Any time you wander down a path for a hike, there's a chance of danger. You might run into a wild animal, get poison ivy or slip down a steep embankment. There are all kinds of precautions you can take against these dangers: carry a loud whistle, wear long pants and watch your step.
But one danger, as a woman and solo hiker, that I should be most worried about is my fellow man. This is something that is always on my mind, whether I want to think about it or not. I try my best to shove these horrible thoughts to the back corner of my brain so I don't have to address the fact that this is a very real and present danger. I don't want my fear of what could happen to prevent me from doing what I love.
I remember reading the part in Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild, where two male hikers caused her to believe her safety was in danger. My palms got sweaty and every muscle in my body tensed as I speed-read through those pages, afraid that the worst had happened. Luckily she escaped that situation unharmed.
Some people are not so lucky. While getting ready for work on Friday morning, a news story on the t.v. in the living room caught my attention and I ran over to listen. A woman had been attacked in a nature preserve - in MY city - at 10am on Wednesday morning while walking alone. How could this happen so close to home? She was able to get away with minor injuries and even provided a description to the police that resulted in this asshole's arrest. But still... she will no doubt be mentally scarred for awhile (or forever).
While attacks like this are very rare - they still happen. The only thing I can do is take every precaution possible and follow some really smart guidelines, like these:
- Always let someone know where you are and when you'll return.
- When possible, hike in groups.
- Listen to your intuition - if something doesn't feel right, LEAVE!
- Walk with purpose, confident and quick.
- Learn some self-defense tactics, like hitting areas where you can do the most damage: eyes, nose, neck, groin, shin
Be safe out there people.