As I write this, Kate has been missing in the Columbia Gorge for eight days.
I don't know Kate, but I know some things. I know how it feels to hike solo, the sound of my breath, the crunch of my boots on the path, the endless possibility that being on my own allows. I know how cautious friends tell me to stay home instead of going by myself. There are so many dangers--an unexpected fall, the wrong turn, strangers. Still, when the choice is to sit on the couch or go hiking alone, I will always choose to go.
Going alone, I can hike my own pace. I don't have to hang back and wait for slower companions or race up the trail after faster ones. I can turn over ideas in my head, plans for the future, chapters in my novel. If I feel like danging my legs over a rock for an hour, turning my face to the sun, I can. If I want to turn back early or make a run for the pass, I can do that too.
So I hate to read the comments that say she should have taken a buddy. Should have brought her cell phone. Yes, it would have been safer, but being in the wilderness can't be made completely safe, no matter what we do. Better to sit on the couch if you want complete safety.
With every cool, rainy day that passes it's likely that Kate isn't alive. I feel sad for her and her family. I never like it when people say, "at least she was doing what she loved."It makes no difference how you die when you are gone. Surely we would all choose to keep living, to climb more mountains, solo or not.
I'll keep hoping for Kate to be found.