I had just crested the mountain peak when my phone buzzed. I ignored it. That’s exactly what I was here to escape, after all. Instead I gulped some water, took off my pack, and took in the view. I ate a PB&J and my phone buzzed again.
Two different people, but the message was the same: You ok?
I sighed, snapped a few selfies for proof of life, and shoved my phone back in my bag.
It wasn’t the first time I hit the trails alone, and I hope it won’t be the last. I know I’m not the only female who hikes alone. I see them online, on Instagram or Facebook, or other blogs. And yet…I’ve never seen one in real life. I’ve seen plenty of solo men, but women always come in pairs or groups. Why is that, I wonder?
Are we more likely to get lost? To get hurt? To fall off a cliff while taking a selfie?
No, of course not.
But we are more likely to get raped.
Here’s the truth: I’m always just a little bit scared on a solo hike, unless the trail is well-trafficked. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new trail or one I’ve hiked a dozen times. It doesn’t matter if it’s three miles or ten. If I’m alone, I’m a little bit nervous.
I hike anyway.
Most men are not rapists, a fact that does not make rape victims feel better about their odds. Pepper spray makes me feel safer, even though I know it’s a fallacy. What if someone hits me from behind? Sometimes I consider taking up trail running, because at least then they would have to catch me first. But plenty of runners have been caught. Once I was out running and a stranger warned me not to wear my hair in a pony tail. It makes an easy handle for someone to pull me into a dark corner, he told me. Gee, thanks.
I run anyway. I hike anyway.
I also drive a car, despite “unintentional injury” being the leading cause of death for anyone under the age of 45, according to the CDC. I wear a seat belt, ignore my phone, and follow the speed limit. When I climb, I wear a harness and always pay attention.
I’m not saying that I won’t die in a fiery crash, or break my nose on a ten foot fall. I’m not even saying I won’t be raped. All the precautions in the world won’t change the fact that shit happens. I’m just saying I refuse to live my life based on the worst-case scenario.
Maybe that’s because to me, the real worst-case scenario, the thing I fear the most, is finding myself at the end of life without really having lived it at all. If I never do anything because I’m too afraid, nothing can save me from a life unlived.
Not even pepper spray.