Sunday, June 20, 2010

Solo hike: Black Rock Mountain

I celebrated the summer solstice with a solo hike at Black Rock Mountain State Park.  I got an early start on the 7.2 mile James Edmond backcountry loop, and reached the summit and viewpoint just as the morning fog was beginning to lift.  The blueberry bushes at the overlook were loaded with ripe fruit, and I ate my fill.  This trail is narrow and seems to wander up and down every hill just for the fun of it.  But it also has everything- an overlook into a quaint valley, rocky outcrops, waterfalls, lake, and plenty of solitude.

After finishing the loop, I still had time and energy, so I set out on the 2.2 mile Tennessee Rock trail, which leaves from the same parking area.  This loop had a view of the mountains I'd climbed earlier that day, and I enjoyed looking at my maps and consulting my compass, trying to gain perspective.  I also continued on to Ada Hi-Falls, which didn't have too much water flowing. If there had been any more trails, I'd probably have done them as well. Some days, I can't get enough hiking.

One thing I realized on this trip is that I really enjoy hiking solo because I can walk my own long-legged, fast pace. I bound up the hills. I can start ridiculously early in the morning, and I can keep hiking as long as I want. But the downside is that I don't stop as often to see things, which is something I really appreciate about hiking with some of my friends and with the Trail Dames-- I've really learned to savor the experience of being outside and to slow down.  I would like to incorporate more of this into my solo hikes.

One recommendation that I often see about solo hiking is never to tell people that you are alone. I'm naturally a very poor liar, so on this hike I planned on saying things like, "oh my hiking partner is right behind me." But on this trip, I had the realization that people can just tell that I'm hiking solo- it was obvious to them even before I'd open my mouth.  I met two women at the trailhead who were out for their first hike, and I spend a while talking to them about the trails.  They were really surprised to see a woman hiking alone, but I told them I felt safer out in the woods than I do walking around some of my old neighborhoods or driving on the highway.

I decided that when I meet someone on the trail that my intuition says is OK, that I won't lie to them.  And I will save the precautionary behavior for when my gut tells me to watch out.

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