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Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker

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Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 14, 2011 08:46AM
Colin Fletcher, the author of "A Walk Through Time," "The 1,000 Mile Summer," and "The Complete Walker," loved to hike solo. He treasured his quite moments alone with nature.

But he also made comment about his paradoxical meetings with other solo hikers. Those other hikers would frequently stop him and want to chat for hours about how wonderful it was to hike alone.

Fletcher, at least, noticed the irony!

On a recent trip to the High Sierra, we had a somewhat similar experience. We treasure those hours on the trail without seeing other people, and always try to give other hikers, and groups of hikers, as much space as they need to enjoy the wilderness.

But on this trip we started up a pass, only to see another hiker on the trail ahead of us. No problem. We needed some water so we stopped to pump and give him a good head start up the trail.

And yet...he didn't seem to be in any hurry. As we hit the trail we could see him, still visible ahead of us.

Each time we hiked up closer to him, we would pause and take a break, have a drink or admire the view. And each time as we started hiking, we found that he wouldn't be far ahead. It was almost as if he were waiting for us.

Finally, around lunchtime, we came upon him, just packing up and getting to leave a lovely spot with a nice view. We greeted him, shared a quick trail report, and started getting out our lunch.

And he slowed right down and started chatting with us some more. Pleasant conversation, and we enjoyed the chat. But it did go on a bit longer than we expected--at least twenty minutes. And then he hoisted his pack and hit the trail.

We gave him plenty of time to build up a lead, and then finished up our lunch and starting hiking.

Less than half a mile ahead, our companion was waiting. We stopped before we reached him, to tighten my wife's shoes. He started hiking again, and so we started off again. Again he stopped and was waiting. This time we stopped for me to snap a couple of photos.

We started off again, and there he was, only 100 yards ahead, with his pack on the ground and settled in for a long wait.

Fine.

We gave him a friendly "hello" and hiked on past him. But as my wife passed him on the trail, he hoisted his pack and fell into step behind her.

We had been joined.

Since we didn't know this guy from Adam, we felt a little awkward about this. But we decided that if the lone hiker took so many breaks, we would quickly leave him behind if we just kept hiking. So we did. We hiked for a solid two miles, straight uphill. And after all those delays earlier in the day, he didn't take another break all afternoon!

We arrived at our campsite and watched him stroll in just moments later.

To be fair, he camped on the next peninsula over, and was a quiet camper.

He did stop by to chat a bit, but my wife was trying to get out of camp for a stroll when he did that, and I was fishing...and distracted enough that the conversation didn't go swimmingly. We did learn that he had broken a tent pole....although that's not something we could really help with. Then again, the weather was lovely and he assured us his rainfly would do just fine.

And the next morning he hit the trail early, heading north.

We slept in, and when we got to the junction, we turned left and headed south.

We hope he had a great time on the rest of his trip.

And we were happy to be hiking on our own again.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 14, 2011 05:47PM
After he joined you should have just went off trail into the woods.

When solo I'll say hi if I see someone out there and talk to them if they want.
IMO to not say anything at all is pretty rude*. Worse than that is if you
ask someone a question about where they've been and they're all coy about it.
People are a strange lot. That's actually happened enough now that my
rule o thumb is to say hello and keep walking. If they stop me.. then I'll talk.
I'm not a very social bird anyway.

* this rule does not apply once below Nevada Falls or anywhere on HD trail



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 14, 2011 06:35PM
Interesting topic, and one that hits close to home. I have logged many solo hours on and around my local mountain, and while I hate shadowing someone, or worse, have someone just close enough that I am aware of them -- a quick encounter can sometimes render great info. Trail junction chats have revealed great new trails & routes, and conditions further ahead. However. I would not want to have company "forced" on me, as it could bee both awkward & a potential safety issue.



The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2011 06:36PM by Bee.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 14, 2011 10:28PM
A few years ago me and a friend did a 5 day through hike and camped next to a group of 4 the first night. Exchanged the usual evening pleasantries and slept in the next day and gave this group a good 2 hour head start since they had a similar itinerary and we craved a little solitude. Upon reaching the top of that days pass we came across this party and one was especially exhausted and obviously unprepared for the mileage that lay ahead. We decided to eat lunch assuming they would move on. After a good hour break they were still there so we hoisted our packs and now were a group of 6. 2 of the guys were very cool and we enjoyed their company. It turned out that they had been joined by the 2 other "solo" hikers the day before and had been unable to shake them. Well we apologized to these 2 as we made some excuse that we had to hurry to make camp soon enough to catch some fish for dinner and went a little further than originally planned for that nights camp and we enjoyed a quiet camp spot to ourselves. Headed out early the next am to stay ahead of the pack and picked what we thought was a well hidden camp spot the next night. Sure enough at dusk this group came rolling in stating they had a heck of a time finding us. The 2 we liked had funny grins on their faces and we liked them enough that we decided to share their burden and we spent the next 2 days hiking as a group of 6. Turned out ok but not what we had planned.
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 12:02AM
I have resorted to trail running -- something I enjoy doing without the extra 30lbs!



The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2011 12:03AM by Bee.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 07:04AM
I try to be respectful of people who are looking for solitude and quiet on their hikes in the backcountry, since I often count myself among them. Still, I am somewhat taken aback when someone doesn't acknowledge a simple "hello" with at least a nod. This has only happened on one or two occassions. On the flip side, though, people looking to tag along have gotten the idea very quickly. This might be harder to do when you are already with someone else. I can't imagine someone being that persistent that they would join you uninvited. Another reason to carry bear spray, I guess.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 08:15AM
Yes...in our cse the situation was complicated by the fact that my wife hikes more slowly than I do....and I wasn't about to speed ahead at that point. So in fact I hiked SLOWER so that I could stay closer to her. She appreciated that! But if it had been me alone, I would have pikced up the pace and dropped they guy like a bum off a freight train!



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 09:12AM
Some people are just really bad at picking up on subtle social queues. I think hiking is similar to any other potentially social environment. A "Hello" is always polite. Sometimes a 5 minute conversation can be very rewarding. When two people's moods line up an extended hang out can also be great. However, its not usually difficult to determine if you've overstayed your welcome and assuming rights to their camp site is like going home w/them from a bar uninvited.

I blame it on homeschooling winking smiley
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 01:27PM
Walking a stretch of the Old Big Oak Flat Road last week, a little below Cascade Creek bridge, I came across a few backpackers who looked like they had just finished packing up camp and getting ready to move on. I smiled, said "Pretty unusual to meet other people out here." They replied "that's why we like it." I wished them happy trails and moved on.

In retrospect, since we were fairly close to the fork with the El Cap trail, probably not THAT unusual to see people there but I did get the hint. I was more surprised to pass another couple closer to the point where the old road gets it's first view of the Valley (I think this is what is labelled "Oh My! Point" on some old maps...it's roughly 3/4 or a mile west of Rainbow View). Turns out they rarely came to Yosemite but, like us, they were there for their anniversary. We chatted a bit longer and moved on but, in general, I tend to assume that people on a trail like that aren't looking for company.
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 01:58PM
Quote
balzaccom

He did stop by to chat a bit, but my wife was trying to get out of camp for a stroll when he did that, and I was fishing...and distracted enough that the conversation didn't go swimmingly. We did learn that he had broken a tent pole....although that's not something we could really help with. Then again, the weather was lovely and he assured us his rainfly would do just fine.

And the next morning he hit the trail early, heading north.

We slept in, and when we got to the junction, we turned left and headed south.

We hope he had a great time on the rest of his trip.

And we were happy to be hiking on our own again.


Yeah, I feel for you. Isn't it strange that some people feel that it's o.k. to join up with strangers without saying anything explicit? It would have been one thing if this person had explicitly asked you and your wife if it would okay to tag along, but to just tag along without asking? Boy, that's strange. I think some people are just awkward in their social interaction with other people.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2011 05:33PM by plawrence.
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 05:24PM
On my first day out on the 6-day hike this year (beginning with the TM to Glen Aulin HSC section) I came across an elderly couple w/ day packs who were heading toward TM at 10AM. We exchanged "hellos" and I asked them where they had been. They said they were on their way to Glen Aulin! I told them they were going the wrong way. At first they did not believe me but I assured them that's where I was going initially to meet hiking partners coming in from Murphy Creek. Somehow they had gotten turned around and were headed back out the way they had just come. They began to follow along with me, although a bit dubiously, to see if I knew what I was talking about. Apparently, just a few feet before the twin bridge they had seen some off trail hikers to their right way beyond a rising ledge on the right hand side of the trail so they turned right, went part way up that direction, and came back down onto the original trail but failed to recognize it for what it was. That's how they got turned around. They had initially come within 30' of the twin bridge and never saw it! They had gone backwards almost half a mile. Anyway, after that they stuck to me like glue all the way down to the Murphy Creek trail junction. I was encouraging them to take advantage of all the scenic spots and photo opportunities downstream from the bridge but they were not going to let me out of their sight. I told them they were missing the best parts of the river but they were paranoid about losing the trail again. It didn't really bother me; thought it was kind of funny actually. They had no trouble keeping up.

If we had not exchanged "hellos" and struck up a conversation there's no telling how far this couple would have gone before realizing their mistake.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2011 05:25PM by tomdisco.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 05:39PM
It's funny, our hiking group has from time to time "adopted" singletons on the trail on dayhikes. People just start talking about stuff and don't leave the group til we're back at the parking.

The story about the elderly couple who got turned around and headed away from Glen Aulin is also very familiar. People seem to think they don't need maps. I ran into a guy at the top of Vernal Falls who said he was heading to Camp 4. He was hiking up the Mist Trail toward Nevada Falls, at dusk. He was very thankful I showed him where the trail went and which direction he needed to go, to the point that he asked my advice for where to go the next day - I told him go to the wilderness office and buy a good map so he could look at the trail system and talk to a ranger about trails and how difficult the various routes were.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 07:32PM
Interesting story and one that would have creeped me out. Perhaps because I'm female, I am very wary of other people striking up long chats with me while hiking. And I have never hiked alone, always with my husband and am a firm adherent of the old saying, "He who hikes alone has a fool as a companion."

I would have simply passed the hiker in front of me, said "Hello" and kept going. I don't allow others to slow me down or intrude on my experience, If they think it's "rude," I don't care since I'll never see them again. I am polite on the trail and maintain proper trail etiquette at all times. I always greet others, but no one is going to delay me or bore me or intrude on my pace. Once this guy would have strolled into my camp, I would have said, "We're going to bed now. Goodbye." The guy was nervy, period, IMO.
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 08:02PM
Quote
Ulysses61
And I have never hiked alone, always with my husband and am a firm adherent of the old saying, "He who hikes alone has a fool as a companion."

There might be truth to your saying, but at least my "companion" and I are very compatible.



The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 16, 2011 02:55PM
I've done a lot of solo hikes, mainly because I didn't know anyone who could go at that particular time and I didn't want to NOT go because I was alone.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 08:02PM
Hi Ulysses

Your comment reminded me of the time I climbed up to Benson Pass (which must be about 20 miles from the nearest trailhead) and coming up the other side at exactly the same time was a woman about my age.

"Hi there!" I greeted her. "Where did you start today?"

She was noticeably cool in her response, and ambiguous as well: :"Oh back there a ways...." and she would have hiked right on by me except for the fact that my wife appeared just then on the trail behind me. Once she saw my wife, we chatted for a bit and then went our separate ways.

But I can well understand how cautious she would have felt, hiking solo far from a trailhead with a very friendly solo guy in front of her!



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 15, 2011 08:58PM
Quote
Ulysses61
"He who hikes alone has a fool as a companion."

You got it all wrong.

"He who hikes alone has a fowl as a companion."

(I took exception to this comment before and had my signature as "when I hike alone I'm in bad company" for a bit)
which led to this:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,28774

Have a nice day



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 16, 2011 01:30PM
I have to disagree, getting a solo trip in every now and then can be a rewarding experience. Always being tied to other people is a shame, sometimes the backcountry needs to be enjoyed by yourself.

As for other people on the trail, a simple hello, or a nod is sufficient. I'm willing to discuss trail conditions or where I've been, but beyond that I'm not really that talkative. Although, that being said on my last trip in the Emigrant we ran into the same guy on 2 different days and both times had great conversations with him. I dunno, I guess that backcountry is a lot like anywhere else in the world, full of a lot of idiots but some interesting people as well.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 16, 2011 02:45PM
Each person, ie. hiker, is different! Some hike alone because they want to. Others hike alone because there is no one with whom to walk. Some want to talk; others do not, etc.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 19, 2011 06:42AM
I spent a week hiking in the Tuolemne area about three weeks ago. I usually hike solo, not because I nessessarily want to but because I usually can't get anyone to go with me. Most people I know arn't into hiking or they don't want to put in the kind of miles I do in a day or they are not in shape enough to keep up.
It has never bothered me if someone wants to chat a bit or tag along as long as they can keep up. On the other hand I have never been in such a hurry that I can't spend a few minutes visiting. I spend a lot more time taking pictures and finding the right spot to take a picture. When I run into someone on the trail I always say "hi" Sometimes they will ask where I have been and whats the trail like or how much further. I'm more than happy to inform them. Most of the time thats the end of it.If they want to visit longer, thats fine too. or if just saying hi is enough, thats fine too. I will not tag along with anyone else unless specifically invited to do so and even then usually not for long because of different hiking abilities or I want to explore some "off trail" areas or I'm taking pictures. I always stop if some one needs help or is unsure of where they are going. I stay untill the problem is taken care of (usually foot blister problem or such) I make sure they know where they are going and I don't mind if they want to hike with me untill they are confident of ther location. Yes I know there are those idiots that should'nt be on the trails, but if someone is in need of assistance I will help. I guess thats just the ex cop in me.
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 19, 2011 01:13PM
I've never hiked solo, but often it's just me and the boy and we like our alone time. I'm a chatty person and will talk with anyone. But I'm also sensitive to the fact that some people might not want to talk back. After a polite "hello" and maybe an exchange of basic info, I'm happy to go back to just talking to myself. smiling smiley

I'm also better about ditching people, in a kind way. "Not to be rude, but this was supposed to be our anniversary hike, and we were kind hoping to, um, you know... take advantage of the solitude. *ahem*"
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 20, 2011 04:02PM
Quote
itchbay
I'm also better about ditching people, in a kind way.
itchbay,

It seems that you use a rather sensible approach.
However it amazed me that majority of the posters in this thread were too shy to communicate their need for solitude.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
September 19, 2011 09:49PM
You--that actually occurred to me on this hike. And if I had felt just a little bit more imposed upon, I would have said exactly that!



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
October 07, 2011 04:59PM
I love going solo. I leave a map with my itinerary home with the husband and go.
For years I would drag along a friend or my husband. On the third day they would whine.The trail is long, the pack is heavy, the food is terrible. Now the only whining is my own. I just finished a beautiful 11 day loop over Forester Pass down in Sequoia- Kings, and had a wonderful time. I talk to people when they want to talk, and I enjoy that, but I also go for several days seeing no one and enjoy that to. I stick to my permit, stay within my abilities, and it works out really well. I would never consider joining another group on the trail. I don't even like people camped close. Then again one time in the Little Yosemite Valley a couple women camped near me in the rain, and we all chased off the bears together. That would be the exception.
Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
October 07, 2011 08:25PM
Always enjoyed solo travel,The solitude,being able to keep your own pace and change your itinerary on a whim.There was a time when there was no choice,I coudn't go more than two weekends without getting out,and there wasn't time to find company when the urge hit me.On encountering another solo hiker one meeting has stuck in my mind.Very early spring in Desolation at Tahoe and I had been out a couple days wandering around and had not seen anyone.Too much snow,too many water crossings.Then when I ran unexpectantly into another hiker (from the looks of him,he had been out a while) we were at a loss for words.The surprise of another person left us mumbling a few words without content or context.After a minute of this he went west,I went east,not knowing a thing about each other.So much for practiced social skills.
avatar Re: Trail encounter with a solo hiker
October 08, 2011 12:38PM
If I wanted to hike alone and somebody had joined me uninvited I'd politely let them know I was out for the solo experience. Some people don't pick up on subtleties, and it's not rude to let them honestly know your intents as long as you do it kindly. I wouldn't want to unintentionally bother somebody on the trail if I was hiking near them, they wanted to be alone, and yet they never let me know



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