) I looked up from the rugged, rock and root-laden ground to see the fruits of my efforts. The sight of blue skies stretching over white-capped mountains and an impossibly blue river running through it all was made all that much sweeter by the fact that I made it there to see it by myself.

I could have turned around when the snow got too deep or when the precarious switchbacks started making me really uncomfortable. No one would have known.

Except I would have known.

Adventuring on one’s own infuses an excursion with a sense of self-reliance and accountability. It builds character, resolve and determination. By reaching the top, the end, the peak, the what have you, by no other means but your own, you start to build confidence in yourself.

You, in fact, can do it.

A seemingly simple concept, this was an important one for me to learn as a relative newcomer to Alaska and all its wonders, and the dangers that come with them. We all know the bear spray isn’t just for show. If it was, it would come in a cuter can.

Now, I find I prefer to get outdoors and explore on my own. In the absence of hiking partners, the nearby branch becomes my helping hand up a particularly steep incline. The melodious mix of bird calls, wind rustling through leaves and small creatures in the underbrush become an ongoing commentary.

And the trip’s accomplishment, whether it be making it to the top of a new peak or just finding a really cool rock, is an accomplishment all to myself, helping to form the competent young adult life I’ve started to build in Alaska.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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