Kate was found last weekend. The speculation was that she fell off an 800 foot cliff, that she was caught by the darkness on a steep trail. Once again, I didn't know Kate, but I know some things. Specifically: the drive to keep going, to the trail's end, to the top of the peak. The destination. The feeling on a good hiking day when everything aligns: the weather, just right. Your legs, springy and fresh. A new trail, beckoning you onward. Surely you can go just a little farther and faster than before. Because that is what makes you feel alive, just being outside, away from the car, and the news, and intolerant people who think a woman should hike with a gun or a man or else stay at home.
I wish she had been found hungry and cold, but all right, with an epic story to tell and many more years of hiking ahead of her. We will never really know what happened to her. There are still questions. The wilderness holds its secrets.
Recently a woman running outside of an Alaskan village was apparently attacked and killed by wolves. The same strident comments were said: where was her gun? Her buddy? Didn't she know better? All these things that people say to make themselves feel better. To make them think that it could never happen to them: the sudden darkness, the long, endless fall in the night.
I would have done the same as Kate and the runner. I have hiked sketchy trails alone. I have run on deserted roads. I accept the risk along with the rewards.