A couple of recent trips and non-trips got me thinking about my favorite way to travel in the backcountry – solo – and how that may affect decision making on, or off, the trail. A couple of examples:
A few weeks ago I went on a trip to Shining Rock Wilderness in western NC while my wife was at a four-day event mid state. I planned to drop her off on the way and pick up on the way back and have three nights in the woods. Starting on day two, I began to feel excessively tired and also began to get a constant heart burn. By night two, it was difficult to eat and I had no energy. A decade or so ago (I am quickly approaching 50 now), I would have soldiered through and toughed it out. However, since I was on my own and in a relatively untraveled part of the wilderness, I decided to leave a day early at a slow pace. Turns out that I was definitely feeling sick and got a little worse, but luckily the heartburn was just that (and coincidental with trying a new dish in the field rather than at home like I usually do). I don’t regret leaving a day early – better safe than sorry when solo at my age, and I have always promised my lovely wife that I would be careful to ease her worries.
Here we are a few weeks later, and due to bad luck I cancelled a weekend trip to VA to another wilderness area. I was going to leave on Friday after work and have a short two-night exploration of an area I hadn’t been to in a couple of decades. Woke up Friday morning feeling awful and stayed home from work. It was difficult, with my trusty pack already to go and in mid-afternoon feeling a bit better, but I held with the initial decision to postpone a week. Good decision as I slipped back on Friday night and am still feeling kind of puny on Saturday – not the fitness level you need to tackle several steep climbs and waterless ridges. The pack is staying by the door ready for next weekend!
I guess the moral of the story is when going solo, and especially as you advance in “experience” (age), playing it safer is probably the best option for you and your significant others.