Recently, I was fortunate to meet a dear friend from high school on the Pacific Crest Trail. She was nearing the completion of her 500-mile journey, and I knew being able to share time together in the wilderness would create unique memories that we would be able to cherish for the rest of our lives. We completed 30 miles together in four days and the time on the trail was truly an amazing experience that created a much stronger bond between the two of us than I could have ever imagined. Although my portion of the journey was just a glimpse of what she was accomplishing, I was able to learn a lot about safety on the trail from our experience together and from discussing her experiences throughout her journey. I highly encourage any woman remotely interested in hiking to seek trails in the wilderness areas of our National Parks or National Forests. Although being in the wilderness can be a daunting idea to some, there are a few safety items that I have found help boost my confidence while on the trail and I want to share them with you all.
- Know your route(s): Studying maps prior to our trip helped me gain a better idea of the surroundings I was going to enter. This also helped me to know which trails we could take if we unexpectedly needed to exit the wilderness. It’s also important to carry your route marked maps with you so you aren’t relying solely on technology.
- Carry a Satellite phone or cell phone: A majority of the area where we were hiking did not have service and we carried the Delorme inReach two-way communicator. I found this to be incredibly comforting because we could update loved ones with our location and plan for the next day. It also put me at ease knowing that we had a form of communication that wasn’t the worse case scenario Search and Rescue call.
- Share your plans: I found it helpful to share my itinerary with friends and family. I let my husband and sister know which trail I planned to enter, camping & rest points, expected mileage for each day, and where we planned to exit. This may seem like overkill to some, but it’s helpful for people to know your general itinerary in case something goes awry.
- Extra food & water: I carried extra food and water, with water being the more important of the two. Yes, having the extra weight is not fun but not having enough of either resource is much worse. If you are in a desperate situation you can usually bum a handful of gorp from fellow hikers here and there, but lacking hydration is a harder problem to solve. A lack of water not only leads to dehydration, it may also lead your brain to a moment of panic that can make you less alert on the trail.
- Bear Spray: We were in bear country and needed to be bear aware. For me, that meant researching bear precautions before the trip and practicing using bear spray. Carrying bear spray definitely helped me feel more comfortable for the off chance we ran into any small predators, aggressive dogs, or not so nice humans (none of those situations ever materialized).
- You don’t have to chat: I found that a lot of people we ran into expected us to stop and talk for a while. It gets lonely on the trail for some and it was fun to share experiences/tips about the trail with fellow hikers, but there were times that some of our encounters left me feeling uneasy. Be kind to one another, but don’t feel that you need to be overly friendly.
- Trust yourself: My brain is my best friend on the trail and yours will be too! By the time you are actually on the trail, you have (hopefully) done research on a variety of hiking topics. It’s highly likely that you have the knowledge stored away to help you through many situations. Also, trust those “gut feelings” that your brain is sending your way. Our intuition is often correct!
I hope that these tips are helpful to some of you and can lead you to happy trails!