The first of my tips for solo female Appalachian Trail Hikers is: you probably don't need me, personally, to tell you where to hike, how to sense who is creepy and who isn't, or how much water to take with you. You're not stupid.
Full Disclosure: I have two adult daughters whom I cheerfully overprotect and two granddaughters for whom I would also give my life in an emergency.
No, I am not going to "mansplain" obvious truths or attempt to frighten women off the Trail. Several women I know could confront the biggest bully in any bar and pull out his spleen with their pinkie fingers before he could insult them. Honest. No man is tough enough to have a baby. All women are tough enough.
Hone and trust your instincts on the Trail. Be able to down any guy with a knee to the [groin] or a stomp on his instep or a key thrust into his dang eyeball, if it's your life or his. Personally, I trust in God for protection, without ignoring sufficient preparation.
Ladies will probably agree that you're going to sense more weirdness and/or danger in a Wally World parking lot than at a shelter along the Appalachian Trail. Learn to be aware of your surroundings, have fun, but be prepared. Law enforcement agencies say that in situations with "active shooters" people caught in the middle should 1) flee, 2) hide, and 3) fight, if necessary.
It's your choice of what to do if you have trouble on the Trail, especially when there aren't many places to run. Just keep running as an option. It might save your life. It's no shame to survive.
Another biggie: Don't camp near road crossings. Men with more beer than brains might be your unwelcome neighbors. Protect yourself. You are your best first defense.
My favorite hobby is riding my motorcycle, in spite of the inherent dangers. I don't set out on trips in the rain, I try not to ride at night and I do not drink and drive -- because those things will keep me safe. It's about safety, not insecurity.
Years ago, a lady was abducted from Georgia's Blood Mountain. She was hiking alone, but she had her dog, Ella, with her. A murderer approached her and befriended her dog. Meredith was killed a couple of days later. Ella survived. Perhaps join Right to Hike and find a hiking partner?
Dogs can provide hikers with a sense of security. Dogs can provide a false sense of security.
While riding my motorcycle the other day, I felt secure knowing that other drivers could see me -- even if I changed lanes or passed them -- because of my bike's bright headlight. When I parked at a store front after riding 50 miles or so, I saw that my headlight had burned out.
My confidence in my headlight was futile. A hiker's trust in a dog, knife, strength or any other single object of faith is only as good as the object of their faith. It's the combination of skills, tools, senses and preparedness that will protect you -- even if your dog becomes friends with a slayer or you cannot reach a knife in time. Run, hide, fight, scream, attack or whatever -- have options.
Learn tricks of the Trail and meet probably-safe people at Bearfoot's Appalachian Trail Facebook page, my personal favorite. The Appalachian Trail Section Hikers page has 25,000 members and was founded by the delightful and skilled uber-hiker Lauralee Bliss. The more people you meet online the more people you might meet on the Trail.
The Facebook group, "Appalachian Trail: Women's Group," seems to be a good resource. Several ladies whom I admire and respect are members, although I am not.
My point is there is safety in numbers. There is safety in preparation. There is safety in knowing who or what to trust, and what's next on your Safety To Do List if something fails.
Should you have trouble on the Trail, please report it to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They work with local groups, agencies and the law to keep others safe. Click Here to Report an Incident.
Here's the deal. We protect one another, as we protect our loved ones. We are a family comprised of men and women who have the right to be respected on the Trail, as they are elsewhere.
Be prepared. Hike. Have fun. Avoid trouble. Know what to do if trouble arises. Be fearless.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Safety, Hikers, Hiking Safety, Information, appalachian trail hikers, female solo hikers, women hike solo, solo appalachian trail women, and tips women solo hike appalachian trail
The best trail mix is healthy, tasty and beneficial. So is this Appalachian Trail advice that will inspire you and empower you to thrive the Trail.
Published Jul 24, 2012.
The best review of Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild, was written by Patches, a lady who solo-hikes long distances, including the entire Appalachian Trail.