Thursday, July 9, 2015

This is not my "Wild" Moment


I struggled up the user-created trail. Gaining 1500 feet in about a mile, it was more for efficiency than comfort. The Eagle Cap Wilderness was in the grip of an unprecedented heat wave: at nearly 8000 feet, the temperature had to be ninety degrees. I had worked my way into a major bonk, reduced to counting out 100 steps and stopping to breathe. Perhaps it was the steady 11 mile incline, perhaps the heat, perhaps not enough food, maybe a combination of all three. Finally I staggered upon Razz Lake, a lovely and high place not frequented by the many hikers who come into the Lakes Basin.

Razz Lake and swimming launch pad

This lake is just about perfect. It has all the elements: soaring mountain views, no crowds, and best of all, large rock slabs on which to sun and swim off. I wasn't even bothered when two backpackers tromped by me to set up camp. They were quiet and far away.



Sitting on my rock, I wondered what they thought. On my hike up, I had encountered several solo hikers. All men. What's up with that, single ladies? I still feel like an anomaly out here. Last month while I waited to board the North Manitou ferry, I heard a know it all loudly discussing his trip with two captive backpackers. "I saw a woman hiking alone," I heard him say. "She said she was with her son but maybe she was just saying that. I asked her if this was her Wild moment." (I saw that woman; she was with her son).

Even though I kind of like the book Wild, once I got past realizing it isn't a "hiking" book, and I think Cheryl was pretty brave to hike the trail in 1995, before all the things that make it softer today, I really don't like the idea that if a woman is hiking alone, she must either a) have read Wild and been inspired by it: 2) has something to prove and/or figure out; or 3) is any different than a man hiking solo. Do not ask anyone if this is their Wild moment. Just. don't.

Anyway, I had plentiful solo hours to wander up to the next tiny lake, read a book, swim, and enjoy the solitude. Did I mention this was the Fourth of July? The thought of sitting in a crowd watching fireworks filled me with horror. The mountains are pretty enough without fireworks. Can we just stop with the fireworks? I know, GASP. I realize people are into the fireworks, the barbecues, the music. I'm just not. I feel like we've gotten away from what independence means. To me, it isn't a party. It's the ultimate independence--the wilderness, which no other country has in the same way. It's being able to hike solo without fear.

Little unnamed lake above Razz Lake
I'm not going to lie, the bonk put fear into my soul. I thought, how am I going to hike 215 miles on the PCT if a puny 11 mile hike has me so tired?  But it turns out, it was just an aberration. The next day I hiked all eleven miles before 9 am (granted, downhill). Still no solo ladies, but they're out there somewhere. Aren't you, wilderness women?
Early sun on Eagle Cap Peak.

12 comments:

  1. Hey, I hike solo all the time! And, I've been hiking solo way before Wild was a book/movie. And I don't like the whole fireworks stuff over the 4th either (last year my hubby and I went camping to escape the madness. Sadly, this year I've been recovering from another foot surgery....)

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    1. I've been solo hiking since before then too. If it gets more women out I am all for it, I just don't want people to assume I am solo hiking because of a book! Hope you recover quickly.

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  2. Love this Mary. We are truly blessed to have this beautiful little gem of a wilderness area. I'am always in the mountains over the 4th, haven't seen fireworks in years (don't miss them)...

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    1. I think I last saw fireworks in 1996. I was on a fire assignment. Don't miss them either!

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  3. Somehow, shooting off personal fireworks seems to me just another way of announcing, "Here I am, see me!" Too much of that already. BUT not to distract from your truly beautiful photos and time in the wilderness. Loved it.

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    1. I don't get the personal fireworks. But I do like soarklers!

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  4. Haha, these comments are kinda hipster. "I hiked solo before it was cool." I read Wild and saw the movie. The book was okay, hated the movie. I like that it has introduced trails like the PCT to mainstream audiences. That said, it does bother me a little that a woman going solo is considered OMG SO BRAVE. Nobody makes a big deal of it if a guy goes solo. I feel most at home in the wilderness, whether I'm alone or not.

    Matt and I like the fireworks every year. Due to his rotating shifts, having a holiday weekend when everyone else does is so very rare but happened to line up this year. It's such a novelty for us that it's fun to check out the madness and people watch for a day.

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    1. I was a wilderness ranger the year Cheryl hiked. Nearly everyone on the trail was worried fir my safety. The women questioned it more than the men; strangely enough. The men all wished their wives were hikers.

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  5. I love that first photo --- just the color and ruggedness is quite spectacular.

    I think I'm ok with the fireworks, barbecues, and all that for the fourth. The forests and mountain lakes get busier during that holiday weekend, but maybe there would be even less solitude to be found if we didn't have explosions in the sky to distract the masses from the real beauty out there.

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    1. You're probably right. I was surprised to see so many backpackers heading back to the trailhead on the 4th. When there was still one full weekend day. Best of both worlds I guess.

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  6. I really can't wait for the "wild" effect to wear off. I'm so sick of the reference, sick of others assuming I was inspired by her. On my latest PCT/JMT section, I saw a few solo gals, but it was a rare sight. On my favorite trails, far from the PCT, I rarely see anyone, let alone solo gals. Sure I'd love to have an adventure partner too, but I'm not staying home when there are trails to explore.

    P.S. Celebrated July 4th this year high in the Sierra. I'd forgotten about the date when I met this guy carrying an american flag wishing me happy Independence Dayn and later shared Selden Pass with him. Who needs fireworks when you are on a mountain high? We have our own type of fireworks each time we reach a beautiful lake, conquer a peak, witness a newborn fawn tumbling onto the trail . . .

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  7. I've hiked solo since I was a pre-teen, and I've never really thought much about it other than how much I love it. I don't hike in populated places and I actually haven't (or don't recall) run into anyone who seemed surprised or asked me about my hiking alone. I'm not very 'girly' looking though, I don't know if that makes a difference?

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