Don’t be Afraid to Go Alone
by Sue Freeman
I cringe every time I hear a woman say “I can’t go alone.” She’s usually referring to why she doesn’t get out for a walk in the woods more often. How did we become so paranoid of the outdoors?
To me, the woods, whether it’s a hundred-mile wilderness tract or a one-mile square of trees in a suburban setting, is a peaceful, welcoming place. It is where we can escape the hustle and noise that surround us the rest of the day. It’s a place to watch and smell the natural progression of the changing seasons and to listen to the birds, crickets, and frogs. It’s a place of solace and solitude.
But to many women, the woods are a frightening place – especially when alone. Granted, it’s a good policy to go with someone else when you head outside. Something untoward can always happen, from spraining an ankle to getting lost. A friend can be of immeasurable help and welcome company. But, going alone shouldn’t stop you from going at all.
The reality is that the most dangerous situation you’ll face is the drive to the trailhead. More people are injured and killed in cars than in other endeavors combined. Once you reach the park or trailhead, the most dangerous portion of the outing has been completed.
I have hiked hundreds of miles on area trails. Most times I don’t see another soul. The people I have encountered have been friendly outdoors types. People who mean harm to others rarely head to a trail. It’s too much work. It’s not their natural environment. Take litter as an example. Most litter is found along roads and near a trailhead. The farther in you hike, the less you find. Those who disrespect nature enough to litter, like those who disrespect other human beings, tend to be too lazy to walk very far.
Having said that, there are precautions you can take when going for a walk:
• When possible walk with someone else.
• Take a map of the trail so you know where you’re headed (and how to get home).
• Be alert to who is around you. If anyone seems out of place or suspicious, go the other way.
• Don’t wear fancy jewelry to attract attention.
• Tune into your surroundings (don’t wear headphones).
• Go in daylight hours.
• Pick a lesser-used, lesser-known trail.
• Tell someone where you’re going and approximately how long you will be gone. Or, leave a note with this information where someone looking for you will find it.
Two helpful guidebooks to local trails are “Take A Hike – Family Walks in the Rochester Area” and “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region,” both available at www.footprintpress.com or by calling 1-800-431-1579.
If hiking alone is simply uncomfortable for you, consider going on the many guided hikes offered year-round in the Rochester area. Some are free and open to the public. Others require an annual membership or a modest per hike fee.
• Women Out Walking, weekly hikes, days vary, $2 membership, call Carol Hinkelman at 585-663-2981
• Adirondack Mountain Club – free Sunday hikes, hotline 585-987-1717 option 3, www.gvc-adk.org
• Crescent Trails – free hike 2nd Sunday per month, 1:30 PM, hotline 585-234-1621, www.ggw.org/~ctha
• Genesee Valley Hiking Club, weekend day hikes, www.fingerlakestrail.org/gvhc.htm
• Monroe County Parks – a constantly changing schedule, small fee, call 585-256-4950 to order a copy of “Leaflet”
• Monroe Y Ski Club, hikes at 11:00 AM Sundays, call 585-387-9123, www.monroeyskiclub.org
• Pack, Paddle, Ski, wide variety of hikes, www.packpaddleski.com, or call 585-346-5597 for a catalog
• Victor Hiking Trails – free hike one Saturday morning per month, message line 585-234-8226, www.victorhikingtrails.org
• Penfield Trails Committee hikes, www.penfield.org/web/brds/trails_comm/hike.php
• Wednesday Hikers, write to Tom Koehler, 501 Thayer Rd., Fairport, NY 14450, send $1 for a schedule (or call him at 585-223-4249)
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