Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Confessions of an introvert

I could tell you all sorts of reasons why I’m on this trail here alone...  How I am training for my next backpacking trip next month.  Because I see the Swan Range from where I live and I crave the sense of home that I get from knowing the mountains around me.  All true.  But really it's an inner drive for solitude. 
Climbing 4000 feet to the top of Columbia Mountain, the northernmost peak in the Swan Range.  Leaving behind civilization (i.e. the Flathead Valley).
Being new in town too, I get frustrated with myself that I can't always go on social hikes, organized hikes, where I'd meet other people.  How am I going to make friends out here?   Too much socializing makes me exhausted though.  Ah, the problem of being an introvert.
It's just me up here on the summit of Columbia Mountain.  And I won't see anyone else for the rest of the day either.  Which actually makes me happy.
“Is there some way I can change my personality.”  I asked a therapist many years ago, “Am I stuck being an INFJ for the rest of my life?”  At the time I was upset about other aspects of my personally.  "Do you really want to be another person who doesn’t feel like you do?" she responded.

Would I really want to be an extrovert, given the choice?  Not that I have a choice.  Why is it so hard to admit that I want to backpack solo?  Can't I just accept this need for solitude?  Celebrate it, perhaps?

Thus, I am out here, for another solo backpacking trip, along the Swan Crest/ Alpine Trail in northwestern Montana.  I could have gone backpacking with someone else.  But no, I need this.
Entering a vibrant world.
Alone, the rhythm of my breath synchs to the pace of my footsteps.  Settling into my all day pace—the one that I can sustain the entire day.  I breathe a sign of relief.
Watching this.
I don’t know how people think surrounded by people.  I want uninterrupted chunks of time to be with the questions that burn in me.  To let the thoughts rattle around in by brain until they wear themselves out, so my mind can grow quiet.
Reflections in still waters.
Only then can I really see these mountains.  I feel immersed, heightened senses, a connection with this landscape.  When I’m up here alone, I understand.  I find meaning.
Possibilities.  Things start to make more sense.
This is the sleep that is most restorative.  How come sleep is better out in the woods than it ever is in town?
Recharged, I can go back to start another week.  To make connections with people, to dive into the projects that I believe in, to work on collaborations that I find so fulfilling. 

Hopefully next week, I'll have the energy to go backpacking with friends.  Cause it really is more fun with to share the outdoors with people.  In a different sort of way.
Waking up refreshed.
Watching clouds licking the mountaintops as the storm rolls in.  Change is coming.  It always does.
Information and hiking details
This was an out and back along the northern part of the Swan Range.  Starting from Columbia Mountain, joining the Alpine Trail #7, going all the way to where I left off previously, then going back to camp at Lamoose Lake, then returning back the way I came. 

Here is a description for climbing Columbia Mountain.

I love my new map which shows this hike-- the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex-Northern Half, by Cairn.  Makes for really good bedtime reading/dreaming.
Leaving you with one final wildflower.


  1. Hey, I'm an INFJ too. We are pretty rare. And I totally understand this post.

    1. Neat! That makes sense. No wonder hiking with you felt just as relaxing as hiking solo. :)

    2. Well, here's another INFJ. :)

      Love this post, too. The colors and photography were just what I needed.

  2. Me too, haha! I have a friend who said, "I want to be alone but I want friends!" Luckily I have met a few people that are compatible, but it will always be challenging for me, not only because work drains me and I want to be alone, but because I am not always good at compromise (people who don't want to hike very far, their pace, etc. This makes me sound awful, but it's not that I always go far or fast). I honestly don't get people who never want to hike alone, though. I kind of feel like there's something wrong with them, like they don't want to think too deeply. :)

    1. These rare types, finding one another, yes!

      That's how I feel too. After writing this post, I couldn't tell if it sounded awful, and I don't want to come off as sounding like I don't like people. I'm so glad you are out there, and understand. That really helps!

  3. Thanks for sharing your trips and lovely photos and insights. Keep doing what you're doing.
    I get this, but I have had to learn the hard way about letting others in and accepting help and accepting my own limitations. It took me having my head blown up to do it, but I think the Creator was saying it was time to get OUT of my own solitude and let others bless me and vice versa. I hope no one else ever has to be as stubborn as me to learn that lesson or to have life get their attention in the same way.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing, Dana! Glad you found a way that works for you now.

      For me, it always takes a while when I move somewhere new to make new connections. Fortunately, it seems to get easier each new place I go, but I still have to be patient. I have met some really wonderful people here. Mary put it pretty well when she said how sometimes she just doesn't like to compromise, and sometimes I just want to hike a certain way, especially after a long week.

      Anyway, thanks for the comments!

  4. I think you feel this pull much stronger when having to be "on" during your work week. It's exhausting and you really do need to be restored and refreshed. When in this place, it's also much more difficult to invest in planning, coordination and compromise. You've seen it both ways now . . . your life was on a different path last year as both a thru and stress fracture recovering hiker. I think there is a place for both.

    I recently saw a post about being selfish vs selfless . . . are we both or neither?

    On my recent 12-day trek into the high sierra I was reminded of why I like solo trips. I hiked a few hours a couple days with another gal. I found I was just following her, matching her pace, and not experiencing the environment, not taking photos, not relaxing into my own rhythm. I enjoyed the break and the company but felt I missed so much. I think many times the best compromise is camping and/or breaking with others, but hiking solo. Of course, when navigation is key and/or there is no real destination, then together is better and it's time to preset expectations so we can find our balance.

  5. I don't read your blog on a regular basis, and certainly not obsessively, though I do enjoy it whenever it comes up. A lot.

    You reminded me of the whole sorting-oneself-out-via-the-alphabet thing. It appears accurate. I'm an INTJ, if that counts for anything. And if that's what I have to be, I have no complaints. It works for me.

    At the end of June I spent a week in Olympic National Park, partly sealed off by a fire on one side and a closed access road on the other. It was quiet. Really. Quiet.

    I kept hoping, first, that I wouldn't see anyone else at all, and later kept hoping that I'd seen enough people and wouldn't see any more. It worked out to be one or two a day for the whole trip. Not bad, but I do get a thrill being out somewhere without telling anyone where or when, noodling along completely alone, and spending entire days without seeing another human.

    I'm sure that you see all kinds of unexpected things while going solo, just as I do, and I like the quiet, too. Emptiness is refreshing.

    For me, encountering a Douglas squirrel trying to get home across a small river on a fallen log while I'm trying to cross in the other direction is a treat.

    Not because I'm big and ugly and dangerous and uncouth and can do damn-well what I please but because I get to show courtesy by backing up, climbing down, waiting, and observing the moment. And because I like that kind of brief interaction, and get to pretend is a social event. Well, it is for me in my own goofy way. Lots of things seem to work better on the trail.

    I think you get it. Thank you.

    1. I totally get this! Yes yes yes. Especially the refreshing emptiness, and the squirrel social events. That’s exactly it! Yay! Such a wonderful thing to not be alone in having these experiences, and to know that others are out there who share this way of being outdoors.

      Your blog is one the few that makes sense to me. I think I’ve only commented on it once or twice, but I do read every post. You inspire me. Thanks for commenting here.

  6. INTJ here. You describe this so well.

    1. It's so fun to hear from all you similar types. A little virtual introvert party! Yay!

  7. I feel the same way, and I had the same experience as Jan when I hiked Oregon SOBO this last month. I was happier alone but when I hooked up with another hiker for a few hundred miles it was definitely a compromise. Good for both but I will be wary in the future of spending my time used NOT being as fulfilling or happy as I had planned alone... Plans of and men!šŸ˜